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I'm starting to reconsider trying to become an actuary

  • #1
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Main Question or Discussion Point

I'm trying to self-study financial mathematics right now, and I'm finding that it's difficult to teach myself from the book. It was like this when I was trying to teach myself physics from that Fundamentals of Physics textbook a few years ago. Studying without any plan or curriculum just burned my stamina really quickly, and it usually just put me in a foul mood afterwards.

Last time I tried to teach myself physics, I only got through a fourth of the curriculum midway through the semester before I got too exhausted and frustrated to continue. Right now, I am on my third week of studying my financial mathematics textbook, and I'm feeling as frustrated and tired as I was the last time I tried to teach myself something. At the same time, I'm trying to use this summer vacation to learn how to relax more, because I've frequently had problems being able to do that during my regular school semesters.

Then I noticed a trend with me and self-studying, and how it doesn't really work that well for me and my stress problems. Now, I'm seriously thinking about how my inability to study independently will very likely not work out if I want to enter a profession that requires much intensive independent study. It's possible that I need to learn how to change my study habits, when reading and doing problems independently. Or it's possible that I'm just not the type of person who can study by oneself, without someone to guide me.
 
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Answers and Replies

  • #2
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Last time I tried to teach myself physics, I only got through a fourth of the curriculum midway through the semester before I got too exhausted and frustrated to continue. Right now, I am on my third week of studying my financial mathematics textbook, and I'm feeling as frustrated and tired as I was the last time I tried to teach myself something. At the same time, I'm trying to use this summer vacation to learn how to relax more, because I've frequently had problems being able to do that during my regular school semesters.
I have a 4-year History with self study ^^". I tried to self study from the beginning of my undergraduate study! Each summer and spring vacation, I try. I failed a lot in the process.

Self study is more of knowing yourself than knowing the book. Instead of going with a long paragraph, I will tell you my mistakes then I will tell you what I did to counter them. You will probably find them useful:

1- I used textbooks higher than my level of understanding.
2- I rushed on the materials of the textbooks.
3- Did not ask for guidance when I got stuck.
4- I anticipated a lot.
5- Made stiff schedule that did not work with me. (This one depends on your way of scheduling)


These were my counters/solutions to my problems:

1- Look at the content of the textbook you are going to study, make sure it is suitable. Ask and search. Sometimes you think a textbook is suitable for you just from taking a quick look on the math it contains. Just knowing the math doesn't mean that you know the subject. You don't believe me? Try reading Nietzsche books without having a background in philosophy! This will teach you a lesson. Thinking that the difficulty of the math is everything is a dead wrong method of judgment. If you studied and felt that the book is way over your head, quickly change it to a simpler book.
2- Do not rush, studying by your own means you need double or triple the time you need if you were going to study under the supervision of a professional. Also, self-study means you can give yourself extra time to really deepen your understanding, since you are the one who control the time, so don't waste the opportunity.
3- Ask in forums. Ask professors at your university. Do not just skip.
4- Do not think you are going to be proficient in the subject by self studying for a month or 6-months. Believe me, you won't.
5- If you made for yourself a schedule or a plan, keep in your mind that it is seriously impossible to follow. A plan must be flexible, shrinkable and expendable according to the current situation. You might recognize that you need 3-weeks to finish chapter X, when you start reading it. If your plan gives you 1-week to study chapter X, then you need to make your plan adapt to the situation, not the opposite.

6- Be patient, nothing happens as you plan to. Be very patient.
7- You might not succeed in your first time trying self study, even by reading these tips. So, make sure to try after two months or a year from your failure. Knowledge is worth the effort.


This is what I learned through my years of trials, this vacation I am studying Classical Mechanics, Quantum Mechanics and GR while spending hours without even realizing how much time I am used in the process. I am just enjoying it. It is important to enjoy what you are doing, otherwise why the hassle right ?
 
  • #3
jambaugh
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I will opine here with the qualification that I have no idea how much of what I say will apply but you can take it or leave it.

My zeroth thought is that when you begin to consider whether "I'm the type of person..." it may rather be an excuse to do something different. I would accept that premise only as a last resort but take it's emergence as a signal that you might want to reconsider priorities and goals.

My first thought is that being both teacher and student requires much more effort, especially if you are trying to follow a standard structured curriculum per se.

My second thought is that you should capitalize on the virtues of self study which is that you do not have to follow a curriculum per se. You do want to have a comprehensive list of topics/skills to check of and review but you should take the material at the pace and in the order that interests you and is best suited for your rate of learning and preparation. If you're using a fixed curriculum then it is likely a compromise to fit a broad cross section of potential students.

So I would start by "playing" within the material. Find a problem or skill that interests you. Seek to master it and in doing so you learn what prerequisite skills are necessary. Let your own interest in the original problem and the structure of necessity with respect to methods and concepts guide you through the material. Do this for various arch-typical problems until you have a clear roadmap of the subject at hand. You should then begin to systematically go through a curriculum or review outline and fill in the gaps. This latter part is the harder work but it is made easier by the original exploratory map you've made.

This is how I tackle a new subject.

And finally, one of the most exhausting aspects of self study is reinventing the wheel, or similarly, tripping over the same pitfalls that everyone else has encountered. You should have access to experts in the subject (say an online community like PhysicsForums hmmm?) at hand to move you past these efficiently but do not discount the value in experiencing them first. Remember our mistakes can be most instructive (once we recognize them as mistakes).
 
  • #4
StoneTemplePython
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I'm trying to self-study financial mathematics right now, and I'm finding that it's difficult to teach myself from the book. It was like this when I was trying to teach myself physics from that Fundamentals of Physics textbook a few years ago. Studying without any plan or curriculum just burned my stamina really quickly, and it usually just put me in a foul mood afterwards...

Then I noticed a trend with me and self-studying, and how it doesn't really work that well for me and my stress problems. Now, I'm seriously thinking about how my inability to study independently will very likely not work out if I want to enter a profession that requires much intensive independent study
I didn't quite follow why you can't / won't make up your own plan or curriculum, but otherwise, there's some good advice in here to try, in terms self studying approaches. I'd strongly suggest implementing / testing some of these ideas and doing self study throughout the summer -- and keeping a weekly (daily?) journal where you jot down how it is going.

If you want to be an actuary and after this summer conclude that you viscerally dislike self-study... it seems like a very bad match.
 
  • #5
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If you want to be an actuary and after this summer conclude that you viscerally dislike self-study... it seems like a very bad match.
Yep. After all, this is just a taste of the suffering the later exams will put out. A fraction of the study time.

Of course, if a more defined curriculum is what the OP needs, it exists. With timelines. And study hints. And practice exams.

But that's all in the study manuals. They didn't listen to me last time I suggested it, I don't have a lot of hope they'll listen this time.

I guess you never know though.
 
  • #6
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I know it's only for practice, but is there a chance that the study manual will be outdated in eighteen months or so, when I actually schedule an exam date?
 
  • #7
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Not if it's for the correct exam. There are changes going on with SOA exams you'll want to track, and maybe some with CAS.

But we should tackle another question: Why are you waiting 18 months to take the easiest actuarial exam? 2 months between the first 2 or 3 exams is doable. 3 months is about right. Six is really long, but if you've got school and/or work then maybe.

18 months is really unusual. I know someone who finished almost every preliminary in that amount of time, and he was in grad school for part and working full time for another part.
 
  • #8
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I was planning on finishing school then tackling the exams.
 

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