Interview: How Alec Orudjev Passed Four Securities Licensing Exams

What does it take to pass securities licensing exams like the SIE, Series 24, Series 63, and Series 79? Read about one student’s approach to success. Continue reading

No one said career changes are easy, and when they involve taking several difficult securities licensing exams, the challenge is real. Having an effective study system is an important part of passing securities licensing exams, and hearing about others’ strategies can help you develop a system that works for you. Solomon Exam Prep recently interviewed Alec Orudjev, General Counsel at FT Global Capital, about passing the SIE, Series 24, Series 63, and Series 79 exams (in three months!). Alec shares valuable insights into his study process and how he utilizes Solomon materials to achieve success.

“… the Solomon study materials are the best and the most comprehensive (notes, resources, simulated exam questions, etc.) in their class, in my view.

Photo of Alec Orudjev

Alec Orudjev

Solomon Exam Prep: What motivated you to pursue multiple securities licenses?

Alec Orudjev: After about two decades of being an attorney in private practice, I decided to change my career path and accepted an in-house legal counsel position earlier in the year. As a condition of such change, I needed to secure certain FINRA licenses.

Solomon Exam Prep: Why did you take your exams in the order that you did? Was this order helpful, or would you change anything if you had to do it again? 

Alec Orudjev: I have passed the SIE, Series 79, 63 and 24 tests, and am currently studying for the Series 7 exam. While some of this sequence is dictated by FINRA rules, etc., a great deal of it is a matter of personal planning. Given the overlapping nature of the substance of these tests, I thought it would be helpful to plan the sequence to benefit from common points/concepts across different tested areas. Basically, I focused on the end objective and reviewed the substance of each test to line them up so as to utilize my time most efficiently and effectively.

Solomon Exam Prep: Out of the exams you passed, which one required the most study time and why? 

Alec Orudjev: Looking back, I think the Series 24 exam commanded most of my study time and attention. I think the volume of what was to be covered and the overall fatigue of having to study and pass three FINRA exams in a 2 ½ month period both made this test preparation more difficult than it would or should have been. It is a very saturated, broad themed exam that requires a lot of focus and attention.

Solomon Exam Prep: How did you approach studying for your exams?  

Alec Orudjev: My approach included: (i) outlining, and (ii) attending Solomon live classes and utilizing exam simulators. With respect to the first element, I approached all my exam preparations the way I did my law school exams – by first preparing thorough outlines of the reading materials. I would start by reading the Solomon preparation materials, actively engaging them and highlighting key points, concepts and examples. Next, I would transfer (literally and figuratively) those notes into an outline of my own, condensing the reading materials down to their bare essence. For example, five chapters of the Series 24 prep book (about 500 pages) were condensed to a 50-page outline (10:1 ratio or so) which, then, I used in reviewing in preparation for the test. Needless to say, one’s outline is as good as one’s effort and the quality of the underlying study materials. On the latter point – the Solomon study materials are the best and the most comprehensive (notes, resources, simulated exam questions, etc.) in their class, in my view. While this outlining approach seems like a lot of work, it is. However, it has worked for me for years and I do strongly recommend this approach to all.

With respect to the second element of my approach, I made every effort to attend live classes and utilize exam simulator questions. I will then turn to Solomon’s online exam question bank and answer those questions, noting what I got right and, more importantly, what and why I got wrong. Also, a significant part of my preparations involved participation in live classes offered by Solomon (I enrolled in the SIE and 63 sessions). You tend to get lot more out of these sessions if you review the materials ahead of time. Overall, they are terrific – the instructor is sharp and very knowledgeable, with a healthy sense of humor to get you through some rather dense and tedious parts of the material. I would highly recommend taking live sessions as they force you to focus on the totality of the study materials in five days, 3-4 hours a day – a daunting, but useful exercise.

Studying for any difficult test is no pleasant experience … take breaks, change the nature of your mental engagement (read something else altogether, watch, take a walk, etc.) to refresh and resume your studying effort.”

Solomon Exam Prep: How did you take the exams – at a testing center or remotely? How was your experience, and do you have any tips to share? 

Alec Orudjev: I took all exams (4 + 1 more to go) at the ProMetric testing center in Bethesda, MD. Given the stress of test-taking, in general, I did not want to add the stress of doing it remotely, etc. The conditions at the center were superb, the staff – very friendly and helpful. I offer no new advice on how to handle this experience other than what is commonly suggested for test takers, e.g., arrive early, read test center instructions carefully and follow them to the letter, give yourself enough time to travel, relax and focus before the test, pace yourself during the test, etc. Keep in mind, however, that FINRA tests are uniquely stringent in the way they are administered, etc. So, to reiterate – read the test taking instructions closely.  

