How to Pass the MSRB Series 54 Exam

Thinking about taking the Series 54 exam? Keep reading to learn what the Series 54 qualifies you to do, what the exam covers, and how you should prepare for it. Continue reading

What is the Series 54 exam?

The Series 54, also called the Municipal Advisor Principal Qualification Exam, is a Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board (MSRB) exam. The MSRB is a self-regulatory organization that establishes rules for municipal securities dealers and municipal advisors. As of November 30, 2021, all municipal advisor professionals working in the capacity of a municipal advisor principal must pass the Series 54 to be appropriately qualified.

Passing the Series 54 exam qualifies you to manage, direct, and supervise municipal advisory activities. These activities include advising a municipality regarding issuing municipal securities, such as the structure, timing, or terms of an issue. Soliciting municipal securities business from municipalities on behalf of a third party is also a form of municipal advising.

Are there other exams I need to take to become a municipal advisor principal?

Yes. To become properly qualified as a municipal advisor principal, you must also pass the Series 50, Municipal Advisor Representative Qualification Exam.

About the Exam

The Series 54 exam consists of 100 scored and ten unscored multiple-choice questions. You have three hours to complete the exam, and you must score a 70% or higher to pass.

Series 54 exam details in a table

Note: Scores are rounded down to the next lowest whole number (e.g. 69.9% would be a final score of 69% – not a passing score for the Series 54 exam).

Topics Covered on the Exam

The Series 54 exam is designed to make sure that municipal advisor principals are competent in the supervisory application of rules and regulations. This means that the exam measures your ability to apply regulatory requirements to the municipal advisor’s activities, rather than just a general knowledge of what those regulations are.

The Series 54 exam covers the three main topic areas of the MSRB Series 54 Content Outline:

Series 54 exam topics in a table

The MSRB updates its exam questions regularly to reflect the most current rules and regulations. Solomon recommends that you print out the current version of the MSRB Series 54 Content Outline and use it in conjunction with the Solomon Series 54 Study Guide. The Content Outline is subject to change without notice, so make sure you have the most recent version.

Question Types on the Exam

The Series 54 exam consists of multiple-choice questions, each with four options. You may see the following four question structures. However, keep in mind that these sample questions don’t necessarily represent the difficulty level or subjects covered in the exam.

Closed Stem Format:

This item type asks a question and gives four possible answers to choose from.

Which of the following would be most likely to require registration as a municipal advisor?

    1. Providing a municipality with a price quote for an investment product within the municipality’s investment criteria
    2. Offering the municipality a possible price range for a new issue
    3. Displaying a comparison of debt financing structures
    4. Providing advice on issuing securities to the municipality through its municipal advisor
Open Stem Format:

This kind of question has an incomplete sentence followed by four possible conclusions.

When dealing with municipal entity clients, the two primary duties that a non-solicitor municipal advisor must fulfill with reference to standards of conduct are:

    1. The duties of care and loyalty
    2. The duties of care and suitability
    3. The duties of loyalty and prudence
    4. The duties of fairness and consistency
“Except” (or “Not”) Format:

This type requires an answer that is incorrect or is an exception among the four answer choices.

Documentation that defines a municipal advisory relationship with a client must include all of the following except:

    1. A description of the advisor’s compensation arrangement
    2. Educational background information about the municipal advisor’s associates
    3. The termination date of the relationship between the advisor and the client
    4. A description of all activities to be performed for the client
Complex Multiple-Choice (“Roman Numeral”) Format:

For this question type, you see a question followed by two or more statements identified by Roman numerals. The four answer choices represent combinations of these statements. You must select the combination that best answers the question.

Which two of the following actions are required for a municipal advisor to comply with MSRB rules on supervision?

    1. Designation of a single chief compliance officer
    2. Annual certification of supervisory policies
    3. Providing clients with an annual update of supervisory practices
    4. Designation of a principal at each of the firm’s offices to oversee the system
    1. I and II
    2. I and IV
    3. II and III
    4. III and IV
  1.  

Answers: 1. D   2. A   3. B   4. A  

Try a free sample of Solomon Exam Prep’s Series 54 Exam Simulator. You’ll receive instant feedback on each question with a robust explanation of the correct answer.

Taking the Series 54 Exam

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) administers the Series 54 exam, and you must take it at a Prometric test center. Like all qualifying exams in the securities industry, the Series 54 is closed-book, and you’re not allowed to bring anything into the exam. The test center will provide you with any materials you need to complete the exam. For instance, the test center may provide a whiteboard with markers or scratch paper and a pencil, as well as a basic electronic calculator. The inspection and sign-in requirements at test centers are stringent, so plan to arrive at least 30 minutes before your scheduled test appointment.

Before the exam starts, you’ll take a 30-minute tutorial on exam administration. After you finish the tutorial, the exam will begin and you’ll have three hours to complete it.

Test-Taking Tips

When taking the exam, it helps to keep some test-taking strategies in mind. Try not to spend too long on one question—this may cause you to run out of time and not get to other questions you know. If you don’t know the answer to a question, guess at the answer and “flag” it. There’s no penalty for guessing, so it’s beneficial to answer every question.

After you’ve finished all the questions, you can come back to any flagged questions. This strategy allows you to efficiently answer the ones you know. You might also learn something later in the exam that helps you answer an earlier question. Just remember to save enough time to return to the questions you didn’t answer. However, it’s not a good idea to simply skip all of the difficult questions with the plan to answer them later. You should make a serious effort to answer each question before moving on to the next one since your thoughts are often clearer earlier on during the exam.

