Happy 2nd Birthday Integrative Questions!

By Nicholas Schneider posted 03-21-2019 08:50


“Hit hard, run fast.” - Dr. D. P. Story

The IQs were ‘birthed’ in the Spring 2017 sitting of Exam 9. We knew they were coming: they had been formally announced six months prior and three sample questions had been released to demonstrate what they would look and feel like.

When the reading period started, there was no missing the IQ: Question 1, front and center, 7.5 points (of the total 60).

It had been explained that IQs will differ from a typical exam question in three significant ways.

  • An IQ will be worth more points. One IQ could be worth 10-15% of the total exam.
  • Each IQ will require candidates to draw from multiple syllabus learning objectives in order to answer the question.
  • IQs will test at a higher average Bloom’s Taxonomy level than a standard exam question.

The first appearance was not as terrifying as I had feared. The question tied together several papers, filled a page (nothing new there), and had a part f (again, nothing new). As I attacked it piece by piece, it seemed very fair in the grand scheme of Exam 9 material.

I survived. I even did well on that question. I failed the exam though.

That fall, Exam 8 got its first taste. Those sitting had the experiences of Exam 9 takers as well as one sample question during their study. When their reading period began, they had an IQ that looked a lot like it had on Exam 9: Question 1, 8.5 points, but 2 full pages (ouch).

Next up, Spring 2018 Exam 9. The first birthday. As I recall, it was a rainy day in Erie, Pennsylvania – near-perfect exam conditions in my opinion. There it was Question 1, 11 points, with only four subparts all fitting nicely on one page.

Okay, not too concerned, been here before.

But then I turned the page. Question 2, 7.25 points!?

Two? Did I know this was coming? Wait, is it even an IQ? Is this just a regular question? Help!

The follow-up announcement in March 2018 had said there would be “more than one IQ”. So, yes, we knew it was coming. However, I was not emotionally ready for roughly 1/3 of the total points to be the first two questions. But, as the announcement described, this was the way the exams were headed. We worked through it. It felt odd to spend an hour on the first two questions, but on a points-per-minute basis, that was a fair pace.

I survived. I did well on one of them. The other earned a solid ‘meh’ from the graders. Chalked up a 5.

Exam 7 had their first IQ that sitting (Question 1: 7.5 points, spread over 2 pages).

Exam 8 got its second taste in the fall (Question 1: 9 points spreading 3 pages, Question 2: 9.5 points spreading 2 pages). These questions were meaty.

That brings us to this May. Per the latest update, the CAS will continue to use IQs and we should expect no more than two IQ’s on the upper-level exams (7,8,9).  Further, the CAS will not announce the number of IQs, but the announcement states “candidates can expect that IQs will encompass a larger percentage of the Fellowship exams over time”.

This update reflects the feedback received from candidates following the previous exams. Feedback that is collected many ways, including the exam surveys that involved IQ-specific feedback opportunities, as well as feedback collected by the Candidate Liaison Committee that included an informal monitoring of the Actuarial Outpost.

While I do not expect there will be birthday candles or cake for the IQ’s birthday this Spring, I do expect to see 1-2 IQs on Exams 7 and 9, comprising some pretty serious points at the beginning of the exams. Having them as questions 1 and 2 is not an official rule, but it is how they have looked in the past. 

Whether this is will be your first exam with IQs, you’re still a ways out, or you have watched them grow (me), my closing advice will be to learn the material, dream about ways to connect the papers on the syllabus, and review the practice (and prior) IQs. Then, as my Calculus I professor advised us before our midterm, “Hit hard, run fast”.

Hopefully I’ll see you guys in Hawaii; if you find me at the Fellowship reception, the first round will be on me.