How to Pass the MSRB Series 53 Exam

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

What is the Series 53 exam?

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

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

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

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

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

About the Exam

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

Series 53 exam details

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

Topics Covered on the Exam

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

Series 53 exam topics

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

Question Types on the Exam

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

Closed Stem Format:

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

Which agencies enforce MSRB rules for broker-dealers?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Taking the Series 53 Exam

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

Test-Taking Tips

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

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

How to Study for the Series 53 Exam

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

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

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

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

How to Pass the MSRB Series 52 Exam

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

What is the Series 52 exam?

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

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

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

What are municipal securities?

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

Are there any prerequisites for the Series 52?

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

About the Exam

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

About the Series 52 exam

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

Topics Covered on the Exam

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

Topics on the Series 52 exam

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

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

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

Question Types on the Exam

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

Closed Stem Format:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Answers: 1. B   2. A   3. D   4. C

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

Taking the Series 52 Exam

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

Test-Taking Tips

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

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

How to Study for the Series 52 Exam

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

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

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

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

How to Pass the NASAA Series 63 Exam

Thinking about taking the Series 63 exam? Keep reading to learn what the Series 63 qualifies you to do, what the exam covers, and how you should prepare for it. Continue reading

The Series 63, also known as the Uniform Securities Agent State Law Exam, is the state law test for broker-dealer representatives. Passing the Series 63 is required by most U.S. states if you want to register in a state as a registered representative. However, to be fully registered, you may also need to pass the FINRA Securities Industry Essentials (SIE) exam and the Series 6, 7, 22, 52, 79, 82, or 99. For example, if you plan to sell securities for a broker-dealer, you must pass the Series 6 or 7 (plus the co-requisite SIE) in addition to the Series 63.

The Series 63, Series 65, and Series 66 exams were all created by NASAA, which represents state securities regulators in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. The goal of NASAA is to protect and educate investors to promote the integrity of financial markets. In terms of content, there is a fair amount of overlap between the exams, but each one qualifies individuals a bit differently.

What’s the difference between the Series 63, Series 65, and Series 66 exams?

Of the three exams, the Series 63 is the shortest, at 65 questions. The Series 63 exam covers the registration of persons and securities under the Uniform Securities Act and ethics in the securities industry. As mentioned above, passing the Series 63 permits you to sell securities in a particular state, but you must also pass a FINRA exam (often the Series 6 or 7) in order to become fully registered. For instance, if you pass the Series 6 and Series 63, you are qualified to become a financial adviser or insurance agent who also sells mutual funds and works at a brokerage, investment firm, bank, or insurance company. On the other hand, with the Series 7 and Series 63, you can work as a stockbroker at a brokerage, investment firm, or bank.

If you want to register as an investment adviser representative (IAR), you will need to pass the Series 65 or 66, depending on the state. Some states allow registered brokerage representatives to act as IARs. In these states, if you’ve passed the Series 7, then the 66 will qualify you to become a licensed IAR. If you have NOT passed the Series 7 and want to become an IAR, then you’ll need to take the Series 65 exam. The Series 65 exam contains much of the same information as the Series 7, and it also tests your knowledge of the state laws governing investment advisers. The Series 66 does not cover much of the information from the Series 7, but it does test your knowledge of state laws governing investment advisers. As result, the Series 66 is shorter than the Series 65 (100 questions compared to 130).

If you’re not sure whether you need to pass the Series 63, 65, or 66 for a particular state, check with the state regulator for specific requirements. This page on the NASAA website lists contact information for all state regulators.

About the Exam

The Series 63 exam consists of 60 scored and 5 unscored multiple-choice questions covering the eight topic areas of the Series 63 Content 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.

Note: Scores are rounded down to the next lowest whole number (e.g. 71.9% would be a final score of 71% – not a passing score for the Series 63 exam).

Topics Covered on the Exam

The questions on the Series 63 exam cover the following content areas, as determined by NASAA:

Series 63 exam topics

NASAA updates its exam questions regularly to reflect the most current rules and regulations. Solomon recommends that you print out the current version of the NASAA Series 63 Content Outline and use it in conjunction with the Solomon Series 63 Study Guide. The Content Outline is subject to change without notice, so make sure you have the most recent version.

Question Types on the Exam

The Series 63 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.

Typically, how long must an investment adviser keep records?