Solomon Exam Prep: Any words of wisdom to help motivate others who are preparing for exams? 

Alec Orudjev: Focus on the reasons why you have undertaken this effort. Studying for any difficult test is no pleasant experience, and very few things can make that less so. However, take breaks, change the nature of your mental engagement (read something else altogether, watch, take a walk, etc.) to refresh and resume your studying effort. There will be many distractions and excuses – acknowledge and indulge to some extent, but do not lose your focus. Most importantly, be honest with yourself about how disciplined you are studying and preparing for your exams.

Solomon Exam Prep: How has passing the SIE, Series 24, Series 63, and Series 79 exams affected your work and your career?

Alec Orudjev: Certainly. Apart from the obvious, studying helped me to be a better legal professional and advisor. Understanding and internalizing a large, complex body of laws, rules and regulations governing the conduct of member firms is a daunting task indeed. These exams set a useful baseline for developing this understanding and building upon it. Take solace in this idea and keep at it.

Visit the Solomon Exam Prep website to explore study materials for 21 different securities licensing exams, including the SIE, Series 7, Series 24Series 63, and Series 79.

How to Pass the NASAA Series 66 Exam

What can you do with a Series 66 license? What does the exam cover and how should you prepare for it? Keep reading for answers to your Series 66 questions. Continue reading

What does the Series 66 exam allow me to do?

The Series 66, also known as the Uniform Combined State Law Exam, is created by the North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA), which represents state securities regulators in the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Passing the Series 66 exam is like passing both the Series 63 (Uniform Securities Agent State Law Examination) and the Series 65 (Uniform Investment Adviser Law Examination). However, to register as an investment adviser representative with the Series 66, you must also pass the FINRA Series 7 General Securities Representative exam. In conjunction with the Series 7 license, the Series 66 license qualifies you as both an investment advisor representative and a securities agent.

As an investment adviser representative, an individual can perform the following tasks:  

    • Make recommendations and render general advice regarding securities
    • Manage accounts or portfolios of clients
    • Solicit, offer, or negotiate for the sale of investment advisory services
    • Supervise employees who perform any of the above tasks.

Note that the Series 7 exam is a co-requisite to the Series 66, so you can take the exams in either order. However, Solomon recommends passing the Series 7 before the Series 66 since much of the information tested on the Series 7 is likely to appear on the Series 66 exam.

About the Exam

The Series 66 exam consists of 100 scored and 10 unscored multiple-choice questions covering the four sections of the NASAA Series 66 exam outline. The 10 additional unscored questions are ones that the exam committee is trying out. These are unidentified and are distributed randomly throughout the exam. The NASAA updates its exam questions regularly to reflect the most current rules and regulations.

About the Series 66 exam

Note: Scores are rounded down to the next lowest whole number (e.g. 72.9% would be a final score of 72% – not a passing score for the Series 66 exam).

Topics Covered on the Exam

The NASAA divides the Series 66 exam into four sections:

Topics on the Series 66 exam

The Series 66 exam covers many topics including the following:

    • Business Cycles and Economic Factors
    • Fundamental Analysis
    • Types of Risk
    • Equity and Debt Securities
    • Investment Companies
    • Discounted Cash Flow
    • Derivatives
    • Alternatives and Insurance Products
    • Clients and Client Profiles
    • Capital Market Theory, Portfolio Management, and Taxation
    • Taxation of Debt and Equity Securities
    • Retirement Plans, ERISA, Special Accounts
    • Trading and Performance Measures
    • Regulations of Securities Professionals
    • Regulations of Securities and Issuers
    • Remedies and Administrative Provisions
    • Recordkeeping Requirements
    • Net Worth/Net Capital Requirements
    • Business Practices for IAs and IARs
    • Performance-based fees
    • Wrap fees
    • Custody
    • Communication with Clients and Prospects
    • Compensation and Client Funds
    • Conflicts of Interest

Question Types on the Exam

The Series 66 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 not a current asset?

