FRM Preparation Pitfalls to Avoid

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes



The Financial Risk Manager certification, one of the most sought-after credentials in risk management, demands that you pass two exams administered by GARP

This task is known to be notoriously challenging, setting the bar higher for new-comers and even seasoned professionals.

There are no cutting corners here; intense FRM preparations are needed for success in the exams. Here are some pitfalls that you must avoid in your planning phase this season.


Last-minute groundwork

Avoid last-minute preparation; it’s a terrible study habit that many fall into. This might have worked elsewhere, but it cannot produce results in the GARP tests

Success in this field demands an in-depth understanding of the course content. It doesn’t come by memorizing and regurgitating textbook content on paper in the test room.

You have to apply the principles to practical scenarios knowledgeably by leveraging your analytical and critical thinking. Last-minute cramming, therefore, doesn’t cut it.  

The longer you wait to review all your materials thoroughly, the slimmer your chances of passing the exams become. Start early!

Give yourself at least three full months of studying each day to adequately master the contents and boost your confidence before the big day.



Perhaps you already know that you need to start early for the exam. You have even created a study schedule and marked the days on the calendar, but the only thing is…you haven’t executed your study plan.

Procrastination is an anti-success burden that will surely drag you down. Execute and stick by your study plan. Accomplish a few study topics each week if you want to be on the safe side of things.

Studying bits of information every day beats trying to review everything in a few days. When you take time to familiarize yourself with a specific topic without rushing, it becomes innate.

It finds a way into your long-term memory, and the application of that knowledge then becomes easy.


Studying without a plan

Studying without a plan is like shooting arrows in the dark — it is hard to hit a target. A study plan creates a vision and objective for you.

It breaks down each of the topics that you have to accomplish in every study session.

If you study ‘freestyle’ without a strategy, there is a high risk of forgetting to cover all the areas of the course. Time management similarly becomes tricky.

You don’t want to walk into the test room unsure of yourself because time ran out before you could study everything adequately.

Create a schedule and stick to it. A study plan not only helps in time management but can also help you expand the use of your resources.


Ignoring practice questions

GARP provides you with the required materials, but relying on those alone is not enough. A quick review of online forums confirms just how it is essential to get additional study materials and assistance.

Most successful candidates will swear by practice questions. These drill questions help to reinforce your topic-wise knowledge.

By testing yourself after every segment, it ensures that you don’t move to a new area before understanding everything in the current chapter.

The official study books will give you the foundation knowledge, but you have to go a bit further.

External study materials and practice questions expand your thinking and train you on the application aspects of risk manager knowledge and concepts.


Not making your own notes

Isn’t it great to live in our current times with everything digitized? You can download the digital versions of your FRM study materials to read on the go.

And you can do the same with third-party materials and practice questions. However, there is a caveat. Most candidates, because of this digital convenience, fall back into laziness and fail to make their notes.

Even before the digital wave, the idea behind writing notes in the first place was not aimed to reproduce textbook content.

It was about concretizing your knowledge by summarizing a topic in your own words and understanding.

Making your own notes not only enhances your memory on what you have learned but also improves your capacity to apply that knowledge.


Taking a previous candidate’s advice as gospel

So, perhaps you are lucky that your brother, colleague, or friend succeeded in the risk manager exams in their first attempt, and they get to share their secrets with you.

Cherish their advice, yes, but apply it objectively. What worked for them may not work for you. Everybody has their unique habits and retention levels.

Then again, these exams are kept dynamic year-after-year. Someone should never tell you to “focus on these areas and you will be okay.

Prediction never works at this level. Study everything without discrimination. No two years are ever the same when it comes to what is tested on GARP’s papers.


Not properly testing yourself

You will never know where your weaknesses are if you don’t test yourself in an exam-like setting.

Plan to sit for a full mock test (by a third-party provider) in an exam-like atmosphere and mark it objectively to understand where your strengths and weaknesses lie.

Taking such stimulative tests reveals to you the areas where you need to double your study efforts. Attempting test questions also improves your confidence and resilience to the intimidating nature of this beast.

When you take a mock test as part of your preparation efforts, it should be done right.

  • Time yourself so you can improve your time management skills
  • Remove distractions so you can concentrate and do your best
  • Do not be tempted to look at the answers
  • Then, mark the test and score yourself without bias


Getting too excited or too disappointed

One test isn’t enough to reveal all your strengths and weaknesses. There is often the danger for those who score highly in a mock test to kick back and believe that they have mastered everything.

On the other hand, those who score poorly in practice may be too disappointed and discouraged to continue.

The thing is, you need continuous testing to get a reliable reading. A single score doesn’t reveal much.

Then, of course, you have to remember that performing well in simulated exams is not a free pass to stop studying.

If you get so puffed up with confidence and stop studying, that’s courting failure. On the other hand, weak scores should not be a discouragement.

They should help you focus your efforts, where they are needed the most.


Not learning why you failed or passed

Maybe you got all the questions right, or you got many of them wrong. Either way, you have to review the explanations and find out what you did right or identify your mistake.

You can always go back to your textbook and notes to get more clarity and cement your understanding of the concept that pertained to that question.

One of the most effective techniques is always to keep track of the questions that you miss when attempting practice questions. Write them in a notebook somewhere, with all the correct answers.

You should then make it a point to regularly reviewing them until you level-up in those concepts.


Over studying

Over studying is a pitfall in any exam preparation effort, especially shortly before the real thing. We believe you should dedicate more hours to studying as the date draws nearer, but don’t overdo it.

Stop pulling in the all-nighters. Lack of rest will be detrimental to your health and performance. You want your brain to be working at peak level when you go to face the exams.

You similarly want to be strong and healthy on that day, and not on a hospital bed.

Ensure, therefore, to get enough rest, eat a balanced diet, and stay healthy.

Stick to a schedule that allows you to study enough while getting enough rest, getting excellent meals, engaging in physical exercises, and socializing with family and friends.


Visualizing a negative outcome

“You cannot do it” “you are never going to make it” “you registered too late; time is not on your side.” These are some of the negative thoughts you have to overcome in your FRM preparation phase.

It’s challenging, but it is possible to pass in the first attempt, regardless of your background or time limitations.

Think success, push yourself, and you will make it. Think about the reasons why you are attempting the exams in the first place. Stay motivated and do something about your goals every day.

Study more, test yourself, and seek to do better. Failure does not define you; it is not a part of you. You must make it. Others have done it before, why shouldn’t you?

Tension and anxiety fill the air whenever the date is near.

However, with proper preparation, you will get to stay calm and confident when you finally get into that room to prove your intellectual prowess and the right to become a financial risk manager.

Start studying with improved habits today. Watch out for the preparation pitfalls discussed above, stay focused and you’ll do fine.

Once again, we thank you for taking the time to read our views, you may visit this link to see other opinion pieces or here to get all our free content to help you in your preparations.

Not convinced if this challenge is for you? Visit here to learn more about this course!


Fight on!

The QuestionBank Family