    1. Three years
    2. Five years
    3. Six years
    4. For the lifetime of the firm
Incomplete Sentence Format:

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

A broker-dealer registered in one state whose only office is located in that state does not need to register in another state if it has:

    1. Less than $50,000,000 in assets
    2. Over $100,000,000 in assets
    3. No non-institutional clients in that state
    4. Five or fewer non-institutional clients in that state
“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 exempt from registration under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 except:

    1. A broker-dealer that charges a fee for investment advice
    2. A publisher that charges a fee to write a column about investments
    3. A lawyer that gives investment advice as part of overseeing a client’s estate
    4. A teacher who is paid to teach a class that offers instruction on how to construct a portfolio
Complex Multiple-Choice (“Roman Numeral”) Format:

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

Which of the following are types of orders issued by an administrator?

    1. Stop order
    2. Cease and desist order
    3. Resume order
    4. Criminal order
    1. I only
    2. II only
    3. I and II
    4. III and IV
  1.  

Answers: 1. B   2. C   3. A   4. C

For an even better idea of the possible question types you might encounter on the Series 63 exam, try Solomon Exam Prep’s free Series 63 Sample Quiz.

Taking the Series 63 Exam

The Series 63 exam is administered by FINRA and can be taken at a Prometric test center or remotely online using Prometric’s ProProctor system. If taking the exam at a test center, you will be given a dry erase pen and whiteboard or a pen and scratch paper, and a basic electronic calculator. You cannot bring notes, paper, or your own calculator. Phones and watches are not permitted either. Due to COVID-19, you are required to wear a mask the whole time you are at the test center. Solomon recommends taking timed practice exams in the Series 63 Exam Simulator while wearing a mask to get used to this added discomfort.

If you’re thinking about taking the test from the comfort of your own home or office with ProProctor, it’s important to be aware of the strict procedures you must follow. See this user guide for complete details. And for a first-hand account of the remote testing experience, read this Solomon blog post.

Test-Taking Tips

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

After you have finished all the questions, you can come back to any flagged questions. Not only does this strategy allow you to efficiently answer the ones you know, but it can also help because you might learn something later in the exam that may help you answer an earlier question. Just remember to save enough time to return to the questions you didn’t answer. However, it is not a good idea to simply skip all of the difficult questions with the intention of answering them later. You should make a serious effort to answer each question before moving on to the next one, as your thoughts are often clearer early on in the exam-taking process than they will be later.

How to Study for the Series 63 Exam

Follow Solomon Exam Prep’s proven study system:
    • Read and understand. Read the Solomon Study Guide, carefully. The Series 63 is a knowledge test, not an IQ test. Many students read the Study Guide two or three times before taking the exam. To increase your ability to focus while reading, or as an alternative to reading, listen to the Series 63 Audiobook, which is a word-for-word reading of the Study Guide.
    • Answer practice questions in the Exam Simulator. When you’re done with a chapter in the Study Guide, take 4–6 chapter quizzes in the Solomon Exam Simulator. Use these quizzes to give yourself practice and to find out what you need to study more. Make sure you read and understand the question rationales. When you’re finished reading the entire Study Guide, review your handwritten notes once more. Then, and only then, start taking full practice exams in the Exam Simulator. Aim to pass at least six full practice exams and try to get your Solomon Pass Probability score to at least an 80%; when you reach that point, you are probably ready to sit for the Series 63 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 63 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 Series 63 Resources folder in your Solomon student account has helpful study tools, including documents that summarize important exam concepts. There is also a detailed study schedule that you can print out – or use the online study schedule and check off tasks as you complete them.
    • Watch the Video Lecture. This provides a helpful review of the key concepts in each chapter after reading the Solomon Study Guide. Take notes to help yourself stay focused.
  • Good practices while studying:
    • Take regular breaks. Studies show that if you are studying for an exam, taking regular walks in a park or natural setting significantly improves scores. Walks in urban areas or among people did not improve test scores.
    • Get enough sleep during the period when you are studying. Sleep consolidates learning into memory, studies show. Be good to yourself while you are studying for the Series 63: exercise, eat well, and avoid activities that will hurt your ability to get a good night’s sleep.

You can pass the NASAA Series 63 Exam! It just takes focus and determination. Solomon Exam Prep is here to support you on your path to becoming qualified to sell securities within a state!

Explore all Solomon Exam Prep Series 63 study materials, including the Study Guide, Exam Simulator, Audiobook, Video Lecture and Flashcards.

