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.

How to Pass the FINRA Securities Industry Essentials (SIE) Exam

Thinking about taking the SIE exam? Keep reading to learn what the SIE is, what topics the exam covers, and how you should prepare for it. Continue reading

Should I Take the SIE Exam?

Are you interested in the world of stocks, bonds, and investments? Thinking about a career as a financial advisor? Or perhaps your goal is to become an investment banker or a hedge fund manager? There are many attractive career options in the securities industry, but no matter which path you’re considering, you’ll probably need to take the Securities Industry Essentials (SIE) Exam.

If you’re not sure whether a career as a securities industry professional is right for you, the SIE is a great way to test the waters. For college students, the SIE provides a broad overview of the securities industry and financial knowledge that will be helpful even if you don’t pursue a securities industry career. And passing the SIE will make you more competitive when looking for a financial or investment-related internship.

For job seekers in general, having the SIE under your belt shows potential employers that you are serious about a career in the industry and have mastered industry fundamentals. And because the SIE is a co-requisite to several securities industry qualification exams, passing it allows you to jumpstart your career goals.

What is the SIE Exam?

The SIE exam is an introductory-level exam that covers fundamental securities industry knowledge. The SIE focuses on industry terminology, securities products, the structure and function of the markets, regulatory agencies and their functions, and regulated and prohibited practices.

The SIE is a co-requisite of several qualification exams, including the Series 6, Series 7, Series 22, Series 79, Series 82, and Series 99. Passing the SIE does not qualify you to become a registered securities industry professional, but it is usually the first step. Because the SIE is “co-requisite,” instead of “pre-requisite,” you don’t have to take the SIE before taking other FINRA exams. However, taking the SIE first is highly recommended because what you learn on the SIE is extremely helpful to you when you take any other security exam. The knowledge that you learn on the SIE is wind in your sails when you take any other registered representative level securities qualification exam, such as the Series 6 or Series 7.

Any individual 18 or older may take the SIE exam. Unlike other FINRA securities exams, employment and sponsorship by a FINRA member firm is not required in order to take the SIE, and exam results are valid for four years. Individuals can sign up to take the SIE exam on the FINRA website by creating an account, paying the $60 exam fee, and scheduling the exam. The SIE can be taken at a Prometric test center or online via the ProProctor platform.

About the Exam

The SIE exam consists of 75 scored and 10 unscored multiple-choice questions covering the four sections of the FINRA SIE 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. FINRA updates its exam questions regularly to reflect the most current rules and regulations.

About the SIE 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 SIE exam).

Topics Covered on the Exam

FINRA divides the SIE exam into four sections:

SIE exam topics

The SIE exam covers many topics including the following:

    • Common Stock
    • Preferred Stock, Warrants, Rights and ADRs
    • Bonds and Yields
    • Types of Bonds
    • Treasury Securities, ABS, CMOs, and Munis
    • Mutual Funds and Other Investment Companies
    • Life Insurance Products and Municipal Fund Securities
    • Options, Partnerships, Hedge Funds, and Private Placements
    • Risks
    • Customer Disclosures & Taxation
    • Underwriting, Issuing, and Registering Securities
    • Exemptions from Registration & Types of Broker-Dealers
    • Markets, Financial Institutions, and Clearance & Settlement
    • Economic Factors and Business Cycles
    • Tools of Government Policy and International Factors
    • Opening an Account & Types of Accounts
    • Cash and Margin Accounts
    • Order Processing
    • Handling Corporate Actions, Account Compliance, and SIPC Rules
    • Prohibited Activities and Trading Rules
    • FINRA Conduct Rules
    • FINRA Membership

Question Types on the SIE Exam

The SIE 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.

When interest rates go up, what happens to the price of typical preferred stock?

    1. It rises.
    2. It falls.
    3. It stays the same.
    4. It is unrelated to interest rates, so it is impossible to tell.
Incomplete Sentence Format:

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

ADRs trade in:

    1. The foreign currency that underlies the ADR
    2. U.S. dollars
    3. A combination of foreign currency and U.S. dollars
    4. A special exchange rate that takes into consideration how much foreign currency can purchase one U.S. dollar
“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 advantages to the issuer of debt financing over equity financing except:

    1. No ownership dilution
    2. No loss of control
    3. Interest payments are a deductible business expense
    4. Fixed repayment schedule
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.

