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The Actuary Magazine

The Society of Actuaries (SOA) Board of Directors adopted several education initiatives in 2015. One was a complete review of the Associate of the Society of Actuaries (ASA) curriculum. As a result of this review, the Board approved a new ASA curriculum, which will take effect in mid-2018.

The definition of ASA has changed over time, but the current definition has been in place since the 1990s. With the 2000 redesign, the ASA has three components:

  1. Mathematical framework
  2. Introduction to all practice areas
  3. Professionalism and standards of practice

The task force that recommended the new curriculum was asked to consider:

  • What are considered fundamental knowledge and skills?
  • What do all actuaries need to know, now and in the future?
  • What is the proper balance between finance, investments, economics, statistics, predictive analytics, short-term insurance and long-term insurance?

The task force drafted a proposed curriculum and solicited input and comments from members, candidates, employers, academics, volunteers, section councils and several key actuarial organizations. In response to this feedback, which included more than 500 comments, the task force made several improvements.

KEY DRIVERS OF THE NEW CURRICULUM

Predictive Analytics

The use of predictive analytics has spread to most areas of actuarial practice. There is a clear consensus that actuaries need to know more than the basic regression and time series methods that have been the focus of the ASA curriculum.

Adding predictive analytics to the ASA curriculum presents two challenges. One is to define the specific analytic techniques and depth of coverage to include. For some topics, an understanding of its uses and assumptions might be sufficient; while for others, actuaries might be expected to be able to conduct a complete analysis.

A second challenge is determining the appropriate means of delivering this education and assessing mastery. The traditional closed-book, proctored exam cannot adequately assess the ability to apply sophisticated quantitative methods to complex data sets.

Short-Term/Long-Term Insurance Imbalance

Currently, the Life Contingencies exam covers pricing and reserving for life insurance and annuities, but it does not cover statistical estimation and inference for the underlying models. The corresponding short-term exam concentrates on modeling methods, including estimation, but does not cover pricing or reserving. These two major areas of actuarial practice should receive symmetric treatment.

NEW CURRICULUM

The new curriculum will continue to be a combination of Validation by Educational Experience (VEE) courses, subjects assessed by proctored exams, e-Learning modules and a seminar. The addition of predictive analytics is the most significant change.

In total, the number of components is increased from the current 10, which are three VEE subjects, five formally examined subjects, Fundamentals of Actuarial Practice (FAP) and Associateship Professionalism Course (APC). The new curriculum has 12 components, with three VEE subjects, seven formally examined subjects, FAP and APC. The major changes are:

  • VEE Applied Statistics is replaced with VEE Mathematical Statistics.
  • Basics of applied statistics is a new exam (Statistics for Risk Modeling).
  • Addition of accounting to the Corporate Finance VEE.
  • Less emphasis on derivatives and more on investment.
  • Addition of an exam on predictive analytics.
  • Movement of some Exam C topics to make room for pricing and reserving of short-term insurances.

Validation by Educational Experience

Economics

This subject is unchanged.

Accounting and Finance

There are two changes to the Corporate Finance VEE requirement. One is the addition of accounting, which will provide the background necessary for fellowship work. The second change is that the corporate finance treatment is lighter than the current VEE requirement.

Mathematical Statistics

This topic had been moved to Exam C. With the addition of more general predictive analytics, it is appropriate to return mathematical statistics in full. This is a standard university course.

Formally Examined

The term CBT means computer-based testing. These exams utilize multiple-choice questions and take place at a computer center several times per year.

Probability

This component contains all of the current Exam P probability topics. It will continue to be assessed by CBT.

Financial Mathematics

This is the interest theory portion of the current FM exam with some minor changes. It will continue to be assessed by CBT.

Investment and Financial Markets

There is a change from the current Exam MFE. Stochastic calculus has been reduced, as have some of the other mathematical topics. The syllabus adds some corporate finance and portfolio theory topics. It will continue to be assessed by CBT.

Long-Term Actuarial Mathematics

This is a replacement for the current Exam MLC. A few topics from the current syllabus have been removed, while some estimation topics that are currently on Exam C have been moved here. Coverage of universal life will be moved to FAP, and a section on life and annuity products will be added. This exam will continue to be a combination of multiple-choice and written answers.

Short-Term Actuarial Mathematics

This is the replacement for the current Exam C. This exam will undergo the largest change. The basic material on estimation has been moved to the Mathematical Statistics VEE, and specific material on life table estimation appears in the Long-Term Actuarial Models exam. These topics are replaced with product-oriented information relating to short-term insurance. Pricing and reserving will be added. This exam will continue to be CBT.

Predictive Analytics

There are two components specifically devoted to predictive analytics.

Statistics for Risk Modeling

This is the transition component from mathematical statistics, as presented in the Probability exam and Mathematical Statistics VEE, to predictive analytics and its applications. It covers the regression and time series topics formerly in the Applied Statistics VEE subject. This exam will add the generalized linear model. This exam will be CBT, and it also will be a formal prerequisite for Predictive Analytics.

Predictive Analytics

This is a completely new topic for the ASA curriculum. Candidates will be expected to use computer packages to analyze data sets and communicate their findings. An e-Learning module will explain the modeling process. Candidates will use case studies to learn the various methods. The assessment will require the use of software and will take the form of a report.

FAP and APC

Fundamentals of Actuarial Practice

FAP will have few changes as a result of the new curriculum.

Associateship Professionalism Course

A few personal and professional practice topics may be added to the APC.

Transition Rules

For detailed information, visit SOA.org/curriculumchanges. The SOA will distribute additional information when the syllabus is more fully developed.

Candidates who are not an ASA by July 1, 2018, must complete the new requirements. Candidates who are an ASA by July 1, 2018, are exempt from the new requirements, provided they also earn fellowship by July 1, 2022. There also will be revised requirements for earning the CERA credential. No member will lose an already earned ASA as a result of this (or any) transition.

Jeremy J. Brown, FSA, MAAA, EA, is president-elect of the Society of Actuaries.

Applications in experience analysis and assumption-setting