Looking for more support as you prepare for the Series 63 exam? Solomon offers Live Web Classes for the Series 63

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

How to Pass the MSRB Series 50 Exam

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

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

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

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

About the Exam

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

Series 50 exam details

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

Topics Covered on the Exam

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

Series 50 exam topics

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

Question Types on the Exam

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

Closed Stem Format:

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

Which of the following is true of the MSRB?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which of the following are true?

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

Answers: 1. C   2. B   3. C   4. B

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

Taking the Series 50 Exam

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

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

Test-Taking Tips

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

How to Study for the Series 50 Exam

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

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

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

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

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

Solo 401(k), SEP, & SIMPLE: Retirement Plans for Small Businesses

Be prepared for questions about SIMPLE, SEP, and solo 401(k) retirement account plans on the FINRA Series 6 and Series 7 exams. Continue reading

If you are studying for the FINRA Series 6 or Series 7 exam, you will need to learn about the different types of retirement plan accounts. A retirement account may be an individual plan that is managed by the participant or the participant’s agent, such as an investment firm or a trust bank. Or it may be employer-sponsored, meaning that it is organized and managed by the participant’s employer.
  
Private employers of any size and structure, from the largest C corporation to a sole proprietorship consisting of a single self-employed individual, may set up and use an employer-sponsored retirement plan. For small business owners, retirement plans offer significant tax advantages and can help attract employees. Since there are several types of retirement plans available for small businesses, it’s important to understand the features of each option. Three plans commonly chosen by small businesses are solo 401(k) plans, SEP plans, and SIMPLE plans.

Solo 401(k) Plans  

A business owner can open a solo 401(k) if the business does not employ anyone else. The owner of the business creates a 401(k) plan much like any other employer. Then, as an employee, the owner opens a 401(k) account within that plan.
 
Both employer and employee contributions can be made in a solo 401(k). The maximum employee contribution is the same as for other 401(k)s. As of 2022, this limit is $20,500 per year, with a catch-up contribution of $6,500 for those aged 50 and above. As an employer, the maximum annual contribution is 25% of what the owner pays herself. The combined annual contribution (employee and employer) cannot exceed $61,000.
 
The business owner is allowed to employ her spouse and still make use of a solo 401(k) plan. The spouse can open their own 401(k) account using the business’s solo 401(k) plan. A solo 401(k) can be created whether the business is set up as a corporation, LLC, or sole proprietorship. Self-employed people who haven’t set up a business can also create a solo 401(k), although their contribution limits are calculated differently.
  
Unlike most employer-sponsored retirement plans, solo 401(k)s do not need to comply with ERISA (the Employee Retirement Income Security Act). This is a federal law that requires employers to give employees fair access to the employer’s retirement plan. These concerns do not apply when the business has no other employees.

SEP 

Simplified Employee Pension (SEP) plans are IRA-based retirement plans for any size business but are usually favored by small businesses. Under this type of plan, the business owner can make pre-tax contributions into IRA accounts set up for eligible employees and also for herself if the owner is self-employed.

The plan allows employers to skip contributions in years when business is bad, but if the owner makes a contribution for herself, she must also make contributions for her employees. When contributions are made, they must be made for all participants who actually performed work during the year for which the contributions are made, including those over 72 years of age (the latter feature is unique to the SEP plan). Contributions for all participants generally must be uniform, for example the same percentage of hourly wage.
 
The business owner can make contributions of up to 25% of an employee’s salary, or an annual maximum of $61,000, whichever is less. Only the employer, and not the employee, makes contributions to the SEP IRA, but an employee is always 100% vested in his SEP IRA. Generally, the employer can take an income tax deduction for contributions made to each employee’s SEP. SEP contributions are not included on the employee’s W-2 statement for tax purposes. Rules for withdrawal of funds are generally the same as for any other IRA, meaning that withdrawals are subject to income taxes, and early withdrawals are usually subject to a penalty.

SIMPLE 

Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees (SIMPLE) plans are retirement plans for businesses having no more than 100 employees. With a SIMPLE IRA or SIMPLE 401(k), the employee may make pre-tax contributions to the plan. The contribution is expressed as a percentage of the employee’s compensation and is limited to $14,000 a year ($17,000 for employees aged 50 and over). The employer is required to either match these contributions up to 1% to 3% of the employee’s compensation or to contribute 2% whether the employee makes a contribution or not. The employer chooses which type of contribution (and if matching, the maximum percentage it will match). This choice applies to all employees. So an employer who chooses matching contributions is not obligated to contribute 2% to an employee who chooses not to contribute.
 