The prices of which of the following two types of preferred stock are least sensitive to changes in interest rates?

    1. Participating preferred
    2. Cumulative preferred
    3. Adjustable-rate preferred
    4. Convertible preferred
    1. I and II
    2. II and III
    3. I and IV
    4. III 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 yields for a premium bond held to maturity from highest to lowest.

    1. Yield to call
    2. Coupon rate
    3. Yield to maturity
    4. Current yield
    1. II, IV, III, I
    2. IV, I, III, II
    3. II, IV, I, III
    4. III, I, IV, II

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

How to Study for the SIE Exam

Follow Solomon Exam Prep’s proven study system:
    • Read and understand. Read the Solomon SIE Study Guide, carefully. The SIE 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 SIE 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 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 SIE 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 SIE exam.
Use these effective study strategies:
    • Take handwritten notes. As you read the SIE 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 SIE 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 SIE 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 SIE: exercise, eat well, and avoid activities that will hurt your ability to get a good night’s sleep.

You can pass the FINRA SIE Exam! It just takes focus and determination. Earning this certification will provide valuable knowledge and open up rewarding career opportunities. Solomon Exam Prep is here to support you on your first step to entering the securities industry.

To explore all Solomon Exam Prep’s SIE 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 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.

How to Pass the FINRA Series 6 Exam

Learn what the FINRA Series 6 qualifies you to do, what the exam covers, and how you should prepare for it. Continue reading

What does the FINRA Series 6 exam allow me to do?

The Series 6, also known as the Investment Company Products/Variable Contracts Representative Exam, qualifies individuals to solicit, purchase, and/or sell certain investment products. These include mutual funds, initial offerings of closed-end funds, variable life insurance, variable annuities, municipal fund securities, and unit investment trusts (UITs).

The Series 6 does not entitle you to sell all securities products – for that, you’ll need the Series 7. But if you intend to only sell the products listed above, then the Series 6 exam may be an attractive option since it is shorter than the Series 7.

Common jobs in the securities and financial services industries that use the Series 6 are investment advisers, financial advisers, insurance agents, retirement plan specialists, and private bankers. Be aware, though, that some jobs might require other exams or qualifications in addition to the Series 6, depending on the duties required for a particular job. Salary ranges vary among these types of jobs, but the average base salary of people with a Series 6 certification is $56,000 per year (payscale.com).

To take the Series 6 exam, you must be sponsored by a FINRA member firm. The firm files a Form U4 application on your behalf through FINRA’s Central Registration Depository (CRD). Candidates must pass the co-requisite Securities Industry Essentials (SIE) exam in addition to the Series 6 to obtain the Series 6 license. Although you can take the exams in any order, Solomon Exam Prep recommends taking the SIE exam first because it is a foundational exam. Anyone 18 or older can take the SIE exam, and it doesn’t require firm sponsorship.

About the Exam

The Series 6 exam consists of 50 scored and 5 unscored multiple-choice questions covering the four sections of the FINRA Series 6 exam outline. The 5 additional unscored questions are ones that the exam committee is trying out. These are unidentified and are distributed randomly throughout the exam. FINRA updates its exam questions regularly to reflect the most current rules and regulations.

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 6 exam).

Topics Covered on the Exam

FINRA divides the Series 6 exam into four sections which represent the four job functions of a Series 6 registered representative:

The Series 6 exam covers many topics including the following:

    • Securities Registration
    • Communications
    • Client Accounts
    • Retirement Plans
    • Equity Securities
    • Debt Securities
    • Taxation
    • Options
    • Investment Companies
    • Annuities
    • Portfolio Management and CAPM
    • Investment Goals
    • Securities Analysis
    • Completing and Confirming Transactions

Question Types on the Series 6

The Series 6 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.

In the cooling-off period, which of the following would not be allowed?

    1. Making an offer to sell a security with a preliminary prospectus
    2. Taking orders for the security
    3. Publishing a tombstone ad
    4. Distributing a preliminary prospectus
Incomplete Sentence Format:

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

Regulation S-P helps protect customers from:

    1. Recommendations to purchase high-risk securities such as S&P 500 index derivatives
    2. Abusive commissions and sales charges
    3. Having their private information misused
    4. Money laundering
“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 would be considered a security except:

    1. Publicly traded stock
    2. Publicly traded bond
    3. A variable annuity
    4. A commodities future
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.