How to Study for the Series 54 Exam

Follow Solomon Exam Prep’s proven study system:
    • Read and understand. Read the Solomon Study Guide, carefully. Many students read the Study Guide two or three times before taking the exam. To increase your ability to focus while reading, or as an alternative to reading, listen to the Solomon Series 54 Audiobook. The Audiobook is a word-for-word reading of the Study Guide.
    • Take chapter quizzes in the Exam Simulator. When you finish reading a chapter in the Study Guide, take 4–6 chapter quizzes in the Exam Simulator. Use these quizzes to give yourself practice and to find out what you need to study more. Make sure you read and understand the question rationales.
    • Take full practice exams in the Exam Simulator. When you’ve finished reading the entire Study Guide, review your handwritten notes once more. Finally, start taking full practice exams in the Exam Simulator. Aim to pass at least six full practice exams and try to get your average score to at least 80%. When you reach that point, you’re probably ready to sit for the Series 54 exam.
Use these effective study strategies:
    • Take handwritten notes. As you read the Study Guide, take handwritten notes and review your notes every day for 10–15 minutes. Studies show that taking handwritten notes in your own words and then reviewing them strengthens learning and memory.
    • Make flashcards. Making your own flashcards is another proven method to reinforce memory and strengthen learning.
    • Research. Research anything you don’t understand. Curiosity = learning. Students who take responsibility for their own learning by researching anything they don’t understand get a deeper understanding of the subject matter and are much more likely to pass. 
    • Become the teacher. Studies show that explaining what you’re learning greatly increases your understanding of the material. Ask someone in your life to listen and ask questions, or explain it out loud to yourself. Studies show this helps almost as much as explaining to an actual person (see Solomon’s blog post to learn more about this strategy!). 
Take advantage of Solomon’s supplemental tools and resources:
    • Use all the resources. The Series 54 Resources folder in your Solomon student account has helpful study tools, including documents that summarize important exam concepts. There’s also a detailed study schedule that you can print out – or use the online study schedule and check off tasks as you complete them.
    • Watch the Video Lecture. This provides a helpful review of the key concepts in each chapter after reading the Solomon Study Guide. Take notes to help yourself stay focused.
    • Use Ask the Professor. If you have a content-related question, click the Ask the Professor button in your account dashboard and get personalized help from a Solomon professor.
  • Good practices while studying:
    • Take regular breaks. Studies show that if you’re studying for an exam, taking regular walks in a park or natural setting significantly improves scores. Walks in urban areas or among people did not improve test scores.
    • Get enough sleep. Sleep consolidates learning into memory, studies show. Be good to yourself while you’re studying for the Series 54: exercise, eat well, and avoid activities that will hurt your ability to get a good night’s sleep.

You can pass the MSRB Series 54 exam! It just takes focus and determination. Solomon Exam Prep is here to support you on your path to becoming a Municipal Advisor Principal.

Explore all Solomon Series 54 exam prep, including the Study Guide, Exam Simulator, Audiobook, and Video Lecture.

And join the Solomon email list to hear about new product releases, industry news, and more! Just click the button below:

How to Pass the MSRB Series 53 Exam

What is the Series 53 exam? Learn what a Series 53 license qualifies you to do, what the exam covers, and how you should prepare for it. Continue reading

What is the Series 53 exam?

The Series 53, also called the Municipal Securities Principal Qualification Exam, is a Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board (MSRB) exam. The MSRB is a self-regulatory organization that establishes rules for municipal securities dealers and municipal advisors.

Passing the Series 53 exam qualifies you to oversee the municipal fund securities activities of a securities firm or bank dealer. You’ll also be qualified to supervise associates who engage in various municipal securities activities. In this capacity, a Municipal Securities Principal manages, directs, or supervises one or more of the following activities:

    • underwriting of municipal securities
    • trading of municipal securities
    • buying or selling municipal securities from or to customers
    • rendering of financial advisory or consultant services to issuers of municipal securities
    • communications with customers about any of the above activities
    • maintaining records of the above activities
    • processing, clearing, and safekeeping of municipal securities
    • training of principals or representatives
Are there any prerequisites for the Series 53?

Yes. To take the Series 53 exam, you must have already passed the Series 52, Municipal Securities Representative Qualification Exam, and the FINRA Securities Industry Essentials (SIE) Exam. However, if you had passed the FINRA Series 7 exam before November 7, 2011, then that qualifies you to take the Series 53.

Like the Series 52, you must be employed and sponsored by a broker-dealer to take the Series 53 exam.

About the Exam

The Series 53 exam consists of 100 scored multiple-choice questions covering the six topic areas of the MSRB Series 53 Content Outline.

Series 53 exam details in a table

Note: Scores are rounded down to the next lowest whole number (e.g. 69.9% would be a final score of 69% – not a passing score for the Series 53 exam).

Topics Covered on the Exam

The MSRB divides the questions on the Series 53 exam into six main areas:

Series 53 exam topics

The MSRB updates its exam questions regularly to reflect the most current rules and regulations. Solomon recommends that you print out the current version of the MSRB Series 53 Content Outline and use it together with the Solomon Series 53 Study Guide. The Content Outline is subject to change without notice, so make sure you have the most recent version.

Question Types on the Exam

The Series 53 exam consists of multiple-choice questions, each with four options. You will see these question structures:

Closed Stem Format:

This item type asks a question and gives four possible answers to choose from.

Which agencies enforce MSRB rules for broker-dealers?

    1. FDIC and FINRA
    2. SEC and FINRA
    3. Federal Reserve Board and MSRB
    4. SEC and MSRB
Incomplete Sentence Format:

This kind of question has an incomplete sentence followed by four possible conclusions.

Municipal securities dealers are required to maintain records of customer complaints for:

    1. Six years
    2. Three years
    3. Two years
    4. Four years
“EXCEPT” Format:

This type requires you to recognize the one choice that is an exception among the four answer choices.

A person must be registered as a Municipal Securities Representative to engage in all of the following except:

    1. Communicating with public investors in municipal securities
    2. Underwriting municipal securities
    3. Providing investment advice about municipal securities
    4. Trading municipal bond funds
Complex Multiple-Choice (“Roman Numeral”) Format:

For this question type, you see a question followed by two or more statements identified by Roman numerals. The four answer choices represent combinations of these statements. You must select the combination that best answers the question.

Which of the following must the underwriter give to a customer who purchases a municipal bond subject to a negotiated offering within the first 25 days following the end of the underwriting period?

    1. The final official statement
    2. The investor brochure
    3. The amount of the underwriting spread
    4. The percentage of orders that were filled in the presale period
    1. I and III
    2. I and II
    3. III and IV
    4. II and IV

This format is also used in items that ask you to rank or order a set of items from highest to lowest (or vice versa), or to place a series of events in the proper sequence.