Any employee who previously earned at least $5,000 during any two years and is reasonably expected to receive at least $5,000 during the current calendar year is eligible to participate in this plan. Unlike the SEP plan, however, premature SIMPLE IRA distributions (withdrawals of account funds) will incur a 25% penalty in the first two years the account exists if made before age 59 1/2.
 
While the SEP plan is discretionary, in that the employer can decide when to fund the plan, funding the SIMPLE IRA plan is mandatory, no matter what kind of year the business had. A SIMPLE 401(k) functions similarly to a SIMPLE IRA. Both have the same contribution limits and are 100% vested from the beginning.

Good to know:

SEP and SIMPLE IRAs have characteristics in common with traditional IRAs. For example, contributions are generally made with pre-tax dollars, must be earned income, and must only be in cash. Taxes on contributions and earnings are deferred until withdrawal, as long as withdrawals occur after the age of 59 1/2. Required minimum distributions (RMDs) must begin the year the participant turns age 72, although the participant may choose to delay the first payment until April 1 of the following year. After that, RMDs must be taken by December 31 each year. Funds can be distributed as a lump sum or in periodic payments. If the account owner fails to withdraw an RMD or the full amount of the RMD before the deadline, the amount not withdrawn is taxed at 50%.

Common Retirement Plans for Small Businesses

Anyone who plans to become a registered representative by passing the Series 6 or Series 7 exam and assist customers with retirement plans must understand the complexity of retirement planning. The Solomon Exam Prep Series 6 Study Guide and Series 7 Study Guide both cover retirement plan accounts so that you can be prepared for questions about this topic on exam day. Visit the Solomon website to explore study materials for 21 different securities exams, including the Series 6 and 7.

How to Pass the FINRA Series 7 Exam

What can you do with a Series 7 license? What is the exam like and how should you prepare for it? Solomon answers your top Series 7 questions. Continue reading

What does the Series 7 exam permit me to do?

The Series 7, also known as the General Securities Representative Qualification Exam, was developed by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) to assess the skills and competency of entry-level registered representatives as general securities representatives. Passing the Series 7 exam qualifies you to solicit, purchase, and/or sell all securities products, including corporate securities, municipal fund securities, options, direct participation programs, investment company products, and variable contracts. As a result of this broad scope, the Series 7 exam is one of the longest and most challenging securities industry exams. The good news, however, is that you will be permitted to perform an impressive range of activities with a Series 7 license. The following are covered activities and products: 

    • Public offerings and/or private placements of corporate securities (stocks and bonds)
    • Rights
    • Warrants
    • Mutual funds
    • Money market funds
    • Unit investment trusts (UITs)
    • Exchange-traded funds (ETFs)
    • Real estate investment trusts (REITs)
    • Options on mortgage-backed securities
    • Government securities
    • Repos and certificates of accrual on government securities
    • Direct participation programs (DPPs)
    • Venture capital
    • Sale of municipal securities
    • Hedge funds
Do I need to take any other securities licensing exams?

In order to be registered as a general securities representative, you must pass two exams: the Series 7 and the FINRA Securities Industry Essentials (SIE) exam. While the Series 7 requires you to be hired and sponsored by a FINRA-member firm, the SIE does not. Therefore, even though you can technically take them in either order, it makes sense to take the introductory-level SIE exam before taking the Series 7 exam.

About the Exam

The Series 7 exam consists of 125 scored and 10 un-scored multiple-choice questions covering the four sections of the FINRA Series 7 content outline. The 10 additional un-scored questions are ones that the exam committee is trying out. These are unidentified and are distributed randomly throughout the exam.

Note: Scores are rounded down to the next lowest whole number (e.g. 71.9% would be a final score of 71% – not a passing score for the Series 7 exam).

Topics Covered on the Exam

The questions on the Series 7 exam cover the main job functions of a general securities representative, as determined by FINRA:

FINRA updates its exam questions regularly to reflect the most current rules and regulations. Solomon recommends that you print out the current version of the FINRA Series 7 Content Outline and use it in conjunction with the Solomon Series 7 Study Guide. The Content Outline is subject to change without notice, so make sure you have the most recent version.

Question Types on the Exam

The Series 7 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 will happen to the price of typical preferred stock?

