In the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, the demand for certified Financial Risk Managers (FRM) has skyrocketed. In anticipation of future calamities, banks, corporations, hedge funds, and portfolio managers have become more risk-centric, attracting greater numbers to FRM certification.
However, the challenging two-part exam has proven to be an obstacle for many, with more than half failing to clear the first part on their first attempt. For those who manage to clear that hurdle, full FRM certification can only be achieved after a two-year apprenticeship in risk management.
Considering the time commitment and cost of going through the FRM certification process, the stakes for aspiring risk managers couldn't be higher. Anyone who has been through the process will tell you that the only way to mitigate the risk of failure is with a solid, well-designed FRM exam prep course. We reviewed 12 exam prep course providers to identify the very best in five different categories.
The 5 Best FRM Exam Prep Courses of 2020
Best Overall: Bionic Turtle
With its resource-rich e-learning platform, high-quality video tutorials, massive test bank, and 60,000-member community forum, Bionic Turtle is our choice as the best overall FRM exam prep course provider.
Singular focus on FRM exam prep
Extensive question bank
Large interactive community forum
Three packages to meet most study needs and learning styles
No pass guarantee
Bionic Turtle was founded 15 years ago strictly as an FRM exam prep course provider, and it hasn't shifted its focus since. With such singular focus over that time, you might expect Bionic Turtle's FRM materials to be exceptional, if not best-in-class. You would be right, which is why Bionic Turtle makes our list as the best overall FRM exam prep course provider.
Bionic Turtle has been perfecting its FRM exam prep course for 15 years. Its multi-media offering checks all the boxes for candidates looking for the right mix of resources to efficiently and effectively move them down the path to exam preparedness. The course's cornerstone is the instructional videos with straightforward explanations and visual examples to help students solve exam questions. The videos are accompanied by study notes to guide students through complex quantitative concepts.
Most FRM candidates will tell you that a course's question bank is a critical component in the study process, and Bionic Turtle's massive question bank with more than 4,400 questions is a few notches above the rest. The questions, which are continuously updated to match changes to the exam, can be used standalone or to feed an unlimited number of practice exams. The practice exams and mock exams, which are designed to mimic real testing conditions, are interactive, responding to your answers to track your progress and continuously update your study needs.
Another vital feature sought by FRM candidates is a community forum, where students can engage with one another to brainstorm and commiserate over exam questions. Bionic Turtle's forum has over 50,000 members discussing more than 200 test-related topics. Course instructors also dip into the discussions to provide their insight and advice.
Bionic Turtle offers three tiers of courses separately as Part 1 and Part 2, or as a bundle combining both. The Basic course for $249 ($399 for the bundle) includes full forum access, the question bank, study notes, and interactive mock exams.
The Advanced course offered at $349 each for Part 1 and 2 (bundled for $599) adds the instructional videos interactive quizzes. For $449 ($799 for the bundle), the Professional course adds focus review videos and the learning spreadsheets. All courses are accessible for one year and can be extended for three months for an additional fee.
One drawback of Bionic Turtle's courses is they don't appear to offer a pass guarantee, unlike some of the other providers on this list who allow students to extend their access to course materials as long as needed to pass the exam. However, Bionic Turtle's pass rate of 73% is substantially higher than the average pass rates on the exams.
Best Learning Platform: Wiley Efficient Learning
With its proprietary modular learning platform and all-inclusive toolset, Wiley Efficient Learning makes our list for the FRM exam prep course provider with the best learning platform.
Solid reputation in financial education and exam prep
Innovative modular learning format for greater learning efficiency
Multi-faceted tool set to match any learning style
Only one mock exam
Having produced industry-leading financial content worldwide for 200 years, Wiley is a trusted name in financial education. When it acquired Efficient Learning Systems in 2012, it became an immediate leader in the FRM space as Wiley Efficient Learning (WEL). True to its reputation and name, WEL has created a powerful, easy-to-use learning platform stacked with essential and efficient learning tools, making it our choice as the FRM exam prep course provider with the best learning platform.