Arrange the following order types from highest priority to lowest priority:

    1. Designated orders
    2. Group net orders
    3. Member takedown orders
    4. Presale orders
    1. I, II, III, IV
    2. IV, I, II, III
    3. IV, II, I, III
    4. I, IV, III, II

 

Answers: 1. B   2. A   3. B   4. A   5. C

For an even better idea of the possible question types you might encounter on the Series 53 exam, try Solomon Exam Prep’s free Series 53 Sample Quiz.

Taking the Series 53 Exam

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) administers the Series 53 exam, and you must take it at a Prometric test center. Like all qualifying exams in the securities industry, the Series 53 is closed-book, and you’re not allowed to bring anything into the exam. The test center will provide you with any materials you need to complete the exam. For instance, the test center will likely provide a whiteboard with markers or scratch paper and a pencil, as well as a basic electronic calculator. The inspection and sign-in requirements at test centers are stringent, so plan to arrive at least 30 minutes before your scheduled test appointment.

Test-Taking Tips

When taking the exam, it helps to keep some test-taking strategies in mind. Try not to spend too long on one question—this may cause you to run out of time and not get to other questions you know. If you don’t know the answer to a question, guess at the answer and “flag” it. There’s no penalty for guessing, so it’s beneficial to answer every question.

After you’ve finished all the questions, you can come back to any flagged questions. This strategy allows you to efficiently answer the ones you know. You might also learn something later in the exam that helps you answer an earlier question. Just remember to save enough time to return to the questions you didn’t answer. However, it’s not a good idea to simply skip all of the difficult questions with the plan to answer them later. You should make a serious effort to answer each question before moving on to the next one since your thoughts are often clearer earlier on during the exam.

How to Study for the Series 53 Exam

Follow Solomon Exam Prep’s proven study system:
    • Read and understand. Read the Solomon Study Guide, carefully. Many students read the Study Guide two or three times before taking the exam. To increase your ability to focus while reading, or as an alternative to reading, the Solomon Series 53 Audiobook will be launching soon! The Audiobook is a word-for-word reading of the Study Guide.
    • Take chapter quizzes in the Exam Simulator. When you finish reading a chapter in the Study Guide, take 4–6 chapter quizzes in the Exam Simulator. Use these quizzes to give yourself practice and to find out what you need to study more. Make sure you read and understand the question rationales.
    • Take full practice exams in the Exam Simulator. When you’ve finished reading the entire Study Guide, review your handwritten notes once more. Finally, start taking full practice exams in the Exam Simulator. Aim to pass at least six full practice exams and try to get your average score to at least 80%. When you reach that point, you’re probably ready to sit for the Series 53 exam.
Use these effective study strategies:
    • Take handwritten notes. As you read the Study Guide, take handwritten notes and review your notes every day for 10–15 minutes. Studies show that taking handwritten notes in your own words and then reviewing them strengthens learning and memory.
    • Make flashcards. Making your own flashcards is another proven method to reinforce memory and strengthen learning.
    • Research. Research anything you don’t understand. Curiosity = learning. Students who take responsibility for their own learning by researching anything they don’t understand get a deeper understanding of the subject matter and are much more likely to pass.
    • Become the teacher. Studies show that explaining what you’re learning greatly increases your understanding of the material. Ask someone in your life to listen and ask questions, or explain it out loud to yourself. This helps almost as much as explaining to an actual person (see Solomon’s previous blog post to learn more about this strategy!).
Take advantage of Solomon’s supplemental tools and resources:
    • Use all the resources. The Series 53 Resources folder in your Solomon student account has helpful study tools, including documents that summarize important exam concepts. There’s also a detailed study schedule that you can print out – or use the online study schedule and check off tasks as you complete them.
    • Use Ask the Professor. If you have a content-related question, click the Ask the Professor button in your account dashboard and get personalized help from a Solomon professor.
  • Good practices while studying:
    • Take regular breaks. Studies show that if you’re studying for an exam, taking regular walks in a park or natural setting significantly improves scores. Walks in urban areas or among people did not improve test scores.
    • Get enough sleep during the period when you are studying. Sleep consolidates learning into memory, studies show. Be good to yourself while you’re studying for the Series 53: exercise, eat well, and avoid activities that will hurt your ability to get a good night’s sleep.

You can pass the MSRB Series 53 Exam! It just takes focus and determination. Solomon Exam Prep is here to support you on your path to becoming a Municipal Securities Principal!

Explore all Solomon Exam Prep Series 53 study materials, including the Study Guide and Exam Simulator.

And join the Solomon email list to find out when the Series 53 Audiobook is released! Just click the button below:

How to Pass the MSRB Series 52 Exam

What is the Series 52 exam? Learn what a Series 52 license qualifies you to do, what the exam covers, and how you should prepare for it. Continue reading

What is the Series 52 exam?

If you work for a municipal securities dealer and want to underwrite, trade, and sell municipal securities, then you’ll need to pass the Series 52 exam. You’ll also need to pass the Series 52 exam if you work for a municipal dealer and want to do the following activities:

    • Offer financial advice and consultant services to issuers of municipal securities
    • Conduct research and give investment advice on municipal securities
    • Communicate directly or indirectly with public investors about municipal securities

Also known as the Municipal Securities Representative Qualification Examination, the Series 52 was created by the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board (MSRB). The MSRB is the principal regulator of the municipal securities market. It establishes rules and professional qualification standards for municipal securities dealers and municipal advisors. Those standards include qualification exams for professionals who work in the municipal securities industry. Passing the Series 52 qualifies you to work as a Municipal Securities Representative.

What are municipal securities?

Governments need to finance their activities by raising money, but they can’t sell stocks like businesses. Instead, governments issue municipal bonds (munis) to fund day-to-day operations and special projects.

Are there any prerequisites for the Series 52?

Yes. To become a Municipal Securities Representative, you must also pass the FINRA Securities Industry Essentials (SIE) exam. The SIE is an entry-level securities qualification exam. Unlike the Series 52, you don’t need to be employed and sponsored by a broker-dealer to take the SIE. It’s “co-requisite” with the Series 52, so you can take the exams in any order, but Solomon recommends you take the SIE first. The SIE is a foundational exam, and the knowledge you learn studying for the SIE will help you when you study for the Series 52.

About the Exam

The Series 52 exam consists of 75 scored and five unscored multiple-choice questions covering the three topic areas of the MSRB Series 52 Content Outline. The five additional unscored questions are ones that the exam committee is trying out. These are unidentified and are distributed randomly throughout the exam.