    1. It will go up.
    2. It will go down.
    3. It will stay 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.

The owner of a house with a market value of $450,000 and an assessed value of $300,000, and with an ad valorem tax of 4 mills would pay a property tax of:

    1. $1,800
    2. $1,200
    3. $12,000
    4. $18,000
“EXCEPT” Format:

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

VRDOs may have their rates automatically reset at any of the following frequencies except:

    1. Daily
    2. Weekly
    3. Monthly
    4. Yearly
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 Build America Bond may:

    1. Provide a 35% subsidy on the interest as a tax deduction
    2. Reimburse the issuer for 35% of the interest paid to investors
    3. Provide a 35% subsidy on the interest as a tax credit
    4. Provide a 35% subsidy on the interest as an additional interest payment
    1. I or II
    2. I or IV
    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.

The flow of funds requirement for a municipality with a net revenue pledge usually prioritizes the following funds in which order, going from highest priority to lowest priority?

    1. Debt service fund
    2. Debt service reserve fund
    3. Operations and maintenance fund
    1. I, II, III
    2. III, I, II
    3. II, I, III
    4. III, II, I

Answers: B, B, D, C, B

For an even better idea of the possible question types you might encounter on the Series 7 exam, try Solomon Exam Prep’s free Series 7 Sample Quiz.

Taking the Series 7 Exam

The Series 7 exam can be taken at a Prometric test center or remotely online using Prometric’s ProProctor system. If taking the exam at a test center, you will be given a dry erase pen and whiteboard or a pen and scratch paper, and a basic electronic calculator. You cannot bring notes, paper, or your own calculator. Phones and watches are not permitted either. Due to COVID-19, you are required to wear a mask the whole time you are at the test center. Solomon recommends taking timed practice exams in the Series 7 Exam Simulator while wearing a mask to get used to this added discomfort.

If you’re thinking about taking the test from the comfort of your own home or office with ProProctor, it’s important to be aware of the strict procedures you must follow. See this user guide for complete details. And for a first-hand account of the remote testing experience, read this Solomon blog post.

Test-Taking Tips

Whether you take the exam in person or online, it helps to keep some test-taking strategies in mind. You have an average of slightly more than a minute and a half per question, so don’t spend too long on one question—this may cause you to run out of time and not get to other questions you know. If you don’t know the answer to a question, guess at the answer and “flag” it. You will not be penalized for guessing.

After you have finished all the questions, you can come back to any flagged questions. Not only does this strategy allow you to efficiently answer the ones you know, but it can also help because you might learn something later in the exam that may help you answer an earlier question. Just remember to save enough time to return to the questions you didn’t answer. However, it is not a good idea to simply skip all of the difficult questions with the intention of answering them later. You should make a serious effort to answer each question before moving on to the next one, as your thoughts are often clearer early on in the exam-taking process than they will be later.

How to Study for the Series 7 Exam

Follow Solomon Exam Prep’s proven study system:
    • Read and understand. Read the Solomon Study Guide, carefully. The Series 7 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 7 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 7 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 7 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 7 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 Series 7 Resources folder in your Solomon student account has helpful study tools, including several documents that summarize important exam concepts. There are also detailed study schedules 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 7: exercise, eat well, and avoid activities that will hurt your ability to get a good night’s sleep.

You can pass the FINRA Series 7 Exam! It just takes focus and determination. Solomon Exam Prep is here to support you on your path to becoming a general securities representative.

To explore all Solomon Exam Prep’s Series 7 study materials, including product samples, visit the Solomon website here.

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

Interview: How Pennie Kincade Passed Three Securities Licensing Exams

Do you need to pass the SIE, Series 7, Series 66, or another FINRA or NASAA exam? Hear one student’s experience preparing for and taking her securities exams. Continue reading

There are many career options to choose from in the financial services industry, such as stockbroker, investment banker, financial analyst, or financial advisor. Whether you’re aiming for a job on Wall Street or off, you will probably need to pass a securities licensing exam or two (or three) to be permitted to work in your chosen role. To reach her career goals, Solomon customer Pennie Kincade, Financial Advisor at Raymond James Financial Services, decided to take the FINRA Securities Industry Essentials (SIE) and Series 7, and the NASAA Series 66 exams. Pennie recently shared her experience studying for and passing her exams.

“From passing the exams, I have been able to further my career and truly enjoy coming to work every day. It’s been a privilege to partner with my clients and plan for their retirement.”

Pennie Kincade

Solomon Exam Prep: What led you to take the SIE, Series 7, and Series 66?

Pennie Kincade: When I started working in the financial services industry, I found my passion helping individuals and businesses reach their financial goals. I wanted to take this a step further by helping with their long-term goals, wealth management strategies, business succession planning, and retirement planning. With the SIE, Series 7 and 66, now I can follow my dream of assisting clients with wealth management strategies.

