Preparing for TBE

By Donald Williams posted 04-20-2018 11:24


Five high! Five medium! Five low…too slow!

This is a little high-five game that I play with my children, and yet it accurately reflects my thoughts on the upcoming Spring exam sitting. For me, this will be all about the fives – I get 5 hours to take Exam 5 with the new technology-based examination (TBE) format, and I got a 5 on my first sitting. Why? Because I was too slow.

More often than not, the first topic that comes up when discussing TBE with coworkers is cheating, which was addressed in a great opinion piece titled “Cheaters Gonna Cheat” in the March 2018 edition of the Future Fellows newsletter. I can honestly say that I haven’t spent one minute worrying about this, as the worrying compartment of my brain has been occupied with thoughts of three other major components of this new format: location, location, location.

The test site is really the only five low item I have. Where can I go for 5-6 hours of uninterrupted quiet time and reliable internet access? My house isn’t ideal, as my office (where my desktop is located) is the room equivalent of a junk drawer and nowhere near an approvable testing environment in its current state. Also, keeping my wife and young children away would be very difficult. The library is 15 minutes away, but could work if my cheap Black Friday sale laptop doesn’t have any required updates – otherwise I might as well wait until the Fall sitting when it’s finally restarted. And we’re still working out the details of possibly taking it at work, given all the cybersecurity concerns. This one is still up in the air for me, but what are you doing? Do you have any contingency plans in case something goes wrong? As my grandpa always said, “It’s better to have and not need than to need and not have.”

Now, on to five medium. What about this TBE sitting isn’t really changing from my last pen-and-paper attempt? Well, the syllabus hasn’t changed. I know the types of questions will likely evolve over time to be more relevant and optimize the exam for the new format; however, for this sitting, at least, I expect the questions to be similar in nature to those of prior exams. That’s a good thing, because I thought I could have answered enough questions correctly on my last attempt to pass…if I had more time. And even though for this sitting we’ll get five hours to take the exam, the number and difficulty of the questions will be as if it were a four-hour exam of the past. I realize the extra hour might just be an accommodation for the initial transition to TBE and not available in the future, but it is much appreciated nonetheless and I plan on taking full advantage of it.

And finally, five high! We are taking this exam in Excel, which will make things go so much faster. As I previously stated, the issue I had in my prior attempt was time management. Now, with an extra hour and the ability to type responses and formulas, this concern has fallen to near the bottom of the totem pole. I have been studying with The Infinite Actuary’s online seminar, and they have conveniently converted old practice problems to the new Excel format. This second time around the content is more engrained already, and I can instead focus on developing the style of my responses, as well as rhythms of generating formulas for different types of indications and reserving triangles. I’m still striving to find that balance of how much to write vs. how much to calculate, as well as using longer formulas to save time vs. breaking calculations up into smaller pieces to use as intermediate accuracy checks. With a few weeks to go until exam day, I’m still in a good place to figure out that groove.

Overall, I’m very excited about the switch to TBE in general and for this sitting in particular. I think being able to type out responses will save time and improve the exam experience. Do you feel the same way? Let us know what you’re thinking in the comments below, including test site alternatives – I am still open to suggestions.

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04-25-2018 14:30

Thanks for sharing!

Thanks for sharing your plans for the first TBE sitting.  I'm glad we currently have a candidate representative on the Candidate Liaison Committee to give us first-person feedback on the TBE exam sitting.  I look forward to you sharing the actual exam experience with us. 

It's interesting to hear a personal perspective on challenges in finding a location to take the exam.  I expect every candidate will face different challenges in finding a suitable location with reliable internet connectivity. 

I encourage all candidates sitting for TBE to give honest feedback on the exam survey.  Share both what you liked and what could use improvement with the TBE Exam 5 experience.  This will really help the CAS understand the experience from the candidate perspective.

Anyone reading this blog who is also preparing for TBE can share comments here or reach out to the Candidate Liaison Committee with feedback on this blog or other Future Fellows articles via our online feedback form:  Future Fellows online feedback form

In the future we'd like to share more in Future Fellows related to  the first TBE sitting went,  so we welcome more feedback and perspective from those sitting for Exam 5 in spring 2018.

04-20-2018 15:51

Very well said on all points...

Great job Nate!  Your analysis of the upcoming administration of Exam 5 with TBE fits right in line with what I am thinking about it.  I am in the same boat as you - scored a 5 on the last sitting and ran out of time.  Let's go pass this time!