WEL's FRM Self-Study course stands out for its modular format, allowing students to bite off smaller, 30- to 40-minute chunks of the course through video instruction. This enables students to more efficiently plan their study time amid otherwise busy schedules. Each module ends with a practice exam to test comprehension and reinforce concepts. An exam planner tracks students' progress through the modules and testing to help them stay on track.
The course, which is also supported by a Wiley study manual in print or online formats, layers on 40+ pages of formula sheets, flashcards, note-taking tools, and real-time analytics to help guide students to areas that need additional study.
One drawback of the course is it only offers one mock exam, but it is full-length and designed to closely simulate the actual exam. However, students have access to plenty of practice exams throughout the course.
Students can also access a free mobile app to view 12+ hours of video lectures, practice with 450+ exam questions, and flag questions for review, all synced to their online dashboard.
WEL also offers reliable student support in the form of one-on-one mentoring and an interactive community message forum that includes study groups.
At $295 (each for Parts 1 and 2), the WEL study course is a good value, made even better by its "pay once" guarantee. Students only pay once for continuous access until they pass.
Best Comprehensive Premium Package: Kaplan Schweser
By adding weekly online instruction to its feature-packed Premium packages, Kaplan Schweser makes our list as the FRM exam prep course provider with the best comprehensive premium package.
Long track record of successful exam prep
Comprehensive list of offerings for any learning style
Robust question bank and practice test application
Only sells Parts 1 & 2 bundled
No mobile app platform
Kaplan Financial has been a standard-bearer in financial education for five decades. But, when it acquired the Schweser Study Program in 1999, it became one of the best exam prep course providers for the CFA and FRM exams. Anyone who has taken one of Kaplan's securities exam prep courses knows how comprehensive those offerings are. For the more challenging FRM exam, Kaplan has stepped up again with a resource-rich package that includes 30 hours of online learning, a robust test bank, unlimited practice exams, all backed by reliable instructor support, and a pass guarantee.
In addition to the online courses, Kaplan provides multiple tools to enhance learning, including the SchweserPro QBank™ containing hundreds of questions to fuel numerous practice questions. The Premium packages also feature an online review workshop, online mock exams, and a resource library. Along the way, students can take check-in exams to track their progress and refocus their efforts on areas that need improvement.
While the PremiumPlus package includes all these tools, the Premium Instruction package excludes the online review workshop and online mock exams. Kaplan prices its courses a little differently than other providers, choosing to offer Parts 1 and 2 courses as a bundle instead of offering them as separate packages. The all-inclusive PremiumPlus package goes for $799, while the Premium Instruction package costs $599. Understanding what they're up against, many students would be happy to pay the extra $200 for the extra help, plus Kaplan offers zero percent financing.
All of Kaplan's FRM courses, including the $399 Essentials Self-Study package, include a pass guarantee, whereby, if they don't clear the FRM exam on their first attempt, Kaplan will cover the cost of the next study round. While Kaplan doesn't publish a pass rate for the FRM exam, it does state that 91% of its students would recommend the course.
Best Value Premium Package: AnalystPrep
With its massive question bank, unlimited practice quizzes, video library, community forum access, private tutoring, mock exams, and downloadable notes and lessons, AnalystPrep has one of the most stacked premium packages at a reasonable cost, making it our choice as the best value premium package.
Lifetime access to course materials
Big bang for the buck
Vast video library
Extensive question bank with unlimited practice exams
No online instruction
Founded in 2014, AnalystPrep is one of the newest exam prep course providers. But, what it might lack in operational experience, it more than makes up for with an innovative, feature-rich learning platform selling at a reasonable price, which is why it is our choice as the best value premium package.
Most FRM candidates would find tremendous value in AnalystPrep's massive question bank with more than 3,000 questions to feed an unlimited number of practice tests. These practice tests can be customized with questions from sections or topic areas that need additional study, and they can also be downloaded for offline practice.
