Learn More about the SOA Exam Grading Process

Ever wonder what goes into the creation of SOA exams and how they are graded? The Society of Actuaries (SOA) is committed to ensuring the highest quality and rigor in each of their six Fellowship tracks. As part of this commitment, each exam is developed and graded according to exceptionally high standards. Take a closer look:

How are exams developed?

Exams with written-answer questions are developed by SOA member committees with each question writer going through specific training to ensure their work meets the SOA's standards. What's more, the questions go through two or more rounds of review by a group of experts before heading to a final central review. It's here that questions are polished and an SOA Education Executive Committee member performs the role of an independent reviewer to once again ensure the questions meet the SOA's requirements. Finally, the questions must be reviewed by the specialty track General Officer before receiving approval for use in the exam.

How are exams graded?

Written-answer questions are graded by SOA member committees. The exam papers are separated by question and sent to the graders for evaluation. Depending on the questions, the number of papers and the number of graders, some graders may grade more than one question and some questions may be distributed to two or more graders. Graders use a guide that was drafted by the examination committee, which differs from a model solution as it provides graders with specific direction in how to allocate points, indicates cases where not every item on a list or every discussion point is needed to get full credit and shows alternative answers that may receive credit. Note that the SOA does not release the grading guide or how any individual paper was scored.

Prior to grading a preliminary pass mark is set. Papers that score well above this mark receive no further grading and have passed the exam. Papers that score well below this mark also receive no further grading but have failed. The remaining, typically one-third to one-half of the papers, will be re-graded independently by a different grader. If there is a discrepancy in the scores, the graders have a face-to-face discussion to resolve any differences. Once this step is completed the scores are considered final and all that remains is the setting of the pass mark.

For more information check out the guide to written exams.

How does grading a written test differ from a multiple-choice exam?

Multiple-choice exams administered via computer-based testing (CBT) are graded using an item response theory procedure. Multiple-choice exams administered via paper and pencil are scored by optical scanning equipment. As a check, several papers are scored by hand. Only the answer sheet determines the score.

When will I know if I passed?

For CBT exams, an unofficial pass/fail result will be displayed on the computer screen at the conclusion of the examination.  For exams containing written-answer questions, results will be available via the SOA's online transcript access, usually eight to ten weeks after the examination date. About one week later, a list of names of passing candidates is made available through the SOA exam results page. Grades are reported on a 0 to 10 scale with passing grades ranging from 6 to 10.

Do you have more questions? Please contact education@soa.org