6 Common FRM® Exam Study Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

By: Kaplan Schweser
January 14, 2021
A man at a computer realizing he made one of the 6 common FRM study mistakes

The FRM® curriculum takes a lot of time to master, and the exams are not to be taken lightly. An effective, structured study program is key to your success on the FRM exam. And that includes learning the mistakes commonly made by candidates so you can start on the right foot and stay on track throughout the exam season. In this article, we’ll cover the six most common FRM study mistakes we’ve seen over many years of experience and share some advice on how to avoid them.

Let’s start with the mistakes.

1. Waiting Too Long to Start Studying

On average, you will need 240 hours of study to master the entire curriculum for each part of the FRM exam. Some candidates delay their study program and overestimate their ability to catch up when they deviate from their study plan. Other candidates think they can cram in the final weeks. But the fact is that last-minute, frantic reviews of core materials rarely ends well for the candidate on exam day.

2. Not Having a Structured FRM® Study Plan

The topics on the FRM exam require a type of knowledge that can only be gained over a structured, careful course of study. With a structured study plan, candidates can concentrate on learning the curriculum and how to answer questions. Yet there are candidates who think that shifting from one task to another as time allows or as they remember to do things is sufficient. In reality, these candidates are fighting an uphill battle to complete the study program and pass the exam.

3. Not Focusing on Time Management

The FRM exam is very quantitative, and time management is an important concern. Even candidates who start early and have structured study plans can make a vital mistake: they fail to build time management into their study program. For example, they are not timing themselves when taking practice questions, and they are not working on finding shortcuts in lengthy calculations. This will hurt them on the day of the exam because they only have four hours to answer questions about complex material and calculate their answers.

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4. Not Fully Understanding Calculator Functions

The business calculators permitted by GARP for the FRM exam are both versions of Texas Instruments BA II Plus, including the BA II Plus Professional, and Hewlett Packard 10B II, 10B II+, 20B, 12C, including the HP 12C Platinum and the Anniversary Edition. Yet, candidates often don’t spend enough time practicing with their calculator, learning the optimal formats, configuring it for the exam, or finding the shortcuts for the time value of money worksheet. This can hurt them when they are trying to perform calculations during the exam, and it affects time management as well.

5. Not Including Practice in the FRM® Exam Study Program

Some candidates think they can pass the exam by reading the curriculum and study products multiple times, neglecting practice questions and mock exams. Although this kind of focus helps them understand concepts, focusing only on theory and information can trip candidates up on exam day. The FRM exam tests a candidate’s ability to apply analytical techniques to arrive at answers. Without practicing and understanding how questions appear in the exam, or how to use the proper analysis, candidates can be stumped even if they’ve learned the concept.

6. Not Having a Game Plan to Prevent Panic

Panic is a top reason why even the most prepared candidates fail the FRM exam. While in a panic, candidates can read questions wrong, second guess themselves and mark the wrong answer by accident. Yet many candidates fail to take this into account when preparing for the exam. They don’t slow down, take deep breaths, or take the time to reread questions to make sure they fully understand. As a result, they can fail an exam they should have been able to pass.

How to Avoid Common FRM® Study Mistakes

Adhere to the following advice, and you can avoid making the most common FRM study mistakes:

  • Start studying as soon as possible. Begin preparing for the FRM exam as far out from the exam date as you can. Allow for 200–240 hours over a few months.
  • Structure your study and preparation. Candidates are more likely to succeed with a carefully constructed study program. If you’re not sure how or where to start, a good  FRM prep package will include a scheduling component that helps you plan what to study when, as well as plenty of practice to keep your skills sharp.
  • Make sure time management is part of your FRM study program. You have an average of about 2.5 to 3 minutes per question on the FRM exam. So, as you progress through your study plan and become more confident in your knowledge, work on timing yourself when you’re answering questions and look for calculation shortcuts.
  • Learn your calculator. Familiarize yourself with the calculator you’ll use for the exam, configure it properly, and make sure you know all the shortcuts.
  • Practice. Become familiar with how the exam tests your ability to use analytical techniques by answering practice questions and taking mock exams. Save at least one FRM practice exam for the final weeks and treat it as if it were the real thing.
  • Have a solid plan for staying calm on exam day. You can prevent exam day panic if you have a good plan that includes answering easy questions first, rereading questions that are giving you trouble, and putting your pencil down to take some deep breaths if you are struggling.

Increase the Likelihood You’ll Pass the FRM® Exam

The odds of passing the FRM exam increase when you participate in online classes, take practice exams and join study groups. Investing in good FRM study materials is one of the best things you can do to ensure you move to the next step—certification.

Begin your journey to becoming a Certified FRM®! Download Your Free Copy of the FRM® Foundations eBook.

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