Solomon Exam Prep: Out of the exams you passed, which one did you find the most challenging and why?

Pennie Kincade: The Series 7 was the most challenging and the longest exam. It was helpful to have Solomon Exam Prep available to answer my questions and breakdown concepts into simple terms. They gave me confidence to push through and not give up.

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

Pennie Kincade: When studying for each exam, it was important to read each chapter and take a chapter exam at the end. Regardless of my scores, I continued reading through, taking an exam and then I started taking half exams once or twice a week. The questions I missed, I wrote down and referred back to for review. I reread my notes and reviewed each chapter on sections I scored low in. Once my scores were in the 80s, I moved onto a full exam once a week. Making note cards and writing out the questions I missed were helpful to review later. Two weeks before the exam, I made a sheet with notes to review each day with definitions, formulas or calculations.

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?  

Pennie Kincade: I completed my exams at the testing center. Before each exam, I would arrive an hour and a half early. During this time, I would have a small snack and drink some water. Then I reviewed my note cards and one page cram sheet. When I was able to write down notes during the exam, I wrote down everything I could remember from my cram sheet since it was fresh in my mind. I found this helpful to refer back to when I was getting a little anxious. It helped me stay focused and maintain confidence.

“It was helpful to have Solomon Exam Prep available to answer my questions and breakdown concepts into simple terms. They gave me confidence to push through and not give up.”

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

Pennie Kincade: Give yourself enough time to study and know when you need a break. I read my notes out loud, while recording my voice and listened to them on the way to work. The chapters I had a difficult time remembering I would read the section before bed and touch on it the next morning. If I felt I had information overload, I would get up for a snack and take a 15-minute break.  

Solomon Exam Prep: How has passing these exams affected your work and your career?

Pennie Kincade: From passing the exams, I have been able to further my career and truly enjoy coming to work every day. It’s been a privilege to partner with my clients and plan for their retirement.

Visit the Solomon Exam Prep website to explore study materials for 21 different securities licensing exams, including the SIE, Series 7, and Series 66.

How to Pass the FINRA Series 79 Exam

What can you do with a Series 79 license? What is the exam like and how should you prepare for it? Solomon answers your top Series 79 questions. Continue reading

What does the Series 79 exam permit me to do?

The Series 79, also known as the Limited Representative Investment Banking Exam, was developed by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) to assess the skills and competency of entry-level investment bankers. If you work for a FINRA member firm as an investment banker, you must pass the Series 79 exam and register as an Investment Banking Representative. Although the Series 79 is designed for junior-level bankers, it proves to be one of the most difficult exams offered by FINRA, particularly for test-takers who do not have education and work experience in accounting and finance. In addition, the Series 79 exam requires a broad knowledge of the rules, regulations and industry practices that govern US capital markets and investment banking.

Passing the Series 79 exam qualifies you to advise on and/or facilitate the following:  

    • Debt and equity offerings (private placement or public offering)
    • Mergers and acquisitions
    • Tender offers
    • Financial restructurings
    • Asset sales
    • Divestitures or other corporate reorganizations
    • Business combination transactions
Do I need to take any other securities licensing exams?

According to FINRA, the Series 79 does NOT cover sales or marketing of debt or equity securities to investors or potential investors. In order to make investor presentations, an investment banker with the Series 79 registration would also need to be “registered as a General Securities Representative (Series 7), Corporate Securities Representative (Series 62), or Private Securities Offerings Representative (Series 82) depending on the type of offering being made.”

You are also required to take the FINRA Securities Industry Essentials (SIE) exam, unless you have passed certain other licensing exams (such as the Series 7 or Series 82) before October 1st, 2018.

Additionally, in order to comply with state securities regulations, most individuals with the Series 79 registration pass the NASAA Series 63 exam as well. Check with your firm’s compliance officer to determine if this registration applies to you.

About the Exam

The Series 79 exam consists of 75 scored and 10 un-scored multiple-choice questions covering the three main sections of the FINRA Series 79 content outline. The exam itself is not divided into three sections, so questions from each section appear randomly throughout the exam. The 10 additional un-scored questions are ones that the exam committee is trying out. These are unidentified and are distributed randomly throughout the exam.

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 79 exam).

