Your Ultimate GARP FRM Program De-Stress Guide

Estimated reading time: 9 minutes



As you progress with the GARP FRM program, always remember that a stressed mind will be a cluttered mind. You cannot think clearly when a shadow of fear and anxiety hangs heavily over you. 

In most occasions though, these feelings are part and parcel of most exams.

In a critical professional certification exam like GARP’s Financial Risk Manager program, relaxation is your best bet for success. That’s because their questions are intentionally designed to push your reasoning limits.

Unfortunately for many, close to that edge resides massive frustration. This ultimately leads to a loss of confidence and bad performance.


Break for long deep breaths

It is not a surprise that the program is stressful, because such is the nature of financial risk management in the business world.

However, we know that an astute leader (present or future) will find ways to thrive in such pressing conditions.

If things are difficult on you in the exam, professionals recommend taking short breaks to breathe and focus. This technique involves taking long and slow deep breaths.

During that minute of pure breathing, disengage your mind from all thoughts and feelings. This stress-bursting technique is especially helpful to center your mind. 

It will help to counter negative thoughts that start to haunt you after going through tough questions.


Using Positive affirmations

Negative thinking is inescapable when you find that all your intensive reading was off-the-mark. This unfortunate scenario can happen in both level 1 and level 2 examinations.

Questions are rarely straightforward or structured as per textbook concepts.

They require in-depth evaluation, reflection and application of subject matter in a hypothetical scenario.

Such questions can be exhausting and frustrating. Constantly engaging positive mental affirmations can be an effective way to stay calm and banish your anxiety. 

Research shows that this de-stressing technique helps to balance adrenaline levels during a test. Some positive affirmations to try when feeling stressed include:

  • I am calm, relaxed and focused
  • My memory is sharp, and my thinking abilities are on target
  • I’m in-love financial risk management, and the exam is enjoyable
  • Passing all my exams without a struggle will happen for me
  • I love the challenge in tough exams
  • I am looking forward to an excellent score in this test no matter what


A body scan can help to calm the butterflies

Exam anxiety can be numbing, not only mentally but physically. A ‘body scan’ is a de-stressing technique that promotes muscle relaxation for stress to abate.

Take a short break after tackling tough questions in close succession. Take a few deep breaths and focus on your body muscles as you mentally release the tension you feel there.

The body scan relaxation strategy restores a healthy mind-body connection. This technique will help you stay calm and sustain your focus and attention.

You will get to pay attention to the present moment. Additionally, you will find the right solution to the problems out of the availed options. 

Body scan meditation births the emotional resilience that’s essential for success in the program.


Repetitive prayers

Prayer can be an excellent stress buster for anyone that is spiritually conscious. You only have to silently repeat a phrase from a prayer verse as you practice the breathing technique discussed earlier.

Prayers will help you approach the task with serenity and mental clarity. The fact is, prayer in itself is introspective and meditative. 

If there’s anything that can help you get centered and restore your confidence under testing circumstances, prayer should be on that list. This action influences your state of mind and consequently, your state of body.

This relaxation technique also helps to alleviate a depressed mood, to lower blood pressure and stabilize adrenaline hormones. 

Additionally, prayer stimulates our thinking and behavior to take on a more confident and positive direction.



As an option to the earlier described techniques, consider the following. Did you know that a simple stretch can help to relieve tension and restore your mental balance during your course?

After putting your mind through deep processing, it would be healthy to disengage for a minute so as to re-energize. Scientists postulate that energy becomes stagnant after doing one thing for too long.

Practicing regular stretching can improve the energy supply to your mind by improving blood circulation. This de-stressing technique will clear your thoughts in the same way that you clear cache for a browser to load faster.

By stretching, you attain relaxed movement and tension dissolves. That moment of now-ness briefly sweeps through you when you stretch and brings along far-reaching creativity and peace.


Focus on progress NOT perfection

It is easy to obsess about specific areas in your program, especially for individuals that have a perfectionist personality. Seeking perfectionism in the FRM course can be detrimental, because it ultimately leads to time wastage.

Remember that your goals are still within reach even if you miss a few tough exam questions. Yes, we know that the pass rate is typically below the 50% mark. 

Nevertheless, that implies that whatever level of difficulty you are experiencing, almost everybody else is experiencing the same.


Those little achievements

Provided you studied well during the lead up to the big day, you’ll have a good shot at passing. A few questions will be unfavorable here and there, but in such instances, it would help to be grateful.

Stay appreciative for the questions that you have answered confidently. This positive feeling is incredibly vital and can even help you get through those complex questions.

Studies show that regularly expressing gratitude reduces anxiety by lowering blood pressure. It also leads to a confidence boost and sets a mental stamina strong enough to tear through challenging circumstances.