About the Series 52 exam

Note: Scores are rounded down to the next lowest whole number (e.g. 69.9% would be a final score of 69% – not a passing score for the Series 52 exam).

Topics Covered on the Exam

The MSRB divides the questions on the Series 52 exam into three main areas:

Topics on the Series 52 exam

Within these three main parts, you’ll need to learn about many topics, including:

    • Municipal bonds
    • Municipal fund securities
    • MSRB rules
    • Customer accounts
    • Municipal securities trading
    • Recordkeeping
    • Suitability
    • Settlement and delivery
    • Taxation
    • Federal securities acts
    • The SEC
    • Municipal securities underwriting
    • Marketability
    • Political contribution rules
    • Supervisory obligations
    • Market indicators
    • Economic theory
    • Fiscal and monetary policy
    • Interest rates
    • Business cycles
    • The Federal Reserve Board

The MSRB updates its exam questions regularly to reflect the most current rules and regulations. Solomon recommends that you print out the current version of the MSRB Series 52 Content Outline and use it in conjunction with the Solomon Series 52 Study Guide. The Content Outline is subject to change without notice, so make sure you have the most recent version.

Question Types on the Exam

The Series 52 exam consists of multiple-choice questions, each with four options. You will see these question structures:

Closed Stem Format:

This item type asks a question and gives four possible answers to choose from.

Which of the following is a reason that a municipal government might issue a revenue bond instead of a general obligation bond?

    1. The issuer wishes to pay less interest to the bondholders.
    2. The issuer has met its statutory debt limit and does not want to seek voter approval for the issue.
    3. The issuer wants the bond to have a higher credit rating.
    4. The issuer has the ability to impose taxes.
Incomplete Sentence Format:

This kind of question has an incomplete sentence followed by four possible conclusions.

A make whole call provision is a provision in a bond that allows the issuer to:

    1. Call the bond and pay the bondholder a lump sum payment that includes not just the principal but also the net present value of all future coupon payments that the bondholder would have received if not for the call.
    2. Call the bond and pay the bondholder a lump sum payment that includes the call price of the bond.
    3. Redeem the entire issue early to issue a new set of bonds at a lower interest rate.
    4. Call the bond when the total amount of the interest payments is equivalent to the amount of the principal.
“EXCEPT” Format:

This type requires you to recognize the one choice that is an exception among the four answer choices.

A financial advisor may buy securities from an underwriter for its own or its customers’ accounts if all of the following are true except:

    1. The advisor must not receive any additional underwriting compensation when buying securities for their own account.
    2. The advisor must not receive any additional underwriting compensation when buying securities for customer accounts.
    3. The advisor must disclose the conflict of interest to their customers at or before confirmation of the sale.
    4. The advisor must disclose the conflict of interest to the issuer.
Complex Multiple-Choice (“Roman Numeral”) Format:

For this question type, you see a question followed by two or more statements identified by Roman numerals. The four answer choices represent combinations of these statements. You must select the combination that best answers the question.

_________ risk is a concern for bondholders when interest rates _________.

    1. Interest rate; rise
    2. Call; rise
    3. Interest rate; fall
    4. Call; fall
    1. II and IV
    2. II and III
    3. I and IV
    4. I and III
  1.  

Answers: 1. B   2. A   3. D   4. C

For an even better idea of the possible question types you might encounter on the Series 52 exam, try Solomon Exam Prep’s free Series 52 Sample Quiz.

Taking the Series 52 Exam

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) administers the Series 52 exam, and you must take it at a Prometric test center. Like all qualifying exams in the securities industry, the Series 52 is closed-book, and you’re not allowed to bring anything into the exam. The test center will provide you with any materials you need to complete the exam. For instance, the test center will likely provide a whiteboard with markers or scratch paper and a pencil, as well as a basic electronic calculator. The inspection and sign-in requirements at test centers are stringent, so plan to arrive at least 30 minutes before your scheduled test appointment.

Test-Taking Tips

When taking the exam, it helps to keep some test-taking strategies in mind. Try not to spend too long on one question—this may cause you to run out of time and not get to other questions you know. If you don’t know the answer to a question, guess at the answer and “flag” it. There’s no penalty for guessing, so it’s beneficial to answer every question.

After you’ve finished all the questions, you can come back to any flagged questions. This strategy allows you to efficiently answer the ones you know. You might also learn something later in the exam that helps you answer an earlier question. Just remember to save enough time to return to the questions you didn’t answer. However, it’s not a good idea to simply skip all of the difficult questions with the plan to answer them later. You should make a serious effort to answer each question before moving on to the next one since your thoughts are often clearer earlier on during the exam.

How to Study for the Series 52 Exam

Follow Solomon Exam Prep’s proven study system:
    • Read and understand. Read the Solomon Study Guide, carefully. Many students read the Study Guide two or three times before taking the exam. To increase your ability to focus while reading, or as an alternative to reading, the Solomon Series 52 Audiobook will be launching soon! The Audiobook is a word-for-word reading of the Study Guide.
    • Answer practice questions in the Exam Simulator. When you finish reading a chapter in the Study Guide, take 4–6 chapter quizzes in the Exam Simulator. Use these quizzes to give yourself practice and to find out what you need to study more. Make sure you read and understand the question rationales. When you’re finished reading the entire Study Guide, review your handwritten notes once more. Finally, start taking full practice exams in the Exam Simulator. Aim to pass at least six full practice exams and try to get your average score to at least 80%. When you reach that point, you’re probably ready to sit for the Series 52 exam.
Use these effective study strategies:
    • Take handwritten notes. As you read the Study Guide, take handwritten notes and review your notes every day for 10–15 minutes. Studies show that taking handwritten notes in your own words and then reviewing them strengthens learning and memory.
    • Make flashcards. Making your own flashcards is another proven method to reinforce memory and strengthen learning.
    • Research. Research anything you don’t understand. Curiosity = learning. Students who take responsibility for their own learning by researching anything they don’t understand get a deeper understanding of the subject matter and are much more likely to pass.
    • Become the teacher. Studies show that explaining what you’re learning greatly increases your understanding of the material. Ask someone in your life to listen and ask questions, or explain it out loud to yourself. Studies show this helps almost as much as explaining to an actual person (see Solomon’s previous blog post to learn more about this strategy!).
Take advantage of Solomon’s supplemental tools and resources:
    • Use all the resources. The Series 52 Resources folder in your Solomon student account has helpful study tools, including documents that summarize important exam concepts. There’s also a detailed study schedule that you can print out – or use the online study schedule and check off tasks as you complete them.
    • Use Ask the Professor. If you have a content-related question, click the Ask the Professor button in your account dashboard and get personalized help from a Solomon professor.
  • Good practices while studying:
    • Take regular breaks. Studies show that if you’re studying for an exam, taking regular walks in a park or natural setting significantly improves scores. Walks in urban areas or among people did not improve test scores.
    • Get enough sleep during the period when you are studying. Sleep consolidates learning into memory, studies show. Be good to yourself while you’re studying for the Series 52: exercise, eat well, and avoid activities that will hurt your ability to get a good night’s sleep.