Regarding its telemarketing efforts, a firm or its representative must do which of the following?

    1. Identify themselves and the purpose of their call
    2. Compare potential prospects against the FTC’s National Do Not Call Registry
    3. Be licensed by FINRA as a telemarketer
    4. Establish a 900 number for potential complaints
    1. I and IV
    2. I and II
    3. II and III
    4. III 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 yields for a premium bond held to maturity from highest to lowest.

    1. Yield to call
    2. Coupon rate
    3. Yield to maturity
    4. Current yield
    1. II, IV, III, I
    2. IV, I, III, II
    3. II, IV, I, III
    4. III, I, IV, II

For an even better idea of the possible question types you might encounter on the Series 6 exam, try Solomon Exam Prep’s free Series 6 Sample Quiz.

How to Study for the Series 6

Follow Solomon Exam Prep’s proven study system:
    • Read and understand. Read the Solomon Study Guide, carefully. The Series 6 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 6 Audiobook, which is a word-for-word reading of the Solomon Series 6 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 Series 6 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 6 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 6 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 6: exercise, eat well, and avoid activities that will hurt your ability to get a good night’s sleep.

You can pass the FINRA Series 6! It just takes focus and determination. Solomon Exam Prep is here to support you on your journey to becoming a registered Investment Company Products/Variable Life Contracts Representative.

To explore all Solomon Exam Prep Series 6 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 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:

How to Calculate Gains and Losses on Exercised Options

Options are a common topic on the Series 6, Series 7, Series 65, Series 66, and SIE exams. Read our guide to calculating gains and losses on exercised options. Continue reading

Options are a topic that many taking the Series 6, Series 7, Series 65, Series 66, and SIE exams have to deal with. One of the biggest problems that students have with options questions occurs when they are asked to calculate gains and losses on exercised options. As long as you understand a few basic points, these types of questions can be a breeze and definitely nothing to lose sleep over.  

First of all, let’s remind ourselves of what an option is.  An option is a contract between two parties that gives the buyer of the contract the right to buy or sell an underlying asset to the other party in the future for a specific price. The specific price is called the “exercise” or “strike” price.  The seller of the option, on the other hand, is obligated to buy or sell, at the strike price. The option to buy is a “call” option, the option to sell is a “put” option.   

To calculate gains and losses on exercised options, you first need to understand what is happening as a result of an options transaction.  When an option is exercised, that means its holder chooses to either buy or sell the underlying security at the strike price. With an exercised call option, the holder purchases shares of the underlying security from the options seller; with an exercised put option, the holder sells shares of the underlying security to the options seller. The sale in each case occurs at the option’s strike price.

Buying – Exercised Call Option

When a call options holder exercises her option by purchasing the underlying shares, she must add the cost of those shares to the premium she paid to obtain the option in the first place. This sum represents the option holder’s total money spent as a result of her options transaction. If the option holder then elects to sell the underlying securities she’s just purchased at their current market price, the money she receives from the sale will be money she takes in. To calculate her gain or loss, subtract the money she paid out from the money she took in. It’s as simple as that. 

So, if, for instance, Marie paid $200 in premiums to purchase a call option with a strike price of $20 and then exercised the option by purchasing 100 shares of the underlying stock, the money she spent as a result of her options transaction will be $2,200 ($200 premium paid + $2,000 purchase price for underlying securities). If she then sells those 100 shares at the market price of $25, she will receive $2,500 in sales proceeds. Subtracting the money she spent from the amount she received will result in a $300 gain ($2,500 sale proceeds – $2,000 purchase price – $200 premium paid = $300 gain.)

Buying – Exercised Put Option

In order for a put options holder to exercise his option, he must have 100 shares of the underlying security to sell to the options seller. That means he needs to go out in the market and purchase shares at their market price. The money he pays for those securities plus the premium he paid to purchase his put option in the first place represents money spent as a result of his options transaction. The options holder will then sell those 100 shares to the options seller at the strike price. When he does this, he receives the sale proceeds. Subtracting the money spent on the put from the sale proceeds will result in the put investor’s gain or loss.   