When students are ready, they can move on to the mock exams designed to accurately simulate the actual testing experience. The exams can be downloaded and printed, including answers, for studying on the run. Also, utilizing their personal dashboard, students can compare their results with others', helping them gauge where they stand in their study progress.
While users may find AnalystPrep lacking in online instruction, it excels with its vast video library, which is broken down by chapter topics. The high-quality videos are accessed through your personal dashboard or specially curated YouTube channel. Each video is accompanied by efficient summary notes and includes practice quizzes fed by a large bank of questions.
In addition to mobile access to all course materials, students can download materials and practice questions in PDF format to maximize study time anywhere.
For additional support, students have access to private tutors to assist with questions or concepts. Students can access community forums to exchange questions and advice with both students and faculty.
All of this is available in the Part 1 package for $249 and the Part 2 package for $199. A better value is the bundle that includes both parts for $399. When you enroll in the premium package, you get unlimited lifetime access to your account, which is your guarantee if you fail the exam.
AnalystPrep doesn't publish a pass rate for its FRM exam students, but it does indicate that 84% of its students have not had to claim their pass guarantee.
Best Low-Cost All-Inclusive Package: ApnaCourse
While it may not have all the bells and whistles of other exam prep providers on this list, the ApnaCourse FRM exam prep course has everything students need to prepare successfully at a very reasonable price, making it our choice as the best low-cost all-inclusive package.
Lowest-cost all-inclusive learning platform
Three full-length mock exams
Interactive forums plus WhatsApp study groups
Lifetime access to most course materials
Part 2 course materials are a bit thin
No online instruction
Launched in August 2013, ApnaCourse is another relative newcomer to the FRM space. Its sole course offering provides students with everything they need to prepare for the FRM exam successfully while leaving out some extraneous features, allowing ApnaCourse to price it at the low end of the spectrum. For that, ApnaCourse is our choice as the best low-cost all-inclusive FRM study package.
Considering that all the top providers include practice and mock exams, hundreds of practice questions, instructional videos, an e-book, and access to community forums, ApnaCourse consists of all of that for $288 (Part 1).
Specifically, ApnaCourse includes 44 hours of video lectures covering 100 topics, 71 practice tests, a question bank with more than 300 questions, three full-length mock exams, and a mobile-friendly e-book that houses all course materials. The three full-length mock exams alone make this course a pretty good value because many courses only offer one.
Students also have access to an interactive discussion forum with more than 200 threads discussing questions, formulas, and exam tips. For a deeper brainstorming dive, students can join a WhatsApp study group.
At $88, the ApnaCourse Part 2 course is even cheaper. However, it's also a lot thinner in terms of tools. That's because it is still in the process of being built out. Still, the course includes almost everything students need to prepare, including 11 hours of video lectures covering 40 topics, the question bank, flashcards, the interactive discussion forum, and a WhatsApp study group.
Students have 180-day access to the video lectures, but they have lifetime access to all other materials with updates. There’s no formal pass guarantee on the course. ApnaCourse doesn't publish a pass rate for the FRM exam.
Budget-minded students looking for a no-frills and efficient learning platform at an affordable cost won't find a better option than ApnaCourse.
What Is the FRM Exam?
The FRM (Financial Risk Management) exam is the first step in Global Association of Risk Professionals’ (GARP) certification process for candidates seeking a career in risk management. The exam is divided into two 4-hour sections.
The first part, with 100 questions, is more general, covering the foundation of risk management, along with quantitative analysis, financial markets and products, and valuation and risk models. With 80 questions, the second part takes a deeper dive into the different types of risk, such as market risk measure and management, credit risk, and operational risk. Candidates must clear both parts of the exam and then work for a minimum of two years in risk management before receiving GARP certification.
Is the FRM Exam Difficult?
