Fall 2015 - Prof. Caine was an excellent instructor for the course, well-qualified and dedicated to students' success. The class prepared me well for Exam FM; I passed it over Winter Break after taking 172A in the Fall. An extra two weeks of intense studying derivatives markets material was necessary, since we didn't cover too much of it in class, but the material has since been removed from FM. I would say if you get a B+ to A in the class, two to three weeks of intense practice problems after the final exam should be enough to pass the exam.
Let me just start off by saying that I'm not rating Kong based on his overall effectiveness as a college lecturer, but rather based on how effective he is at helping you pass the FM exam. First of all, this guy doesn't lecture; he spends five to ten minutes at most talking about a new topic (five minutes on bonds, five minutes on amortization, and so forth). After his brief talk, he passes out a stack of questions from the FM exams, and solves them one by one, again with very little explanation beyond the basic steps. That was pretty much the structure of the entire class up until the last two weeks, when he spent a lot of time showing us Excel sheets/graphs about call/put options, and interest rate swaps. (However, he still never really talked about what swaps and options are beyond the basic definitions and ideas.) Knowing that, the obvious strategy you should adopt when taking his class is to read about the underlying topics outside of lecture, and use the lecture ONLY for problem solving strategies. Getting back to my first point, if I were to evaluate him as a typical college professor, then he would be average at best, because students clearly have to spend a lot of time in addition to the lectures to get all the concepts. However, let me remind you that any young actuary will say that the rule of thumb is 100 hours of studying per 1 hour of test time (that's 300 hours of studying for the FM). After taking Kong's class, I'm relatively confident that the time I spent on his class throughout the quarter (less than a hundred hours) plus a few extra hours will be thoroughly enough to pass the exam. In fact I know of people who already passed the exam after taking Kong's class, having studied no where near the recommended number of hours. This is because Kong provided so many tricks to help approach all the different kinds of questions, and whether he explains each of his brilliant tricks or not (he doesn't), you will have all the tricks on your notebook at the end of the quarter. That is why in the end, I still must say he is a good professor, because he does what he is suppose to do, which is help students pass the actuary exams. A quick summary of the grading scheme of the actual class: 20% quizzes, participation, attendance, and project (5% each), 30% midterm, 50% final. His tests (10 questions each) are conceptual on par or perhaps easier (but longer) than FM exam questions. He tells students the exact topic(s) each of the questions will be on before the test. His midterm average was 56%, and I dare say the final average was no better (because it was slightly harder). In conclusion, if you want a typical upper division math class, then run far far away with your proofs tucked between your legs. But if you truly are interested in being an actuary, and you want to get a taste of what studying for the SOA exams are like, then there's nothing quite as good as a Kong quarter.