Be confident in Assurance and PMR

While this advice is aimed at SOA candidates in Ontario, it does apply mostly to those writing only the UFE.

Assurance will make up 25-35% of the exam marks while PMR will make up 20-30% of the exam marks. It should go without saying that you should have some strength in these two indicators in order to stay competitive and make the rest of the exam easier on yourself.

By now, you have probably encountered the majority of the types of situations you may encounter on your final and you’ll have some idea where you stand.

Within the Assurance competency, here are some ways you might be able to stand out:

  • Strong procedures – It’s almost impossible that you won’t see at least one or two indicators where you’re required to write procedures. At this stage, a lot of candidates are still weaker with procedures so this might give you and edge if you can stand out. Remember that procedures cover off a risk area and be specific!
  • Know your special engagements – You should have these committed to memory. They come up often and it’ll go a lot quicker if you can remember them and what they’re about.
  • Understand the RAMP approach, especially the Risk – Understanding the different types of risk and how they work just makes your response easier to read and follow.
  • Link materiality to users – Materiality is related to users and not to risk so be clear why you’re setting materiality.
  • Control Weaknesses – The Weakess, Implication and Recommendation should be clear and specific.

Part 2 – PMR Tomorrow.

What other suggestions do you have to perform strongly in Assurance?


  1. How many points should be discussed under Control weakness?

    • It depends how many there are in the case. Generally my thought is that you should discuss half of the ones id’d. This generally works out to 3-4 but use your judgment.

      It should be added that the more material and/or glaring ones should be ranked high enough that you discuss them.

  2. Thank you! You always give excellent advice as always.

    P.S. you sound a lot like my seminar leader!

    • You’re very lucky to have this seminar leader! Just kidding, thanks for the compliment – glad you find it useful 🙂

      (And I promise, I’m not your seminar leader!)

  3. Can you shed some light on how close the densmore guides or norgrove marking guides may be to the actual ones used by ICAO to make the SOA?I know that they are not the same but how much should we rely on what densmore says you need to get C or RC?I ask because I just want to gather how representative these are to what the ICAO uses.

    Ex: If you do 3 WIRs and you conclude on 3 valid WIRS, you are C. If you did 2 WIRS and conclude, you RC.

    I mean to ask are the ICAO markers this formulaic too?

    Hope the question is clear!

    • The short answer is: nobody knows. This stuff is of course kept strictly confidential.

      My opinion is that the Densmore guides are very reasonable and should be about on par. It’s possible the markers are slightly easier on you but it wouldn’t be by much.

      I do think it’s this formulaic – it’s the only way to mark so many cases impartially – you cannot really leave things up to interpretation. Although the number of issues or which issues IS formulaic, reading and understanding what you wrote and making sure it makes sense and is clear is not. That’s why these things are writing exams to a large extent. This is also why I think it’s important to write your analysis clearly, concisely and in a structure that’s easy to follow and logical. As someone who has marked many cases, I love it when candidates hand me the answer, not when they make me search for them!

  4. Thank you. That makes sense. I have been using Densmore to mark and often I find its so strict that if your implication is not strong enough for example, you wont get the credit for the full WIR.

  5. Special Reports

    Was wondering if you could highlight some important reports.

    So Far I’ve got:


  6. Just as a recap of all the cases, what are the types of Quants that we can be expected to do? I have:

    Cash flow analysis
    Sale of shares
    Sale of assets

    I assume there’s a ton more that I’m missing but I started compiling this list slightly late.

    • I never thought of it like this. I assume you have some kind of plan for this list! 🙂

      Off the top of my head I can think of.. business valuations, rent or buy decisions, profitability analysis, bonus calculation, financial statement corrections/analysis and all kinds of costing possibilities. The one that comes to mind from 2010 had to do with costing condo fees.

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