    1. Inventory
    2. Accounts receivable
    3. Cash
    4. Trademarks
Incomplete Sentence Format:

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

Callable preferred stock is more likely to be called when:

    1. Interest rates go up.
    2. Interest rates go down.
    3. The price of the common stock rises.
    4. The price of the common stock falls.
“EXCEPT” Format:

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

An investor calculating the investing merits of a payment or payments not yet received might potentially use all of the following except:

    1. Present value
    2. Net present value
    3. Future value
    4. Internal rate of return
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.

Pick two statements that best represent time-weighted and dollar-weighted returns:

    1. Conceptually, the time-weighted return is the compounded growth rate of the initial investment over a given period of time, and is calculated using the geometric mean rather than the arithmetic mean.
    2. Conceptually, the dollar-weighted return is the compounded growth rate of the initial investment over a given period of time and is calculated using the geometric mean rather than the arithmetic mean.
    3. Conceptually, a time-weighted return is the internal rate of return on an investment.
    4. Conceptually, a dollar-weighted return is the internal rate of return on an investment.
    1. I and III
    2. I and IV
    3. II and III
    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.

Rank the following categories of mutual funds in order of volatility, from highest to lowest.

    1. Growth and income
    2. Balanced
    3. Growth
    4. Equity income
    1. I, III, II, IV
    2. III, II, I, IV
    3. III, I, II, IV
    4. III, I, IV, II

Answers: D, B, C, B, D

For an even better idea of the possible question types you might encounter on the Series 66 exam, try Solomon Exam Prep’s free Series 66 Sample Quiz.

How to Study for the Series 66 Exam

Follow Solomon Exam Prep’s proven study system:
    • Read and understand. Read the Solomon Study Guide, carefully. The Series 66 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 Solomon Series 66 Audiobook, which is a word-for-word reading of the Study Guide.
    • Answer practice questions in the Solomon Exam Simulator. When you’re done with a chapter in the Study Guide, take 4–6 chapter quizzes in the Solomon Series 66 Online 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 Solomon Pass Probability™ score to at least an 80%; when you reach that point, you are probably ready to sit for the Series 66 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. Solomon also offers digital flashcards for the Series 66 exam.
    • 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 Resources folder in your Solomon student account has helpful information, including 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 66: exercise, eat well, and avoid activities that will hurt your ability to get a good night’s sleep.

You can pass the NASAA Series 66 Exam! It just takes focus and determination. Solomon Exam Prep is here to support you on your path to becoming a registered securities agent and investment advisor representative.

To explore all Solomon Exam Prep’s Series 66 study materials, including product samples, visit the Solomon website here.

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

Interview: How Andrew Nerys Passed Three Securities Licensing Exams

If you’re preparing to take a securities licensing exam, such as the SIE, Series 7, or Series 63 (or all three!), Solomon’s latest student interview is a must-read. Continue reading

If you are interested in becoming a securities industry professional, there are many paths to follow, most of which require you to pass one or more securities licensing exams. Depending on your work and the type of employer, a common exam track is the SIE, Series 7, and Series 63 exams. The SIE exam covers fundamentals of the securities industry and is a co-requisite to several qualification exams, including the Series 7. The Series 7 qualifies you to buy and sell the widest range of securities. The Series 63 covers the principles of state securities regulation.

Passing all three exams requires considerable effort – but it is possible! Solomon Exam Prep recently interviewed Andrew Nerys, Brokerage Operations Specialist at Cash App Investing, about passing the SIE, Series 7, and Series 63. Read about how Andrew approached studying for these exams, his experience taking exams both remotely and in-person, and how passing these securities licensing exams has benefited his career.

“Passing these exams allowed me to make an exciting transition to a new team and gave me a sense of direction for my professional future.”

Andrew Nerys

Andrew Nerys

Solomon Exam Prep: What motivated you to pursue multiple securities licenses?

Andrew Nerys: To be considered for a permanent role with my organization, it was required for me to pass the three exams I took.

Solomon Exam Prep: Why did you take your exams in the order that you did? Was this order helpful, or would you change anything if you had to do it again? 

Andrew Nerys: I took the SIE, followed by the Series 7 and, lastly, the Series 63. I ultimately didn’t get much say in the order or scheduling of my exams but I did find it helpful all the same. I found that preparing for the SIE (and taking the exam) was a good introduction to the concepts and regulations of the securities industry. The Series 7 built on the concepts that were introduced in the SIE and gave me a good foundation. Taking the Series 63 last was refreshing, in a way, since I found it easier to absorb the material and there was much less to cover in preparation for the exam. I don’t think I’d change anything if I had to do it all again which, hopefully, won’t ever be the case!