You can pass the MSRB Series 52 Exam! It just takes focus and determination. Solomon Exam Prep is here to support you on your path to becoming a municipal securities representative!

Explore all Solomon Exam Prep Series 52 study materials, including the Study Guide and Exam Simulator.

And join the Solomon email list to find out when the Series 52 Audiobook is released! Just click the button below:

How to Pass the MSRB Series 50 Exam

How do you prepare for a challenging securities exam like the Series 50? Solomon shares insights about the test and how to study successfully. Continue reading

The Series 50, also known as the Municipal Advisor Representative Qualification Examination, was developed by the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board (MSRB) to set professional standards and ensure a basic level of industry knowledge for municipal advisor representatives. Passing the Series 50 exam qualifies you to provide advice about municipal financial products to, or on behalf of, municipal entities. That means you will be able to help municipalities through the process of issuing securities and advise them on how to invest their proceeds. 

The registration category, “Municipal Advisor Representative,” was created to comply with the Dodd-Frank Act, which Congress passed in response to the 2008 financial crisis. Municipal advisor firms must have at least one individual who has passed the Series 50 in order to engage in municipal advisory activities. 

Whether you have years of professional experience, or you’re just starting out in the industry, the Series 50 can be a challenging exam and requires ample study time. Solomon recommends studying for 60 hours over a four-week period. That might seem daunting, but understanding what the test is like and how to study for it will set you on the path to being well-prepared for exam day.

About the Exam

The Series 50 exam consists of 100 scored and 10 un-scored multiple-choice questions covering the five topic areas of the MSRB Series 50 Content Outline. The 10 additional un-scored questions are ones that the exam committee is trying out. These are unidentified and are distributed randomly throughout the exam. Before the test starts, you have 30 minutes to watch a tutorial about the exam’s administration, and this time is included in the total exam time of three and one-half hours.

Series 50 exam details

Note: Scores are rounded down to the next lowest whole number (e.g. 70.9% would be a final score of 70% – not a passing score for the Series 50 exam).

Topics Covered on the Exam

The questions on the Series 50 exam cover the five major job functions of a municipal advisor representative, as determined by the MSRB:

Series 50 exam topics

The MSRB updates its exam questions regularly to reflect the most current rules and regulations. Solomon recommends that you print out the current version of the MSRB Series 50 Content Outline and use it in conjunction with the Solomon Series 50 Study Guide. The Content Outline is subject to change without notice, so make sure you have the most recent version.

Question Types on the Exam

The Series 50 exam consists of multiple-choice questions, each with four options. You will see these question structures:

Closed Stem Format:

This item type asks a question and gives four possible answers from which to choose.

Which of the following is true of the MSRB?

    1. The MSRB creates rules that govern issuers of securities.
    2. The MSRB is composed of 20 members who are knowledgeable about municipal securities.
    3. The MSRB does not have the power to enforce its own regulations.
    4. The MSRB was created by the Securities Exchange Act of 1934.
Incomplete Sentence Format:

This kind of question has an incomplete sentence followed by four options that present possible conclusions.

Advisors prohibited from engaging in municipal advisory business under the pay to play rule may qualify for an automatic exemption if:

    1. The advisor discovered the contribution within a reasonable time from the date it was made.
    2. The contribution did not exceed $250.
    3. The person who made the contribution obtained its return before the advisor discovered the contribution.
    4. The advisor has only used three automatic exceptions in the last 12 months.
“EXCEPT” Format:

This type requires you to recognize the one choice that is an exception among the four answer choices presented.

All of the following might be found in the MD&A except:

    1. A summary of the major events of the year for the municipality
    2. A comparison of the current financial year to the previous one
    3. An organizational chart of governmental employees
    4. A discussion of whether the budget was met or exceeded
Complex Multiple-Choice (“Roman Numeral”) Format:

For this question type, you see a question followed by two or more statements identified by Roman numerals. The four answer choices represent combinations of these statements. You must select the combination that best answers the question.

Which of the following are true?

    1. Municipal advisors may, under certain circumstances, act as underwriters.
    2. Underwriters may, under certain circumstances, act as municipal advisors.
    3. Municipal advisors may never act as underwriters.
    4. Underwriters may never act as municipal advisors.
    1. I and IV
    2. II and III
    3. I and II
    4. III and IV
  1.  

Answers: 1. C   2. B   3. C   4. B

For an even better idea of the possible question types you might encounter on the Series 50 exam, try Solomon Exam Prep’s free Series 50 Sample Quiz.

Taking the Series 50 Exam

The Series 50 exam is administered by FINRA and must be taken at a Prometric test center. Like all qualifying exams in the securities industry, the Series 50 is closed book, which means you are not permitted to bring anything into the exam. The test center will provide you with any materials needed to complete the exam. For instance, the test center will likely provide a whiteboard with markers or scratch paper and a pencil, as well as a basic electronic calculator. 

The inspection and sign-in requirements at test centers are stringent, so plan to arrive at least 30 minutes before your scheduled test appointment. Due to COVID-19, you are required to wear a mask the whole time you are at the test center. Solomon recommends taking timed practice exams in the Series 50 Exam Simulator while wearing a mask to get used to this added discomfort.

