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.“
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.