Solomon Exam Prep: Out of the exams you passed, which one required the most study time and why? 

Andrew Nerys: The Series 7 definitely required the most study time. There’s a lot of material to cover and some of the concepts were challenging for me to understand. As a result, I found the need to re-read several sections and to take more of the practice tests at the end of each chapter. I also started studying each chapter by watching its corresponding Video Lecture, so it sometimes took several hours to get through one chapter’s worth of material. In total, I estimate that I spent just under 100 hours studying for that one exam.

Solomon Exam Prep: How did you approach studying for your exams?  

Andrew Nerys: For each of the exams, I started by watching the chapter’s Video Lecture and taking very brief notes. Once finished with the video, I’d move on to reading the Study Guide and taking more comprehensive notes to fill in the gaps. I used a couple of wire-bound notebooks and tried to space everything out so I’d have an easy time finding any info I might be hunting for when I went back to review my notes. I also tried to stick to the study schedules provided by Solomon as much as I could, but didn’t beat myself up if I fell a day behind. I found that I’d usually make up for it soon enough. I only made flashcards for concepts that I really struggled with, or specific equations that required memorization. Otherwise, I leaned heavily on practice tests – both for each chapter and the ones provided for exam review. The pie charts and Pass Probability™ metrics were very useful in helping me identify areas where I needed more study.

It’s always worth remembering that passing these exams is achievable, especially on those days where it feels impossible.”

Solomon Exam Prep: How did you take the exams – at a testing center or remotely? How was your experience, and do you have any tips to share? 

Andrew Nerys: I had a blended experience with taking the actual exams: I took the SIE and 63 at a testing center and took the Series 7 remotely. I didn’t really have a preference for one over the other, but I’d strongly encourage anyone taking it remotely to make the space as distraction-free and free of clutter as possible. Not only did I find that helpful in keeping me focused, but it also made me feel more confident that my exam result wouldn’t be nullified for failing to meet the remote testing requirements. The other thing to consider when deciding whether or not to take an exam remotely is that you’re not allowed to have any paper, pen, or calculator on your desk when testing remotely. That means all of the notes and calculations have to be done using your computer, which might be a disadvantage when compared to taking the exam at a testing center.  

Solomon Exam Prep: Any words of wisdom to help motivate others who are preparing for exams? 

Andrew Nerys: Establish a study routine early in the process that’s easy to stick to and that keeps you regularly engaged in the material. If I took more than one day off between studying, I found it more difficult to get back into study mode. It’s always worth remembering that passing these exams is achievable, especially on those days where it feels impossible. I also use Reddit and subscribed to a couple of Subreddits that focus on the Series 7 and other related exams. I found it really helpful to have a community that was going through the experience (or had recently been through it) to help keep me motivated and to encourage my success.

Solomon Exam Prep: How has passing the SIE, Series 7, and Series 63 exams affected your work and your career?

Andrew Nerys: Passing these exams allowed me to make an exciting transition to a new team and gave me a sense of direction for my professional future. In a more indirect way, it also helped reinforce the feeling that I’m capable of achieving my goals when I have the right resources and mindset.

Visit the Solomon Exam Prep website to explore study materials for 21 different securities licensing exams, including the SIE, Series 7, and Series 63.

Interview: How Alexandria Coyne Passed Four Securities Licensing Exams

If you’re considering taking the SIE, Series 6, Series 63, Series 7, or another securities licensing exam, read these valuable insights on how to study for and pass your exams. Continue reading

It’s not uncommon for those in the securities and investment industries to need more than one securities license. But the determination involved in passing multiple securities licensing exams (especially in a short time period) is substantial. Case in point: Alexandria Coyne, Financial Advisor at Northwestern Mutual, who passed her fourth exam with Solomon Exam Prep earlier this year. She now has the SIE, Series 6, Series 7, and Series 63 under her belt. Alex was kind enough to answer Solomon’s questions about her study approach and how she achieved success four times.

“I really wanted to learn the material through and through, so I was never preparing for an exam; I was preparing for a career.”

Alex Coyne

Solomon Exam Prep: Why did you take your exams in the order that you did? Was this order helpful, or would you change anything if you had to do it again? 