Topics Covered on the Exam

The questions on the Series 79 exam cover the major job functions of entry-level investment bankers, as determined by FINRA:

FINRA updates its exam questions regularly to reflect the most current rules and regulations. Solomon recommends that you print out the current version of the FINRA Series 79 Content Outline and use it in conjunction with the Solomon Series 79 Study Guide. The Content Outline is subject to change without notice, so make sure you have the most recent version.

FINRA and SEC Rule Numbers: What Should You Remember?

The Solomon Exam Prep Series 79 Study Guide introduces you to several different rules instituted by both FINRA and the SEC. While learning about these rules is important, the exam will not ask for specific FINRA rules, so you do not need to memorize those rule numbers. Instead, you should learn and understand the content of those rules. FINRA rules are generally distinguished by having four numbers (i.e., Rule 1250 or Rule 2241).

On the other hand, it is essential that you remember the content, and sometimes the names, of the SEC rules and regulations covered in the Solomon Series 79 Study Guide. In general, SEC rule numbers consist of either (1) three numbers (e.g., Rule 144) or (2) two numbers and a letter, followed by another number or a dash (e.g., Rule 10b-9, or Rule 15c1-3). Also, remember the names of regulations with letters associated with them, such as Regulation A.

Math and Accounting on the Series 79 Exam

Questions on the Series 79 exam do require you to use arithmetic, ratios, and basic algebra. Also, because the Series 79 exam requires you to understand and be able to analyze financial statements, a basic understanding of financial accounting is very helpful.

Question Types on the Exam

The Series 79 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 type of SEC filing would you look at to determine the holdings of a large investment manager?

    1. Form 13F
    2. Schedule 14A
    3. Form 4
    4. Form 8-K
Incomplete Sentence Format:

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

If a company were to liquidate all its assets and pay off all its liabilities, the amount that would be left is:

    1. Shareholders’ equity
    2. Retained earnings
    3. Paid-in capital
    4. Long-term debt
“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 characteristics of a hedge fund, except:

    1. They often do not need to register with the SEC.
    2. They are a highly liquid form of investment.
    3. They are generally lightly regulated when compared to other types of investments.
    4. Their members or investors are institutions or wealthy individual investors.
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.

You are analyzing a public company and your analysis requires you to compile LTM (last 12 months) financial data for the company. Which of the following SEC filings would you typically look to for such data?

    1. Form 10-K
    2. Schedule 13D
    3. Form 10-Q
    4. Form 3
    1. I and II
    2. II and III
    3. III and IV
    4. I and III

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.

In marketing a proposed acquisition, a sell-side investment banker typically provides the following materials to prospective buyers in which order?

    1. Confidentiality agreement
    2. Teaser
    3. Bidding procedures letter
    4. Confidential information memorandum
    1. I, II, IV, III
    2. III, II, I, IV
    3. II, III, I, IV
    4. II, I, IV, III

Answers: A, A, B, D, D

For an even better idea of the possible question types you might encounter on the Series 79 exam, try Solomon Exam Prep’s free Series 79 Sample Quiz.

Test-Taking Tips for the Series 79 Exam

If taking the test at a test center, you will be given a dry erase pen and whiteboard or a pencil and scratch paper, a basic electronic calculator, and an Exhibits Book. The Exhibits Book may be presented on your computer or as a physical pamphlet. You cannot bring notes, paper, or your own calculator. Phones and watches are not permitted either. Many of the questions will refer to tables or charts in the Exhibits Book, and some questions will require you to perform calculations.

The exam is administered electronically, but the computer format can be tricky. Before the exam, you will be able to take a tutorial on how the electronic system works. You should take the tutorial, since some people find the system awkward to use at first, and you don’t want to use valuable test time dealing with technical issues. There is no scheduled break during the test; you’re allowed to take an unscheduled break, but the clock doesn’t stop.

Due to COVID-19, the Series 79 exam can also be taken online. Candidates must submit an Online Exam Administration Request Form to FINRA. Be sure to review the online system requirements for online testing before submitting the form.

Pacing

The Series 79 exam has 85 questions to answer in 150 minutes, which is a little under two minutes per question. This means you’ll need to work at an average pace of about 105 seconds per question. Keep in mind that 105 seconds per question is an average speed that you must maintain over two and a half hours. This would be challenging even if every question was short and straightforward. Unfortunately, a number of questions are detailed and time-consuming, and will certainly take more than 105 seconds. You’ll need to work faster on the remaining questions to maintain the necessary pace.

