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: 52.2%) and 9 (Derivatives: 47.2%), however Paper 6 (Regulation of Asset Management) is 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, while the Paper 6 pass rate for August fell to 51% – the lowest pass rate for many years.  The pass rates for Paper 2 were below 66% for both August and September, while the pass rate for Paper 3 hit a historic high of 96% in August.  The pass rates for Paper 5 were both above 85%.

The pass rates for the practical papers in August and September mostly revolved around the year-to-date averages:

HKSI Paper






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


Paper 1 – Fundamentals of Securities and Futures Regulation
Average monthly pass rate52.2%
Standard deviation of monthly averages2.9%
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 slightly.  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 recent months, the pass rate appears to vary between 48% and 52%.  Paper 1 cannot be taken for granted.

Paper 2 – Regulation of Securities
Average monthly pass rate68.8%
Standard deviation of monthly averages4.0%
Range of monthly pass rates62.7% 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 August and September rates were well below this average (Aug: 65.8%; Sept 62.7%).  Indeed, the September pass rate is the lowest for many years. Are the Paper 2 questions becoming harder?

Paper 3 – Regulation of Derivatives
Average monthly pass rate83.3%
Standard deviation of monthly averages9.9%
Range of monthly pass rates65.6% 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 occurs once a month.

Paper 5 – Regulation of Corporate Finance
Average monthly pass rate75.1%
Standard deviation of monthly averages9.5%
Range of monthly pass rates59.5% to 88.2%

All figures year-to-date

The Paper 5 2019 monthly average pass rate appears 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%.  As the exam is only run once a month, small sample sizes give rise to high variability in average scores.

Paper 6 – Regulation of Asset Management
Average monthly pass rate65.6%
Standard deviation of monthly averages11.9%
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 66%, this masks the most recent pass rates for June and July of just over 54% and August of 51%.  However, September’s rate bounced back to 58.2%.  Candidates have noted that these are the lowest Paper 6 pass rates for a number of years.  Are the Paper 6 exams becoming more difficult?  It appears that the Paper 6 examiner is taking a tougher line.

Paper 7 – Financial Markets
Average monthly pass rate63.9%
Standard deviation of monthly averages2.9%
Range of monthly pass rates60.8% to 67.8%

All figures year-to-date

All Paper 7 average monthly pass rates have exceeded 60% in 2019 to date, which has not been the case for a number of years.  The range and standard deviation of the monthly averages reflect large sample sizes, as the exam is run eight times per month.

Paper 8 – Securities
Average monthly pass rate62.0%
Standard deviation of monthly averages5.6%
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 lower pass rate than Paper 7.  As with Paper 7, it is run eight times per month, which suggests that candidates find Paper 8 marginally more difficult than Paper 7.

Paper 9 – Derivatives
Average monthly pass rate47.2%
Standard deviation of monthly averages10.9%
Range of monthly pass rates29.4% 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, although September’s pass rate of 62.1% is the highest of the year so far.  The average monthly pass rate has not exceeded 50% for a number of years and it may be similar for 2019.  May’s average pass rate was 29.4% – dispiriting for many a Paper 9 candidate.

Paper 12 – Asset Management
Average monthly pass rate65.3%
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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