Getting funded by a prop firm can be an exciting way for aspiring traders to access larger trading capital. However, passing the prop firm evaluation process, known as the “prop firm challenge,” is no easy task. In this comprehensive guide, we explore expert tips from funded traders on how to successfully pass prop firm challenges based on combined experience.
Prop firms like FTMO, MyForexFunds, TopstepTrader, and others provide traders access to sizeable trading accounts upwards of $100,000 once they can prove they have the skills to trade profitably. This is done through an evaluation process known as the “prop firm challenge” which traders must pass to get funded.
The challenge involves trading a firm’s capital in a live simulator or demo account for 1-3 months and meeting specific profit targets, loss limits, and other risk metrics. However, most traders fail on their first try since the criteria is strict and designed to filter out unskilled traders.
In fact, some statistics indicate over 80-90% of traders fail to pass on their first try. So how can you beat the odds and join the select group of funded traders? In this guide, we provide tips from real traders who have passed prop firm challenges to help you succeed.
Develop a Challenge-Specific Trading Strategy
The first key is realizing the prop firm challenge requires a specific approach tailored to the firm’s evaluation criteria. Do not rely on your existing strategy. The rules differ from actual live trading.
For example, most firms prohibit trading news events, require a 10% minimum monthly return, and impose a strict risk management policy. You must craft a strategy fitting these parameters.
- Low Risk Per Trade: With limited loss allowances, you cannot afford big losses on individual trades. Stick to a 1-2% risk per trade.
- High Reward Potential: Look for setups offering a reward potential of at least 2:1 relative to the risk to efficiently meet target returns.
- Trade Frequency: Balancing risk and reward indicates you may need to average 10+ trades per day to hit monthly targets while keeping losses small. High activity is key.
- Limited Pairings: Stick to one or two highly liquid currency pairs you know well. Exotic crosses add unnecessary volatility.
- Technical/Momentum Focus: Fundamental or news-based strategies are off limits. Use technical indicators like price action, moving averages, RSI for setups.
- Disciplined Execution: Strictly follow your system’s entry and exit rules without exception to pass the evaluation.
Study the Prop Firm’s Rules Extensively
The second critical step is thoroughly studying the prop firm’s specific challenge rules, risk limits, procedures, and setup/security requirements. For example:
- What are the capital requirements, maximum drawdown limits, required monthly profit targets?
- What instruments are permitted or restricted?
- What leverage ratios, position sizes, and risk per trade are allowed?
- Are there market hours, blackout periods, or other trading restrictions?
- What software, virtual machines, or tools must be used?
Internalize all the guidelines so you can optimize your strategy and avoid violations from improper trading or risks. The devil is in the details with these rules. Never assume anything.
Demo Trade In Advance Extensively
Once you have a strategy aligned to the firm’s challenge rules, spend extensive time demo trading in advance to refine and practice execution.
- Minimum 2-3 Months: Demo trade for at least the full challenge period to gauge consistency and get comfortable.
- Matching Environment: Ensure your demo setup mirrors the actual challenge platform and rules precisely.
- Track Detailed Statistics: Measure your exact profitability, risks taken, win rates, ROI, sharpe ratio, drawdowns.
- Identify Weaknesses: Review losses, mistakes, or rule violations to improve strategy and execution.
- Build Confidence: Gain conviction in your strategy by executing profitably for an extended demo period matching real challenge conditions.
Thorough demo trading and statistics analysis is vital to pinpoint any flaws in your system or trading prior to the real challenge.
Adopt Strict Risk Management Disciplines
Prop firm challenges often strictly limit total losses or drawdown. As such, applying air-tight risk management is crucial.
Some key risk disciplines to apply:
- Limit Risk Per Trade: Never risk more than 1-2% of account equity per trade as noted earlier.
- Maintain Proper Leverage: Scale leverage to keep risk per trade sizing appropriate. Use maximum 1:100 leverage.