The FRM exam is considered one of the more challenging exams in the financial arena. Its subject matter can be dry, which makes it difficult to absorb, and there is a heavy emphasis on quantitative issues, requiring that you master the many formulas.
The questions are multiple-choice, but they can be especially tricky, using double and even triple negatives in their format. Between the two parts of the FRM exam, you have, on average, about 2.6 minutes to answer each question, which can be challenging if you haven't truly mastered the concepts. That's why, as GARP reports, the average number of hours students spend studying for each part of the exam ranges from 200 to 250. With that investment of time, a well-designed, comprehensive exam prep course generates the best investment return.
The FRM vs. CFA Exam
The closest comparison to the FRM exam is the CFA exam, which is considered one of the more challenging tests one can take in the financial services industry. Many people who have taken both exams say the FRM exam's difficulty is a notch above the level 1 CFA exam.
The FRM dives deeper into quantitative questions, requiring the mastering of formulas, with more analytical and critical thinking application that goes into decision-making. The CFA curriculum is much more comprehensive but with less focus on the quantitative side. Some consider the level 2 and 3 CFA exams to be more challenging than parts 1 and 2 of the FRM exam, but then it's not a meaningful comparison.
While the CFA certification leads to a more general application in investments, FRM certification has a more niche application in various types of risk management in the broader financial services arena. Because the two certifications complement each other, it's not uncommon for some people to seek certification in both, which creates more opportunities.
What Is the Pass Rate of the FRM Exam?
Although GARP does not publish an official FRM exam pass rate, industry research reveals that the 10-year average pass rate for FRM Part 1 is 46% and 56% for Part 2.
There is no fixed pass score for the exam, but industry experts estimate that a score of 70% is more than sufficient for passing. Generally, your exam results are measured against other test-takers, and GARP only passes those who scored in the top-two quarterlies. When you complete the FRM exam, you are not provided with any score—just a pass/fail—and you won't receive that for at least six weeks following the exam.
If you fail the exam, you can retake it as many times as you need or want. The problem is the exam is only conducted a certain number of times each year, so you could experience a wait time of up to a year to retake the exam. Each retake requires the registration fee payment, which for 2021 is $750 per each part of the exam.
If you clear Part 1, you have four years to successfully clear Part 2. If you don't clear Part 2 within that time frame, you could be required to re-register for Part 1.
Is an FRM Exam Prep Course Worth the Cost?
Registering for the FRM exam is not inexpensive. In 2021, the cost to register for either Part 1 or Part 2 is $750, though you can save $200 by registering early. The best way to protect that $750 investment is with a solid exam prep course, which depending on the course provider and your particular study needs, can cost another $150 to $400—double that to cover the cost of exam prep for both parts of the FRM exam.
Because the FRM course is very challenging, it's recommended that students dig a little deeper for a comprehensive course to maximize the 200 to 250 study hours required. Premium courses based on multi-faceted and resource-rich learning platforms range from $400 to $600, which is worth the cost if you don't want to spend another 200 study hours and another $750 to register for a retake. Plus, some course providers offer lifetime access to the course materials, saving you money if you need to retake the test.
There are no educational or sponsorship requirements to sit for the exam, and most FRM candidates pay their own way.
How We Chose the Best FRM Exam Prep Courses
There are many moving parts to the FRM exam and certification process, and the exam is very challenging for most students. That's why selecting the right FRM exam prep course is especially crucial. Because the stakes are very high, you will need to do your own due diligence in finding the course that best matches your needs. We got the process started for you with this roundup of top FRM exam prep course providers.
Starting with a list of a dozen providers, we considered experience, cost, breadth of study tools, student support, practice testing capabilities, and unique features to narrow the list. We wanted to be sure the courses offered ample lessons and a comprehensive study bank. Preference was given to courses with large networks of support. Based on those attributes, we chose the best providers in five categories—best overall, best learning platform, best comprehensive premium package, best value premium package, and best low-cost package.