How to Pass FRM Level 1 | 20 Must Know Study Tips

Estimated reading time: 9 minutes



Having a fear of failure? There is nothing wrong with that. It is human nature. However, now that FRM level 1 exams are around the corner, it means that you have to step out of your comfort zone.

Such times are associated with anxiety, confusion and high-stress levels. Nevertheless, with the right study tips and information, there is no reason to panic. 

Read on to find out the smart approach… from your study room to the test room.


1. Dealing with calculations

For starters, the part 1 is more quantitative in nature than part 2. You will need to memorize numerous formulas to do well on this paper.

Even though the test will also touch on qualitative concepts, part 1 questions require candidates to be comfortable with lengthy calculations.

Still, we like to ask our students to think of things in a different way. Mock questions are there to evaluate your ability to be a great financial risk manager.

The arithmetic difficulty level of the first round is what you can expect in any graduate certification course in finance.

By and large, you can expect numerous calculations around segments as Quantitative analysis, Risk Models & Valuation and Financial Markets & Products.

You may improve your computational skills through practice tests from various options available.


2. Know the average time to spend per question

Proper time management during the sitting is pivotal for success. It would be wise to skim through all the questions and decide how much time to allow each of them.

Because of the complex nature of the course, many candidates often make the mistake of spending too much time on some questions only to run out of time to complete the test.

For part 1, you will have four hours to answer one hundred questions. Each question has a different level of difficulty and that is a factor to consider when planning out your time.

Incorporating practice tests into your study routine will give you a better sense of the time management skills needed on the day.


3. Know your calculator inside out

There are specific types of calculators GARP allows into the test room. These are the Texas Instruments BA Plus II models and the Hewlett Packard 10B II, 10B II+, 20B, and 12C models.

Be sure to bring your calculator with spare batteries or two calculators.

To improve your chances of success, it would help if you invested time in learning how to work with the official calculators.

Be sure to learn about all the necessary functions and shortcuts until you feel extremely comfortable with your instrument.


4. Plan with a calendar and pace yourself

The challenge is unlike any other, in that you simply can’t get through with last minute readings. Ideally, you need to start preparations early and plan your study sessions with a calendar.

That is how you will successfully go through all the voluminous materials.

Also, planning with a calendar helps to strike a balance between your studies, family and social activities. You will be able to keep track of topics covered and the pending areas of the course work.

As a result, no matter what happens, you will remain accountable for all the learning goals and objectives you have set. Study plans will certainly help to build your self-discipline and determination.


5. Truly test yourself 

To get into the test mode, constantly practicing questions are a must. You will need several self-evaluations before you can confidently walk into that room.

Experts recommend creating an exam-like atmosphere when self-testing to ensure maximum benefit. This involves sitting in an isolated place away from distractions and timing yourself.

Taking mock questions are crucial at revealing your areas of need. You can brush up on these weak areas before the actual date only if you know what they are.

GARP provides one practice test but for most candidates that will not be enough. We encourage you to use our offerings in order to properly access your preparedness.


6. Multiple choices make things harder

Multiple choice challenges are typically harder than the essay-based ones. You have to identify the right answer spot on from the list of the other answers.

What’s more, GARP makes things a little more complicated by either:

  • Making answers look as if they are all similar or
  • Writing questions to appear more complex than they actually are

Sharpen your ability to cut through the ambiguity of definitions, comparisons and application of concepts to practical risk situations by using our books.

You will also need to have mastered a broad range of materials to discern correct answers from the list that draws from several concepts of financial risk.


7. Aim to be an all-rounder

Develop a schedule that details all the study topics 1 so that you can allow time for all of them. Mark on your calendar those topics you plan to study on which days. That will help you devote enough time for all the topics.

Instead of becoming a master in one, you will be well rounded in all concepts.

It is hard to predict which areas of the course materials GARP would test on D-day. It is better to familiarize with all the concepts. Study everything from every corner of the books.

One sure way to improve your aptness in all the topics is to use study groups.


8. Know what you can take into the room

As part of your preparation, you need to find out what materials you can carry  and which are prohibited.

The GARP website is clear on what is allowed with you, and these include a printed version of the ticket, a valid passport or driver’s license and the official GARP calculators.

Candidates are not to bring smart/electronic devices of any type into the testing room. Cell phones are to be turned off.

Be forewarned, if you are found with any non-authorized materials, your paper will not be graded.


