Advice for preparing for the exam

Discussion in 'SA2' started by Trevor, Mar 28, 2021.

  1. Trevor

    Trevor Ton up Member

    Hi all,

    I recently attempted all the 2021 Mock Exams of SA2 (including marking for ME 1 & 3). I was pretty demoralized seeing the outcome of it.

    Before attempting them, I practiced all past papers from 2014 to 2018, plus some of 2012 & 2013 if still relevant. They were all attempted under exam condition: 3hr 15min with no break, all typed in MS Word as if it is the real exam.

    When comparing my answers against the ASET solution / examiner reports, I could rate myself around 60-65%, pretty much borderline pass.
    I sent my mock exam 1 for marking, also did my own marking. My rating was pretty close to the examiners, so that tells Im not being too lenient marking myself.

    However, I was absolutely demoralized, shattered attempting Mock Exam 3, scored just over 40% (pending feedback from marking).
    After all the 12 past papers I practiced, I am familiar with the question styles and how to answer them (ie: what the examiner report wants us to say). But it feels like all these are a waste seeing how it failed to work in the mock exam.
    Am I being in denial to say the mock exam solutions are different to the IFoA's examiner report?

    For example, in Product design / risks question in SA2, I would just re-apply the SP2 acronyms: 'FORCED CRAMPS / RISK A LIFE DROWN CATS" and it usually works fine in past papers / ASETS. I could expect to score more than the full mark for those questions.
    But in the mock exam, using this acronym doesn't really help, the answers expected are very different.

    I know I still have "plenty of time" to prepare before the real exam comes. But the thing is, I really don't know what else can I do.
    I re-read the CMP to understand them. I did all past papers, even re-doing them another 3 rounds.

    What can I do in the last 4 weeks before exam? I've did everything I could.
  2. Trevor

    Trevor Ton up Member

    When attempting the past papers, I notice these 4 reasons how I lose marks:

    1. Odd / Unusual question being asked
    These can be:
    a. An untested part of the CMP being asked
    b. The part being tested in the past, but asked in a really strange way this time

    For a, the workaround is pretty simple. Just know where the material is in the CMP, and then carefully refer to them during the exam
    For b, this is an absolutely killing blow for me especially if there is not much to talk about, but worth 20 marks in the exam.
    Not that I don't understand the material; I know where to find them in the CMP. It is that I really don't know what to say that is worth that many marks.
    Failing in this one question is already enough to fail me in the exam.

    For example (very broadly): Q: How is Solvency II Pillar 2 & 3 helpful? [20 marks]

    I know Pillar 2 is talking about having separate roles and responsibilities for each functions, so it is a very clear scope of responsibilities of each function
    And pillar 3 is simply disclosing results to the regulator, for their checking.

    But how do I write 20 marks worth of length?

    2. Wrongly interpret the questions
    Sometimes I dwell too much on the wording of the question. Their choice of words / grammar could mean different thing, and this could lead me to answer it different to what the solution expects

    For example: They can ask the impact on the a)Solvency Position, or b)Regulatory Capital Position.
    for (a), I interpreted it as the solvency capital requirement (SCR), and then discussed all about how the SCR is impacted
    for (b), because I see the phrase "Regulatory Capital", I thought they mean the asset level alone.
    In both cases, they actually meant Net Assets.

    3. Not thinking broadly enough
    This could happen in an "Outline" or "Suggest" question with really high marks.
    In my experience, the best way to work on this is through doing many past papers, the solutions I am exposed all the way will add on to my "library" of possible suggestions. But there is only very limited number of past papers to attempt.
    The best way is actually brain storming during the exam itself. But I get panic in exams due to the time pressure. I have to move really quickly.

    A common suggestion is to use headings to organise my answers. I agree how well it helps to organise our thoughts and helps in generating idea. But there is another question of what are the "correct headers" to come up with. When I try this, I come up with very different headers, only very few ideas hits the solution given.

