How to Handle Difficult FRM Questions

Estimated reading time: 9 minutes


Techniques to know

Are you wondering how difficult those FRM questions really are? It is indisputable how immensely beneficial the certification is for a career in financial risk management.

All across the world, job recruiters are on the hunt for certified professionals.

As a result of this, GARP tries to bake highly skilled individuals through their Financial Risk Manager program. Only by passing their seriously difficult questions will you attain the right to use their mark of approval.

The two-part examinations reflect that commitment, with a difficulty level that is higher compared to many other professional certifications in the field.

However, not to despair; here are a few exam techniques that you can apply to ensure success in the first take.


Walk into the room with an open mind

Your preparation techniques for the course must be underpinned by commitment and dedication. Yes, you will need to go through your official GARP books plus content from third party providers, such as ourselves.

But, unlike your typical college exams, the nature of the questions you’ll face will hardly ever be direct. The test, therefore, requires flexibility of reason, as opposed to robotic intellect.


Theoretical concepts to practical situations

Many of GARP’s questions will test your ability to apply theoretical concepts in a practical real-world scenario.

Financial risk management in practice requires professionals that can make accurate decisions, even in a high-pressured environment.

For that reason, you’ll have to decipher each question and decide whether the solution needs one or several of the concepts learned throughout the course.


Be ready for brain twisting phrases and sentences

The devil is always in the details. This is so true, especially when you are staring down at those 100 questions at your desk. A single word or prefix in the exam room can send you the wrong way.

Interestingly, this is a reflection of the current economic environment where the face of risk keeps changing. It is too easy to give the right answer to the wrong question in the examination.

Our recommendation…read ALL of your questions a minimum of two times. Always remember that in the examination, literary skills and content knowledge go hand in hand.

Some of the phrasings to watch out for include:

  • Negatives (not, never, worst)
  • Double Negatives (not among the disadvantages of)
  • Qualifiers (always, generally, often)
  • Absolute qualifiers (best, worst, completely, entirely)
  • Lengthy statements (organize your reasoning per every punctuation)


Get familiar with the layout of the exam paper

The first thing to do once your exam starts should be skimming through the whole paper to get familiar with the questions.

This action will give you a feel of the general direction GARP is heading for and it will prep your thoughts for the details to come.

This first interaction will prove helpful to get you mentally ready for both those easy and challenging questions.

Your subconscious will also work in your favor to recall the necessary information, even when you are working on a different question.

This is also the moment when you get to decide which questions to answer first and which ones should come later.

By scanning through the paper before you actually start answering, you’ll also be able to quickly decide how long to spend on each question.

Proper time management is absolutely crucial to ensure that you answer all questions before the time is up.


Start with questions you are most familiar with

It is always advisable to start with the easiest questions in this type of test, or any other paper for that matter.

There are many reasons why this is encouraged. For starters, easier questions will help build your confidence. And by the time you get to the tougher ones, you will have the mental strength needed to push through.

This technique also helps with time management. This, as you’ll handle the straightforward questions faster and allocate more time for the complex ones.

When you get to the tougher questions, your brain will be functioning at a higher capacity.


Intentionally misleading 

It is not uncommon to fail subsequent questions in a multiple choice exam, influenced by the wrong answers in the previous questions.

Successful handling of multiple choice questions, therefore, requires you to be deeply rooted in sound knowledge.

As opposed to being influenced by the choices provided, make your own decisions and give your answers to the questions posed! After that, you can proceed to see if your answer is among those provided.

A detailed reading of the question will always reveal the right answer. Savvy candidates are those who would have gone through countless practice questions and will have what it takes to unravel instances of misinformation.


Reading and evaluating 

After reading and understanding the question, you will probably have an answer in mind before you even go through the provided choices.

However, that’s no reason to rush. Read all the provided answers and evaluate them keenly before marking the right choice.

The best solution could be among those choices that you ignore to read. Furthermore, having all the options on the table broadens your thinking.

For a candidate that has been effectively studying, most of the answers in the exam will be familiar. Similarly, some answers will be wrong from the outset.

You can get a great score, just eliminating one wrong answer after another in this certification path.


Leveraging connections

It’s not a secret that sometimes GARP goes a bit overboard with presenting tough FRM questions on the exam paper.

Even after months of burrowing through your books and guides, you will come across questions that leave you blank.

Such questions rely on your ability to make educated guesses. And yes, chances are, you will have to make an educated guess or two.

Nevertheless, things don’t have to be so bad. Simply start with what is familiar or even slightly familiar. It might be a word or phrase in the question or some of the answers.

Think how a police officer might be able to predict the next move of a perpetrator based on small things like the watch they are wearing. Such is the kind of intuition needed with these impossibly tough test questions.

