1. I realize this thread is old. However, it is a popular hit when you google for "paper 1 sfc". Bearing this in mind, I think it is fair to add to the above discussion.
2. I don't think you can describe the test as "fair", "easy" or "difficult", as it will very much depend on your experience, background, and strengths and weaknesses, including language ability and analytical abilities.
3. I have a PhD in economics from a super top university and my math is strong. I'm also strong in language, vocabulary, writing, etc.. However, I loathe legal verbiage and do have a clear weakness there.
4. I spent about 5 hours a day for 4 days before the test. I read the whole manual twice. I worked through the inline question/answers. I did not attempt any multiple choice questions as I assumed they would be easier than the inline questions.
5. I got 45/60, so I passed, but I was very disappointed in the result. I would not usually get less than 55/60 for a test I've prepared for. So big disappointment.
6. A clear mistake was to not practice the multiple-choice questions (I did not notice them until after the test). I would urge you to practice these. The sfc offers some very old questions, with the occasional obsolete question. If anyone has more updated questions, I would urge you to post them online, as you would be doing a public service (notwithstanding copyright issues). The sfc really ought to update their sample questions and to put more of them online. After all if they want practitioners to be able to answer these questions, I don't see why they're being cheap with them.
7. The multiple-choice questions are, more often than not, testing your reading ability. Unfortunately they appear to be written by lawyers rather than logicians, so more often than not there are multiple interpretations. They manipulate meaning with qualifiers and verbs like MUST, NECESSARILY, NEED, NEVER, USUALLY, DOUBLE NEGATIONS and offer answers like (made-up example to illustrate the problem) (i) You must not commit an offence, (ii) You must not knowingly commit an offence, and more than once I couldn't decide because two answers seemed to be quite valid. Perhaps I was unprepared and perhaps another reading of the manual would clarify the ambiguities, but in my humble opinion I felt the test relied too much on attempting to trap you with contorted turns of phrases rather than actually testing that you would make a good RO.
8) It's true that common-sense goes a long way. It's likely that 40 of my answers were correct thanks to simple common sense rather than the time I spent reading the (excessively boring and repetitive) manual. The only question where I felt that reading the manual had its rewards was a question about which exchange options are traded on, with the arguably-counterintutive answer being SEHK and not HKFE. At that moment I felt that my 20 hours of preparation were not a total waste.
9) Before preparing for the test I had no knowledge of the material. It took me a day to be able to remember acronyms like SFC and SFO. If you've been a practitioner in HK, you may find the test much easier.
10) Dont' be cheap and don't borrow the printed manual from your friend who took the test 10 years ago, as I did. Print the latest manual. There are important differences, especially since the financial crisis.
11) Another tip for you. Know your acronyms. I think I know about half of these, but you're supposed to know them all. SFC, SFO, IOSCO, DMA, ATS, REITs, PDPO, SEHK, HKFE, FS, HKMA, HKEx, HKSCC, SEOCH, MBLR, IFAs, IA, MPFA, MMT, AFIs, HKCC, GEM, INEDs, PIs, NCO, FRR, SFAT, RLC, ICC, ICF, ETO, CIS, ICO, ICG, RKR, ICG, GC, GCPT, FMCC, CFACC, SRCC, DCASS, MLGN, DTRPO, OSCO, UNATMO, CUTMF, SIP, CCASS, SBL, SMF, OTEP, OBEP, HKATS, GLR, LFET, IARB, HKCIB, PIBA, CAR, JFIU, CNS, SFAT, OR, NAV, ORSO, PBO, GAML. There probably are a few more.
12) Bottom line: If you have a legal background this test will probably be easier than if you have a math/scientific background. The greatest difficulty is avoiding language and double-negation traps. Common sense will take you a long way. But beware if your English is weak (there is a Chinese version of the test, I cannot comment on it though).