Pre-exam advice and tips

Discussion in 'About FRM' started by Hend Abuenein, May 13, 2012.

  1. Hend Abuenein

    Hend Abuenein Active Member

    You'd think I have time to write these..
    Actually I had them compiled while studying

    Please share your own too

    1- Take a pair of ear plugs to the exam. You never know how noisy it is in the site.
    2- Get at least 6 hours of sleep the night before. Tension could make it difficult, but you must try.
    3- Get a good fiber-rich breakfast on exam morning. If you’re not a breakfast person, make a power shake and bottle it the night before to take it with you to the exam. I used milk+raisins+almonds+honey. A few mouthfuls on the 25th and 75th Qs could make all the difference in your concentration.
    4- Put on a wrest watch. Don’t count on the proctors to call time.
    5- If you’re a heavy smoker or a frequent coffee consumer this week is the time to try and fast from both for 5 hour intervals.
    6- When doing mock exams the days just before the exam, try doing them for whole 4 hours, not 4 sittings of 25 Qs each or so. In the real exam, the prolonged sitting itself could be a challenge.
    7- Wear comfortable outfits and shoes.
    8- Don’t skip questions if one of them gives you trouble, but if you have to, don’t move on to next page of questions before you’re sure you marked answers to all questions of previous page.
    9- When marking the bubbles, double check it’s the question number you want to fill, especially if you skipped questions on that page. You could end up marking two bubbles for a single question and leaving one unmarked, losing marks for both questions. Worse even, if you move forward without looking at question numbers, you could mismark ALL questions from that point on.
    10- You must visit site before exam day. For one thing, ask proctors how many people are registered for the exam. This makes a difference in the time before door-closing that you must arrive at. For another, see where your seat is located relative to the room doors, this you need to know how much time it takes you to leave the room to drink then get back.

    Good luck everyone
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  2. David Harper CFA FRM

    David Harper CFA FRM David Harper CFA FRM (test) Staff Member

    These are great Hend, thank you for sharing! My thoughts:
    • With respect to (8), I agree that, given there is no penalty for wrong answers, there is no reason to leave blanks. At the same time, I don't think you mean to imply that one should hoover too long on a single question. The FRM is sufficiently difficult that even the top 5% will make several mistakes; perfect exams, I think and understand to be the case, are impossible. So not being able to answer a single question (or more, even) will certainly not fail you. Given all questions weigh equally, it could be a strategic mistake to run out of time due to getting stuck (hovering too long) on one or a few difficult questions. If a question is sinking your time, I'd move on and save for the end. The questions are NOT ordered from easiest to hardest, so you don't want to miss easier questions (e.g., imagine an easy question for the final question) just because you didn't allocate time to read them.
    • Recommendation #10 is absolutely one of my favorites (You must visit site before exam day). I am not sure how many people do this. But i did this for both my CFA and FRM, and I greatly contributed to my calm. I did not do this for my CIPM, because it was very local to me and i thought i knew where it was. I took the wrong turn on 190th Street, drove miles in the wrong direction (didn't have google maps), and ended up showing up LATE for my CIPM, which was unnecessarily stressful.
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  3. Hend Abuenein

    Hend Abuenein Active Member

    Thanks David,
    I visited my site last week, and I have a very bad feeling about it.
    IT'S IN A BUSY HOTEL. Exam room overlooks the main entrance and lobby! And to make it worse, the event (our exam) is organized by the food and beverages manager!!
    They know nothing about what the exam is, who GARP are, or anything else!
    They said they were approached by an event organizer who asked them to provide a room for 15 people, with tables of so and so size!

    It turns out that GARP outsource the organization of the exam. Last year, it was very well organized in a college of commerce and administration.
    I wrote to them that I'm very skeptic about this, but they didn't reply.
  4. Leli

    Leli Member


    Thanks Hend, good idea !
    For part 1, each time i wasn't sure of my answer, i wrote the number on a draft. If you have some time at the end (hard, but possible !), you can go directly to those questions rather than look at all question and remember those you weren't sure ;o)

    And definitely, i was REALLY happy to have my earplugs , the person behind me was blowing his nose all the time !!! (hope it didn't prevent him to pass ;o))

    • Like Like x 1
  5. David Harper CFA FRM

    David Harper CFA FRM David Harper CFA FRM (test) Staff Member

    Hi Hend,

    Why do you extrapolate to the idea (what basis do you have) that they've outsourced the entire exam, might your location be a minor, ad hoc location created only to host some excess or overflow (only 15 people is small number, 15 sounds like a temporary overflow situation)? I would be shocked if GARP has outsourced exam admin in a decentralized manner to various event planners, it is too risky and would require organized controls.