Read and Understand the Question Before You Answer 

Questions on the Series 79 exam can be intentionally confusing. You should carefully read each question before you answer it and understand exactly what the question is asking. While it is important to make a serious effort on each question, avoid spending a large amount of time on any single question. In general, you should dedicate no more than five minutes to any one question. If you find yourself spending more than five minutes, give it your best guess, flag the question, and move on.

Getting to the Point of the Question

As many of the questions on the Series 79 exam are paragraph length, it is often a good idea to read the last line or two of the question before reading the whole question. This technique will allow you to focus on the aspects of the long-form question that are most relevant, thereby saving you time.

Predict an Answer Choice if Possible

Many test-takers quickly read the question and immediately skip to the answer choices. A better technique is to formulate what you believe is the correct answer before going through the answer choices. If your pre-phrased answer is one of the choices, you should be comfortable in selecting that answer. This technique will also help you increase your speed.

Read Every Answer Choice

You should always read every answer choice. The exam is full of attractive but incorrect answers. Also, if you notice several correct answers, you may have missed an “except” or “not” in the question. If you consider every answer choice before making your selection, you are less likely to be tricked into picking a wrong but superficially appealing answer.

Answer Every Question, and Don’t Dawdle

There is no penalty for guessing. If you honestly don’t know an answer, pick an answer choice and move on. Don’t dawdle. Even a random guess has a 25% chance of being right. If you spend too long trying to narrow down answer choices on one question, you’ve lost precious time on later questions.

Mark for Review and Return Later

If you’re struggling with a question or have no idea what the answer is, mark the question and return to answer it later. Not only does this strategy allow you to efficiently answer the ones you know, but it can also help because you may learn something later in the exam that may help you answer an earlier question. Just remember to save enough time to return to the questions you didn’t answer. However, it is not a good idea to simply skip all of the difficult questions with the intention of answering them later. You should make a serious effort to answer each question before moving on to the next one, as your thoughts are often clearer early on in the exam-taking process than they will be later.

How to Study for the Series 79 Exam

Follow Solomon Exam Prep’s proven study system:
    • Read and understand. Read the Solomon Study Guide, carefully. The Series 79 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 79 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 79 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 79 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 79 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 79: exercise, eat well, and avoid activities that will hurt your ability to get a good night’s sleep.

You can pass the FINRA Series 79 Exam! It just takes focus and determination. Solomon Exam Prep is here to support you on your path to becoming a registered investment banking representative.

To explore all Solomon Exam Prep’s Series 79 study materials, including product samples, visit the Solomon website here.

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What Does “Tender” Mean on Securities Exams?

For a number of securities exams, you should understand the term “tender.” Solomon explains what the term means and how it’s used in the securities industry. Continue reading

When studying for a securities exam such as the FINRA Securities Industry Essentials (SIE) exam and the Series 7, Series 14, Series 24, Series 79, or the MSRB Series 50, Series 52, Series 53, or Series 54, it’s likely you will encounter the word “tender.” This bit of terminology may be confusing at first. But learning the ways “tender” is commonly used in the securities industry will prevent you from getting tripped up when you see it on an exam.

You may have heard this word in connection with stock buybacks. When a company offers to buy its shares back from stockholders, the company is said to be conducting a tender offer. The stockholders who take the company up on the offer are said to be tendering their shares. A company may also make a tender offer to a different company’s shareholders, for example if it wants to acquire the other company. 
  
The word “tender” comes from the field of law. To tender is to make a binding offer to enter into an agreement. (It also has a second meaning of presenting payment, which is why your dollar bill has the phrase “legal tender” on it.) So when you tender a security you own, you are offering to sell it on terms that have been spelled out between you and the other party. In the case of a tender offer, the company must specify these terms when it makes the offer and shareholders must take them or leave them. In many cases, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) requires that these terms include a window of time during which shareholders who tendered their shares may change their minds. In that case, the “binding offer” is not binding right away. 
  
Another securities-related use of “tender” is when a security gives its owner the right to sell it back to the issuer. Exercising this right is sometimes called tendering the security. For example, a municipal bond might have a tender option that gives the bondholder the right to sell it back to the municipality at a certain time for a certain price. Additionally, some variable-rate municipal securities come with a mandatory tender that is triggered when the rate is adjusted. When this happens, the bondholder must choose between tendering the bond or accepting the new rate. 
  
So if you see the word “tender” on a securities exam, it means that the owner of a security is offering to sell it under specific terms and conditions, and the owner’s ability to back out of the offer may be limited.

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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.