Alex Coyne: I took the SIE, the 6, the 63 and then the 7. If I could do it all over, I’d do the same thing! The SIE was a great entry level exam for the 6. To me, there was only a little bit of differentiating content between the two exams. I will always recommend splitting up the 6 and the 7. I think the 6 was just high-level enough to get an understanding of the content. The 7, on the other hand, got extremely detailed. I truly believe that if I went straight into the 7 from the SIE, I wouldn’t have been successful on my first attempt.

Solomon Exam Prep: Out of the exams you passed, which one required the most study time and why? 

Alex Coyne: Most definitely the Series 7. I just think that there were a lot of details to remember and a lot of information to digest.

Solomon Exam Prep: How did you approach studying for your exams?  

Alex Coyne: I recommend everyone to Solomon. I think that Solomon did an amazing job with the study material. What I have found to be most successful for me:

The first thing I did was set an exam date. That was just knowing my ability to procrastinate, so I had to put a timeline on this thing before it even started!

Order the book. Read the entire book in full, highlighting important content and underlining even more important content. I found that 20 pages per day was my reading goal.

Once the book was read in full, I WROTE out all the highlighted and underlined information onto a notebook. Yes, I outlined the entire book. I found that approximately 10 pages of outlining per day was my capacity (approx. 1-2 hours). It took an entire 2-subject notebook for an entire outline. (Still no quizzes at this point.)

While I was reading and outlining, I played the online Video Lectures through my AUX cord in my car wherever I went. From start to finish. 

After outlining the entire book, I went to my NOTEBOOK (outlined) and I went through the content in detail. After I studied Chapter 1, I took Ch. 1 practice quizzes until passing consistently. Then Chapter 2, 3, 4 and so on….

After all of the Chapter quizzes were complete, I did the practice tests. I probably did 15-20 total practice exams. Some timed, some with immediate feedback. I made sure to read the feedback and understand what questions I was getting wrong and use my book and notebook to go back to content and work through the wrong answers. 

On the 7, the Options Video Lecture was a total game changer for me. I watched it twice and memorized every table on there. That single-handedly won me 15-20 questions on the Series 7 exam.

“…there are still things from the study material that I use in client meetings today, 8 months since the Series 7 exam.”

Solomon Exam Prep: How did you take the exams – at a testing center or remotely? How was your experience, and do you have any tips to share? 

Alex Coyne: I took all of my tests in a testing center. My advice: Practice your “dump sheet.” AKA: Once you START the exam, dump out all you can remember on scratch paper. I actually practiced my dump sheet, especially for the Series 7. The week leading up the 7, randomly throughout the day, I would stop what I was doing, find paper, and practice my dump sheet. By the time I took my Series 7, I pretty well had my dump sheet memorized. That was very helpful for me.  

Solomon Exam Prep: Any words of wisdom to help motivate others who are preparing for exams? 

Alex Coyne: Passing on the first try is very possible, but you will only get out of the material the level of commitment you decide to put into it. I really wanted to learn the material through and through, so I was never preparing for an exam; I was preparing for a career. I saw this knowledge as transformational for my financial practice. I took it seriously and there are still things from the study material that I use in client meetings today, 8 months since the Series 7 exam. My advice is to have that mentality when it comes to learning; don’t just cram to pass an exam. Our clients deserve better.

Visit the Solomon Exam Prep website to explore study materials for 21 different securities licensing exams, including the SIE, Series 6, Series 7, and Series 63.

Interview: How Fernando Russo passed four securities licensing exams

Preparing for the SIE, Series 63, Series 79, Series 82, or another securities licensing exam? Read about one Solomon Exam Prep student’s path to success. Continue reading

Passing a securities licensing exam is no small feat, but four? Solomon Exam Prep recently reached out to Fernando Russo, Vice President of Investment Banking at Young America Capital, to learn more about his success in passing the SIE, Series 82, Series 63, and Series 79 exams (in that order). Whether you need to pass one or multiple exams to reach your career goals, you’ll want to hear about Fernando’s process and helpful tips.

“The content is not rocket science and the math is very simple. It just takes time, dedication and good study materials.”

Fernando Russo

Solomon Exam Prep: Why did you take your exams in the order that you did? Was this order helpful, or would you change anything if you had to do it again? 

Fernando Russo: After the SIE I decided to take the 82 first because I wanted to be licensed as soon as possible. The materials for the 82 seemed simple and I felt confident that I could pass. The 63 came right after because it allowed me to offer securities in my state and be fully registered as an investment banker. The 63 is actually very tricky because it is prepared by NASAA and not by FINRA. Some of the materials are similar but the exam is very different from FINRA exams. 