- Set Stop Losses On Every Trade: Use disciplined stop losses at entry to contain any losses. Move stops to lock profits.
- Limit Position Sizing: Even with small risk per trade, oversizing can lead to large drawdowns. Keep maximum position size to 10% of equity.
- Watch Drawdown Daily: Measure and track drawdown daily to halt trading if nearing limit. Do not allow deep drawdowns.
- Avoid Revenge Trading: Resist the urge to win back losses by over-trading after a string of losing trades. Stick to your plan.
Optimally Schedule Your Trading Activity
Funded traders emphasize maximizing returns requires optimally planning when and how frequently you actually trade. You cannot just trade casually or randomly.
Some scheduling tips:
- Target Most Volatile Hours: Focus activity in the most volatile trading hours (London/NY overlap) when swings and trends occur.
- Be Consistently Active: Trade every day consistently at target times. Avoid inactive periods or days off which lower returns.
- Watch the Calendar: Schedule around news events and expected volatility (NFP, interest rates). Use slower days to rest.
- Limit Daily Hours: Don’t over trade. Limit sessions to core 4-6 hour windows each day. Fatigue leads to errors.
- Take Regular Breaks: Schedule hourly breaks to refresh your mind and maintain focus as a break in concentration can be very costly.
Prepare Mentally for the High-Pressure Environment
Veteran traders warn the prop firm challenge environment can be high pressure given strict rules and the stress of trading sizeable firm capital. Some key mental preparation tips:
- Expect Volatility: Markets will whipsaw – prepare for large swings both for and against you. Don’t be rattled. Stick to plans.
- Accept Losses: Losing trades will happen. Accept losses quickly, move on rationally, and avoid revenge trading.
- Control Emotions: Practice calming techniques like deep breathing. Walk away when emotions rise. Never trade recklessly.
- Simulate Pressure: Use demo trading to simulate real challenge stress. See how you respond and improve resilience.
- Have Confidence: Trust your proven strategy and abilities. Don’t second guess during the process.
Mastering the mental game is critical to trade consistently amidst the pressure and emotions of a real prop firm challenge.
Have Funds Reserved to Trade Through Multiple Challenges
While the goal is passing in one try, be prepared for potential failure and have adequate savings set aside to trade through multiple challenges and re-applications if needed.
- Expect Failures: Statistics show most will not pass the first time, despite preparation. It’s an iterative process.
- Size Savings Appropriately: Have minimum 6-12 months living expenses reserved to pursue trading full time through multiple attempts.
- Reset Mental Approach: Don’t get discouraged after a failed attempt. Review results, optimize your strategy, and reset mentally.
- Improve Each Time: View challenges as practice. Focus on enhancing skills with each subsequent attempt.
With adequate savings, you can persist through multiple challenges while continuously improving until you pass. This perseverance is key.
Maintain Detailed Records for Performance Reviews
Meticulously document each trade, daily stats, and challenge performance benchmarks including:
- Trade Journal: Log parameters of every trade – dates, instrument, entries, exits, size, P/L.
- Daily Stats: Track daily profit/loss, win/loss rates, running balance.
- Challenge Benchmarks: Measure results versus target profit, drawdowns, risks per guidelines.
- Market Conditions: Note daily volatility, trends, news events that impacted trading.
- Learnings & Improvements: Record observations after each day and the entire challenge on what worked, mistakes made, and improvements needed.
Analyzing these records will provide invaluable insights to enhance your performance on subsequent challenges.
Have Key Indicators Always Visible
Set up your trading platform to clearly display key metrics at all times like:
- Running P/L: Constantly monitor your overall intraday, daily, weekly, and monthly P/L versus targets.
- Open Positions: Keep visible your current long/short positions and associated P/L.
- Drawdown: Display running drawdown versus the maximum limit permitted.
- Statistics: Have stats like % profitable trades, win rate ratio, payoff ratio always present.
This keeps you grounded in the key benchmarks and risk parameters that must be met and avoided each day of the challenge.
