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Topics in Valuation and Risk Models in FRM Part 1

“Valuation and Risk Models” is one of the four broad topics that GARP tests in its FRM Part 1 exam with 30% weight in the exam.

“Valuation and Risk Models” is one of the four broad topics that GARP tests in its FRM Part 1 exam. This broad topic has 30% weight in the exam, which means that you may expect 30 out of 100 questions to be asked from this section. This topic tests a candidate’s knowledge of valuation techniques and risk models. The Topics in Valuation and Risk Models touch on a broad range of knowledge points.

Valuation and Risk Models

  • Value-at-Risk (VaR)
  • Expected shortfall (ES)
  • Estimating volatility and correlation
  • Economic and regulatory capital
  • Stress testing and scenario analysis
  • Option valuation
  • Fixed income valuation
  • Hedging
  • Country and sovereign risk models and management
  • External and internal credit ratings
  • Expected and unexpected losses
  • Operational risk
There are sixteen chapters or readings in this section. If you go through the GARP specified learning objectives (LOs) for this section, you will find a good mix of computational and non-computational LOs. As GARP generally asks tricky questions from the non-computational LOs, non-computational LOs are to be equally emphasized to score well in this section.Let me now take you through the essence of each of the sixteen chapters or readings and identify the concepts that GARP might test on the exam day.

Chapter 1: Measures of Financial Risk

The assumption on the shape of the underlying return distribution is pivotal in determining a fitting risk measure. The mean-variance framework applies only to an elliptical distribution, such as the normal distribution. The value at risk (VaR) measure may be used for calculating risk measures for nonelliptical return distributions. However, such a measurement is often unreliable and fails to provide an estimate for the amount of loss. Expected shortfall is a better risk measure as it satisfies all the properties of a coherent risk measure and has less restrictive assumptions. On the exam day, GARP might test you on the calculation of VaR, properties of coherent risk measures, and the expected shortfall methodology.

Chapter 2: Calculating and Applying VaR

This reading discusses the risk measurement approaches for linear and nonlinear derivatives. On the exam day, GARP might test your understanding of different methods for calculating value at risk (VaR) and calculation of expected shortfall (ES) under the historical simulation approach, the delta-normal approach, and the full revaluation approach, including the merits and demerits and underlying assumptions of the various approaches. Also, there could be questions on structured Monte Carlo, stress testing, and worst-case scenario (WSC) analysis, which are often used in extending VaR techniques to measure risk for complex derivatives and scenarios more appropriately.

Chapter 3: Measuring and Monitoring Volatility

The correct estimation of volatility is vital to understanding potential risk exposure. Asset value can be assessed using a normal distribution; however, deviations from normality are a reality. Such deviations often challenge the risk manager to measure volatility and value at risk (VaR). This reading discusses issues with volatility estimation and different weighting methods that can be used to determine VaR. The merits, demerits, and underlying assumptions of the various methodologies are also discussed. GARP might test your understanding of why deviations from normality arise and different approaches to measuring VaR (parametric and nonparametric) on the exam day. Also, you should be thorough with estimating volatility applying both the exponentially weighted moving average (EWMA) and the generalized autoregressive conditional heteroskedasticity [GARCH(1,1)] models and the mean-reverting nature of volatility.

Chapter 4: External and Internal Credit Ratings

Credit ratings can be useful for both companies and individual investments. Rating agencies use both qualitative and quantitative methods for determining external ratings. Historically, the relationship between ratings and subsequent defaults is pretty strong. GARP might test your ability to interpret a default probability table and a ratings-transition matrix on the exam day. Also, be thorough with your understanding of the value of the hazard rate and the recovery rate as they relate to expected losses. Banks generate their internal ratings, and they may use an at-the-point approach or a through-the-cycle approach as the agencies do. Additionally, you need to have a general understanding of how external and internal credit ratings are established.

Chapter 5: Country Risk: Determinants, Measures, and Implications

Sovereign risks often differ across countries. Factors such as the country’s political risk, legal risk, position in the economic growth cycle, and economic diversity impact the investor’s overall risk. Rating agencies rate sovereign risks and also evaluate rating transitions. Country risk can also be analyzed using sovereign default risk spreads. On the exam day, GARP might test your ability to compare and contrast the advantages of sovereign debt ratings and sovereign default risk spreads and recognize sources of sovereign risk and describe the aftermaths of both local currency and foreign currency sovereign defaults.

Chapter 6: Measuring Credit Risk

You need to examine the expected and unexpected losses in a portfolio setting for financial institutions because they hold many assets. On the exam day, GARP might test you on the calculations of expected loss, unexpected loss, and the risk contribution of each asset in a portfolio. In addition, be thorough with the two approaches to calculating credit risk capital under Basel II. Also, there could be questions on different ways of measuring credit losses and modelling credit risk, including the Gaussian copula model, the Vasicek model, the CreditMetrics model, and Euler’s theorem. While calculations help understand complex concepts better, GARP generally tests your understanding of the primary rationale and benefits (and limitations) of using these models.

Chapter 7: Operational Risk

This reading begins by defining operational risk, including internal failures and external events.The text first discusses different types of operational risk. Then, it talks about bank business lines. These business lines must be considered in the calculation for operational risk capital requirements. Collecting data for loss frequency and loss severity distributions is vital. This task is necessary for allocating operational risk capital among various business lines. Methods to obtain the needed operational loss data points vary. They depend on both internal and external data. They also rely on historical and forward-looking approaches.

