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The CLC Reacts to Exams Being Postponed in Response to COVID-19

By Rachel Hunter posted 04-03-2020 09:17


Since this was posted, the CAS announced plans to cancel the spring exam sitting.  Click here to view the announcement.


The CAS recently shared its decision to postpone administration of the April 2020 CAS exam sittings.  When this announcement came out, many of us were already adjusting to work from home and practicing social distancing in our communities. For those studying for CAS exams, disruption to regular work was probably already impacting study and there were likely a range of emotions upon hearing the announcement that the CAS would postpone exams.   

The Candidate Liaison Committee (CLC) would like to share how we are impacted and how we are adapting.  Our first group of questions are posed specifically to those who had registered for a spring 2020 CAS exam.  Next week we will share responses from a broader group of our members to questions about working from home and managing disruptions to plans.  As you will see in the responses, we are all impacted in different ways by COVID-19.  If you have tips for studying or working from home in this uncertain time, please share in the comments. 

Our panel of exam-takers consists of the following committee members and candidate representatives to the CLC.  Those who were registered for April 2020 exams are noted:

  • Agatha Caleo, ACAS registered for Exam 7
  • Chandler Fischbeck registered for Exam 6
  • Sarah Manuel, ACAS registered for Exam 9
  • Chip McCleary, ACAS
  • Holley Rouse registered for Exam MAS-I
  • Nate Williams registered for Exam 6

Question 1: Do you plan to sit for the delayed exam or ask for a refund and skip this sitting?  Why?

Agatha: I plan to sit for the delayed Exam 7.  I really want to focus on passing 7 so I can sign SAOs!

Chandler: I still plan to sit for the delayed exam and believe that it will be beneficial to me to do so, as I will get some additional study time! My employer is allocating extra work study time for us, which is huge benefit. I feel I will be more prepared to take the exam.

Sarah: If the exam is offered, I’ll take it. This is my last exam so I want to get it behind me as soon as possible, and I don’t want to defer any exam/FCAS raise or bonus if I can help it.

Holley:  If Spring Exams are offered, I plan on sitting for the delayed exam.  Since this is a re-take exam and I understand all of the material, all I need to do is drill problems, so I am comfortable doing that once we’re given 6 weeks advanced notice of new dates.

Nate: I plan to sit for the delayed exam. The third-party study aid subscription I purchased wouldn’t be extended further, and I’ve been trying to prepare for this exam for a while. Sometimes you just have to go for it.

Question 2: For those who continue to study for this sitting, what is your strategy and how are you adjusting your prior study plan?  If you are not going to study for this sitting, does this impact your fall sitting study plan?

Agatha: Honestly, I was a little behind on my study schedule, so the extra time is welcome.  I feel much more confident about completing my study plan by mid-June than I did about end of April!  If they delay more, that’s just more time to review.

Chandler: My study strategy is still the same as before, which is to study for about 3 hours each day. I had fallen slightly behind on my study schedule as work/life had gotten very busy and stressful with everything that is going on with COVID-19.

Sarah: My official strategy is to keep studying at a normal pace for the next month or so, then study here and there until the new exam date is announced, and then study as much as possible until the exam. In reality, it’s been hard to prioritize studying these last few weeks. It just feels less important right now.

Holley:  In lieu of MAS-I studying, I am studying for Exam 5, which I was planning to take in the Fall regardless of what happens with MAS-I.  I am not sure what I will do if Spring Exams are cancelled entirely.  Taking two exams at once sounds daunting, but I need to continue advancing in the process.  The only way to do that is to take and pass exams.  Thankfully, my employer is very understanding especially since I passed Online Course 2 at the beginning of March. 

Nate: I don’t think that my study strategy will be impacted, but it will be drawn out over a longer period of time. I usually have about a two-hour daily commute and, to be quite honest, I do most of my studying during that time as I listen to study videos while I drive. Any work study time and time I can get at home is spent taking notes and doing practice problems. You may think that I have an extra two hours of more dedicated or efficient study time since I’m not commuting; however, that time is now in direct competition with other needs at home and I’m actually losing study time overall. The extra time available from the delay will probably end up just allowing me to complete my “usual” amount of preparation.

