Interview: How Fernando Russo passed four securities licensing exams

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

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

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

Fernando Russo

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

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

I took the 79 last. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are the permitted activities of a General Securities Representative (Series 7)?

In this article, Solomon Exam Prep explains what a General Securities Representative can and cannot do and how this compares to other rep-level registrations. Continue reading

Of the representative-level FINRA registrations categories, the General Securities Representative (Series 7) registration is considered by many to be the most valuable, due to the range of products it allows you to sell. But how “general” is it? Are there other representative-level registrations that permit you do things a Series 7 representative cannot?

What is a Series 7 representative permitted to do?

FINRA allows a General Securities Representative to solicit the purchase and sales of all securities products, including:

  • Stocks, whether from IPOs, private placements, or secondary market trading
  • Other corporate securities, such as bonds, rights, and warrants
  • Mutual funds
  • Closed-end funds
  • Money market funds
  • Unit investment trusts (UITs)
  • Exchange-traded funds (ETFs)
  • Real estate investment trusts (REITs)
  • Variable contracts (insurance products whose funds are invested in securities)
  • Municipal securities
  • Municipal fund securities, such as 529 plans
  • Options
  • Government securities
  • Direct participation programs (DPPs)
  • Venture capital
  • Hedge funds

This long list of products means that a Series 7 registered rep may perform the functions of an Investment Company and Variable Contracts Representative (Series 6), Direct Participation Programs Representative (Series 22), or Private Securities Offerings Representative (Series 82).

Besides sales, General Securities Representatives may also perform certain activities closely related to sales. They may:

  • recommend investments after performing a suitability analysis for the customer
  • accept unsolicited orders
  • open customer accounts, subject to approval by a principal

What is a Series 7 representative not permitted to do?

Though a General Securities Representative may solicit purchases of IPO shares, he may not work on underwriting or structuring an IPO, or any other securities offerings. This means that he is not permitted to advise an issuer on an offering. This work requires registration as an Investment Banking Representative (Series 79).  Likewise, working on municipal underwriting requires registration as a Municipal Securities Representative (Series 52).

A Series 7 representative is also not qualified to perform the back-office functions of an Operations Professional (Series 99). Among these functions are maintaining possession or control of the firm’s securities, calculating margin for margin accounts, and sending trade confirmations and account statements.

Of course, every registered representative must also pass the FINRA Securities Industry Essentials (SIE) exam. The SIE doesn’t qualify you to do anything, instead it is a foundational exam that focuses on industry terminology, securities products, the structure and function of the markets, regulatory agencies and their functions, and regulated and prohibited practices. Unlike other FINRA securities exams, you do not need to be employed or sponsored by a broker-dealer in order to take the SIE. The only requirement is that you be 18 years old.

If you are considering taking the Series 7 exam, Solomon Exam Prep is here to help you. Solomon provides an extensive array of study material, together with resources such as study schedules, the Ask The Professor function, and important exam information. You can view our Series 7 offerings here.

 

And for more helpful securities exam-related content, study tips, and industry updates, join the Solomon email list. Click the button below:

How to Calculate Gains and Losses on Exercised Options

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

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

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

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

Buying – Exercised Call Option

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

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

Buying – Exercised Put Option

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

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

Selling an Option

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

Selling – Exercised Call Option

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

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

Buying – Exercised Put Option

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Accredited Investors

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

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

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

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

Qualified Institutional Buyers

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Solomon Pass Probability™ Now Available for the FINRA Series 82

Everyone would like to feel confident when they take their securities exam, but how do you know if you’re ready for test day? Solomon Exam Prep can help – with Pass Probability™. Continue reading

Everyone would like to feel confident when they take their securities exam, but how do you know if you’re ready for test day? Solomon Exam Prep can help! With Pass Probability™, now available for the FINRA Series 82 exam, Solomon takes the guesswork out of deciding when to sit for your exam.

Pass Probability™ is Solomon Exam Prep’s innovative technology that measures your readiness to pass your securities exam. Once you take five practice exams in the Solomon Exam Simulator, the Pass Probability™ tool calculates the probability that you will pass your test, with a percentage out of 100.

"A securities licensing exam is hard work and high stakes. Your enemy is uncertainty. Solomon's industry-leading Pass Probability™ feature is based on the results of thousands of Solomon securities students and uses a proprietary algorithm to reduce uncertainty. So you can enter the exam room with confidence."
Jeremy Solomon
Co-founder and President of Solomon Exam Prep

Remediation Reporting

But what should you do if you take five practice exams, and the Solomon algorithm determines that you are not ready to take your exam? This is where Solomon’s brand-new feature, the Remediation Report, comes in.

