How To Pass CPCU in a Flash – It Doesn’t Take a Genius

How To Pass CPCU in a Flash – It Doesn’t Take a Genius

When I first started my finance and insurance career, I stumbled upon articles written by the Co-Founders Tony and Carly on LinkedIn, and eventually this blog, that showed a simple system to pass CPCU. With their motivation and advice, I passed all eight tests, in less than 8 months. I am glad that Tony and Carly are vocal about their journey on passing CPCU and share it on major social media. It helps me to connect and relate easily and realize that they are also peers in the industry. For another big motivator join the CPCU Candidates Facebook group. People there often to post their exam passing slips to share their cheers and victory. This is particularly useful in the information age to reach out to millennials. I followed their advice and got to where I am. Today, I would love to put my spin on how to conquer these 8 kingdoms of CPCU.



If you google “How To Pass CPCU”, a lot of the times Tony’s and Carly’s LinkedIn post is even higher than the official guide published by The Institutes


My CPCU journey from start the finish took less than 8 months.


What passing all eight tests to become a CPCU Gives you

Here are some of the obvious things, you show your company and the industry that you are committed. The CPCU allows even an  entry-level employee to shine and show that they are paying their dues. CPCU is an awesome way to set yourself apart and increase your chances of getting promoted or getting a brand new job.

After you are in the CPCU tribe, you can join a CPCU Society local chapter, to attend their networking events. It is a good way to put yourself out there and meet other industry professionals. You can obviously also network with other CPCUs on LinkedIn. Many high level insurance professionals have their CPCUs and when you run into them on LinkedIn, you’re not just a random person adding them, you’re part of the same alumni network of CPCU graduates.

The Annual Meeting is  another motivation for studying for CPCU because the experience is priceless. The Institutes usually organize those trips in warm and sunny places such as Hawaii, Orlando, San Diego, or New Orleans.

You might argue that you don’t have to study CPCU to travel to those places. True, but the sweat and tears that you spend to pass the eight tests can make you feel like “you have earned it”. Celebrating that with fellow CPCUs and your loved ones in the trip can also multiply your joy. The more the merrier! All those efforts that we put toward it will end up a good payout and experience.

Epcot, Orlando, Florida – Photo: Eric Danley via Flickr, used under Creative Commons License (By 2.0)


Ocean Beach Pier, San Diego, California – Photo: Chad McDonald via Flickr, used under Creative Commons License (By 2.0)


Bourbon Street, New Orleans, Louisiana – Photo: Lars Plougmann via Flickr, used under Creative Commons License (By 2.0)

A less obvious reason to get your CPCU is that insurance education can serve as insurance for your career. I know it sounds meta. The truth is, we never know what will happen in the future. For example, even American Airlines, a giant US airline carrier was bankrupt at one point. Countless people lost their pensions. I am not a doomsday type of person, but equipping yourself with well respected designations is definitely worth considering. Even Tony was laid off due to Reduction In Force (RIF, not RIP). With his hard work, he was able to transition to a new role in a much more affordable city.  

Essentially, CPCU diversifies your portfolio in insurance with not only the work experience, but also formal education. Only around 4% of insurance professionals have their CPCU. CPCU could potentially be a hedge to unemployment in the insurance industry.CPCU can sometimes save you from the unpredictable.


What are your credentials?  

I am no insurance guru (yet). In fact, before I started taking my first exam, I was working an entry-level position. I am not necessarily smarter than anyone I have a college degree, just like most millennials in the insurance industry. If I can do CPCU, so can you!


Aidan, how did you pass all these tests?

Let’s get to the meat and potatoes. I used Big Daddy University (BDU) study guides. There are other alternative study guides such as The Burnham System, Keir Educational Resources, Associate Pi, or The Institutes Study Material. I chose Big Daddy over other material because it came with videos that are like college lectures. BDU is not some industry secret, and it is well known. My employer also offered me BDU material without incurring any out of pocket expense.

This blog post is about how to incorporate this study aid effectively in your studies. Very often, your employer will pay for the study aids. Otherwise, you can befriend or partner people who have the material, or read our other blog post about how to get those resources on a budget.   

I know some people encourage CPCU students to read The Institute books. I admire those people. I personally never, ever, read one of them. Our time should be spent reading self-development books such as the books suggested by Tony and Carly.

Everyone has their own way to study. I am just sharing what works for me. It may not be for everyone. Your mileage may vary.