    4. Very different solution sheet compared to what we are used to
    This is more or less what I mentioned in the previous post about product design factors / risk questions.
    Through all the past papers practiced, I know what kind of answers the examiner report expects me to write. When I tried them in the past papers, I can score more than full marks (eg: 31/30 marks) even on the first attempt.

    This is very important for me, it offsets the losses in scenario 1. above.
    I know there are odd questions that will severely pull down my marks, I am relying on these huge easy questions to cover losses from there.
    But if the solution sheet turns out to be very different to the previous years examiner report, I there is nothing to cover the losses in 1., and this is how I can easily fail the exam.

    As mentioned in my above post, I am not sure if its only in the ActEd Mock Exam they have very different answers expected. I applied the same trick in the IFoA past papers and they always worked fine.

    Does anyone else face the same issues as me? How do you work around it?
    After seeing how I did in Mock Exam 3, I am really worried about failing SA2, but at the same time I think I did pretty much all I can, I don't know what else I can do to help myself.
  3. mugono

    mugono Ton up Member

    Hi Trevor,

    It sounds like your preparation is going well ! Don’t be too hard on yourself. At this stage, it’s important to (stay) relaxed.

    Be careful with how you apply acronyms. The SA paper is a test of application. Acronyms can be a good way to help idea generation; however it’s crucial that you apply your knowledge to the specifics of the question.

    Use the specifics in the question in conjunction with the “command words” to give depth to your answers.

    Hope that helps.
  4. Trevor

    Trevor Ton up Member

    Hi Mugono,

    Thanks for your reply. I am aware of the SA series being Application papers, just like CA1 I am not really supposed to expect answers directly from the course notes.

    To add on to the situation I described, I do top up with question specifics after applying the standard acronyms.
    But sometimes these question specifics don't score mark even if it is explicitly mentioned in the question.

    For example, the question is about launching a new product. Somewhere in the text, it mentions the company has also increased the level of underwriting.

    So I identified as a question specific and mentioned they have no experience with the new underwriting, and might risk breaching legislation (eg: EU gender legislation).
    However, this doesn't score mark.

    I understand everything depends on the specific question I am talking about, but I'm, trying to say sometimes I did that but it doesn't score mark.
  5. mugono

    mugono Ton up Member

    I haven’t looked at the specific question you mention. Nevertheless, it sounds like you have the right sort of idea. I wouldn’t be disheartened if a particular point you mentioned wasn’t in the solution.

    Your (and everyone else’s) chance of passing is greatly enhanced by trying to generate ideas, points using the specifics in a question in the SA paper(s).
    Lindsay Smitherman likes this.
  6. Lindsay Smitherman

    Lindsay Smitherman ActEd Tutor Staff Member

    Thanks - I agree with the really good responses above.

    I also agree that you shouldn't get overly fixated on the details, but do make sure that you have fully absorbed the content of the course materials, as well as doing all of this excellent question practice.

    For example, you mention using the old SP2 acronyms for idea generation for product design and risk questions, but do remember that there is a longer list of product design factors in SA2 that the examiners will be basing their answers on. And SA2 covers a wider range of risks than the DROWN CATS ... list. For example, the SA2 examiners will perhaps expect more focus on operational risks than at SP2 level (there is more coverage on this in SA2, particularly specific types such as modelling, conduct etc).

    Also the SA2 chapter on capital management does explain the different uses of the term 'capital' and there is a need to be careful when interpreting it. Any reference to 'solvency position' basically means 'how solvent is the company', so would likely be considering available capital (excess of assets over liabilities) relative to required capital, or equivalently the extent of the 'free capital' (excess of assets over liabilities+solvency capital requirements).

    So do make sure that you are feeling really on top of the underlying materials too, otherwise it can be easy to overlook a key element that needed to be brought into a particular answer. And don't rely too much on being able to look things up during the exam, as that can use up a lot of time.
  7. Trevor

    Trevor Ton up Member

    Thanks Lindsay,

    I am aware that the SA2 has more factors to discuss about, and extended my SP2 notes to allow for that.

    But at this point, the main concern I have is item 1 in my original post. What if something unusual pops up. Not that I don't know the material, it is I don't have a lot to talk about (eg item 1 of my second post). I don't know how to explain so much on a basic concept to make it worth 20 marks.

