Based on monthly average pass rates reported for the year-to-date, the most challenging papers continue to be Papers 1 (Fundamentals of Securities and Futures Regulation: 51.9%) and 9 (Derivatives: 46.8%), however Paper 2 (Regulation of Securities) and Paper 6 (Regulation of Asset Management) are becoming trickier to pass.

The Paper 1 pass rate rose above 50% in both August (52.8%) and September (52.4%), having been below 50% for the previous two months, however the rates for October (50.5%) and November (50.9%) were barely above 50%. While the Paper 6 pass rate for August fell to 51% – the lowest pass rate for many years – it rose to 61.7% in October.  The pass rate for Paper 2 fell to 60.9% in November, while the pass rate for Paper 3 settled in the mid 70s in October and November, having hit a historic high of 96% in August.  The pass rates for Paper 5 in October and November were both 60%.

The pass rates for the practical papers in October and November were mostly below the year-to-date averages, except for Paper 12:

HKSI Paper






Let’s have a look at some of the individual papers.

Paper 1 – Fundamentals of Securities and Futures Regulation
Average monthly pass rate51.9%
Standard deviation of monthly averages2.7%
Range of monthly pass rates48.5% to 58.5%

All figures year-to-date

The range of monthly pass rates has widened compared to 2018 (49.4% to 55.4%) with the monthly mean pass rate dropping just over 1%`.  The general trend in the Paper 1 pass rate in 2019 had been downwards until August and September, when the rates moved above 52%.  In October and November, the pass rate hovered just above 50%.  Paper 1 cannot be taken for granted.

Paper 2 – Regulation of Securities
Average monthly pass rate68.0%
Standard deviation of monthly averages4.3%
Range of monthly pass rates60.9% to 74.7%

All figures year-to-date

While the Paper 2 monthly pass rate has hovered around 70% for the past few years, both September and November rates were well below this average (Sept: 62.7%; Nov 60.9%).  Indeed, the November pass rate is the lowest for many years. Once again, are the Paper 2 questions becoming harder?

Paper 3 – Regulation of Derivatives
Average monthly pass rate82.0%
Standard deviation of monthly averages9.3%
Range of monthly pass rates67.6% to 96.9%

All figures year-to-date

Paper 3 is notable for the wide range of monthly pass rates (over 30%), which reflects a small sample rather than exam difficulty.  The Paper 3 exam occurs once a month.

Paper 5 – Regulation of Corporate Finance
Average monthly pass rate72.3%
Standard deviation of monthly averages10.4%
Range of monthly pass rates59.5% to 88.2%

All figures year-to-date

The Paper 5 2019 monthly average pass rate appeared steady compared to 2018, although there continues to be great variability in the pass rates with a standard deviation of 9.5% and a range of almost 30%.  Indeed, after three months of monthly pass rates in excess of 80%, both October and November recorded a rate of 60%.  As the exam is only run once a month, small sample sizes give rise to high variability in average scores, however two consecutive pass rates of 60% may indicate tougher questions being set.

Paper 6 – Regulation of Asset Management
Average monthly pass rate64.3%
Standard deviation of monthly averages11.1%
Range of monthly pass rates50.7% to 81.2%

All figures year-to-date

Although the Paper 6 average monthly pass rate for the year-to-date is just shy of 65%, this masks recent pass rates for June and July of just over 54%, August of 51% and November of 55%.  However, October’s rate reached 61.7%.  Candidates have noted that these are some of the lowest Paper 6 pass rates for a number of years.  Are the Paper 6 exams becoming more difficult?  It continues to appear that the Paper 6 examiner is taking a tough line.

Paper 7 – Financial Markets
Average monthly pass rate63.0%
Standard deviation of monthly averages3.5%
Range of monthly pass rates56.3% to 67.8%

All figures year-to-date

All Paper 7 average monthly pass rates had exceeded 60% in 2019 until October, when it fell to 56.3%.  While the range and standard deviation of the monthly averages reflect large sample sizes, with the exam being run eight times per month, October’s pass rate is the lowest since mid-2016.

Paper 8 – Securities
Average monthly pass rate61.0%
Standard deviation of monthly averages5.5%
Range of monthly pass rates52.2% to 69.0%

All figures year-to-date

Paper 8, which is often taken in conjunction with Paper 7, has a wider range, higher standard deviation and a lower average pass rate than Paper 7.  As with Paper 7, it is run eight times per month, which suggests that candidates continue to find Paper 8 marginally more difficult than Paper 7.

Paper 9 – Derivatives
Average monthly pass rate46.8%
Standard deviation of monthly averages12.6%
Range of monthly pass rates26.9% to 62.1%

All figures year-to-date

Paper 9 has always been the most difficult SFC licensing exam to pass, and 2019 is no exception.  While September’s pass rate of 62.1% is the highest of the year so far, October’s pass rate of 26.9% is the lowest.  The average monthly pass rate has not exceeded 50% for a number of years and it may be similar for 2019.  In 2019, there has been two monthly pass rates below 30% – dispiriting for many a Paper 9 candidate.

Paper 12 – Asset Management
Average monthly pass rate66.9%
Standard deviation of monthly averages9.0%
Range of monthly pass rates52.3% to 75.8%

All figures year-to-date

Paper 12 is run twice a month, giving a relatively small sample size, which goes some way to explain the wide range of monthly pass rates and the relatively high standard deviation of 9.0%.  It is worth noting that the monthly average pass rate of this technical paper has not dipped below 50% so far in 2019, unlike 2018.

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