Interview: How Fernando Russo passed four securities licensing exams

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

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

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

Fernando Russo

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

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

I took the 79 last. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to Pass the NASAA Series 65 Exam

What is the Series 65 exam and how should you prepare for it? Read Solomon Exam Prep’s guide to the NASAA Series 65 exam. Continue reading

What does the NASAA Series 65 allow me to do?

The Series 65, also known as the Uniform Investment Adviser Law Examination, qualifies individuals to give investment advice for a fee. Investment adviser representatives (IARs) use their knowledge to give financial advice and help clients build investment portfolios. IARs might provide general investment advice or recommend a client to invest in a specific security. IARs can also manage client accounts and supervise other IARs.

The organization that creates the test—the North American Securities Administrators Association, or NASAA—works to protect investors in every state, territory, the District of Columbia, Canada, and Mexico. Requiring investment adviser representative candidates to pass the Series 65 is a key tool in the NASAA’s investor protection arsenal. Regulators want to make sure people who are giving investment advice in their state or jurisdiction are competent and will behave legally and ethically.

About the Exam

The Series 65 exam consists of 130 scored and 10 unscored multiple-choice questions covering the four sections of the NASAA Series 65 exam outline. The 10 additional unscored questions are ones that the exam committee is trying out. These are unidentified and are distributed randomly throughout the exam. NASAA updates its exam questions regularly to reflect the most current rules and regulations.

Note: Scores are rounded down to the lowest whole number (e.g. 71.9% would be a final score of 71%–not a passing score for the Series 65 exam).

Topics Covered on the Exam

The NASAA divides the Series 65 exam into four sections:

The Series 65 exam covers many topics including the following:

    • Economics
    • Financial reporting
    • Quantitative methods
    • Risks
    • Cash investments
    • Fixed income
    • Equities
    • Pooled investments, such as mutual funds, ETFs, and REITs
    • Derivatives
    • Alternatives
    • Annuities and other insurance-based investments
    • Client types
    • Client profiles
    • Capital market theory
    • Portfolio management
    • Taxes
    • Retirement plans
    • ERISA
    • Special accounts, such as college savings plans
    • Trading securities
    • Performance measures
    • State and federal securities acts and regulations
    • Ethical practices and fiduciary obligations

Question Types on the Series 65

The Series 65 exam consists of multiple-choice questions, each with four options. You will see these question structures:

Closed Stem Format:

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

Which of the following actions might the Federal Reserve take if it wishes to stimulate the economy?

    1. Buy Treasuries
    2. Raise the discount rate
    3. Raise the bank reserve requirements
    4. Raise the margin requirements
Incomplete Sentence Format:

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

A recession is a protracted period of decline in the national economy, typically defined as:

    1. More than two quarters of decreasing GDP
    2. More than two quarters of decline in the housing market
    3. More than two quarters of shrinking M1
    4. More than two quarters of a falling PPI
“EXCEPT” Format:

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

All of the following are tools that the Federal Reserve uses to implement monetary policy except:

    1. Open market operations
    2. Discount window lending
    3. Altering bank reserve requirements
    4. Altering the value of the dollar
Fill-in-the-Blank Format:

This question type has a missing word or phrase, which you must select from the four options provided.

A situation in which short-term securities pay higher yields than long-term securities is considered a(n) _____ yield curve.

    1. Normal
    2. Inverted
    3. Flat
    4. Barbell
Complex Multiple-Choice (“Roman Numeral”) Format:

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

A stronger dollar benefits which group?

    1. U.S. exporters
    2. U.S. importers
    3. U.S. investors who want to invest in foreign assets
    4. Overseas investors who want to invest in U.S. assets
    1. I and II
    2. II and III
    3. III and IV
    4. I and IV

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

Order the following from lowest to highest:

    1. Broker call rate
    2. Federal funds rate
    3. Prime rate
    4. Discount rate
    1. I, IV, III, I
    2. III, II, I, IV
    3. IV, III, I, II
    4. II, IV, I, III