Test-Taking Tips

When taking the exam, it helps to keep some test-taking strategies in mind. Try not to spend too long on one question—this may cause you to run out of time and not get to other questions you know. If you don’t know the answer to a question, guess at the answer and “flag” it. There is no penalty for guessing, so it is beneficial to answer every question.
 
After you have finished all the questions, you can come back to any flagged questions. Not only does this strategy allow you to efficiently answer the ones you know, but it can also help because you might learn something later in the exam that may help you answer an earlier question. Just remember to save enough time to return to the questions you didn’t answer. However, it is not a good idea to simply skip all of the difficult questions with the intention of answering them later. You should make a serious effort to answer each question before moving on to the next one, as your thoughts are often clearer early on in the exam-taking process than they will be later.

How to Study for the Series 50 Exam

Follow Solomon Exam Prep’s proven study system:
    • Read and understand. Read the Solomon Study Guide, carefully. The Series 50 is a knowledge test, not an IQ test. Many students read the Study Guide two or three times before taking the exam. To increase your ability to focus while reading, or as an alternative to reading, listen to the Series 50 Audiobook, which is a word-for-word reading of the Study Guide.
    • Answer practice questions in the Exam Simulator. When you’re done with a chapter in the Study Guide, take 4–6 chapter quizzes in the Solomon Exam Simulator. Use these quizzes to give yourself practice and to find out what you need to study more. Make sure you read and understand the question rationales. When you’re finished reading the entire Study Guide, review your handwritten notes once more. Then, and only then, start taking full practice exams in the Exam Simulator. Aim to pass at least six full practice exams and try to get your average score to at least an 80%; when you reach that point, you are probably ready to sit for the Series 50 exam.
Use these effective study strategies:
    • Take handwritten notes. As you read the Study Guide, take handwritten notes and review your notes every day for 10 to 15 minutes. Studies show that the act of taking handwritten notes in your own words and then reviewing them strengthens learning and memory.
    • Make flashcards. Making your own flashcards is another powerful and proven method to reinforce memory and strengthen learning.
    • Research. Research anything you do not understand. Curiosity = learning. Students who take responsibility for their own learning by researching anything they do not understand get a deeper understanding of the subject matter and are much more likely to pass.
    • Become the teacher. Studies show that explaining what you are learning greatly increases your understanding of the material. Ask someone in your life to listen and ask questions. If you don’t have anyone, explain it to yourself. Studies show that helps almost as much as explaining to an actual person (see Solomon’s previous blog post to learn more about this strategy!).
Take advantage of Solomon’s supplemental tools and resources:
    • Use all the resources. The Series 50 Resources folder in your Solomon student account has helpful study tools, including documents that summarize important exam concepts. There is also a detailed study schedule that you can print out – or use the online study schedule and check off tasks as you complete them.
    • Watch the Video Lecture. This provides a helpful review of the key concepts in each chapter after reading the Solomon Study Guide. Take notes to help yourself stay focused.
  • Good practices while studying:
    • Take regular breaks. Studies show that if you are studying for an exam, taking regular walks in a park or natural setting significantly improves scores. Walks in urban areas or among people did not improve test scores.
    • Get enough sleep during the period when you are studying. Sleep consolidates learning into memory, studies show. Be good to yourself while you are studying for the Series 50: exercise, eat well, and avoid activities that will hurt your ability to get a good night’s sleep.

You can pass the MSRB Series 50 Exam! It just takes focus and determination. Solomon Exam Prep is here to support you on your path to becoming a municipal advisor representative.

Explore all Solomon Exam Prep Series 50 study materials, including the Study Guide, Exam Simulator, Audiobook, and Video Lecture.

Looking for more support as you prepare for the Series 50 exam? Solomon offers Live Web Classes for the Series 50

For more helpful securities exam-related content, study tips, industry updates, and promotional offers, join the Solomon email list. Just click the button below:

MSRB Announces Results of Series 54 Exam for Municipal Advisor Principals

Solomon Exam Prep congratulates the 810 individuals who have passed the Series 54 exam and are now qualified to work as municipal advisor principals. Continue reading

On December 16, 2021, the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board (MSRB) announced that 810 individuals at 474 municipal advisor firms have passed the Series 54 exam and are now appropriately qualified as municipal advisor principals. Individuals who manage, direct, or supervise a firm’s municipal advisory activities must pass The Series 54, or Municipal Advisor Principal Qualification Examination.

Initially, the MSRB gave municipal advisors a one-year period within which to pass the exam. Due to COVID-19, the deadline was extended twice, and November 30th, 2021, was the final deadline.

Solomon Exam Prep has helped many of those 810 individuals prepare for the Series 54 exam. Solomon offers several study materials for the Series 54, which can be purchased individually or in four package options. Visit the Solomon Series 54 product page to learn more.

The Solomon material was invaluable in helping me pass this exam [Series 54]. The organization of the content, the tests, the video and lecture material, were all exactly on point. Thank you!
Mark Melio
Melio & Company, LLC, Northfield, IL

Before taking the Series 54 exam, individuals must have already passed the Municipal Advisor Representative Qualification Exam, also known as the Series 50. The Series 50 is required of anyone working as a municipal advisor. Passing the Series 50 qualifies individuals to provide advice about municipal financial products to, or on behalf of, municipal entities.

According to the MSRB, 2,953 people have passed the Series 50 exam and are currently associated with a municipal advisor firm.

Solomon Exam Prep has helped 1732 students prepare for the Series 50 exam. Solomon offers materials for self-study, plus live web classes for the Series 50. The Series 50 live web class is five days of intensive instruction with a Solomon professor, focused on the major content areas of the exam. For more information about Solomon Series 50 study products and live classes, visit the product page here.

I prepared for the Series 50 (Municipal Advisor) exam using your materials and was extremely satisfied. Having the materials in multiple written and audio formats provided a lot of flexibility in where and when I could study. The scope of the Series 50 exam is so broad that even very experienced individuals would benefit by this type of preparatory course. I highly recommend this product.
Derek Morse
Morse Associates Consulting, LLC, Reno, NV

Update: Series 54 Deadline Extended to November 30

Principals at municipal advisor firms must pass the Series 54 exam by November 30, 2021, to continue acting as principals. Continue reading

As we covered in a previous blog post on the Solomon Industry News Blog, the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board (MSRB) had announced plans to push back the deadline for municipal advisor principals to take the new Series 54 exam. However, the MSRB did not say how much of an extension they intended to give.