So, if, for instance, Pierre paid $300 in premiums to purchase a put option with a strike price of $30 and then purchases 100 shares of the underlying stock when its market price drops to $25, he will have spent $2,800 as a result of his options transaction ($300 premium + $2,500 purchase price for underlying shares). He will then sell those 100 shares to the options seller at their strike price of $30 and take in $3,000 from his sale. Thus, Pierre will make a total of $200 on his options transaction ($3,000 sale proceeds - $300 premium – $2,500 purchase price = $200 gain). 

Selling an Option

Now let’s look at gains or losses from the perspective of an options seller. Remember that when someone sells an option, he receives the premium from the options buyer. If the option expires unexercised, the seller gets to keep his entire premium received, which represents his maximum potential gain. If the option is exercised, he will either be required to sell shares of the underlying security to the option holder in the case of a call option or buy shares from the option holder in the case of a put option. Each of an exercised call or an exercised put option transaction is made at the option’s strike price.

Selling – Exercised Call Option

When a call option is exercised, the option seller must obtain 100 shares of the underlying stock to sell to the options holder. To do so, he will have to purchase the shares at their current market price, which will be higher than the option’s strike price. He will then sell them to the option holder at the strike price. The money he takes in from the sale is added to the premiums he received when shorting the option, and this totals the money he takes in as part of his options transaction. The money he paid to obtain the underlying securities is the money he pays out. Subtracting the money he pays out from the money he takes in results in his overall gain or loss.

For example, let’s say Michael sells a call option with a strike price of $50 and receives premiums totaling $500. If the option is exercised, and Mike purchases the underlying shares at $55, he will have paid out $5,500 as a result of his options transaction. At the same time, he will have received $5,500 ($500 premium + $5,000 strike price). Thus, Mike will break even on this transaction; money taken in will be equal to money paid out.

Buying – Exercised Put Option

When a put option is exercised, the option seller must purchase 100 shares of the underlying security from the options holder at the strike price. This represents money the options seller pays out. The options holder has already received the premium when she sold the option, and after purchasing the 100 shares, she can sell them for their current market price. The combination of the seller’s sale proceeds and the premium received represents money taken in. Subtracting money paid out from money taken in will result in the investor’s gain or loss. 

Let’s say Maribel shorts a put option and receives premiums totaling $400. The option has a strike price of $40, and the option holder exercises it when the underlying stock is trading at $35. This means Maribel is obligated to pay $4,000 total for the 100 underlying shares. This is money she pays out. She has already taken in $400, and if she chooses to sell the underlying stock at its current market price, she will take in an additional $3,500 in sales proceeds. This means she will receive a total of $3,900 from his options transaction ($3,500 sale proceeds + $400 premium) and paid out a total of $4,000. As a result, she has lost $100 on his options transaction ($3,900 money in – $4,000 money out = -$100).

As long as you understand what is occurring when an option is exercised, calculating gains and losses is as simple as comparing the money the investor takes in to the money she pays out. Calculating gains and losses on exercised options requires an understanding of the transaction and some simple math. Follow the guidance above and you will be able to correctly answer this type of question on your securities licensing exam.

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

What Are QIBs and Accredited Investors? What’s the Difference?

If you’re studying for securities licensing exams, such as the SIE or the Series 7, then you should understand the terms “accredited investor” and “QIB.” Continue reading

If you’ve been studying for the Series 7, 6, 14, 22, 24, 65, 79, or 82, or the Securities Industry Essentials (SIE), then you’ve had to learn about Regulation D private placements and Rule 144A sales. Regulation D private placements are securities offerings that are exempt from the normal SEC registration process and in many cases are sold only to “accredited investors” or limit the involvement of investors who are not accredited. Rule 144A sales are sales of unregistered securities to large institutional investors known as “qualified institutional buyers” or QIBs for short. 
 
You may have wondered about the difference between accredited investors and QIBs. On the surface, these may seem similar. Each refers to a category of investor with resources and/or knowledge above and beyond the average retail investor. So why not just have one standard for buyers under both Rule 144A and Regulation D? After all, the purpose of both Regulation D and Rule 144A is the same: to allow wealthier and more sophisticated investors easier access to investments that may be too risky for the average investor.  
 