How to Study for the Series 65

Follow Solomon Exam Prep’s proven study system:
    • Read and understand. It’s simple: read the Solomon Study Guide, carefully. The Series 65 is a knowledge test, not an IQ test. Many students read the Study Guide two or three times before taking the exam. To increase your ability to focus while reading, or as an alternative to reading, listen to the Solomon Audiobook, which is a word-for-word reading of the Solomon Study Guide.
    • Answer practice questions in the Solomon Exam Simulator. When you’re done with a chapter in the Study Guide, take 4 – 6 chapter quizzes in the Solomon Online Exam Simulator. Use these quizzes to give yourself practice and to find out what you need to study more. Make sure you read and understand the question rationales. When you’re finished reading the entire Study Guide, review your handwritten notes once more. Then, and only then, start taking full practice exams in the Exam Simulator. Aim to pass at least six full practice exams and try to get your average score to at least an 80; when you reach that point, you are probably ready to sit for the Series 65 exam.
Use these effective study strategies:
    • Take handwritten notes. As you read the Study Guide, take handwritten notes and review your notes every day for 10 to 15 minutes. Studies show that the act of taking handwritten notes in your own words and then reviewing them strengthens learning and memory.
    • Make flashcards. Making your own flashcards is another powerful and proven method to reinforce memory and strengthen learning. Solomon also offers digital flashcards for the Series 65 exam.
    • Research. Research anything you do not understand. Curiosity = learning. Students who take responsibility for their own learning by researching anything they do not understand get a deeper understanding of the subject matter and are much more likely to pass.
    • Become the teacher. Studies show that explaining what you are learning greatly increases your understanding of the material. Ask someone in your life to listen and ask questions. If you don’t have anyone, explain it to yourself. Studies show that helps almost as much as explaining to an actual person (see Solomon’s recent post to learn more about this strategy!).
Take advantage of Solomon’s supplemental tools and resources:
    • Use all the resources. The Resources folder in your Solomon student account has helpful information, including a detailed study schedule that you can print out – or use the online study schedule and check off tasks as you complete them.
    • Watch the Video Lecture. This provides a helpful review of the key concepts in each chapter after reading the Solomon Study Guide. Take notes to help yourself stay focused.
  • Good practices while studying:
    • Take regular breaks. Studies show that if you are studying for an exam, taking regular walks in a park or natural setting significantly improves scores. Walks in urban areas or among people did not improve test scores.
    • Get enough sleep during the period when you are studying. Sleep consolidates learning into memory, studies show. Be good to yourself while you are studying for the Series 65: exercise, eat well, and avoid activities that will hurt your ability to get a good night’s sleep.

You can pass the NASAA Series 65! It just takes work and determination. Solomon Exam Prep is here to support you on your journey to becoming a registered Investment Adviser Representative.

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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.

 

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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.

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

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

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

Accredited Investors

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

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

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

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

Qualified Institutional Buyers

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

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

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

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

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

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


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How to Pass the FINRA Series 14 and Become a FINRA-registered Compliance Officer

Looking to become a compliance officer for a broker-dealer? Read Solomon Exam Prep’s guide to effective preparation for the FINRA Series 14 exam. Continue reading

What does the FINRA Series 14 allow me to do?

The FINRA Series 14, also known as the Compliance Officer Exam, is a principal-level exam that qualifies you to serve as a compliance officer for a broker-dealer, including being designated as the Chief Compliance Officer (CCO) of a broker-dealer in its SEC registration. The Series 14 was designed to make sure that individuals who have day-to-day compliance responsibilities or supervise others engaged in compliance activities have the knowledge necessary to carry out their job responsibilities.

There are two ways to achieve the Compliance Officer qualification: pass the SIE, Series 7, and Series 24 exams, or pass just the Series 14 exam. In other words, by taking the Series 14, you get to take one exam instead of three. For this reason, the Series 14 is broader, deeper, and more difficult than most FINRA exams. Passing the Series 14 requires knowledge of compliance issues related to a broad range of broker-dealer activities, from the mechanics of trading to the details of the underwriting process to the publication of research reports.

You must be associated with a FINRA member firm in order to take the Series 14.

About the Exam

The Series 14 exam consists of 110 multiple-choice questions covering the nine sections of the FINRA Series 14 exam outline. FINRA updates its exam questions regularly to reflect the most current rules and regulations.

Note: Scores are rounded down to the lowest whole number (e.g. 69.9% would be a final score of 69%–not a passing score for the Series 14 exam).

Topics Covered on the Exam

FINRA divides the Series 14 exam into nine areas. These areas are organized by the types of knowledge that a compliance officer will need to know to complete various job functions.

The Series 14 exam covers many topics including the following:

    • Components of a satisfactory supervisory system as defined by FINRA
    • Rules and mechanics of the securities markets
    • Margin requirements
    • Sales practices
    • Types of brokerage accounts
    • Separation of research and investment banking
    • Net capital requirements
    • Registration requirements for firms and associated persons
    • Business continuity plans
    • Customer identification and anti–money laundering compliance

Question Types on the Series 14

The Series 14 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.