My process is to watch the videos with the BDU videos with their lecture notes. I highlighted and jotted down important points on the notes. Whenever the lecturer, Scott, tell you to highlight this or highlight that, or put a star, it is usually very important and very likely to appear in the actual exam. The rest you can just notate as you please or find important.

After each chapter’s video, I would do The Institute SMART Practice Test, (or use their smart phone app in Android or iOS) to get to 70% or above for that particular chapter before I would move on the next. In this way, I could make sure that I grasp a good understand of that chapter. Doing BDU exercise after each chapter is optional as the majority of the exercise overlaps with The Institute’s Practice.

After I watched all chapters’ videos and got 70% or more in each Practice Test, I would re-watch all the videos a second time and do Practice Test in the chapters that I needed more exercise. It might be repetitive. Believe me, not all of us can remember everything when we first learn something new. Watching the lectures for a second time can reinforce our memory.

My final step was to do both The Institutes and BDU Final Practice Test. Once you get at least 80% or more for 3-4 times, it is a good sign that you will do well in the actual tests.  

In a nutshell, here is the sequence of me passing CPCU in a flash.

  1. Watch the first chapter’s BDU video, take notes while watching it
  2. Do The Institutes SMART Practice Test for the corresponding chapter, or smart phone app (Android or iOS), get to at least 70%. BDU behind-the-chapter exercise is optional.
  3. Watch the second chapter’s video and the SMART chapter test.
  4. Re-watch all the videos for the second time to consolidate your knowledge, do any chapter(s)’s exercise as needed.
  5. Pass The Institutes SMART Final Test a couple times, at least around 80% or more. Do the BDU final test as well. Then you should be stellar and stunning when you face the real deal.


I have no idea why BDU is still distributing DVDs instead of building a website that allows students to log in and watch videos online while streaming. Here’s a workaround. Once you ordered BDU, Contact their customer support team to ask for online video streaming links.

Johnny FD “Remember when this used to be a thing?”– Photo: Johnny FD via Instagram, used under Creative Commons License (By 2.0)


Final Thoughts

As corny as it may sound, getting our CPCU is just the beginning of joining the tribe. Using BDU is a key to the passing success. Reading self development books can also be equally important. There is still a long way to climb the corporate ladder, if you will. If there is anything that will make your stand out, why not give it a try?

About Aidan Au

Aidan graduated high school in his native Hong Kong and completed his Bachelors in Actuarial Science and Mathematics at the University of Iowa. He won the Dana Ramundt Insurance Education Foundation Scholarship for his leadership and involvement in Gamma Iota Sigma and the Charles E. and Eleanore G. Wilson Scholarship in Actuarial Science and Statistics. After graduating in 2015 he started his insurance career with State Farm where he has held roles in claims and in the State Farm Bank. Aidan just finished his CPCU and looks forward to an awesome career in the insurance and finance industry.

9 thoughts on “How To Pass CPCU in a Flash – It Doesn’t Take a Genius”

  1. Great post! Still in college exploring my options.
    Btw, when I Googled “How to pass cpcu” your article is first, followed by Tony’s, then the Institutes!

  2. I took a somewhat different approach. I started the CPCU program two years out of college and it took me five years to complete the testing for the designation, beginning when CPCU was 5 parts and I studied each one for 8 months and took a 4-hour essay exam. I read every page of every CPCU text.

    For the accounting course (CPCU 8 in the 10-part series), I read two additional accounting books, one specifically on insurance accounting.

    For the economics course (CPCU 9 of the 10-part series), I also read an additional economics book. A couple of years after getting my designation, I still remembered much of the CPCU 9 content and published my first article in the CPCU Journal called “The Underwriting Cycle and Investment Income.” The editor literally thought I was a Wharton school economic masters holder…I told him, nope, just CPCU 9 and another college textbook.

    It took me five years, but I learned a lot and retained it, which is the purpose of education.

  3. I love Big Daddy U as well, but they do not currently offer their services for CPCU 552. Not sure why exactly. What did you do to get past that hurdle?

      • Not on FB (and no, I’m not THAT old, just choose to keep a low SM profile). So you just used the Institutes materials and had little trouble? Love the profile pic btw. I’m a fan of the Man of Steel as well.

  4. I used just BDU for everything in the 500 series (500-557) and I did my AIC with just The Institutes material since I had not heard of BDU initially. I finished the entire program in 10 months. Would have been 9 months if I did not have to take a month off with the month down time every few months for The Institutes exam window. BDU was a life saver for me a well.


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