Question 3: Outside of the CAS Exam delay, what has been the most challenging impact of this situation on your work or life?  What adjustments have you had to make?

Agatha: I already worked from home regularly, so no issue there.  My husband and most of my friends who are not actuaries work in creative fields that have been completely shut down, so I’m mostly just worried for those friends and how they are going to survive with no income!  I feel very lucky to still have a job.

Chandler:  The most challenging impact of COVID-19 has been the desire to study. It’s been harder to sit down and study. I am now working from home, as much of us are, and so I’ve had to adjust my hours and how I approach work. I now wake up and exercise before work. Doing so helps me work effectively, as opposed to rolling out of bed and logging on, which makes the day feel sluggish.

Sarah: It’s been pretty hard to grapple with the impact this has had on my community. My fiancé’s work hours have been drastically reduced, some of my friends & family aren’t able to work at all, my grandma’s nursing home isn’t letting people visit. Luckily no one in my immediate circle has died from this but people in my city are dying and I’m sure we’ve all seen the impacts this has had around the globe. It’s a challenge to know that all of this is going on and to know that there’s not much I can do to help except for staying home, and somehow also focus on getting my work done.

Chip: I’ve had to adjust to getting into a routine at home. I’ve had to rearrange an area to be an office space where I can focus, but where I’m not totally isolated. That’s also been an adjustment for family. Kids have questions about school and want to come ask, but don’t want to distract from work. My wife will just want to chat for a couple minutes, but also doesn’t want to distract. It’s finding the happy medium in there so that I’m still involved and it’s not me in total isolation for 8 hours+. It’s also forced me to get up and move more, because it’s easy to just sit and not move for a few hours where previously I’d get up every so often.

Holley: Some of the biggest challenges for me relate to how I manage the chronic pain caused by hEDS.  I can no longer weight lift at my gym, attend Pilates, or get regular massages.  A week and a half into the new normal and my body is already feeling the effects.  My pain levels are increasing.  I am worried what will happen if this lasts more than another month.  However, I am working on developing a regular home exercise routine as an alternative.

The other challenging impact of this situation is a close family member ended up needing emergency open heart surgery right as cities started closing non-essential businesses.  Due to COVID-19 precautions, hospitals are constantly changing visitor restrictions and policies.  As a result, the family member's spouse wasn't allowed to visit anymore a few days after she was hospitalized pre-surgery..  It’s heart breaking.  Thankfully, she knows how to video chat via WhatsApp, so we’ve been able to keep contact.  Cardiac rehab is most likely going to be cancelled, which could impact her recovery.  The important thing to remember is that regular medical emergencies are not on hold due to COVID-19.  And those emergencies are made significantly more complicated and can have lasting impacts on peoples’ mental and physical health. 

Nate: This situation has created a lot of emotional disruption in our family. I have four young children who are missing friends and school and who feel trapped inside our house because of colder weather. That also means they have fewer avenues for physical activity to release their pent-up energy, which can come out in…counterproductive ways. My wife has to deal with that, trying to find constructive ways for the kids to spend their time in addition to assuming the role of their formal educator. She, like many parents, is handling it admirably, but that doesn’t make it any less stressful. So relationship management is key – trying to distinguish underlying problems from those (hopefully) short-term stressors caused by this situation, and acting accordingly. My wife created a daily activity schedule for the children that includes time for their schoolwork, and she and I are continuing an at-home work out program that we started a little before the quarantine, which is a stress-reliever and improves our mental/emotional well-being. I don’t think we have it worked out perfectly yet; we try to take it day by day and continue to adjust when things don’t work out as intended.

Stay tuned for more questions and responses related to working from home and experiencing disruptions to work and life in our next Future Fellows Hot Topics post.