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

Person studying for the Series 53 exam on their laptop with the Solomon study guide

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.

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