Writing Two Actuarial Exams at Once: A Reflection

For the May 2016 exam sitting I decided to take on the daunting task of writing CAS Exam 5 and 6C at the same time. This was my first attempt at both of the exams. Spoiler alert: I passed Exam 5, and ended up with a disappointingly close 5 on Exam 6C. Despite not getting the result that I had hoped for, I thought I would share some of my thoughts on the experience as I’ve had a few people ask.

Would I recommend you study for multiple exams at once?

We’ll start by answering this question and working backwards. It’s a tricky one to answer: On one hand, by passing one of the two exams, I have not “lost” an exam period and have still progressed closer to my designation. On the other hand, take a look at this chart of my past exam results:


It’s quite evident that there has been a drop in my results this past sitting compared to the average. In fact, getting a 6 on Exam 5 means I came just as close to failing both exams as I did to passing both. We do have to take into account that the upper level (5+) CAS exams are a totally different beast than the Prelims, however I had felt that I had adequately adjusted my study time to compensate for that and was still surprised by the lower results.

I would say that if you’re considering doubling up, you’ll have to ask yourself if you’d be willing to deal with the possibility that you could have passed one exam had you focussed solely on one or the other, but instead you failed both. It’s surprising how even failing one of the two really deflated my enthusiasm for having passed the other.

How do I split my study time?

I would estimate I spent 60% of my study time on Exam 6C and 40% of my time on Exam 5. They are vastly different exams with very little overlap. Sometimes this actually worked to my advantage, as when I got bored or frustrated with the material for one exam, I was more likely to switch over to studying for the other rather than opening up Facebook or Reddit. However, even with these synergies the time commitment was much higher. I lost quite a few weeknights and weekends to studying that, had it not been the dead of winter, I’m not so sure I would have been so committed to.

I would suggest studying for more closely related exams if you decide on doubling up. For example, MFE and FM have quite a lot in common, or even FM and MLC. There was the additional added factor that these were the first written CAS exams I had taken. Although I haven’t yet received my grade distribution, I’m willing bet I lost quite a few marks on the CAS “question words”. The CAS has an excellent article which warns about this pitfall which I feel I may have underestimated.

Was it worth it?

In hindsight, I don’t regret my decision, however I doubt I would do it again. It’s comforting to know that I will already have the basis for Exam 6 when I start studying for the Fall sitting, which may allow me to enjoy some more sunshine over the Summer months. It was disheartening to get so close to my ACAS, but hey, sometimes you need to slow down and smell the roses.

Congratulations to everyone who passed an exam this sitting – I did see on Reddit and the AO that at least a couple people passed 5 and S at the same time, fantastic job! I would love to hear thoughts from anyone else who has taken multiple exams.