To begin to answer this question, we have to start with the fact that wealth and sophistication fall on a spectrum. Investors aren’t neatly divided between small retail investors and huge financial institutions that move millions around without blinking an eye. 

Accredited Investors

You could think of accredited investors as a middle ground between these two extremes. Accredited investors are investors whose financial status or investment knowledge may give them a greater ability to handle the risks inherent in a private placement. There are many ways to qualify as an accredited investor but they all have one thing in common, which is that the SEC believes they indicate an ability to take on risks that regulators believe are unsuitable for most retail investors.

Accredited investors are investors whose financial status or investment knowledge may give them a greater ability to handle the risks inherent in a private placement.

All of the following are considered accredited investors:
  • Banks, broker-dealers, investment advisers, insurance companies, and investment companies
  • Corporations, trusts, partnerships, and LLCs with more than $5 million in assets
  • Most employee benefit plans with more than $5 million in assets
  • The issuer’s directors, executive officers, and general partners
  • If the issuer is a privately owned fund, (such as a hedge fund), a knowledgeable employee of the fund, which means an employee with at least 12 months’ experience working on the fund’s investment activities
  • Individuals with income of $200,000 in each of the last two years, or $300,000 in combination with a spouse or spousal equivalent such as a domestic partner
  • Individuals with a net worth more than $1 million, alone or with a spouse or spousal equivalent, not including primary residence
  • Individuals who hold any of these three designations in good standing:
    • Licensed General Securities Representative (Series 7)
    • Licensed Investment Adviser Representative (Series 65)
    • Licensed Private Securities Offerings Representative (Series 82)
  • Any firm where all owners are accredited investors (e.g., venture capital firms)
  • Any other entity with more than $5 million in investments that was not formed specifically to qualify as an accredited investor; the purpose of this category is to include entities that don’t neatly fit into any of the above categories, such as:
    • Native American tribes
    • Labor unions
    • Government bodies, including those of foreign governments
    • Investment funds created by government bodies
    • New types of business entities that may be introduced by new laws

An accredited investor that is not an individual—such as a business, governmental, or nonprofit entity—is sometimes called an institutional accredited investor (IAI).

Qualified Institutional Buyers

QIBs are a narrower group of large institutional investors. A QIB is a large institutional investor that owns at least $100 million worth of securities, not counting securities issued by its affiliates. For registered broker-dealers, the threshold is lower, just $10 million. A bank must also have a net worth of at least $25 million in order to be considered a QIB. 
 
If a firm has discretionary authority to invest securities owned by a QIB, those securities count toward whether the firm itself is considered a QIB. So if a broker-dealer has $9 million worth of securities in its own accounts, and holds $1 million worth of securities in a discretionary account belonging to a QIB, then the broker-dealer is itself a QIB.  

Common examples of QIBs include broker-dealers, insurance companies, investment companies, pension plans, and banks. However, any corporation, partnership, or LLC could qualify as a QIB. So can an IAI that owns at least $100 million in securities. Individuals can never be QIBs, regardless of their assets or financial sophistication.

Individuals can never be QIBs, regardless of their assets or financial sophistication.

Rule 144A allows QIBs to buy unregistered securities at any time, and freely trade these shares to other QIBs. In effect, QIBs can trade unregistered shares among themselves with almost the same ease as trading registered shares. Selling unregistered securities to anyone other than a QIB commonly requires a the seller to hold the securities for a period of up to 12 months. 

A QIB will virtually always meet the criteria to be an accredited investor, whereas an accredited investor may fall well short of QIB status.

Over time, other securities laws and regulations have made use of these two well-known categories. For example, in 2019 the SEC gave issuers more flexibility to test the waters with potential investors before deciding whether to go through with a public offering. When deciding which investors were sophisticated enough to receive test-the-waters communications, the SEC limited these communications to QIBs and institutional accredited investors. Additionally, references to institutional accredited investors have become more common, such as when the SEC revamped its rules around integration of offerings in March 2021.  
 
Know your QIBs from your accredited investors and be ready to pass your securities exam with Solomon Exam Prep.


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