The Remediation Report is an individualized report outlining how to focus your efforts BEFORE taking your exam. It provides an added level of customized study support – sent right to your email.

The Remediation Report gives you:
  • Summary of current study progress 
  • Personalized recommendations on areas for growth 
  • Study tips for the homestretch 
  • Reminders about student support elements 

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

The Power of Explaining: A Study Strategy Backed by Research

If you’re studying for the Series 65, Series 7, or another securities licensing exam, try this evidence-based study strategy. Continue reading

Solomon Exam Prep’s learning system is built on understanding how people learn. Solomon Exam Prep is always looking for new ways to help our students.  

Research from Dr. Tania Lombrozo of UC Berkeley, published in the journal Trends in Cognitive Science, shows that explaining a new concept to another person is an enormously helpful learning technique. When you explain an unfamiliar concept to another person, your brain makes crucial learning connections. However, many people do not have a person around them that is ready to listen to their new knowledge. Thus, Dr. Lombrozo recommends self-explanation, which is the practice of explaining concepts to yourself in order to better understand them.

Why does explaining work?

Dr. Lombrozo found that the positive effects of self-explanation can be attributed to the generalization process. Explaining requires you to put new information in the context of “prior beliefs,” which makes you generalize the information. In doing so, you are forced to pick out what is most necessary for understanding the concept. In thinking about how to explain something, you in fact learn more about the thing itself!  

Dr. Lombrozo describes an experiment by psychologists Amsterlaw and Wellman that demonstrates the power of explaining in understanding. In Amsterlaw and Wellman’s experiment, they administered logic tests to children under various conditions. During the course of the experiment, the children were split into groups. One group would answer, and then they would be asked to explain the correct answer once it was revealed. A comparison group did the same, but only for half the problems. The third group was a control group and gave no explanation at all. According to Amsterlaw and Wellman, “children in the explanation condition significantly outperformed the comparison and control groups….” In other words, explaining increases understanding.

How to use this strategy for licensing exams:

What does this mean if you’re studying for the Series 65 or the Series 7 or some other securities licensing exam? Solomon Exam Prep suggests finding someone in your life who will listen to you explain topics from your securities exam prep. The person you choose does not need to have any knowledge of securities. The person just needs to be a good listener; even better, someone who will ask questions. What if you don’t have anyone who can do that for you? Well, as Dr. Lombrozo showed, the practice of self-explanation is also helpful and will increase your understanding of the material you are trying to learn.

Other recommended Solomon study strategies include:  
  • Listen to the Solomon audiobook while you read the Solomon study guide.   
  • As you read the Solomon study guide and watch the Solomon video lectures, take notes by hand.
  • When practicing in the Solomon exam simulator, read and re-read the question at least twice. 
  • If you answer a question correctly, explain to yourself why it was correct before reading the question rationale.  
  • If you answer a question incorrectly, read the rationale carefully. Explain to yourself what the right answer is, and why. Write down the explanation in your notes. 
  • Study with a partner. Trade off testing each other on concepts and asking for an explanation.  

Solomon Exam Prep has helped thousands pass their securities licensing exams, including the SIE and the Series 3, 6, 7, 14, 22, 24, 26, 27, 28, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 63, 65, 66, 79, 82 and 99.

Solomon Exam Prep SIE Practice Exam Now Available!

Meet the newest addition to Solomon Exam Prep’s lineup of free Sample Quizzes: the SIE Sample Exam! Visit the Solomon website to try it out. Continue reading

Meet the newest addition to Solomon Exam Prep’s lineup of free Sample Quizzes: the SIE Sample Exam! Like all Solomon Sample Quizzes, the SIE Sample Exam features questions from our industry-leading Online Exam Simulator. Questions are written by Solomon content experts, who are experienced in both investment education and the process of adult learning. 

But unlike other Solomon Sample Quizzes, the SIE Sample Exam is a FULL exam – it contains 75 questions, just like the real FINRA SIE exam – giving you an even better idea of what the actual exam is like. You will encounter easy, medium, and difficult questions so that you can more easily gauge your current knowledge of SIE content. 

All Solomon Sample Quizzes and Exams also provide instant feedback for each answer, with a full rationale to help you understand the WHY behind the what. Plus, you get a report at the end detailing your results and giving you the opportunity to review all the questions. 

Visit the Solomon website here to try out the SIE Sample Exam and explore free samples of quizzes for 21 different exams.