I took the 79 last. 

I could’ve gone straight for the 79 but I think that taking the 82 was a good way to get started. It helps build up confidence and knowledge.  

The 82, for some, might feel like a practice exam for the 79.

Solomon Exam Prep: Out of the exams you passed, which one required the most study time and why? 

Fernando Russo: The 63 is trickier than most people think it is. The study materials are not as extensive as the 79 but the content is very specific and one needs to remember very detailed pieces of information (dates, percentages, etc.). I was studying a lot (2-3 hours a day during the week and 4-6 hours during weekends) but not getting the scores that I wanted on my practice exams, so I had to go back to the books and memorize 85% of the materials.  

I spent 25% more time studying for the 63 than for the 79.

“The audiobooks are great. I would listen to the chapters while driving, while working out and while doing many other activities.”

Solomon Exam Prep: How did you approach studying for your exams?  

Fernando Russo: I studied each chapter and then took a practice exam for that specific content or section. If I didn’t do well, I would go back to the materials and do it all over again until I passed. I did that over and over and over until I passed. I also found a lot of help in the notes that are found in the Resources Folder. These are great to find definitions, tables and simple explanations for seemingly complicated terms. The audiobooks are great. I would listen to the chapters while driving, while working out and while doing many other activities.

Solomon Exam Prep: How did you take the exams – at a testing center or remotely? How was your experience, and do you have any tips to share? 

Fernando Russo: I took all my exams at the same Prometric test center in Chicago, and I did so on Monday mornings. I took Friday off from work and studied all day on Friday and on Saturday. On Sunday, the day before each exam, I did not study at all. Instead of studying I spent the whole day doing a fun activity with my family.  

I think that is very necessary to allow the mind to rest before the exam. For each test I studied 30-45 days nonstop and one day of peace before the exam felt necessary. It worked. Each time I woke up the day of the test I felt relaxed and ready.  

Solomon Exam Prep: Any words of wisdom to help motivate others who are preparing for exams? 

Fernando Russo: Take the practice exams. Take them 1,000 times and then some more. I also recommend studying every day, even 10-15 minutes if the student is swamped with other activities. It keeps the mind engaged and the program moving forward. The content is not rocket science and the math is very simple. It just takes time, dedication and good study materials.

Visit the Solomon Exam Prep website to explore study materials for 21 different securities licensing exams, including the SIE, Series 63, Series 79, and Series 82.

How to Pass the NASAA Series 65 Exam

What is the Series 65 exam and how should you prepare for it? Read Solomon Exam Prep’s guide to the NASAA Series 65 exam. Continue reading

What does the NASAA Series 65 allow me to do?

The Series 65, also known as the Uniform Investment Adviser Law Examination, qualifies individuals to give investment advice for a fee. Investment adviser representatives (IARs) use their knowledge to give financial advice and help clients build investment portfolios. IARs might provide general investment advice or recommend a client to invest in a specific security. IARs can also manage client accounts and supervise other IARs.

The organization that creates the test—the North American Securities Administrators Association, or NASAA—works to protect investors in every state, territory, the District of Columbia, Canada, and Mexico. Requiring investment adviser representative candidates to pass the Series 65 is a key tool in the NASAA’s investor protection arsenal. Regulators want to make sure people who are giving investment advice in their state or jurisdiction are competent and will behave legally and ethically.

About the Exam

The Series 65 exam consists of 130 scored and 10 unscored multiple-choice questions covering the four sections of the NASAA Series 65 exam outline. The 10 additional unscored questions are ones that the exam committee is trying out. These are unidentified and are distributed randomly throughout the exam. NASAA updates its exam questions regularly to reflect the most current rules and regulations.

Note: Scores are rounded down to the lowest whole number (e.g. 71.9% would be a final score of 71%–not a passing score for the Series 65 exam).

Topics Covered on the Exam

The NASAA divides the Series 65 exam into four sections:

The Series 65 exam covers many topics including the following:

    • Economics
    • Financial reporting
    • Quantitative methods
    • Risks
    • Cash investments
    • Fixed income
    • Equities
    • Pooled investments, such as mutual funds, ETFs, and REITs
    • Derivatives
    • Alternatives
    • Annuities and other insurance-based investments
    • Client types
    • Client profiles
    • Capital market theory
    • Portfolio management
    • Taxes
    • Retirement plans
    • ERISA
    • Special accounts, such as college savings plans
    • Trading securities
    • Performance measures
    • State and federal securities acts and regulations
    • Ethical practices and fiduciary obligations

Question Types on the Series 65

The Series 65 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 actions might the Federal Reserve take if it wishes to stimulate the economy?