Under Rule 144, what is the holding period for stock purchased in the open market by a control person?

    1. Two years
    2. One year
    3. Six months
    4. No holding period
Incomplete Sentence Format:

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

According to NYSE rules, a block of stock is defined as:

    1. 10,000 shares, or a quantity with a market value of $150,000 or more, whichever is less.
    2. 10,000 shares, or a quantity with a market value of $200,000 or more, whichever is less.
    3. 20,000 shares, or a quantity with a market value of $200,000 or more, whichever is less.
    4. 20,000 shares, or a quantity with a market value of $200,000 or more, whichever is more.
“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 require the successful completion of one or more exams except a:

    1. specialist
    2. trader
    3. securities lending representative
    4. two-dollar broker
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 two of the following employees of a member organization must be registered and qualified under NYSE Rule 345?

    1. An employee with authority to bind the firm to a contract involving securities activities
    2. An employee who only trades for the firm’s account and does not transact business with the public
    3. An employee with duties and responsibilities similar to those of a registered representative
    4. A supervisor of an employee who solicits business for the firm from another member firm
    1. I and III
    2. I and IV
    3. II and III
    4. II and IV

This format is also used in items that ask you to rank a set of statements from high to low or to place a series of events in the proper sequence.

In which order, from first to last, are the following actions performed during the underwriting of an issue of corporate securities?

    1. The holding of a due diligence meeting
    2. Investigation and analysis of the issuer
    3. The filing of a registration statement
    4. Distribution of the red herring to customers giving indications of interest
    1. I, II, III, IV
    2. II, III, I, IV
    3. III, I, II, IV
    4. IV, II, III, I

Study Strategies for the Series 14

    • 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.
    • Read and understand. It’s simple: read the Solomon Study Guide, carefully. The Series 14 is a knowledge test, not an IQ test. Many students read the Study Guide two or three times before taking the exam.
    • Take handwritten notes. As you read the Solomon Series 14 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 these notes 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.
    • 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 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 14 exam.
    • 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 14: exercise, eat well, and avoid activities that will hurt your ability to get a good night’s sleep.

You can pass the FINRA Series 14! It just takes work and determination. Solomon Exam Prep is here to support you on your journey to becoming a FINRA-registered Compliance Officer.

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

Answering Suitability Questions on the FINRA Series 7

Suitability questions may appear daunting. But they don’t have to be – read the Solomon guide to answering suitability questions with ease. Continue reading

If you’re taking the FINRA Series 7 exam, you very possibly dread the term suitability. We understand that suitability questions may appear daunting. But to enhance your chances of passing the exam, you should have a good understanding of the concept and how it applies to certain test questions.

Suitability questions can be difficult because they often contain more than one answer choice that seems plausible. In short, they are more open-ended than other questions that appear on the exam. While this can make these questions tough, keep in mind that in each suitability question has one BEST answer given the information provided. This blog will help you select that that best answer choice.

First, what is a suitability question? The most basic type of suitability question presents a hypothetical investor and his profile and asks you which investment or investments is most suitable for him. Other suitability questions are about specific products. For instance, a question might ask you to choose the bond that would be most suitable for a high-income earner – usually a municipal bond. Finally, other types of suitability questions may provide an information about an investor and her profile and you will be asked which investments should be removed and/or added to her portfolio, or which proposed asset allocation is best.

So, what’s the best strategy for answering these questions?

1. Learn and memorize the characteristics of the investment products.

The most basic requirement for properly approaching any of these questions is to have a good understanding of the investment products mentioned in the question. Think about it this way: if you don’t know the characteristics a product, it’s difficult to know who should and shouldn’t buy it. For instance, if you don’t know the characteristics of a growth fund or a municipal bond it will be hard to assess which investors should own these products or avoid them in favor of other products. This means learning and memorizing the characteristics of the major investment products, such as stocks, bonds, funds, and options, is the first step to mastering suitability.

2. Categorize the investment goals of the investor in the question.

Assuming that you understand the products mentioned in a question, let’s look at what else you should consider when answering a suitability question. First, when reading a suitability question, focus on the financial goals attributed to the hypothetical investor presented in the question.

There are four major investing goals and strategies that you should keep in mind when doing this. First, there are capital preservation investors. These investors are interested in obtaining a minimum level of return while not putting their principal at any significant risk. Then there are the income investors. These want to receive a steady stream of payments in hopes of supplementing their income. Third, there are capital growth investors. These are long-term investors whose primary hope is seeing the value of their investments rise over time. Finally, there are the speculative investors. These investors are willing to take on more risk in the hopes of earning higher gains in a shorter amount of time. Placing an investor in one of these categories, or a blend of two of these categories, will help you figure out which investments are most suitable for the investor.

