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How to pass ST5

“I’m starting to study ST5, the Finance and Investment Specialist Subject A. I’ve not worked in investment, so how can I improve my understanding of the finance and investment area?”

This enquiry came into our in-box recently, so we asked one of our Education Actuaries to respond.

Reading around a specialist subject is always a good idea. Although the exam will be based on the syllabus (take time out to read this carefully to ensure your studies cover all of the content) and supported by the core reading, reading around this helps to develop a good understanding of the practical application of the subject – and hence improve the ability to answer exam questions.

For ST5, I recommend you simply read anything and everything you can on finance and investment. Nothing will be wasted.

To start with, keep to the straightforward material (you can always consult formal textbooks for the detail of the technical material later) and aim to become very familiar with the whole range of opportunities for investors and finance options for businesses.

Firstly, this means reading the weekend papers for the personal finance and business news.

It also involves choosing a few easy-to-read books from a bookshop to improve your knowledge and understanding. Some examples are in the ‘For Dummies’ series (do not be put off by the title of this series which give good coverage of technical material, but in an entertaining way), as well as the odd interesting paperback on ‘How I became a millionaire using derivatives’ or ‘How to make money on the stock market’ etc. The emphasis here is to improve your knowledge and understanding in an enjoyable way.

I also recommend that you become a virtual (or real, if you have some spare money!) investor – following a small number of companies, analysing their reports etc and really getting into what it means to invest.

But don’t forget to keep focused on what the exam requirements are, by looking at some recent past papers early on in your studies, so you focus effectively on the breadth and depth of ST5 from the outset.

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