Time Series Projects: Candidate Postings
Updated: April 7, 2006
Jacob: How important are our postings for the NEAS faculty?
Rachel: It is sometimes hard for the NEAS faculty to determine if a topic is unclear or if one candidate mis-understands something that other candidates find easy. By reading the postings on the discussion forums and the student projects that are submitted, the faculty get a better feel for what items are unclear.
If one candidate does not understand something that others find easy, we may explain the concept on the discussion forum or send a personal email to that candidate (if the error is on a submitted student project).
If most candidates find a topic unclear, we may provide an illustrative worksheet.
Jacob: Do most candidates find the student projects to be difficult or easy?
Rachel: This depends on the candidate’s nature. Many candidates have little difficulty; we have received dozens of student projects that meet the requirements for VEE credit. Some candidates have difficulty getting started.
Jacob: Why do some candidates find this difficult?
Rachel: Some candidates want step by step "cookbook" instructions for how they should proceed on the student project. The SOA has the opposite perspective. Candidates should demonstrate that they understand how to apply the statistical techniques. The student project is not the application of NEAS instructions. The candidate chooses a statistical question and uses the time series techniques to answer it.
Jacob: What does NEAS do?
Rachel: We abide strictly by the SOA requirements, but we try to provide enough guidance that all candidates can complete a reasonable project. We can’t provide step by step cookbook instructions, or the SOA may not approve the courses. This hurts the candidates who are taking the projects seriously and completing them. We provide explanations, illustrative worksheets, dialogues, examples, and partial guidelines so that all candidates should be able to complete the projects. In the coming weeks, we will post extracts from completed student projects so that all candidates understand what is needed.
Jacob: Why do some candidates have trouble with the student projects?
Rachel: Candidates who deal with interest rate generators or regression analyses at work have less difficulty with the student projects. Students who lack practical experience sometimes need more aid, even if they understand the concepts.
Jacob: Does educational background have any effect?
Rachel: Some actuarial candidates have MA or PhD degrees. They are used to working independently on projects, and they find the student projects easier than studying for the final exam. Other actuarial candidates have taken college courses with no term papers or projects. They expect the course to have a final exam and nothing else. Our goal is to provide guidance for the inexperienced student without diminishing the independent work to complete the project. This is not always easy. We have refrained from providing too much choice in the student projects or answering basic questions about statistics until we know what most candidates need.
Jacob: If a candidate doesn’t understand what a correlogram is, do you explain this?
Rachel: The SOA believes that if a candidate takes a time series course and doesn’t know what a correlogram is, the candidate has not mastered the material sufficiently for VEE credit. The on-line courses assume that candidates will invest the time and effort to master the basic material. Not all actuarial candidates learn well by on-line courses. A candidate who needs much personal guidance may do better with a traditional university course.
Jacob: What if the candidate is not able to form a correlogram in Excel and doesn’t have other statistical software?
Rachel: We have posted worksheets with Excel formulas for the correlogram, the Durbin-Watson statistic, and the Box-Pierce Q statistic. Many candidates have trouble with the Excel formulas for these techniques.