    1. Buy Treasuries
    2. Raise the discount rate
    3. Raise the bank reserve requirements
    4. Raise the margin requirements
Incomplete Sentence Format:

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

A recession is a protracted period of decline in the national economy, typically defined as:

    1. More than two quarters of decreasing GDP
    2. More than two quarters of decline in the housing market
    3. More than two quarters of shrinking M1
    4. More than two quarters of a falling PPI
“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 are tools that the Federal Reserve uses to implement monetary policy except:

    1. Open market operations
    2. Discount window lending
    3. Altering bank reserve requirements
    4. Altering the value of the dollar
Fill-in-the-Blank Format:

This question type has a missing word or phrase, which you must select from the four options provided.

A situation in which short-term securities pay higher yields than long-term securities is considered a(n) _____ yield curve.

    1. Normal
    2. Inverted
    3. Flat
    4. Barbell
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.

A stronger dollar benefits which group?

    1. U.S. exporters
    2. U.S. importers
    3. U.S. investors who want to invest in foreign assets
    4. Overseas investors who want to invest in U.S. assets
    1. I and II
    2. II and III
    3. III and IV
    4. I 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.

Order the following from lowest to highest:

    1. Broker call rate
    2. Federal funds rate
    3. Prime rate
    4. Discount rate
    1. I, IV, III, I
    2. III, II, I, IV
    3. IV, III, I, II
    4. II, IV, I, III

How to Study for the Series 65

Follow Solomon Exam Prep’s proven study system:
    • Read and understand. It’s simple: read the Solomon Study Guide, carefully. The Series 65 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 Solomon Audiobook, which is a word-for-word reading of the Solomon Study Guide.
    • Answer practice questions in the Solomon Exam Simulator. When you’re done with a chapter in the Study Guide, take 4 – 6 chapter quizzes in the Solomon Online 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 65 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. Solomon also offers digital flashcards for the Series 65 exam.
    • 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 recent post to learn more about this strategy!).
Take advantage of Solomon’s supplemental tools and resources:
    • Use all the resources. The Resources folder in your Solomon student account has helpful information, including 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 65: exercise, eat well, and avoid activities that will hurt your ability to get a good night’s sleep.

You can pass the NASAA Series 65! It just takes work and determination. Solomon Exam Prep is here to support you on your journey to becoming a registered Investment Adviser Representative.

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

Solomon Exam Prep Offers Powerful New AI Feature: Remediation Reporting

Learn about the Solomon Remediation Report, a new analytical feature designed to help students pass their securities licensing exams the first time. Continue reading

Solomon Exam Prep is delighted to announce an advanced analytical feature called a Remediation Report. The Solomon system analyzes a student’s five most recent practice exams and determines whether a student is ready to take his or her exam. If Solomon AI determines that a student is not ready to sit for their exam, then it creates an individual report with personalized guidance on how to remediate and prepare to pass. This custom Remediation Report is sent to the Solomon student’s email inbox.

The Solomon Remediation Report is connected to the Solomon Pass Probability tool, the industry-leading measure of a security exam prep student’s readiness to pass an exam. Solomon Pass Probability is based on thousands of student data points. Once a Solomon student has taken at least five practice exams, the Solomon Pass Probability feature is activated, and the Pass Probability metric is available in the student’s dashboard. The Solomon Remediation Report provides an additional level of customized study support by helping students focus their efforts and remediate before they sit for their exam.

Solomon Pass Probability and Remediation Reports are currently available for the following exams: SIE, Series 6, Series 7, Series 63, Series 65, Series 66, Series 79, and Series 82.

To learn about all the features of the Solomon Exam Prep learning system, watch the video overview.

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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How to answer state registration questions on the Series 63, Series 65, and Series 66

Read Solomon Exam Prep’s expert guide for answering state registration questions on the Series 63, Series 65, and Series 66 exams. Continue reading

If you’re planning to take the NASAA Series 63Series 65, or Series 66 exam, you can expect to see questions about when broker-dealers and their securities agents need to register in a particular state. You can also expect to see questions about when investment advisers and investment adviser representatives need to register in a state. Instead of feeling intimidated when confronted with such questions, you should relax, smile, and feel confident. That’s because if you follow the simple rules that we’re about to describe, you should get each of these questions right.