    Given that I've already done almost all the past papers, even re-doing them another 3 rounds. I don't think its meaningful to do another 5 rounds of the same paper.

    Do you have any advice on what I can do to prepare during the last 3 weeks before the exam?
  8. Lindsay Smitherman

    Lindsay Smitherman ActEd Tutor Staff Member

    Perhaps you need to work on developing and practising a wider range of idea generation techniques? This is touched on in Chapter 24 of the course notes and is the sort of thing we talk more about at tutorials and in the Online classroom. Considering different stakeholders, different departments of a company, the lifecycle of a product, practicalities, putting yourself into that situation etc etc.
  9. Trevor

    Trevor Ton up Member

    Thanks for the advice.

    But given that I've done almost all available past papers, even done it 4 times already. I can pretty much "remember" the answers. Are there alternative source to practice this?

    I am leaving 2019 and 2020 papers as a proper assessment for myself, so I'm keeping them the last.
  10. Lindsay Smitherman

    Lindsay Smitherman ActEd Tutor Staff Member

    Have you done all the available 402s as well as all the SA2s (latter from 2005)? (particularly Paper 2 of 402) Use them purely as brainstorming practice and, where regulation/legislation has changed, think about how your answers would have to change if something similar was asked now.

    SA1 papers? Weed out the ones which could be relevant if health insurance was switched to life insurance, and again use them for brainstorming. There are loads of questions on those papers where that would be the case.

    Invent your own questions / get others to do it for you. Practice brainstorming lists of points that you would make for questions on topical issues.
  11. Trevor

    Trevor Ton up Member

    I've attempted the 2012 and 2013 SA2 papers, but nothing earlier than that because it felt like anything before 2012 is totally out of scope. What are the 402s?

    I could try to SA1, that is a good idea. I'll try that.
  12. Lindsay Smitherman

    Lindsay Smitherman ActEd Tutor Staff Member

    Not at all - papers before 2012 have plenty of questions that are great for idea generation practice and for adjusting as I have suggested above.

    402 is the equivalent to SA2 before it was brought in at 2005. The IFoA past paper website includes all of those from 1999 to 2004.
  13. Trevor

    Trevor Ton up Member

    Thanks Lindsay.

    Another question popped up in my mind:
    I was told to just write everything I thought (as long as we have the time) of because we won't know what scores mark and what doesn't, also know that there is no negative marking in the exams.

    However I am aware that passing the exam or not depends on whether we are "fit to proceed". ie: the examiners will review what we are saying, checking if we actually know what we are talking about.

    So I am worried of writing everything down. Although there is no explicit negative marking, it will reflect badly that I don't actually know what I am talking about, or giving a factual error may impact the examiner's judgement if I am "fit to proceed".

    Because of this, sometimes I choose to NOT write something down because I'm worried that it is wrong and will reflect me as not "fit to proceed", although no explicit negative marking. However, it turns out that it is actually correct, so I missed an opportunity here.

    What is your comment on this?
  14. Lindsay Smitherman

    Lindsay Smitherman ActEd Tutor Staff Member

    If you think a point might have merit, just write it down. Hesitating and worrying about whether it is valid or not wastes time. If you write it down, there's a chance you get a half mark for it & if it isn't valid then you get zero for it. If you don't write it down, you definitely get zero for it.

    Having said that, don't waste precious exam time writing down loads of random points 'just in case', if you are pretty sure they aren't going to score because they don't answer the question.
  15. Trevor

    Trevor Ton up Member

    But how will it reflect to the examiner / reviewer?
    As mentioned, if it is a borderline pass, they will assess whether I am "fit to proceed".

    I am worried that although writing loads of points that doesn't score, it might show that I don't actually know my materials well. Therefore fail because they think I'm not fit to proceed.
  16. mugono

    mugono Ton up Member

    You’re over thinking and overly worrying. Write it down if you think it makes sense and move on. Don’t obviously write down none sense if you deem it so.
    Lindsay Smitherman likes this.

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