So, when you start experiencing difficulty with some questions in the test room…simply take a moment to be happy for the ones that you do know!


Time management

Time management and exam stress are directly related. Students with poor time management abilities shoulder the most frustrations during the course. 

There is a tendency for many students to spend too much time on a few tough questions and lose out on other easier ones. Having unanswered questions in your test is not an option.

Effective time management involves going through the entire paper and plotting a reasonable pace for full completion. That initial scan will give you a perspective of the questions ahead and their difficulty.

You will then get to plan your time well, allowing a few extra minutes for harder questions and enough time for the less challenging ones.


Being strategic

One timeless exam technique is to start with the easiest questions. These less challenging questions will boost your confidence before you proceed on to the tougher ones.

Worst case scenario, if time runs out before you finish, you will be confident that you have obtained all the marks that you possibly could. The biggest mistake for candidates is starting with harder questions.

Time them runs out on them before they can pick the ‘low hanging fruits,” as it were. It leads to a double loss; you are not sure about the tough questions that you have answered and you have missed out on the easy questions.

Don’t let this happen to you!


Think happy thoughts!

Your brain functions at a better capacity when you are happy. Serotonin, the natural ‘feel-good’ hormone often creates a sense of well-being and assuredness.

These are some of the most important things you’ll need to overcome the program. If you can find ways to enjoy answering the questions, even if they cause a mental dilemma, you will be assured of positive results.

One surefire way to keep your serotonin levels up is by thinking positive thoughts. What’s more, you don’t even have to take a break for that to happen. 

You can subconsciously maintain a positive disposition as your brain finds solutions.

But whatever you do, don’t be angry at the examiners or GARP.

Remember, their job is to assess your skills as a future Financial Risk Manager and not to simply trick you for the fun of it.


Maintain your posture

Maintaining a straight posture is usually encouraged to prevent back problems, but recent research shows that it can help with stress management as well. 

Additionally, an upright sitting position helps you to achieve relaxed breathing.

In a poor posture, your lungs will not be able to expand and contract as freely during breathing. Here, you’ll experience shallow and rapid breathing that will exacerbate your anxiety levels. 

In addition to its impact on breathing and relation, good posture will also help to maintain your concentration levels. 

So, when feeling bogged down by the difficulty level, try adjusting your sitting posture. This simple adjustment may lower your stress levels and help keep you alert.


Look at the bigger picture

If you find yourself helplessly nervous during the exam, there is a big chance that you have lost perspective. This course is not a life or death situation. No program is. 

Your life and career success are more than academic success. Yes, passing the FRM program is indeed what you need for a trailblazing career in finance. However, failing a test will not break your career.

There will be additional chances to retake the test. In light of that, don’t let unreasonable stress compromise your chances of success.


Be ready to accept ‘good enough’

By setting for yourself reasonable expectations, you’ll reduce your stress levels. Remember that you have been juggling work, studies and family. That’s not an easy thing to do.

GARP also has relatively reasonable expectations for you. So cut yourself some slack during the exam, banish away the negative thoughts and do your best.


Pause to ask yourself some questions

After reading through a really challenging question in the test room, pause for a moment before you answer it. Ask yourself…why did the examiners include this particular question? What concepts they are testing?

And, how are they expecting me to respond?

This strategy helps to achieve a higher level of clarity when formulating your answer. In reality, there will be familiar looking answers to throw you off-guard, but the examiners will not be looking for those.

Having an analytical mind is crucial to your success.


Read with patience

Successfully completing this challenge requires a lot of practice and patience. Your emotions may run high simply because there is a gap between what you know and what the examiners are asking.

The trick could be in sentence structure and grammar.

It could also be the fact that you are going through the exam too fast. Try giving yourself enough time to read a question thoroughly, not once but twice. In a relaxed mood, clarity is much easier to find.


Focus on you

There is a tendency for candidates to pause during the exam in order to glance at other candidates. And sure enough, anxiety sparks when you see another candidate scribbling away, or on the last page nearing completion.

Instead of looking at others around you, focus on yourself and the questions ahead. Pace yourself correctly and be mindful of the clock. Forget that there is anyone else in the room…just you and your own paper.


Fuel up before the exam

Before you walk into the exam room, fill up on a nutritional breakfast. You are to avoid sugars and caffeine because these two will spike your adrenaline levels in the short term. Then, expect the inevitable crash.

You will need plenty of vitamin C. In that regard, you can pack a bottle of vitamin water to keep you refreshed.


The bottom line

The GARP FRM program is incredibly important, and success in it will go a long way in shaping your career in financial risk management. 

The more calm and relaxed you are during the exam, the better your chances are of passing the exam.

Use these tips, as well as our other articles, to keep calm and get through this hurdle. And don’t forget to download all our free study content in the store!


Never give up,

The QuestionBank Family