3. Analyze the profile of the Investor, looking for risk tolerance, time horizon and tax bracket.
Risk Tolerance:

Look for the investor’s risk tolerance. If an investor is not willing to take on much risk, only the most conservative investments are suitable for him. In contrast, an investor with a high risk tolerance is willing to own more volatile types of investments. Typically, conservative risk tolerance correlates with capital preservation investors, and sometimes income investors, while high risk tolerance correlates with speculative investors and many capital growth investors. Examples of conservative investments include U.S. Treasury securities, money market funds, and bank CDs. Examples of high-risk investments include penny stocks, options, junk bonds, and possibly growth stocks.

Time Horizon:

An investor’s time horizon is another factor you must consider. Is the investor hoping for long-term growth, or is he going to need to cash out of his investments in a relatively short amount of time? Sometimes a question will not present you with this exact information but instead will give an investor’s age. Questions that mention an investor who is in his 20s or 30s are indicating someone with a long time horizon. In contrast, questions that describe an investor who only has a few years until retirement are usually describing someone with a shorter time horizon. Scenarios that describe a couple who wants to buy a house or pay for college in the next year, will also have a short time horizon, and therefore, will require liquid investments.

So which investments are best for long- and short-term investors? An investor with a long time horizon is able to invest in products that are expected to grow over time, such as growth stocks, equity mutual funds and ETFs, or annuities. He is also more likely to take on riskier investments since he has more time to make up for any losses. On the other hand, a short-term investor should invest in less volatile securities or debt investments that mature in the near term, such as U.S. Treasuries and money market funds. An investor with a short time horizon is also less likely to take on a high level of risk than a long-term investor because a short-term investor does not have as much time to make up any losses.

Tax Bracket:

A final factor to consider when determining suitability is income level or tax bracket. An investor who makes a lot of money will typically have a higher federal income tax rate. This means the money he receives from his investments will be more heavily taxed than the money someone in a lower tax bracket. Additionally, for a high income investor, capital gains are taxed at a lower rate than interest income. Oftentimes, it is best to recommend investments with fewer tax implications for a high-income investor. Municipal bonds, whose interest payments are usually tax-free at the federal level and often also tax-free at the state level, are typically suitable investments for high-income investors. In contrast, because the interest rates for municipal bonds are often lower than the interest rates for corporate bonds, investors in lower tax brackets may be better off purchasing corporate bonds than municipal bonds. Additionally, stocks are often suitable for investors with higher tax rates because their gains are not taxed until the stocks are actually sold. At the same time, investments that pay regular interest, but do not come with tax advantages may not be suitable for high-income investors because they will have to pay taxes on this interest.

So now that you know what to look for in suitability-type questions, let’s look at a couple of them:  

QUESTION ONE:

Mary is an investor in her thirties. She makes $50,000 a year and is hoping to find an investment that will provide capital appreciation. At the same time, she would not mind supplementing her income by receiving regular payments from her investment. Which of the following would be most suitable for her?

    1. A municipal bond fund
    2. A growth and income fund
    3. A small-cap stock fund
    4. Penny stocks

This question tells you Mary’s investment goals and objectives. She’s looking for capital growth and secondarily income, so she’s a blend between a capital growth and income investor. Additionally, since she’s in her thirties, you can assume that she has a relatively long time horizon. Finally, her low income means she is not in a high tax bracket.

You know that Mary needs an investment option that provides the potential for both capital growth and income payments. Both penny stocks and small-cap stocks carry the potential for capital growth; however, neither of them typically offers income payments. That is because neither penny stocks nor small-cap stocks pay meaningful dividends. This eliminates choices C and D. A municipal bond fund would provide income because municipal bonds make semi-annual interest payments. However, outside of high-yield bonds, bonds in general don’t offer much in the way of capital growth. Also, since interest from municipal bonds is generally not taxed at the federal level, municipal bond interest payments are lower than corporate debt securities and thus are not the best debt investment option for an investor who is not in a high tax bracket. Given all of this information, you can eliminate choice A as well. Now let’s look at choice B. A growth and income fund contains stocks with `capital growth potential along with stocks that provide regular dividend payments. Also, growth stocks are also good for investors like Mary who have long time horizons. Looks like you’ve found the correct answer: Choice B makes the most sense. 

