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Rhodes Mathematics Students Succeed at Passing Competitive Actuarial Science Test

Publication Date: 2/20/2012

Rhodes mathematics-economics bridge majors Joshua Cape ’14 and Xin Shu ’13 recently passed the first actuarial science examination — called Exam P/1 — covering topics in probability theory. The notoriously difficult examination’s pass rate is typically around 30 percent, according to Dr. Jeff Hamrick, assistant professor of mathematics at Rhodes.

Actuarial science applies mathematical and statistical methods to evaluate the financial implications of uncertain future events and is used by businesses and professionals to create risk management policies.

The actuarial science examinations are jointly sponsored by the Casualty Actuary Society and the Society of Actuaries. The first five preliminary examinations cover core mathematical topics like probability theory, statistics, time series analysis, interest theory, discounted cash flow analysis, life contingencies, and risk models.

“Understanding how human beings have come to think about random phenomena is an important part of a liberal arts education,” says Hamrick. “The professional credential and the validation of your knowledge on an internationally competitive test are icing on the cake.” Hamrick, who has passed the first actuarial science examination himself, incorporated practice questions last fall into nearly every homework assignment in Math 311, the college’s probability theory course.

“This marks the culmination of a five-month journey,” says Cape. “First came the course; then came additional, exam-specific preparation, followed by the exam itself. The entire department—let alone Professor Hamrick—has been extremely supportive through it all.”

The Department of Mathematics and Computer Science has recently been increasing its emphasis on applied mathematics. “Mathematics is a subject that is rich and diverse in both its theory and application,” says Michael Sheard, the department’s chair. “We’re very proud that our students have demonstrated their achievements in this field in such a significant way.”

The department, using its own resources and gifts from alumni, partially subsidized the examination fee for students.

Another group of mathematics majors and mathematics-economics bridge majors will attempt the examination in March. Hamrick said that in the 2012-2013 academic year, Rhodes will offer Math 341 (Introduction to Financial Mathematics), a course that should prepare students to pass the second actuarial examination, Exam F/2.


Founded in 1848, Rhodes College is a private, coeducational college of liberal arts and sciences. It aspires to graduate students with a lifelong passion for learning, a compassion for others, and the ability to translate academic study and personal concern into effective leadership and action in their communities and the world.

Tags: Faculty, Honors, Students


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Bill Howard February 25, 2012

Congratulations to the successful students.

You have taken the first step in a challenging academic program that can lead to an intellectually rewarding career.

Bill Howard, Rhodes Class of 1961, Fellow of the Society of Actuaries, Member of the American Academy of Actuaries