Now we know. On September 2, the MSRB filed a request with the SEC to extend the Series 54 deadline from November 12 to November 30.

The SEC must still approve the extension before it becomes official.

UPDATE – September 30, 2021: The MSRB issued a notice stating that November 30, 2021, is the deadline for passing the Series 54 exam.

Read the full MSRB notice here.

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November 12 deadline for MSRB Series 54 Municipal Advisor Principal Exam

Principals at municipal advisor firms must pass the Series 54 exam by November 12, 2021, to continue acting as principals. Continue reading

When the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board (MSRB) created an exam specifically for principals at municipal advisor (MA) firms, the plan was for all MA principals to take it within a year.

The exam, known as the Series 54, was first made available on November 12, 2019. The MSRB required that all MA principals who wanted to continue acting as principals would have to pass the Series 54 by November 12, 2020.

But like many plans in 2020, the MSRB’s plan for the Series 54 was disrupted by Covid-19. With FINRA testing centers shut down for months, and uncertainty regarding when testing would resume, the MSRB added a one-year grace period to its original deadline. MA principals would now have until November 12, 2021, to pass the Series 54 exam.

The regulator recently reminded MA firms that “those who engage in the management, direction or supervision of…municipal advisory activities” will need to pass the Series 54 on or before November 12.

UPDATE: On August 11, the MSRB announced that it would seek SEC approval for an additional extension. The MSRB did not say how long the planned extension would be, but the regulator plans to announce this by September 10. The MSRB also announced an “interim accommodation” allowing those who need to take the Series 54 exam online to do so. Details about how to apply for this accommodation will be posted on MSRB.org no later than August 20.

UPDATE: On September 2, the MSRB announced that it has filed a request with the SEC to extend the Series 54 deadline from November 12 to November 30, 2021. View the blog post about this announcement here.   

What is a Municipal Advisor?

A municipal advisor, or MA, differs from a municipal securities dealer in that an MA does not underwrite and sell municipal securities. Instead, an MA gives advice about structuring an issue of municipal securities, selecting an underwriter, investing the proceeds, and related matters. Unlike a municipal securities dealer, an MA is the municipality’s fiduciary, which means that the MA must put the municipality’s interests before its own. MAs became regulated in a manner like municipal securities dealers as one of the reforms resulting from the 2008 financial crisis.

When MAs first came under the MSRB’s jurisdiction, the MSRB only had one qualification exam for MA personnel: the Series 50, which is taken by representatives and principals alike. During the grace period, principals who have only passed the 50 have been allowed to continue as principals. After the deadline, MA principals will need to have passed both the Series 50 and the Series 54.

Solomon Exam Prep has helped hundreds pass the Series 50 and Series 54 exams.

Solomon offers an innovative suite of exam prep products for the Series 54 to help you pass this difficult test, plus a step-by-step study schedule to tell you how to do it. Choose from an easy-to-understand Study Guide, an Exam Simulator with hundreds of relevant practice questions and detailed rationales, and a Video Lecture to help you learn and highlight the most critical information for the exam.

Solomon recommends at least 40 hours of studying to give yourself the best chance at passing this challenging principal exam.

Do yourself a favor and start studying well before the deadline, and let Solomon help you on your road to success! Explore Solomon’s Series 54 study materials by clicking the link below.

Curious about the Solomon Learning System? Watch the video overview!

Watch the latest Solomon Exam Prep video for a complete look at the Solomon learning system and what it offers students and firms. Continue reading

Solomon Exam Prep has helped thousands of financial professionals pass their FINRA, NASAA, MSRB, and NFA licensing exams. Watch the video for a complete look at the Solomon learning system and what it offers students and firms.

To explore Solomon Exam Prep study materials for 21 different securities licensing exams, including the SIE and the Series 3, 6, 7, 14, 22, 24, 26, 27, 28, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 63, 65, 66, 79, 82, and 99, visit the Solomon website.

Simplifying After-Tax and Tax-Equivalent Yields

For many when choosing bonds the most important factor is the tax implications. Knowing the after-tax yield and tax-equivalent yield calculations is critical. Continue reading

Bonds can be nice, reliable investments. Pay some money to an issuing company or municipality, receive interest payments twice a year, and then get all of your original investment back sometime down the road. Sounds like a plan.

But which bonds are best for a specific investor? There are many factors for bond investors to consider when choosing which bond to buy, but for many the most important is the tax implications of investing in one bond instead of another. This concern is most prominent when an investor compares a corporate bond to a municipal bond. For reference, a corporate bond is one issued by a corporation or business, while a municipal bond is one issued by a state, city, or municipal agency.

Comparing the tax implications of these bonds is important because the interest payments that investors receive from municipal bonds are typically not taxed at the federal level. Conversely, interest payments on all corporate bonds are subject to federal taxation. This means that someone in the 32% tax bracket will have to give Uncle Sam 32% of his interest received from a corporate bond, while he will not give up any of his interest received from a municipal bond. Additionally, an investor does not pay state taxes on municipal bond interest if the bond is issued in the state in which the investor lives. Corporate bond interest, on the other hand, is always subject to state tax.

  • interest payments taxed federally
  • interest payments subject to state tax
  • interest payments not federally taxed
  • interest payments not taxed by state if issued in state local to investor

For these reasons, when comparing a corporate bond to a municipal bond, understanding the after-tax yield and the tax-equivalent or corporate-equivalent yield is essential. This is true both for investors and for those who will be taking many of the FINRA, NASAA, and MSRB exams. So let’s look at how to calculate those yields.

After-Tax Yield

First the after-tax yield. The after-tax yield tells you the amount of a corporate bond’s annual interest payment that an investor will take home after accounting for taxes he will be assessed on that interest. Once that amount is known, the investor can compare it to the yield he would receive from a specific municipal bond and see which potential investment would put more money in his pocket. When calculating the after-tax yield, start with the annual interest percentage (a.k.a. coupon percentage) of the corporate bond, which represents the percent of the bond’s par value that an investor receives each year in interest. For instance, a corporate bond that has a $1,000 par value and an interest rate of 8% will pay an investor $80 dollars in annual interest ($1,000 x 0.08 = $80). You then multiply the coupon percentage by 1 minus the taxes an investor will pay on the corporate bond that he will not pay on the municipal bond that he is considering.