Chapter 8: Stress Testing

Stress testing is concerned with extreme events, which have a low probability of occurrence but a high bearing if they do occur. Ideally, an institution needs to have enough liquid assets and capital to withstand these events. GARP might test your understanding of how scenarios are selected, models are calibrated, and coverage is tested on exam day. The relationship between the value at risk (VaR) and expected shortfall (ES) is important to stress testing because stressed risk metrics have pros and cons relative to the traditional risk measures. Governance over the stress-testing process and the roles of the board of directors, senior management, and internal audit functions are of paramount importance for a well-functioning stress-testing framework. Policies and procedures, documentation, validation, and the review of the stress-testing process are all crucial components of stress-testing governance. Finally, don’t get surprised if GARP tests you on the Basel stress-testing principles for banks.

Chapter 9: Pricing Conventions, Discounting, and Arbitrage

This reading offers an overview of the fundamentals of bond valuation. The value of a bond equals the present value of its cash flows discounted at the appropriate periodic required return. Discount factors are used to price coupon bonds and determine whether bonds are trading below or above par. If securities are mispriced, a riskless arbitrage profit can be made from violating the law of one price, which states that securities with matching future cash flows should trade at the same price.

Chapter 10: Interest Rates

You can compound Interest rates at various frequencies, which will impact the value of an investment in the future and the present value of an investment today. For the exam day, be thorough with the various types of rates applicable to debt instruments, including the spot rate, forward rate, par rate, and swap rate. The relationships between these rates and the impact maturity have on bond valuations are highly critical testable concepts. Also, GARP might test your understanding of yield curves in terms of their slopes, what causes the flattening and steepening of curves, and the strategies used in these situations.

Chapter 11: Bond Yields and Return Calculations

This reading looks at bond yields and spreads and how reinvestment of a coupon is important in determining the overall return. For coupon bonds, yield to maturity (YTM) may not be a good measure of actual returns to maturity. If market yields go down, an investor who receives coupon payments faces the risk of reinvesting these cash flows at a rate of return lower than the bond’s initially promised yield. GARP might test you on the calculation and interpretation of YTM on exam day and the various components of bond returns.

Chapter 12: Applying Duration, Convexity, and DV01

This reading discusses different ways to measure and hedge risk for fixed-income securities. DV01, duration, and convexity are the three main concepts covered in this reading. DV01 is an acronym for the dollar value of a basis point, which measures how much the price of a bond changes in response to a one basis point change in yield. Duration, specifically effective duration, captures the percentage change in a bond’s value caused by small, parallel changes in rates. DV01 and duration can measure price volatility, but they fail to capture the curvature in the relationship between bond yield and price. Convexity captures the curvature effects of the price-yield relationship. GARP might test your ability to compare, contrast, and calculate DV01, duration, and convexity on the exam day.

Chapter 13: Modeling Non-Parallel Term Structure Shifts and Hedging

This reading discusses the term structure of interest rates by dividing it into several regions and assumptions on how rates change for each region. Key rate analysis captures a portfolio’s exposure to changes in key rates. The key rate method is simple and assumes that rates vary in the region of the key rate selected. The forward-bucket method is akin to the key rate approach but instead uses information from a greater collection of rates, specifically those factored into the forward rate curve. On the exam day, GARP might test your understanding of:
  • how to apply key rate shift analysis
  • key rate ’01 and key rate duration
  • the calculations relating to hedging positions given a specific key rate exposure profile

Chapter 14: Binomial Trees

This reading discusses the binomial model for valuing options on stock. It also introduces the Black-Scholes-Merton model. A detailed discussion of this model is in the next reading. On exam day, GARP might assess how well you can calculate the value of a European or American option. They might use a one-step or two-step binomial model for this. You need to understand the formulas for the sizes of upward and downward movements. Additionally, you should know the risk-neutral probabilities in both up and down states. Also, study the concept of delta thoroughly and learn how to use it in hedging. Finally, ensure you grasp how to adjust the binomial model to extend its application beyond just modeling individual, non-dividend-paying stocks.

Chapter 15: The Black-Scholes-Merton Model

The Black-Scholes-Merton (BSM) option pricing model is based on the assumption that stock prices follow a lognormal distribution. This reading examines the calculation of calls and puts using the BSM option pricing model. Also, it discusses how volatility can be estimated using both the BSM model and current option prices. On the exam day, GARP might test your understanding of calculating the value of a call option and a put option using the BSM model and your ability to factor in dividends, currencies, and futures into the model if needed. Also, GARP often tests the put-call parity relationship on exam day.

Chapter 16: Option Sensitivity Measures: The “Greeks”

The risk level of an option position depends largely on several factors. One factor is the relationship between the value of a position involving options and the value of the underlying assets. Another factor is the time until expiration. Asset value volatility also plays a role. Additionally, the risk-free rate is a consideration. We call measures that capture these factors “the Greeks”. They get this name because of their specific names: delta, theta, gamma, vega, and rho. Thus, we devote a large part of this reading to discuss the evaluation of option Greeks. On the exam day, GARP might test your understanding of any of “the Greeks.” Note that once option participants are cognizant of their Greek exposures, they can more effectively hedge their positions to mitigate risk. GARP also likes to test the common hedging concepts of delta-neutral portfolios and portfolio insurance.To get a detailed overview of the FRM qualification and courses, visit
Learnsignal Education Team
7 min read

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