Broker-Dealers and Their Agents

First let’s deal with questions about state registration for broker-dealers (BDs) and their agents. Rule number one here is that when a U.S.-based BD or one of its agents has an office located in a state, that BD or agent must register in the state. It does not matter which types of clients a BD or BD agent with an office in a state has or what types of securities those clients buy from the BD or agent. A BD or agent with an office in a state must register in that state. Period.  

What about a BD or BD agent that doesn’t have an office in a state? If a BD or BD agent without an office in a state has any non-institutional clients in that state, the BD or agent must register there. However, if the BD or agent without an office in a state has only institutional clients in the state, no registration in that state is required. Institutional clients include the issuers of securities involved in a specific transaction; other broker-dealers; and institutional buyers, which are big-money entities such as banks, insurance companies, mutual funds, and pension and profit-sharing plans.   

Key takeaway:

So when presented with a question about whether a specific broker-dealer or one of its agents must register in a given state or states, there are two potential questions to ask yourself. The first question is: “Does the broker-dealer or BD agent have an office in the state?” If the answer is yes, it’s simple: the BD or agent must register in that state. End of questions. However, if the answer is no, move on to the second question: “Does the BD or BD agent have any non-institutional clients in the state?” If the answer is yes, the BD or agent must register in the state; if the answer is no, they do not need to register in the state.

Here’s a flowchart to help you remember the question-answering process:

Investment Advisers and Their Representatives

Now let’s look at the state registration requirements for investment advisers that do not register with the SEC. If the investment adviser has an office in the state, it must register there. If the investment adviser doesn’t have an office in the state but has had more than five non-institutional clients in the state during the past twelve months, it also must register there. The rules are the same for investment adviser representatives who work for an investment adviser that does not register with the SEC.

Investment adviser representatives who work for investment advisers that register with the SEC — also known as federal covered advisors — may need to register with the state if they have an office in the state.

Key takeaway:

So if you see a question about state registration requirements for non-SEC registered investment advisers or their investment adviser representatives, the first question to ask yourself is: “Does the IA or IAR have an office in the state?” If the answer is yes, you know the IA or IAR must register there. If the answer is no, move on to the second question: “Has the IA or IAR had more than five non-institutional clients in the state during the preceding twelve months?” If the answer is yes, they must register in the state; if the answer is no, they don’t need to register in the state.    

Here’s another flowchart to help you with this type of question:

Remember that if an investment adviser registers with the SEC, it is a federal covered adviser and does not need to register in any state. Instead, a federal covered adviser must notice file to provide investment advice to residents of that state. When it comes to notice filing requirements for federal covered advisers, follow the same thought process as that described above. If the federal covered adviser has an office in a state, it must notice file there. If it has no office in the state but it has had more than five non-institutional clients in the state in the past twelve months, the firm must also notice file there.  

Practice question

Simple, right? So let’s put the suggested thought process into practice by looking at a question like one you may see on your exam.  

XYZ Broker Dealer has its main office in State A. It also has offices in States B and C. ABC has non-institutional clients in states A and B, but it only has institutional clients in State C. It does not have an office in State D, but it has three non-institutional clients there. In which states does XYZ need to register? 

A. State A only  

B. States A and B only  

C. States A, B, and C only  

D. States A, B, C, and D  

Remember the process to follow when you see questions about where a BD must register. There are two possible questions to address as part of that process.  

First question: Does the broker-dealer have an office in a state? Answer: XYZ has offices in each of States A, B, and C. Recall that if the answer the first question is “yes, the BD has an office in the state”, then the BD must register in that state. So XYZ needs to register in States A, B, and C.   

If the answer to the first question is no, as it is for State D, you move on to the second question: Does the BD have any non-institutional clients in the state? XYZ has non-institutional clients in State D, so the answer is yes to that question. If the answer to the second question is yes, this means the BD must register in the state. Thus, XYZ has to register in State D as well as States A, B, and C. So Choice D is the correct answer.  

So now you’re an expert, and you’re one step closer to passing your Series 63, Series 65, or Series 66 exam!

Want more exam tips?

Watch a video version of “How to Answer State Registration Questions on the Series 63, Series 65, and Series 66” on the Solomon YouTube channel, where you’ll find even more exam and study tips!

Solomon Exam Prep has helped thousands pass their 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.