Solomon Study Question of the Month for April

This month’s study question from the Solomon Exam Prep Online Exam Simulator question database is now available. Continue reading

Study Question

This month’s study question from the Solomon Online Exam Simulator question database is now available.

*** Comment below or submit your answer to info@solomonexamprep.com to be entered to win a $20 Starbucks gift card.***

This question is relevant to the SIE and the Series 7, 14, 50, 52, and 54.

Question: A Municipal Finance Professional (MFP) hosted a $500 plate fundraiser for a governmental issuer. Does this event trigger a ban on business for two years?

A. Yes, it will trigger a ban because an MFP may not host a fundraiser.

B. Yes, it will trigger a ban because the cost per plate is above the de minimis amount.

C. No, it will not trigger a ban because the MFP did not contribute money, only time and space.

D. No, it will not trigger a ban because the MFP was holding the fundraiser, not the municipal dealer.

Correct Answer: A

Explanation: MFPs are not permitted to solicit funds for municipal issuers or their officials without triggering a two-year ban on business for their firm. Thus, holding fundraisers is not allowed. Municipal dealers are also forbidden from holding fundraisers.


To explore free samples of Solomon Exam Prep’s industry-leading online exam simulators for the SIE, Series 7, Series 14, Series 50, Series 52, Series 54, and other FINRA, MSRB, NASAA, and NFA exams, visit the Solomon website here.

Know What to Expect: Testing Online with ProProctor from Prometric

FINRA partner Prometric has developed ProProctor for online, remote test taking. Here are some takeaways about the process. Continue reading

Lucas Rumpeltes of Solomon Exam Prep passed the SIE Exam with ProProctor

In person licensing exams have been a staple in the securities industry for decades, but with the novel Coronavirus COVID-19, FINRA has been tasked with providing a safer method for testing. Given this, FINRA partner Prometric has developed a new product titled ProProctor for online, remote test taking. Prometric is a giant in the testing industry, and operates hundreds of testing centers.

With all this as the backdrop, one month ago I was tasked with studying for and taking the SIE as a junior associate at Solomon Exam Prep. Using the ProProctor product seemed like the most convenient way to take the exam, and proved easy enough. However, for the benefit of Solomon exam takers, I would like to share some takeaways about the process.

I registered for the test three weeks ahead of time on the Prometric website, and there were still many time slots available, but the most convenient ones had been taken. The most feasible slot for me ended up being at 7:45 AM, so if you prefer to test later in the day, register ahead of time!

I immediately received a confirmation email detailing all of the procedures that I would need to follow for test day. It was a lengthy email. This is due to Prometric’s desire to avoid cheating and duplication of the test, so they are rightfully cautious. The full procedures can be found in this PDF. That being said, there are a few procedures that are very important to understand ahead of time. First is your testing environment. Ideally one is able to test in a bare, white room, at a desk, with no decorations of any kind. However, this is not always possible, so it is helpful to have a bed sheet or tarp on hand to cover anything that your proctor determines to be unacceptable. Furthermore, you cannot have any interruptions during the test, so it is imperative to notify your office mates! Prometric also recommends having a mirror on hand for the check in process. Ultimately, this is simply for the purpose of inspecting your laptop keyboard/screen if you cannot remove your webcam, so a medium sized mirror is fine. The more easily you can position it in front of your screen the better (I did not take my own advice here and had a giant mirror, which was tough to position so that my proctor could see my keyboard).

Leading up to the exam day, you should do one of Prometric’s system readiness checks, test your microphone specifically, and download/install their application. On exam day, you will be asked to follow a unique web link that is in your confirmation email to launch your exam. Once there, you will input user specific information, and it will automatically launch the application. Be warned, once you launch the exam application, you cannot access any other settings or applications on your computer, so adjust your volume or microphone controls ahead of time. Once there, you will be asked to photograph yourself, take a picture of your photo ID, and you will be sent to the security proctor.

Ultimately two different proctors will communicate with you. The process for meeting with them is seamless, and they will answer any questions you may have. The first will conduct the security checks and you will have a webcam view of them. The security checks are detailed on the ProProctor website, as well as in the confirmation email, but here are a few tips. I wore pants with lots of pockets, which was a mistake. Wearing as few items of clothing as possible, with as few pockets as possible, is helpful because they will ask you to empty them. Additionally, they advise no jewelry. Ideally, the only things in the testing room are you, your photo ID, and your computer. There is nothing else allowed (with the exception of tests that have certified testing materials).

