How to Study Your FRM Part 1 Books Efficiently

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes



How do you become an expert risk manager in three to four months? Efficiently reading for GARP’s tests, that’s the solution. Level 1 is of great significance in this certification program.

That means then that if you hack it, the remaining level might be a walkover.

Let’s find out how you can efficiently go through your FRM part 1 books to make that happen.


Every time is time to read

Understandably, you have a lot on your plate. You have to take care of everything, including work, family, and friends, but don’t ever forget to read.

Given that it may be hard to create specific times for reading, you need to adapt. Carry your books with you everywhere (get the digital versions to make it a bit more easy) so you can read every minute that you spare.

You can read on your daily commute whether it’s morning or evening. You can read on a lunch break at work, and even skim through your materials as you wait for that meeting to start.

If you consider all these spare minutes, you will find that they sum up to a substantial amount of time. 

Reading in this manner also trains your brain to make sense of information much faster compared to a cozy state of reading.


Set aside time for reading

While the random reading technique described earlier has its benefits, you will also need to work with a proper schedule for planned reading sessions.

The reason is that some concepts in the program are just too complex to rush through as you stand at the cashier section of the grocery store.

The standard amount of dedicated reading you need in a day is between 1 and 3 hours. This should be distraction-free reading. No multitasking. It is an exploration of your course material at a deeper level.


Scrap less important engagements

As your exams draw nearer, you will need to rearrange your activities. You will need more time to read and practice. 

You may have to wiggle out of some social commitments, for example, or give up the television so that you can get more time for quiet reading.

The more time you have, the more material you will be able to go through and have a competitive advantage. So, as your test date nears, read first, and then spare time for other activities.


Test your readiness

In the practical world as a financial risk manager, strategies have to be tested repeatedly before implementation. If one approach doesn’t work, you should quickly move to modify or improve it. 

Do the same kind of testing and modification with your reading strategy.

Maybe you have adopted a fast reading tactic, or perhaps you have dedicated evenings to be your reading hours. How effective are these strategies becoming for you?


Take a test

You can attempt practice questions or mock exams to find out your level of understanding so far.

You can similarly plan reading-challenge sessions (random question and answer confirmations) with your friends or study partner.

If your current reading strategy is efficient, you will have a high recall capacity and ability to relate concepts to practical cases in the test questions.

If your memory/reasoning-ability in these tests is below expectation, then you’ll need to rework your study strategy.


Practice to preview the content

Before you dive into your study materials, it is always beneficial to find out its depth first. Content previewing primes your brain for what to expect in the book or topic that you are about to cover.

You will then be able to set goals and define what your state of understanding should be when you are through. 

So, preview your materials by reading the table of contents, introduction, subheadings and even the summary paragraphs at the end!

This type of reading tells you what the bigger picture is and presents a solid concept structure for which you can start to fill in the missing pieces. 

You can then proceed in a manner that’s more engaging and exciting to your senses.


Go from previewing to detailed reading

After scanning through the material, don’t close the book and call it a day. Proceed to find the details and highlights of the ideas discussed.

Have a marker at hand so you can highlight the important statements you encounter in this in-depth reading session.

Another equally important technique for comprehensive reading is note-taking. Write short notes for each chapter or subtopic. 

Summarizing content shouldn’t be about copying; it should be about reproducing the critical things you have internalized in your own words.

This helps to reinforce your understanding and improve retention.


Disengage the voice in your head

Everybody learned to read and write with a voice in their head that sort of acted like a guide. 

Remember though, that at a pro-level, the ‘voice’ in your head that likes to verbalize everything you read word-for-word is a speed killer.

Silence it, therefore, if you are trying to save time and review more in a shorter time period. Understanding happens much faster than your rate of verbalization.

So by reading without voicing the words, you will be able to accomplish much more in every precious minute of your study sessions. 

You will now have the time to go over your part 1 books repeatedly and become a master of everything that’s buried in there.


Use the study guides, but spice it up

Very important: Always use your study guides (whether official or external). This is essential in your training because:

  • It details the learning objectives of the reading
  • It provides an overview of the content to be tested
  • It guides you on what to focus on in each topic


It’s imperative, therefore, to base your readings on proper guides so that you don’t end up blank in the test room. Additionally, you can devise strategies to make the guides more impactful. For example:

  • Go to the questions and summary at the end of each chapter (You should also use external questions).
  • Read through these questions (don’t memorize them) and try answering them in your head before you begin your actual reading. These will serve as practical guides.
  • Read the highlights of the chapter: Go through the topic introduction, highlights, and conclusion. This introduces you to the main ideas in the topic, and you will gradually start to relate the material to the questions you have gone through.
  • Fish out the intricate details: Settle down to thorough reading to absorb every small detail covered in the chapter, but still focusing on what is crucial as you saw in the practice/ topic questions.
  • Finalize your reading by answering the questions to the best of your understanding.

The above is an analytical study technique that builds memory and reasoning.


Review your notes repeatedly

Reading a textbook once may be okay, but repeatedly going over your own notes is essential. Your notes tell a story of the path to understanding that your mind took.

It’s easier to understand your own notes than the textbook authors.

A great study habit to have when you go through your book is to create notes. Then, as the exams draw near, focus on reading and internalizing them.

This saves time and bolsters your grasp of the content every time you review what you studied before. The more you repeat something, the better you become at it.


Boredom causes daydreaming

You already know this. When sitting through a dull study session, you will most likely end up with no new knowledge or memory of anything you have learned. The best study habit, therefore, is to gain an impression.

Be impressed with the text. Teach your mind to ‘be surprised’ and appreciate the new knowledge you receive in each of the chapters. 

One way to do that is to change your reading intonation; read a highlighted passage aloud.

You can also picture yourself as in a practical scenario and how the discovery of what you have learned can help improve your efficiency.

The next trick then is association. Connect the ideas and concepts to what you already know. Think back to your state of mind when you were just skimming through the material and what you thought about the chapter.

Create a mental map or bridge between your original understanding and what you know now.

The above study technique has time and again proven effective in memory, retention, and application. So, how do you go through your books efficiently after registering?

  • Create more time for studying
  • Study everywhere, and every time
  • Mix up your study materials
  • Experiment with new study techniques
  • Test yourself, and repeat till you get it right


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