Avoid Distractions That Can Lead to Costly Errors
Funded traders emphasize avoiding distractions is vital given the hyper focus required:
- Minimize Browser Tabs: Beyond your trading platform and essential charts/analysis, close all other browser tabs.
- Turn Off Phone: Don’t even have your mobile phone nearby or on your desk to avoid urge to check.
- No TV or Music: Avoid the temptation to have any TV, videos, or music playing in background.
- Lock the Door: Print out key charts/plans and lock your office door so you are not interrupted.
- Focus 100%: Challenge periods cannot afford concentration lapses. Remain focused each minute on proper trade execution.
Tuning out all distractions is key to maintaining the high level of concentration necessary to successfully trade a prop firm challenge. Leave distractions until after daily sessions conclude.
Automate Key Parts of Your Strategy Execution
Look for ways to automate components of your trading strategy to optimize efficiency and minimize errors.
Some automation examples:
- Auto Charting: Script charts for consistent horizontal levels, indicators, drawing tools.
- Auto Orders: Code entry/exit orders to trigger based on indicator signals.
- Risk Rules: Script maximum size and loss limits per trade.
- Trade Tracking: Log trades automatically via API connections.
- Alerts: Receive text/email alerts when key levels or events occur.
Automating rules, procedures, and tools provides consistency and frees you to focus on analysis plus exploiting opportunities.
Conduct In-Depth Review Upon Challenge Completion
Once a challenge ends, funded traders emphasize deep analysis of your performance before the next attempt:
- Analyze Every Trade: Review each trade’s rationale, execution, and result to identify strengths, mistakes and improvements. Look for strategy adjustment insights.
- Assess Statistical Results: Evaluate overall statistics like profit factor, percentages, win rates, risk-reward ratios. Optimize areas under performance thresholds.
- Scrutinize Losses: Isolate trading situations, behaviors, or biases that led to losses. Determine how to prevent these in future.
- Review Market Conditions: Evaluate if certain market events or conditions impacted strategy performance positively or negatively.
- Reset Mental State: Clear your head and emotions before attacking the next challenge attempt refreshed and focused.
Use the results of this analysis to fine-tune your process, skills, and mental game for improved performance on subsequent funded trader challenges.
FAQs About Passing Prop Firm Challenges
What statistics show in terms of passing prop firm challenges?
- Industry data indicates only 10-20% of traders pass a funded account challenge on their first attempt. 60-70% fail two times before passing. About 10-20% never pass.
What are some common reasons traders fail the prop firm challenge?
- Poor risk management leading to blown accounts
- Over-trading and revenge trading after losses
- Ill-fitting strategies not optimized for challenge rules
- Lack of consistent focus and discipline in execution
- Unable to manage psychological factors and pressure
What is the #1 reason funded traders emphasize for passing the evaluation?
- Traders overwhelmingly point to the importance of detailed advance preparation via extensive demo trading in precisely simulated conditions matching the actual challenge parameters.
What markets or instruments are best to trade for the prop firm challenge?
- Major forex pairs like EUR/USD offer optimal volatility and liquidity. Gold and major stock index futures like ES and NQ are also reasonable options. Avoid exotic currency crosses and penny stocks with liquidity issues.
What is the recommended daily and monthly return target to reliably pass an evaluation?
- Shoot for 2-3% average daily returns, and target 10-15% total compounded monthly returns. This provides buffer above the required minimums that firms set for the process while accounting for potential drawdowns.
How long does it take the average trader to pass a prop firm challenge?
- For funded traders who persist and eventually pass, data indicates most require 2 to 4 separate attempts spanning 6-12 months to ultimately succeed and secure a funded trading account.
Getting funded by a proprietary trading firm can accelerate your trading career. But successfully passing a prop firm challenge requires extensive planning, practice, and high-level execution. Utilize the comprehensive tips in this guide from real funded traders to optimize your strategy and process. With focus and persistence, you can master the evaluation and unlock lucrative funded trading account opportunities.
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