Education and Examination System

Spring 2007 Basic Education Catalog

Education and Examination System

Organizational Structure of the Education and Examination Commitee

The Education and Examination (E&E) Steering and Coordinating Committee oversees the basic education program of the SOA. Within this overall committee, two separate committees operate. The Education Committee is responsible for the selection and development of the study material for the SOA basic educational programs. The Examination Committee is responsible for the development and grading of the examinations. Both of these committees report to the General Chairperson. Each of these committees has its own Chairperson and several General Officers. The E&E Committee operates under guidelines set by the SOA E&E Management Committee.

The Education Committee is responsible for determining the content of the Course of Reading and learning objectives. Input and suggestions for improvements may come from many sources, including the SOA Staff Fellows, the individual examination committees, Education Committee members, Sections and Practice Areas, the general SOA membership, academics, and candidates.

The Examination Committee consists of several individual examination committees, each responsible for specified examinations. Each examination committee develops and is responsible for the initial review of all of the questions to be included in its examinations. The committee recommends the pass marks for its examinations.

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Review and Development of Course of Reading

The Course of Reading is reviewed regularly by members of the Education Committee. Both short-term and long-term goals for improvement are developed. Textbooks and articles may be selected or Study Notes (SNs) developed to be included in the Course of Reading. From time to time, new textbooks are written for the specific purpose of inclusion in the Course of Reading.

If new study material needs to be developed, or existing material needs to be revised, authors and reviewers who are experts in the area are recruited. Every effort is made to develop material that is appropriate, relevant, up–to–date, concise and well written. Suggestions for improvement are always welcome and should be sent to the Education and Examinations Department of the SOA office in care of the Ombudsperson.

Every effort is made to present educational material clearly and unambiguously. Occasionally, however, errors do occur. Candidates who believe that they have found an error in any study material should write to the Education and Examinations Department at the SOA office in care of the Ombudsperson so that any necessary corrective action may be taken.

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Development of Examinations

Each examination is developed by the appropriate committee to test candidates' knowledge of the subject matter as defined in the Courses of Reading. The officers of the individual examination committee, one or more General Officers, and where applicable, representatives of jointly administering organizations, review each examination to assure its quality.

Every effort is made to ensure that the questions fall within the scope of the Course of Reading, and that each question can be answered in the allocated time. Complete coverage of all parts of the Course of Reading is not practical for every examination every year, but the goal is to develop well–rounded examinations containing representative, high–quality questions that test the candidates' knowledge and ability to make use of material from many parts of the Course of Reading. Trick questions are avoided, and the wording of each question is carefully considered to eliminate possible ambiguities. Preliminary versions of each examination are thoroughly reviewed in relation to all of these factors before the final examination is set.

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Grading Process

Multiple–choice questions are scored by optical–scanning equipment. As a check, several papers for each examination are scored by hand. Only the answer sheet determines the score. No credit, partial or full, is given for anything written in the multiple-choice examination book, except as indicated in the next paragraph and as described in the Lost Examinations section.

A multiple–choice question found to be defective may be discarded, leaving scores and rankings as they would have been if the defective question had not been asked. In this situation, the individual examination chairperson may examine the examination books of candidates with the highest failing scores to see if credit should be granted for work on the defective question. See the Defective Questions section for information.For all multiple–choice examinations, no guessing adjustment is made to candidates' scores. Therefore, candidates will maximize their scores by answering every question, even if some of those answers are pure guesses. When there is no guessing adjustment, there is never an advantage to be gained by omitting a question.

For written–answer questions, every effort is made to grade the answers according to completely objective standards. The anonymity of the candidates is fully preserved; committee members see only a candidate number when grading a written–answer examination. Each examination committee has the same grading process adjusted for the number of papers to be graded. A committee with a relatively small number of papers to grade might work as follows.A single committee member is assigned to grade each written–answer question. The grader starts with a grading outline that lists possible items that are directly relevant to the question with numerical values set according to each item's importance. All answers are measured against the same grading outline to ensure that the same standards are applied to all candidates. Written-answer scores are then combined with multiple–choice scores.

Approximately one–third to one–half of the candidates–those with scores fairly near the expected pass mark–will have their written–answer papers regraded at a central grading session. The papers of the other candidates will not be regraded, since their scores would not change sufficiently to move from pass to fail or vice versa.

At the central grading session, a different committee member using the same grading outline independently grades each paper. If the second grader's score on a question varies from the first grader's score by more than a small defined tolerance, the two graders discuss the paper in detail and settle upon a score.

For an examination with a relatively large number of candidates, two or more graders will be assigned to each question at the beginning and procedures modified accordingly.

Papers are retained for six months in case questions or problems arise that would warrant special action. After this, the papers are destroyed.

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Determination of the Pass Mark

The objective of the examinations is to identify those candidates who, as a prerequisite for qualifying for Associateship and/or Fellowship, demonstrate adequate knowledge of the Course of Reading based on standards that are formulated and applied consistently from year to year.

There is no preconceived notion of the passing percentage. With the use of content-based pass marks, fluctuation in pass rate from session to session is expected. The final decision is reached by consultation among the Chairperson and Vice–Chairpersons of the individual examination committee and Officers of the E&E Committee and any co-administrators.

These procedures are somewhat different, however, for EA–1, EA–2, A and EA–2, B, which are jointly administered by ASPPA, the Joint Board for the Enrollment of Actuaries, and the SOA. For the purposes of EA credit, the Joint Board sets the pass mark. Each of the sponsoring organizations has the right to set its own pass mark for credit towards its own educational requirements. While a common pass mark is anticipated, it is possible for the SOA pass mark to differ from the pass marks of the other sponsoring organizations.

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