Sunday, June 12, 2016

My experience in taking the actuarial examination

I wish to share my experience in taking the actuarial examination over a period of 8 years. It has some important lessons on my unique way of learning.

I left school after secondary four and started work as a clerk. I took the actuarial examination. It was a difficult examination. Few students were able to cope.

I bought the prescribed text books, read the chapters and completed the questions at the end of each chapter. I studied on my own during the evenings and weekends. I had to do a full day job in the office during weekdays and in the morning on Saturday.

The institute provided a tuition cost through correspondence where a tutor would take care of the student. I found it to be too expensive. Even the postage was a burden. In those days, there was no e-mail.

I took one subject every six month for the earlier subjects and once a year for the later subjects. On leaving the examinaiton room on most occasions, I felt that I was likely to fail the subject as I did not know the answers to many questions. When the result slip finally arrived, I was often surprised that I had passed the subject.

On most occasions, it was just a "pass", not a "credit" or "distinction". I did not pay any attention to the actual grade,so long as it was a "pass".

I completed all the subjects over a period of eight years. As I started at age 18, I was qualified at 26.

Recently, I discovered the "secret" why I was able to pass a subject when I did not give the correct answer to many of the questions. I found out that there is a difference between "understanding the question" and "giving the correct answer".

Although I did not give the correct answer, I was able to give an answer that showed that I understood the question well. The examiner must have given points for understanding the question. Perhaps these points, together with the questions where I had given the correct answers, managed to get me over the pass mark.

I wish to compare my experience with the scholars and the top students that are produced by the examination system in Singapore today. I found that the students today knew the answers but do not understand the question or do not understand the fundamentals of the topic. They knew the answers because they were drilled by the tutors and memorized the model answers.

The competion for top grades, and aiming for top marks through memorizing the model answers, is bad. It produces students who do not understand the fundamentals of the subject and are not able to think for themselves.

I adopted a different approach. I understood the fundamentals of the subject and aimed for a pass. It has served me well over the next four decades!

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