    Well, please keep me posted: I don't want to jump to conclusions, but if your exam experience is unsatisfactory, I will personally make sure we get GARP's attention (and I assure you, we can). Our customers spend a lot of time and money, and of course, deserve a professional environment commensurate with the considerable fees paid. Thanks,
    • Like Like x 1
  6. Hend Abuenein

    Hend Abuenein Active Member

    Thank you so much David for offering to help. Here's what I have:

    1- My site is in Muscat, a small number of candidates sit here. Nov 2011 I sat for part I with only 8 candidates, two didn't show up.

    2- I asked that food manager a number of questions, the same questions I asked the previous proctors: how many candidates, what instructions do you have regarding time...last year's proctors gave me information down to details, this guy knew nothing. Not even name of exam!

    3- I asked him who organized this "event" so I'd refer back to them for info, he gave me the name but no contacts, because THEY ARE A COMPANY LOCATED IN THE STATES! He also added that they make regular reservations with them, i.e. event organizers well known to them . ( I have their name)

    4- On the same day, I wrote these very details to GARP, asking for any reassuring response, but got nothing from them since. This was on May 8th. I even suggested that maybe the organizers of the location are not the same as the proctors? so as not to jump to a wrong conclusion. And I still await some kind of response.

    Maybe I was too early to visit and things were not clear to this food manager at the time.
    But, really, in a hotel?!
  7. Aleksander Hansen

    Aleksander Hansen Well-Known Member

    Seems unprofessional.
    I'm sitting in Chicago so I'm sure there will be loads of candidates and proper facilities. I appreciate you sharing your tips. I will definitely do as you both recommend and visit the site a day or two before.

    Only problem with Chicago is that on Saturday and during the weekend they are having the G8 summit there. So the president, heads of state, tons of security measures and several roads are blocked off... That will be a fun drive at 5-6am or so in the morning.
    • Like Like x 1
  8. Ankur S

    Ankur S Member

    I am in NY and last time (during part 1) i guess there must be close to or more than 200 people taking exam. So they do it in a big convention center. Good thing this time is that its in the afternoon otherwise last time to make it for morning session, i had to getup like 5am, which i am not very good at. Luckily i kept my head intact and did not fell asleep . The other good thing was restrooms were just next door, so quick run.;)

    The funny part that i saw that lot of people did not bring the right calculator for the exam. They just did not know that there was a calc policy for the exam. They had to borrow from others if available. This also shows that maybe they never prepared for the exam or don't know why they were even there in the morning :eek:.

    I gave an extra hp calc to someone but i wondered how will the guy manage if he has never operated hp calc (I had to learn this calc during part 1 and it was not a quick study).
    • Like Like x 2
  9. David Harper CFA FRM

    David Harper CFA FRM David Harper CFA FRM (test) Staff Member

    Thanks Ankur. Yikes, that is a scary story, to arrive without calculator and prior calculator practice (comfort) is just a waste of a fundamental priority. The calculator is almost as important as the pencil. Facility with the calculator, however trivial, speeds time and reduces errors. It should not be relegated to last minute/etc. I hope anybody reading this is working problems with an approved calculator, however trivial the problem seems. Of course, there are little details like clearing, formatting to 3 or 4 decimal places (e.g., i've noticed my TI BA II+ PRO does not alway register soft key presses, so i've learned to strike hard; storing variables is handy error-reducer). Please don't take the calculator for granted, it does not deserve status as a random variable :eek: Thanks,
    • Like Like x 3
  10. Ankur S

    Ankur S Member

    totally true - "as imp as pencil"..... I totally agree, i could also see the frustration at some people's face of not knowing this detail (or rather ignoring)..but one could do little, if anything at that time

    The other thing was some people violated garp policy of continue writing even after the exam time was over. 2 people were written for violation. I don't know what happens to their exam papers but something one should keep note of. I think GARP takes it seriously.
  11. Aleksander Hansen

    Aleksander Hansen Well-Known Member

    That's shocking to me that people wouldn't know about the calculator policy! It says so in pretty much every communiqué GARP sends out; as well as on their web-site and so forth. That's one mistake you can so easily avoid! Good luck passing without one.

    I normally program stuff on a computer if I need to solve anything as calculators have very limited applications in real risk management (try simulating a 20,000 x100 matrix of correlated non-normal variables over a 10 day horizon) :eek:
    That aside, for this exam I bought the HP 10bII+. I compared it to TI but found that it had way more functions.
    The two I have found useful for this exam is the CDF or inverse for a Normal, or a student t, where you can specify degrees of freedom. No need to search through a lookup table. Just hit 3 buttons and out comes the answer.