The security checks also include room checks, which necessitates either an external webcam or an easily portable laptop. The fewer furniture items in the room, the easier the check will be. Finally, the security proctor will detail their break policy. I did not use the break, and it should ultimately be seen as an emergency asset. The test time does not stop while you take it, and you will have to redo all security checks upon returning.

Once all of the security protocol is over with, your security proctor will pass you on to another proctor. The new proctor will greet you via the application chat, but you will not see them on screen. They will, however, see your video and hear your audio. Additionally, they prohibit you from speaking out loud during the exam. You may mouth or whisper the words, but they do not allow you to speak. Once the exam commences, it is straightforward. There is a calculator in the application, as well as a “scratch pad” where you may type things. Be warned, you may not go back to questions once you move on.

When I was taking the SIE, I felt confident once I got to this point, since I was mostly worried about complying with the security checks. However, there is protocol from Prometric should you be disconnected from the application for any reason. I was disconnected with just six questions left (!), so it would have been helpful to know this ahead of time. Needless to say, I panicked. Prometric recommends a wired internet connection for this reason, but I gambled with wifi. Ultimately this was not the reason I was disconnected (my internet connection was fine), but the application automatically closed and I was forced to consult the FAQ.

From here, Prometric recommended that I check my internet connection, wait three minutes, restart my computer, and relaunch the exam. This proved to be perfect advice, and I was readmitted to the system. I had to re-do the entire security check with a new set of proctors, but my test time was paused and my progress had been saved. I finished my last six questions without a hitch. In other words, if you are disconnected, do not panic and simply follow their directions on the FAQ. If the issue persists, they recommend that you contact support.

As with the in person exams, my preliminary results were shown at the conclusion of the exam, and I was free to continue with my work day. All in all, the process was relatively user-friendly, and well worth it since I was able to avoid going to a testing center.

FINRA Exam Restructure Presentation at 2015 NSCP Conference

November 3, at the 2015 National Society of Compliance Professionals Annual Conference, in National Harbor, MD, FINRA gave a presentation on its proposed restructure of the FINRA qualification Exam Program. Attendees learned the following regarding the new exam restructure – Essentials Exam and top-off exams… Continue reading

November 3, at the 2015 National Society of Compliance Professionals Annual Conference, in National Harbor, MD, FINRA gave a presentation on its proposed restructure of the FINRA qualification Exam Program.  The primary presenter was Joseph McDonald, the FINRA staff member in charge of the Qualification Exam Program.

Attendees learned the following regarding the new exam restructure:

Revised Exam Structure
— Revised Exam Structure —

  • Existing qualification exams will be divided into a single “core” exam, currently called the “Essentials Exam,” and then a “top-off” exam (Series 6, Series 7, Series 79, etc.).  FINRA says this will reduce redundancy in the current exams.   This means that if the Essentials Exam will be 100 questions long, the revised Series 7 will be approximately 150 questions.  Currently, the Series 7 is composed of 250 questions.
  • Content on the Essentials Exam will be stable and will cover core subjects such as the structure and functioning of the securities industry, the regulatory agencies and their responsibilities, basic economics, product knowledge (stocks, bonds, mutual funds), regulated and prohibited practices and professional conduct.
  • The Essentials Exam will be different in that a person will not need to be associated with a member firm (you will not need to have a job in the securities industry) in order to take the Essentials Exam.  Also, passing the Essentials Exam will be valid for four years.  Current exams are valid for two years.
  • FINRA hopes that non-registered employees of member firms will take the Essentials Exam and increase the level of industry knowledge among all employees.
  • Passing the Essentials Exam alone will not be enough to qualify an individual to be registered.  This means that the Essentials Exam will not appear in BrokerCheck, FINRA’s public online database of registered individuals and firms.  FINRA says it’s building an enrollment management system that will permit people to take the Essentials Exam without using the U-4 and having to get fingerprinted.
  • FINRA plans to maintain the 30/30/180 day rule for those who fail exams.
  • Currently registered individuals will be grandfathered into the Essentials Exam and, if such a person leaves the industry, it would be valid for four years.
  • FINRA hopes to launch the Essentials Exam and top-off exams in early 2017.

FINRA also mentioned plans to retire the following exams and categories because they say that too few take these exams to make them worth continuing. Individuals registered in these categories will be permitted to retain their registration:

  • Series 62 (Corporate Securities Representative)
  • Series 42 (Options Representative)
  • Series 72 (Government Securities Representative)

FINRA is also considering retiring the Series 11 (Order Processing Assistant).

Fun Fact:  The FINRA qualification exam program began in 1956 with the Series 1 exam.