This is where it sometimes gets tricky. What taxes will an investor not pay when investing in a municipal bond that he will pay when investing in a corporate bond? Remember that for just about all municipal bonds, investors do not pay federal tax on interest received.

The formula for after tax yield is:

After-tax yield = Corporate Bond Annual Interest Rate x
( 1 – Taxes Investor Does Not Pay By Investing in Municipal Bond)

On the other hand, an investor always pays federal taxes on interest received from a corporate bond. Additionally, an investor does not pay state taxes on interest payments from a municipal bond issued in the state in which the investor lives.

On the other hand, an investor always pays state taxes on interest received from corporate bonds. So if you see an exam question in which you need to calculate the after-tax yield of a corporate bond to compare it the yield on a municipal bond, you will always subtract the investor’s federal income tax rate from 1 in the equation. You will also subtract the investor’s state tax rate from 1 if the municipal bond is issued in the investor’s state of residence.

Seems simple, right? Here’s a question to provide context:

Marilyn is a resident of Kentucky. She is considering a bond issued by XYZ Corporation. The bond comes with a 7% annual interest rate. Marilyn is also interested in purchasing municipal bonds issued in Ohio. If Marilyn has a federal tax rate of 28% and Kentucky’s state tax rate is 4%, what is the after-tax yield on XYZ’s bond?

To answer this question, begin with the interest rate on the XYZ bond, which is 7%. Then subtract from 1 the taxes Marilyn will not pay if she invests in the municipal bond in question. She will not pay federal taxes on the municipal bond interest, so you would subtract 28%, or .28. However, because Marilyn is a resident of Kentucky and the municipal bonds she is considering are issued in Ohio, she will pay state taxes on the bond. That means you would not subtract her state tax rate (0.04) from 1. After subtracting .28 from 1 to get 0.72, you multiply that amount by the 7% coupon payment. Doing so gives you a value of 5.04 (7 x 0.72 = 5.04%). This means that the interest amount she would take home from the XYZ bond would be equivalent to what she would receive from a municipal bond issued in Ohio that has a 5.04% interest payment. If she can get a bond issued in Ohio that has a higher interest payment than 5.04%, she would take home more money in annual interest payments than she would from the XYZ bond.

Tax-Equivalent Yield

The second approach an investor can take to compare how a potential bond investment will be affected by taxation is to calculate the tax-equivalent yield (TEY). This calculation is also known as the corporate-equivalent yield (CEY). The TEY/CEY measures the yield that a corporate bond will have to pay to be equivalent to a given municipal bond after accounting for taxes due. To calculate this yield, you take the annual interest of the given municipal bond and divide it by 1 minus the taxes the investor will not pay if she invests in the municipal bond that she would pay if she invested in a corporate bond.

Here’s the formula for tax-equivalent yield:

Tax-equivalent yield = Municipal Bond Annual Interest Rate /
(1 – Taxes Investor Does Not Pay By Investing in Municipal Bond)

When determining what tax rates to subtract from 1 in the denominator, the same principal as described above applies. That is, the investor will not have to pay federal tax on the municipal bond, so her federal rate is always subtracted from 1. The investor will also not have to pay state tax on the bond if it is issued in the state in which she lives. If that is the case, the investor’s state tax rate should also be subtracted from 1. However, if the investor lives in a different state than the state in which the bond is issued, she will have to pay state taxes on the interest payments. In that case, her state tax rate would not be subtracted from 1.

Here’s another question to provide context.

Franz, a resident of Michigan, has purchased a Michigan municipal bond that pays 4% annual interest. If his federal tax bracket is 30% and the Michigan state tax rate is 4%, what interest rate would he need to receive on a corporate bond to have a comparable rate after accounting for taxes owed?

To answer this question, begin with the interest rate on the Michigan municipal bond, which is 4%. Then subtract from 1 the taxes that Franz will not pay on that bond that he would pay if he invested in a corporate bond. He wouldn’t pay federal taxes on the municipal bond interest, so you would subtract 0.30 from 1. Additionally, since the bond is issued in Michigan and he is a Michigan resident, Franz will not pay state taxes on the bond. So you subtract Michigan’s state tax rate of 4%, or 0.04, from 1 as well. After subtracting 0.30 and 0.04 from 1 to get 0.66, you divide that number into the 4% municipal bond annual interest. Doing so gives a value of 6.06 (4 / 0.66 = 6.06). This means Franz would need to find a corporate bond that pays 6.06% in annual interest to match the amount of interest he will take home annually from the Michigan municipal bond after accounting for taxes.

Many people are confused by the concepts of the after-tax and tax-equivalent yields. But you don’t have to be one of them. Just follow this simple approach and any questions you see on this topic will not be overly taxing.

Mastering these equations will help you succeed in passing the Series 6, Series 7, Series 50, Series 52, Series 65, Series 66, and Series 82.

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FINRA delays Online Testing Service

It was previously announced that FINRA and NASAA had been working to introduce an online testing service as an alternative to candidates taking their exam at traditional test centers, to be launched Continue reading

It was previously announced that FINRA and NASAA had been working to introduce an online testing service as an alternative to candidates taking their exam at traditional test centers, to be launched on May 24th.

FINRA has now announced that this service, which is currently in its pilot phase, requires further validation before it can be implemented and therefore will not be launched on May 24th as planned. This also means that there will be a delay in booking appointment times for the five exams that will be included in its initial launch, including the SIE, Series 6, Series 7, Series 63, and Series 66 exams.

FINRA has also updated policies for test candidates, extending enrollment windows that have either expired, or are due to expire between March 16th and June 30th, 2020. This includes all FINRA, NASAA and MSRB exam enrollment dates, with affected enrollment windows being systematically updated in CRD.

Prometric will continue to reopen test centers in accordance with local, state and federal regulations. You can check their Site Openings page, which is continually being updated. You can also read more about the Prometric policies to ensure candidate safety on their Covid-19 Update page.

If your Solomon Exam Prep materials are due to expire before June 1st, contact Customer Service on 503 601 0212 or by email at info@solomonexamprep.com for a complimentary extension until August 1st.