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Is the FRM curriculum hopelessly disjointed? (comparing FRM and CFA)

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New Member
Hello everyone,

My name is Wojtek Buczynski and I'm studying for FRM Level 2 in Nov 2013, having passed L1 in Nov 2012. I also took CFA Level 1 and Level 2 (failing the latter...).

Having done exams for both qualifications, and going at it minimizing the risk the best I can (i.e. the best money can buy - prep courses for both, full set of official books, sample exams - the works) I find myself having really mixed feelings about FRM, by comparison with CFA. For those of you who read them, and those who didn't, I consider official CFA Institute study books gold standard - they explain exam issues brilliantly, always have numerical examples, they're virtually error-free, and, importantly, they form a logical flow of topics. Having studied from a number of finance textbooks for my under- and postgrad, I consider them a league of their own; only Fabozzi stands at the same level, which makes sense, as Fabozzi is one of the pillars of CFA Institute, and he writes substantial section of CFA fixed income books.

FRM is a different story altogether (in my opinion). Rather than make an effort to put together sensible materials with consequent flow of topics, GARP has just glued together several chapters from a number of textbooks, making no effort to introduce any cohesion into them. There is a good reason Malz put something in chapter 9 - chances are there has been something in chapters 1-8 that I should have learned in order to understand chapter 9; there are constant references to never-introduced topics in FRM materials, both official GARP ones, as well as commercial vendor ones (e.g. Schweser). My impression of the curriculum, however it pains me to say it, is that it's lazily compiled, with no effort on GARP's side. Let's take Level 2 credit risk concept, total return swap - it's introduced, under 2 different names (TROR and TRA) by Stulz ch. 18 and then by Culp in ch. 12, while it's the same thing (which Suzanne and David rightly addressed in their materials).

It hit me when studying for L1, and now again studying for L2, I read through these textbooks, and constantly find myself thinking "what am I actually reading?": the topics are all over the place, the questions often refer to concepts not covered by the preceeding chapters, and questions which are simply of no exam relevance, because they're simply not calculable in exam conditions - you get none of this with CFA materials. And when it comes to curriculums, my impression of CFA could be described as a little bit of multiple personality disorder, it crams everything into one exam, but still, it does it in a coherent and orderly manner; with FRM it's more like no personality disorder: I took Level 1, I passed it, and I can't recall a single thing I actually learned in the process of preparation for it. Let me tell you, I can recall dozens of things I learned during CFA prep.

And one more thing: I have worked for risk analysis vendors for 6 years now, I know a fair bit from work, and I am absolutely baffled how poorly most concepts are explained in the FRM assigned readings. I mean, if I didn't know what Extreme Shortfall is, or how to reverse-engineer price of a callable bond using a binomial tree, I wouldn't have learned it from the curriculum. As a matter of fact, I find many topics "opaque'd" rather than in any way clarified.

Given that many of you are taking both CFA and FRM, I would be keen to hear your opinions.

Kind regards,



Well-Known Member
CFA is a very old and well recognized exam with knowledge built over years ina systematic and well organised way where as FRM has been there for ten odd years and what the point of comparing these two exams content wise. CFA is bound to be well organised in regard to its topics coverage and refinement of its curriculum over the many years while FRM is an exam still in its evolutionary stage and expect a lot more consistency and refinement to come along in the exam material as time goes by.
Risk is a field just arriving on the scene. With the development of new trading instruments as derivatives and other such stuff as CDS,CLN etc the risk management has grown significantly in recent years and its literature is still developing whereas CFA is more of a investment based content which has well defined literature like fabozzi you mentioned but books like hull, ong, jorion does provide some credibility to risk education.
What FRM offers is carry away some main risk concepts with you like Var, risk models as merton credit model, basel readings, portfolio risk measurement,valuation models as bsm,binomial tree,derivatives, little bit of stats.


cash king

New Member
both comments are brilliant and insightful. While I've no experience with CFA I tend to trust Wojtek's feeling. But I also agree with Shakti in what we expect to take away from FRM preparation...


New Member
Hi, agree with wojtek, to add, Philip Zorian's FRM handbook really explains things concisely and precisely. It also puts things into flow. Reading it last couple of days before the exam was extremely good revision.


New Member
Wojtek I totally agree with you. I also failed CFA II a few years ago and decided to take FRM this year and got terribly disappointed with the reading material. And I also don't think it is a matter of how old CFA is compared to FRM, I think it's a matter of putting serious effort versus choosing the easy path.