Update from SOA President Tonya Manning on Joint Preliminary Exams

Dear current candidates and academic professionals:

In October, the Society of Actuaries Board of Directors approved a proposal to end the Joint Preliminary Actuarial Examination Agreement with the Casualty Actuarial Society as of Dec. 31, 2013. Since then, there have been some questions about what this means and why the decision was made.

First of all, this change should have no impact on candidates who are taking the preliminary exams now or plan to begin taking them soon. This change only affects the structure of the exam’s administration between the CAS and the SOA. The SOA is not planning to make any changes to the preliminary examinations, aside from our normal continuous updating of exam questions. The exams are and will remain available to qualify students and candidates -- regardless of the credential path they ultimately choose. We are pleased that the CAS will continue to grant credit in its system to candidates who receive credit for the preliminary examinations. Also, the SOA has no plans to change its grading policy, and the use of computer based testing will continue.

Many of our candidates, as well as those who support them, have asked why the SOA made this decision. In brief, the decision will allow us more control over the evolution of our exam system. In order to ensure our exam curriculum is always current and our designation remains highly valued, we must continuously change and fine tune our approach to actuarial education. One such example is our recent change to our FSA exam structure to encourage candidates from all disciplines to complete a course in enterprise risk management on their way to the FSA designation. This change will enable more candidates to develop an awareness of broad risk management approaches, which will improve their effectiveness as actuaries and position them well to take advantage of growth in ERM opportunities. Another example is our decision to offer a general insurance track, beginning in 2013. Once this track has been added, the SOA will offer a full range of educational disciplines. Since the SOA’s preliminary education and its pathway to the ASA designation provide basic information across all practice areas, rather than focusing on a single practice area, we will want to adjust the preliminary exams to reflect our new track. Having control over the content and development of all exams will allow us to ensure we have a complete, continuous and unique path to our credentials.

An important facet of our strategic direction is reflected in our international strategy. The SOA believes that growth outside of North America will lead to increased opportunities throughout the profession, particularly given the increased globalization of the insurance industry. Being the sole administrator of the preliminary exams will allow us greater flexibility and efficiencies to provide a curriculum and set of exams throughout the pathway (preliminary exams through Fellowship) that meet the needs of the global marketplace.

The SOA looks forward to continuing to work closely and collaboratively with the CAS on many other matters of mutual interest, including the Joint Risk Management Section, the ERM Symposium, the BeAnActuary.org website, efforts to promote diversity in the actuarial profession, the International Congress of Actuaries (ICA) 2014, the North American Actuarial Council collaborative research effort, and any other areas where our members and candidates can benefit from such work. Wherever we see opportunities to work with the CAS, or other actuarial societies, to the mutual benefit of our members, candidates, and other constituencies, we will do so.

The SOA is committed to helping the entire profession continue to grow and thrive through these types of collaborative efforts.

If you have any questions or comments about this issue or other matters, please write to MemberComms@soa.org. I look forward to hearing from you.


Tonya B. Manning