I. The Nature of FRM Part II Exam
★ Why FRM Part II Exam questions so tricky?
★ Why “exercises-stuffed study method” losing value?
On the first sight of FRM Part II Exam questions, most candidates get lost – the questions are not familiar ones and very tricky. They are different from most mock exercises we have taken. Why?
We have sit many tests before, SAT, GRE, GMAT, or CFA, etc., and most of them are created by a single institute. But FRM Part II Exam is different – GARP solicits questions from existing GARP members. That means the questions come from multiple sources. Each question setter has his own perspective on financial risk control and embodies his own mind into his question.
A boot camp FRM II candidate will naturally apply his past test experience – that is doing enough exercises before the exam – to FRM Part II Exam. In China, this is more obvious and Chinese students call it “Exercise Sea Tactics” (exercises-stuffed study method). Unfortunately, this tactics will lead you into a dead-end. For an ordinary test, this old-fashion tactics is useful but FRM is by no means “ordinary”. The question creation mechanism makes questions differ from year to year and makes it impossible to find the regular exam pattern.
On the one hand, each question is solicited from members and only the highest-quality questions can be taken. In addition, each exam setter, if his question is adopted, will get paid and paid well. That enables the quality of FRM questions outstanding and consequently no mock test questions have the equal excellence. In my opinion, FRM Part II Exam has matched or even dwindled CFA Level III in terms of overall question quality.
That’s why most candidates, after completed the test, complained that the real test was more challenging than any of the mock tests they have covered.
II. Comparison of FRM Study Materials
1. Free Practice Exams Provided by GARP
Candidates are free to download practice exams dated from 2010 to 2014 provided by GARP. However the quality and value are in question. In contrast to real exam, practice exams are easier, less roundabout, and shorter in length. Do not overestimate their value otherwise you may get dumbstruck on the exam site.
2. FRM Part II Schweser Practice Exams
Schweser FRM Practice Exams contain two sets of mock tests. I heard many FRM instructors gave negative comments on this book but I don’t know why. In my point, this book is one of the best prep materials and second only to Official FRM Part II Books. Questions in this book are 70% similar to real exam questions in style, length and difficulty. I strongly recommend candidates to choose this book.
3. Official FRM Part II Books
Official FRM Part II Books are a bundle of four books compiled by GARP. GARP did not write the books themselves. Instead, GARP selected more than 30 classical financial books and excerpted essential chapters from these books. The strengths of Official FRM Part II Books are:
The only readings recommended by GARP so they are trust worthy;
Updated every year with the newest exam syllabus;
The best helper to candidates. FRM is a professional qualification test and aims not at outsiders. Questions originate from daily financial risk control work. If a candidate has no relevant work experience or modeling experience, he may stumble at every step on the testing room. A good news is Official FRM Part II Books can bridge this gap. Famous for her thickness and long-drawn documents, official books explain every knowledge point in most details and are believed to give candidates an all-in-one guide.
Very thick and 80 hours more or less to cover;
Some chapters are too lengthy and sophisticated to understand;
Some knowledge points never showed up in real exams but still take many pages;
Some chapters are excerpted from academic papers without being rewritten and not easy to interpret.
4. FRM Part II SchweserNotes
SchweserNotes are the abridged edition of Official FRM Part II Books. Schweser is renowned for her CFA notes but FRM notes are disappointing. Concept Checkers (questions at the end of each chapter) are na?ve and of little value. “Past FRM Exam Questions” section at the end of each book are not past questions whatsoever. They are in fact a print version of “Free Practice Exams” that you can download from GARP website. If you have decided to focus on the “GARP Practice Exams”, you can totally skip this section in SchweserNotes.
Another blame is that if you prepare the test solely relying on SchweserNotes, you will find the exam questions beyond your control. In the first 30 minutes of the test, you will feel uncomfortable as the real questions stray such a long way from the contents you have learnt in SchweserNotes. After the tough time, you will gradually adapt to it.
The final blame is that SchweserNotes fail to give each knowledge point a clear-cut explanation. Many details are simplified and processes are omitted in exchange for a thinner book. For a candidate whose basic knowledge is weak, s/he may feel at a loss in the process of reading.
5. Financial Risk Manager Handbook
The Handbook is nicknamed “The Bible” by financial risk control guys. It was written by Philippe Jorion in association with GARP so that the book is systematic and authoritative. In FRM Part I test, a candidate can pass the exam with a decent result only by reading this book. But in Part II test, a sole reliance on Handbook is dangerous. The reasons are:
The latest version of the Handbook was published on December 28, 2010 so that it fails to reflect the current exam syllabus. Only 60%-70% of testing points are covered in this book.
The Handbook is concise and more suitable for a reader with solid financial knowledge.
6. Current Issues in Financial Markets
“Current Issues” are updated every year but excluded by Official FRM Part II Books due to the publication timing. GARP provides PDF papers for free downloading but their length outweighs their corresponding scores in FRM exam. If candidates haven’t enough time they can turn to SchweserNotes since SchweserNotes contain all the current issues and have them organized in shorter and comprehensible passages.
III. Henry’s Recommended FRM II Study Plan
The author is the senior CFA/FRM instructor with Golden Future Education, a professional financial training provider located in major cities of Mainland China. FRM results of the author is four “1” in Part I, and four “1” + one “2” in Part II. The author will come out a series of free online programs, helping candidates crack difficult models in FRM study.