FRM Exam Pass Rates: How Hard Are FRM Exams?

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[updated with May 2021 pass rates]

Current or potential FRM candidates often wonder what are the FRM exam pass rates like, in order to have a sense of difficulty of the exams. This is also a common question we get asked when our readers compare between CFA vs. FRM.

The short answer? FRM exams are tough, but doable with a proper study plan.

In this article, we try to approach this question on exam difficulty objectively, with historical FRM pass rates and third party benchmarking studies in order to help you decide whether FRM exams suits you.

Let’s go!

FRM Exam Pass Rates Since 2010

FRM Exam Pass Rates: How Hard Are FRM Exams? 1

The latest FRM exam pass rates are:

  • 47% for Part 1 (May21)
  • 59% for Part 2 (May21)

As one would expect, the average pass rates increases as one progresses throughout the Part 1 to Part 2. Since 2010, the historical FRM exam pass rates for:

  • Part 1 ranges from 39%-53%, with a 12-year average of 46%;
  • Part 2 ranges from 50%-62%, with a 12-year average of 57%.

Interestingly, pass rates for FRM Part 1 and Part 2 seems to be on an upwards trend since 2018, coinciding with the growth in FRM candidate registrations. It would be interesting to see how FRM exams’ pass rates develop with the new CBT exams going forward.

FRM Part 1 Pass Rates

FRM Exam Pass Rates: How Hard Are FRM Exams? 2

With a long term 12 year average of 46%, FRM Part 1 pass rates have remained relatively stable since 2014, ranging between 41%-50%. The latest May21 Part 1 pass rate is 47%.

Interestingly, unlike CFA exams, the pandemic didn’t have a noticeable improvement in FRM pass rates for the 2020 and 2021 exams.

However, this may be due to a smaller sample size, or that FRM candidates simply required a shorter study time (200-240 hours part Part on average) and therefore the early announcement of exam postponements didn’t have a material effect as candidates simply postponed their studies till later.

FRM Part 2 Pass Rates

FRM Exam Pass Rates: How Hard Are FRM Exams? 3

The story seems slightly different for FRM Part 2 pass rates.

With a 12-year average of 57%, FRM Part 2 pass rates has been consistently above 50% for the last 11 years, with the lowest point in May 2016 with 50%. The latest May21 Part 2 pass rate is 59%.

Interestingly, similar to CFA exams’ trend, FRM Part 2 results for 2020-2021 recorded one of the highest pass rates at 59-62%.

How Hard Is FRM, Really?

OK we have seen all the historical trends in FRM exam pass rates, but that still doesn’t really tell us how difficult these exams are.

Perhaps a more objective way to assess FRM exam’s difficulty lies in the UK NARIC’s (National Academic Recognition Information Centre of the United Kingdom) benchmarks.

frm difficulty comparison financial designation

According to UK NARIC, the FRM exams have been benchmarked under UK Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF), with its difficulty comparable to a Master’s degree (Level 7 qualification under RQF).

Considering that RQF Level 8 implies a difficulty equivalent to PhD programs, passing FRM Part 2 has been ranked equally difficult as passing all 3 levels of the CFA exams.

Although some would argue that CFA has 3 levels, whilst FRM has 2 parts, with less total study hours required overall, therefore CFA exams are tougher.

We are not here to debate that, but to give you a sense of FRM exam’s difficulty from a content perspective 🙂

Hope you found the pass rates data above useful!

Meanwhile, here are some related articles that may be of interest:


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