9. Arrive much earlier than your scheduled start

Time is a big deal and it can lead to disqualification if you arrive late. The level 1 test is held in the morning and starts at 8.00 a.m. Your test day will be an early one.

You are required to get to the site and settle down before 7:45 am. After 7:45 am, the door closes, and candidates that come after that are turned away.


10. Don’t go tired or hungry

The pressure and anxiety of the FRM course can have you spending the entire night reading before the test day. It is not advisable. Alertness is essential for success.

Get enough rest and eat a healthy breakfast before you leave the house. It will be four hours of high-adrenaline and quick thinking.


11. Answer ALL questions

There is no negative marking for wrong answers! For that reason, you MUST attempt all questions to better your chances of passing. As a result of this, you will need to manage your time well during the exam.

Even after rigorous preparations, some questions will still be problematic for you. Some questions will be straightforward, while some will not be. Candidates are advised to answer ALL questions to the best of their ability.


12. Guess if you have to

A question left unanswered has a sure value of zero, but a guessed answer gives you a 25% chance. So even if you don’t know the answer, make an educated guess and move on.

Before you guess, however, read the question one more time to see if you missed anything. If nothing makes sense, mark an answer and move on. Just don’t spend too much time obsessing over it.


13. Don’t discuss anything before, during or after

Having discussions before the actual test is normally a recipe for unnecessary anxiety. In talking with a fellow candidate before attempting the paper, you might find your confidence deflating if you are unable to remember some concepts.

Trust us, just try to avoid this.

On the other hand, talking is strictly prohibited and can be interpreted as cheating. After completing the paper, it would be helpful to relax instead of going over the day again and again.

Don’t add more stress on yourself unnecessarily. You did what you could, now have a break.


14. Everyone has a different plan. Stick to yours

Even when you have to share with a like-minded candidate, it is important to remember that what works for them might not necessarily work for you. Everyone studies differently and everyone learns differently.

As a result, the number of hours you study will be different from that of your friends. Create a study plan with personal study goals and stick to it.


15. Don’t ignore the official books

There are lots of third-party study materials out there, but your first revision materials should be the official GARP study books and notes.

The part 1 textbooks include Foundations of the Risk Management, Risk Models, Quantitative Analysis, Financial Markets and Products.

Apart from the textbooks (which you can also access in soft copy), there are additional required readings that are part of the curriculum.


16. Don’t ignore third-party providers

GARP’s materials are comprehensive, but they often have relatively little practice questions. Then again, we believe that your practice questions must not be of the same difficulty level as the test. They should be much harder.

This is where our specially formulated e-books come in. For candidates that need plenty of practice questions for self-testing, work with our materials to improve your preparedness.


17. Be careful about taking advice

As stated earlier, it is unnecessary to engage in academic discussion with other students right before walking into the drill room. Quite simply, everyone has their unique approaches for handling questions.

What works for someone else might not work for you. After a long time of preparation, wrong advice at the last minute can lead to confusion, stress and anxiety. Be confident in your preparations and do your best.


18. Practice, Practice, Practice

Did we mention that you must practice questions before attempting the real deal? Sample questions help to test your understanding of concepts and can help you identify the areas that need more attention.

It is not sufficient to go through the notes or memorize formulas. You will need regular self-testing in a focused setting. Sample questions can give you a feel of how the actual ones will be structured.

They help to boost your confidence.


19. Save the hardest questions for last

Most academic tests usually carry some many low hanging fruits. Easy questions that you can quickly answer and secure points. The financial risk manager challenge is no different.

However, if you spend too much time on the difficult questions, you risk end up leaving these easy ones unanswered when time runs out. It is thus advisable to start with easy questions and save the hard ones for last.


20. Understand the curriculum

Even though getting a passing grade is the only way you will get the prestigious certification, being too exam-oriented can make you lose the bigger picture.

GARP aims to mold skilled financial risk professionals that can handle challenges in a highly dynamic and risk-laden world.

The test is only to find out if you have truly understood and internalized concepts necessary to make you the best risk professional in the industry. So, focus on the course curriculum.

Aim to learn and you will find success.


In Summary

It takes a lot of planning and preparation to pass the GARP FRM level 1 examination. Try and maintain a good study schedule, stay confident and prioritize the course curriculum.

Endeavor to familiarize yourself with the regulations and adopt a smart approach to tackling the questions.

Most importantly, never give up. Please remember to take a look at our Shop Page and download all the great free content that we prepared for you!


Go forth and conquer,

The QuestionBank Family