Obtaining my CPCU designation in 5 months is, I can say, one of the biggest accomplishments I have, and this is why: Last year around June, I started thinking about how to expand my knowledge of the insurance industry, risk management in particular. After thinking about it for some time, I decided I was going to start studying for my CPCU designation, despite working full time and being a full time student. I chose this designation over others because it’s widely regarded as the most difficult insurance designation, and I love a challenge.
My passion for insurance started in my teenage years, when I was about 15 years old (I’m currently 23). Since most of my friends were older than me, probably early twenties, they already had stable jobs and were involved in the insurance industry. I began developing a huge interest in the industry and analyzing everything I did in life using a risk management perspective. I can only say that my passion for insurance and risk management has been growing more and more since then. My insurance career started in 2014 as a producer, when I started to love underwriting and decided that one of my short term goals was to become one.
As I decided to go ahead and prepare for my CPCU designation, I scheduled my first test for October 15, 2016 and successfully passed CPCU 500 after studying for two weeks. I decided to schedule my second test one week after passing CPCU 500 as I wanted to finish as soon as I could. On October 22nd, 2016, I took CPCU 520, unfortunately, failing this time. I felt discouraged and thought that maybe I didn’t have enough brains and should stop seeking this designation. Luckily for me, I had friends and family who helped me get over that mental barrier by providing their moral support and reminding me why I first started. I found having a support system was vital to my success, and I would recommend no one pursuing the designation try to go it alone. Reading articles, talking to other candidates, reading the CPCU section of this website will also be of great help. One of the articles I found most helpful when I failed CPCU 520 was “How to Bounce Back From A Non Pass In a CPCU Test” from InsNerds.com.
One of the main reasons I decided to complete my designation in a short amount of time was because I read an article that said only 4% of insurance professionals held the CPCU designation and was inspired by the challenge. With that statistic in mind, I decided to make what was already a challenging pursuit more difficult by trying to finish it in 6 months. In November, I passed CPCU 530 and CPCU 540 (The Beast)! These achievements helped me a lot in regaining confidence in myself. During January and February, I took 551, 552, 553, 520, and finally AIC 32 for completion of my designation on March 11, 2017.
Success requires sacrifices, and that’s what it took. My days started at 5:30 AM every morning, getting to work around 6:45 AM and studying until 8:30 every morning, then taking practice exams at night. One strategy that I used to finish my designation so fast was to read a chapter once before work and then read it again during lunch hour, then take practice exams on the same chapter at night. I also created my own spreadsheet with the number of practice tests and scores taken for each chapter. (See Figure 1.) Then, I took five the practice exams using the random option and calculated the average score for each chapter to test my overall knowledge.
One of the biggest barriers I had to face was the technical vocabulary that must be learned, as I didn’t start learning English until I came to the US in 2012. I overcame this issue by writing any concept I did not understand in my own words and using context clues. I can say those were the 5 months of my life so far when I had the least sleep; however, these study habits are now part of my routine. I’m planning to go for other 2 or 3 designations this year, while I have the momentum from my first one.
The CPCU designation not only helped me in achieving my goals; it also applied in real life. While I was studying for CPCU 530 and in the process of buying a home, several questions came to my mind regarding contract law. Fortunately, by learning the concepts of contract law and completing CPCU 530, I was able to understand all the documents that I had to sign and how a contract works.
With dedication, disciplined study habits, and motivation – whether that is to reach new levels of personal achievement, to gain knowledge, or to open new doors in one’s career – anyone can become a CPCU. It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it, and the sense of achievement gained will push you forward to accomplish even greater things. Once again, good luck to everyone pursuing an insurance designation!