Note all the possible concepts that you think the question draws from and proceed from there. One step at a time


Read each question in its entirety

With those lengthy ones, it is often tempting to jump to some conclusion before you even finish reading the whole question. That’s a move that will only yield unpleasant results.

Your main goal should be to understand what the examiner is asking before you proceed to answer. It will also help if you rephrase the question as you read it.

Replace complex wordings with synonyms that you relate with, provided you don’t change the entire meaning of the question.

Paraphrasing a question in your own words can be extremely helpful for accurate understanding.


Get analytical 

GARP understands that serious candidates have enough motivation to go through their study materials in the hope for success.

The promises of a flourishing career, higher income and more responsibilities are appealing enough. But do you have what it takes to join the elite club of the ‘James Bond’ kind of all-around risk experts?

That’s what the exams will find out. Analyze each question by breaking down them into parts. Afterwards, figure out the relationship existing between the various components.

Identify the key facts, such as which subject areas are being tested, what is being asked of you and why.


Leverage your critical thinking skills

The test will throw you off-balance. It will push your understanding and test your ability to apply and improvise. When you encounter those questions that seem hard to crack, you will need to become a critical thinker.

Based on your acquired knowledge and skills in financial risk, you should be able to tell wrong from right. Take an intellectual stand, and refuse to be swayed by wrong answer choices.

Make the right judgment based on the facts presented and your content knowledge.

For each question, a critical thinker will:

  • Evaluate
  • Observe
  • Synthesize
  • Reflect
  • Apply


What is known vs. What is asked

Even in a practical-oriented exam, you need a sharp memory to get your facts right.

Once you map out which concept or topic a particular question is testing on, you will need to remember all pertinent information about that topic.

To help with that, you can make a summary of concept and facts on the margin. This will give you the broad vision needed to get the correct answer.

Recall your facts, and possibly listing them down. Afterwards, compare and contrast them with the information provided in the question.

It is possible that the question needs you to recall the facts and deduce wrong from right.

It could also be that the question requires you to break down a hypothetical scenario and see how best to apply the correct facts.


Stay calm and avoid stress

None is immune to frustrations after going through one hardship after another. It is the same case in the FRM exam. After going through 3 or 4 incredibly challenging questions, it is easy to get frustrated and anxious.

The fact is, this anxiety will not only cause you to lose confidence, but it will also cloud your judgment.

Because of the thought-provoking nature of the examinations, you will need to be clear-headed and maintain a high level of confidence and composure.

Take short breaks. Take a sip from your bottle of water. You can also close your eyes or stretch for a brief moment after attempting every four or five questions.

It would also help to take short breaths to regain calmness during the exam.


Think positive

It is easy to roll down on a negative trail of thoughts when you think that the exam isn’t fair. But here’s something to think about. You never really know until those results come out.

Negative thoughts, therefore, will do you more harm than good in a exam. Sure, those questions might be hard, but remember that the examiners are not trying to trick you or fail you.

They simply want to know that you deserve to be among the best.

Positive thinking is a powerful tool, and past candidates have been able to leverage it for success on the first attempt of the exam.

Remember that the stressful nature of the exam is just part of the testing process. Indeed this is so, because stress management is one of the qualities of an astute financial risk manager.

You, therefore, need to sum up a ‘Norman Vincent’ kind of mental disposition when things get tough in the examination room.

Instead of thinking “time is running out, I will never be able to answer them all,’’ say to yourself “I am a good time manager, I am in control, I will answer all my questions in the allotted time.”


NEVER leave questions blank!

The fact that both examinations are multiple-choice should be favorable. Then, there is some icing on the cake; there is no negative marking for wrong answers.

As if that’s not enough, you get a 25% chance for a randomly marked answer. These are reasons why you shouldn’t leave any question unanswered on your paper.

You are allowed to guess or make an educated guess when you encounter a mental deadlock. And that’s totally fine- just do it and move on. Guessing is 100-times better than leaving the question unanswered in this scenario.

Educated guessing as mentioned before will stand you a higher chance of success even in the face of uncertainty.


ALWAYS check your answers

We have established that, among the things needed for success, is caution. An FRM examination does more than test your content knowledge.

Ensure that you mark the correct answer for the right question. At this level, it can be easy to mix up your answers, and that will risk your chances of success. 

If you have time at the end of the exam, do a ‘spot check’ to ensure that you have marked the right answers in the correct order.

Your marking should also be clearly visible in the correct boxes. Check to see if your answer is the best for every question, or if you can do something to improve them.


…A final word on those pesky questions

The Financial Risk Manager examinations determine whether you get to advance your career in the field of financial risk.

Because of the time and expenses involved in the certification program, many candidates often pray that they pass the exams in the first attempt.

We urge that you use the above techniques to help your chances, download all of our free questions and look though our other articles for even more help.

We truly hope for your success in the upcoming exams.


Until then,

The QuestionBank Family