At its August 2012 meeting, the CAS Board of Directors approved the recommendation of the CAS Executive Council and the Education Policy Committee (EPC) that the CAS recognize the exam waivers granted by the Canadian Institute of Actuaries (CIA) for certain CAS preliminary examinations. This action followed the announcement by the CIA of the ten universities that had met the CIA’s requirements under its University Accreditation Program (UAP). Readers are encouraged to refer to the original CAS announcement, as well as embedded links, for a more detailed description of the CIA UAP and the process used by the CAS to consider recognizing CIA examination waivers.
The CAS has received several letters from members expressing a concern that the Board action is inconsistent with the wishes of a majority of CAS members who spoke out on the issue when it was being considered several years ago. The comments below respond to these concerns, and address some apparent misunderstandings of the implications of this Board action.
In reaching its decision to recognize examination waivers granted by the CIA for certain CAS preliminary examinations, the Board considered the following:
- The CAS waiver policy for actuarial examinations states that “Waiver of individual examination requirements will be granted by the CAS Board of Directors in instances where an applicant has passed or received credit for examinations sponsored by another recognized actuarial organization that cover equivalent material in both subject and depth.” For many years, the CAS has recognized some of the examinations sponsored by the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries (United Kingdom), Actuaries Institute (Australia), and the Institute of Actuaries of India. The policy goes on to state that “Credit will be granted for examinations passed or waived in accordance with examination equivalencies between the CAS Syllabus and the syllabi of each of the three aforementioned actuarial organizations.” (Emphasis added).
- In recognition of the existing CAS waiver policy for actuarial examinations, in May 2010, the CAS Board approved a resolution that would allow the CAS to grant waivers for CAS exams to those who would have been granted exam credit through the Canadian Institute of Actuaries (CIA), subject to review and recommendation by the CAS Education Policy Committee (EPC) and approval by the Executive Council (EC). At that time, the CAS Board noted that these CIA waivers, if granted, would be similar to the waivers currently granted for examinations of the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries (U.K.), the Actuaries Institute (Australia) and the Institute of Actuaries of India.
- Consistent with the 2010 Board resolution, the EPC was asked to evaluate whether credit granted by the CIA for examinations passed or waived was in accordance with the examination equivalencies of the CAS Syllabus. The EPC concluded “that the Canadian Institute of Actuaries University Accreditation Program waiver process would meet the requirements to grant waivers for CAS exams.”
- The most recent Board action did not encompass a reexamination of the CAS waiver policy for actuarial examinations. Rather, it affirmed that the recognition by the CAS of exemptions granted by the CIA UAP was consistent with the spirit of the CAS examination waiver policy as already applied to the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries, the Actuaries Institute (Australia) and the Institute of Actuaries of India.
- Requirements established by the CIA for its UAP accreditation are rigorous. Not all universities that applied for accreditation were approved, and not all students successfully completing the identified courses at approved universities will be eligible to apply for the exemption. The CAS identified a liaison representative, who provided periodic comments and suggestions to the CIA in the design and development of UAP. The main criteria for accrediting universities can be found on the CIA’s website.
Specific features of the process that led the EPC to its conclusion are:
- Coverage of CAS/SOA syllabus. At least 85% of the actuarial syllabus must be directly covered in the course(s) being used for each exam.
- Accreditation Actuary (AcA). Each school must designate a CIA member with a Fellowship designation and at least five years of experience as the AcA. The AcA (who is employed by the university) is responsible for working with the CIA to ensure standards are being maintained.
- Grades. For each course or group of courses offered, the CIA has established a minimum passing grade for accreditation (if there are several courses mapped to an exam, the student must achieve the minimum grade in all courses). The grades vary by university, and were established based on an evaluation of historical performance of students who took the actuarial exams after completing the corresponding course(s).
- Grade inflation. The EPC asked specifically for information on grade inflation. There are a number of guidelines in place to guard against and monitor grade inflation. The AcA is responsible for reporting any issues that may negatively affect the quality of the program, including grade inflation. The CIA will review the minimum grade for exemptions on an annual basis.
- Testing. Each course required for exemption must have 80% of the final grade coming from examination. The number of hours of examination must exceed the number of hours on the corresponding CAS/SOA exam.Exemptions considered by the CIA apply only to preliminary CAS Exams 2, 3L, 3F and 4. Canadian candidates who apply for and are granted waivers will still need to successfully complete CAS Exams 1, 5 and 6, as well as the CAS Course on Professionalism to be eligible for CAS membership.
- The CAS recognition of examination waivers granted by the CIA applies only to credits earned at accredited Canadian universities. The CAS Board action specifically notes that these waivers will not be extended to universities in the U.S.
- The CAS decision to decline to participate in the University Accreditation Program in 2010 was based, in large part, on the number and diversity of universities in the U.S. The resources required to evaluate, accredit and monitor all universities that would likely apply for accreditation in the U.S. would clearly have been significant. In addition, unlike the situation in Canada in which the academic community supported the accreditation process, the response from academics in the U.S. was, in some instances, strongly negative because of the impact that the requirements would have had on their teaching methods and course materials.
- The demographics of the CAS community in Canada differ in several ways from the demographics of the U.S. CAS community. Most CAS Canadian members have graduated from one of the CIA accredited universities with degrees in actuarial science; many have passed several preliminary examinations before their first work experience. In contrast, U.S. members come from a wide array of universities and colleges, with degrees in a broad array of subjects. Perhaps because of the concentration of Canadian candidates from actuarial science programs, Canadian candidates have historically performed better on CAS preliminary examinations than their corresponding U.S. cohorts, as measured by exam passing grades.
CAS leadership is aware that there are members who are strongly opposed to the concept of exam waivers. Some members have expressed the concern that the recent Board action undermines the integrity of the CAS credential and is a way to “open the door” for alternative routes to CAS membership. In reaching its decision regarding recognition of CIA exam waivers, the CAS Board concluded that, because of the rigorous process followed by the CIA in accreditation of universities and courses including ongoing supervision of approved universities by the CIA, CAS recognition of examination waivers granted by the CIA in no way endangers the quality of the CAS education process or the value of the CAS credentials.
We welcome your comments on this issue.