    Same problem with having to punch in hard. Think that's normal with these plastic calculators... I mean, the thing weighs about the same as my eraser.

    David, regarding decimal places what do you recommend? I'm used to working with maaany since even a pip can translate into lots of money if your notional is > $1bn..
    But the answer choices are often far from accurate, and sometimes they are off by quite a bit (which makes me question my solution and I start plugging in the numbers again to check to see if I made an error somewhere).
    • Like Like x 1
  12. David Harper CFA FRM

    David Harper CFA FRM David Harper CFA FRM (test) Staff Member

    Aleks, I tend to format to three (3) decimals. As you suggest, fine precision isn't necessary. I like three because it is +1 more than dollars + cents ("$10.55") so it gives full view into any rounding that might be implied, but no more. Good luck (and thank you so much for your forum participation!)
    • Like Like x 1
  13. qin841121

    qin841121 Member

    Can I double confirm Texas Ba ii plus can be used? Although it is listed on the website, I am worried after reading those posts above
  14. Suzanne Evans

    Suzanne Evans Administrator

    Hi qin,

    Here is what their website says:

    Only GARP-approved calculators are permitted to be used at the FRM Exam.

    Only the following types of business calculators are authorized for use on the FRM Exam. There will be no exceptions to this policy. Should a candidate use a non-authorized calculator at any time during the exam, a violation report will be written and your answer sheets will not be graded. GARP strictly enforces all policies with regard to the calculator usage during the FRM Exam and candidates are required to abide by GARP's policy.

    The following are listed:
    • Texas Instruments BA II Plus (both versions), including the BA II Plus Professional
    • Hewlett Packard 10B II,10B II+20B, 12C, including the HP 12C Platinum and the Anniversary Edition
    • Hewlett Packard 12C (including the HP 12C Platinum)
    You can view the source here:

    To further help, I have emailed our contact at GARP to confirm for you. I will let you know if/when I hear back.

    • Like Like x 1
  15. David Harper CFA FRM

    David Harper CFA FRM David Harper CFA FRM (test) Staff Member

    yes, absolutely, TI BA II+ and TI BA II+ Pro can be used (I would be surprised if it were not still the most popular choice). It cannot calculate distributional CDFs (eg., what's the normal Prob[X < Z] like Prob[X<-2.33=] = 1%) but the exam doesn't assume you will have that computational ability. It's nice to have that extra functionality, but given you won't *need* it, I would prioritize your comfort/familiarity, esp. at this point, thanks,
    • Like Like x 1
  16. Aleksander Hansen

    Aleksander Hansen Well-Known Member

    Thanks David!

    My pleasure, I have learned a lot from the forum discussions, - my participation has been rewarded with insights, methods, tips and perspectives; as well as a generous upgrade.

    It is a delight to see how each question and discussion on the forum is handled professionally; and how you both convey a sincere desire to help everyone as best you can.

    I think you and Suzanne are doing a wonderful job and I am impressed by the rapid response time, and the sheer amount of work and effort you put into this. Amid all the stress preparing for the exam during these last few days, none of this is lost on me, nor the other candidates I presume.

    Thanks to you both!
    • Like Like x 3
  17. Suzanne Evans

    Suzanne Evans Administrator

    Hi qin,

    Our contact from GARP did get back with us to confirm that the Texas Ba ii plus is okay to use.

  18. btlski

    btlski New Member

    I sat at for the first test in Philly. The hotel was situated adjacent to the Parx casino and apparently many of the test takers who chose to sleep there were kept up quite late by the revelers. I believe they actually complained but I see they scheduled at the same hotel again.

    On the point of calculators and tickets - they are absolute sticklers. They will have a card with pictures of acceptable calculators. My advice is if it not the exact model, don't bring it. They wrote up one test taker for having a special edition of one of the models; I believe he had to retake the exam. They wouldn't allow another sitter in because she had her ticket on her iPhone instead of on paper (hence the warning on the tickets this time around).

    I couldn't imagine coming this far and getting booted on a technicality, so make sure you are compliant!
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  19. Hend Abuenein

    Hend Abuenein Active Member

    About coming far and getting booted.... a guy was denied entry to the exam room last year just as they were closing the door :( That's less than a minute late :( I felt so sorry for him. That's just about the worst thing that could happen to you
    • Like Like x 1
  20. qin841121

    qin841121 Member

    Oh man, do they reopen the door like what CFA institute did?

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