 

QUESTION TWO:

Alisha is 26 and has just received an MBA. She’s starting on a career as a sales manager at a large company and has a bright future. She has $15,000 to invest with your firm, and she tells you that she would like to see that principal appreciate as much as possible over the next two to three decades. She also says she has no problem taking on a high level of risk to help make that happen. Which of the following asset allocations would be most suitable for Alisha?

    1. 20% income fund, 20% municipal bond fund, 20% fixed annuities, 20% dividend-paying stocks, 10% non-traditional ETFs, 10% cash
    2. 20% bond mutual fund, 20% agency bonds, 10% money market funds, 15% bank CDs, 15% dividend-paying stocks, 10%, 10% cash
    3. 30% large-cap stocks, 20% equity index mutual fund, 20% U.S. Treasuries, 20% AAA-rated corporate bond funds, 10% FDIC-insured bank CDs
    4. 20% small-cap stocks, 20% medium-cap stocks, 20% growth fund, 15% high-yield bond funds, 15% balanced fund, 10% interval fund

Again, you’re presented with the investor’s investment goals and objectives in the question prompt. In stating that Alisha hopes to see her principal appreciate as much as possible over a long period of time, the question is telling you that she is a capital growth investor. It also is implying that she has a long time horizon. Additionally, it states that she is willing to take on a high level of risk in meeting her investing goals, which means she’s an investor with a high risk tolerance.

Given each of these factors, you need to look for the portfolio that makes the most sense for her. That portfolio should contain more equity investments than debt investments. That is because in general equities provide better capital growth potential than bonds. Additionally, you should look for investments that have higher growth potential and which carry more than a moderate level of risk. Remember that higher risk often equals higher potential reward, and Alisha is willing to take this gamble.

So let’s look at each of the possible answer choices.

Alisha isn’t really interested in earning income as part of her strategy and wants the potential for large gains. That means choice A, which is heavy on income and low-return investments, should be discarded. The same is true of choice B. Choice C is a bit tougher to eliminate. That’s because this hypothetical portfolio does include some growth-type investments, such as large-cap stocks and equity index mutual funds. However, these are both equity investments that are known to provide a more moderate return potential than Alisha is seeking. Additionally, choice C contains a relatively high percentage of fixed and low-return investments, and thus it doesn’t look like a great answer choice. That leaves choice D. The hypothetical portfolio presented in that answer choice is heavy on aggressive growth-type stocks and funds that carry a high level of risk, such as small-cap stocks, mid-cap socks, and growth funds. Additionally, a high-yield bond fund is a type of debt security that comes with capital growth potential. And it includes 10% allocation to an interval fund, a type of fund that invests in non-publicly traded securities that are illiquid and may be less correlated to the other publicly trade securities in this portfolio. Thus, choice D is the best choice and the correct answer. 

Suitability questions are definitely not easy. But if you consider all of the relevant aspects presented in the answer choices and have a solid understanding of different types of investments, they are something you can master. And master them you must if you want to pass the Series 7 or the Series 6 exam.

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

Securities Exam Score Survey Results Are In

Do you think FINRA should provide exam scores to those who pass their qualification exams? Keep reading to learn the results of the Solomon survey. Continue reading

Solomon Exam Prep loves to hear customers’ opinions on all things securities exam-related. We recently conducted a LinkedIn poll about this question: 

Do you think FINRA should provide exam scores to those who pass their qualification exams? 

110 people voted: 73% answered “yes” and 27% answered “no.”  

Before October 2018, everyone who took a securities exam received a score. Since October 2018, FINRA only provides a score to those who fail. But the results of the Solomon survey are clear: ignorance is not bliss. A majority of exam respondents would like to know their exam scores upon passing. 

For more polls, news, and securities exam updates, follow the Solomon LinkedIn page.

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. 

Solomon Releases New Edition of Series 14 Study Guide and Exam Simulator 

The Series 14 is one of the more difficult FINRA exams, so it’s a good idea to be well-prepared going into test day – Solomon Exam Prep can help! Continue reading

Do you need to know about compliance issues related to a wide range of broker-dealer activities? Do you plan to supervise others engaged in compliance activities? If you said “yes” to these questions, then you probably work for a broker-dealer and need to take the FINRA Series 14 exam. The Series 14 is one of the more difficult FINRA exams, so it’s a good idea to be well-prepared going into test day – Solomon Exam Prep can help! 

Solomon is proud to announce the release of the 2nd edition of the Solomon Exam Prep Guide to the Series 14 Compliance Officer Examination. This comprehensive Solomon Study Guide is written in clear English and packed with practice questions, exercises, and visual aids for better understanding. The 2nd edition includes key updates and improvements designed to help Series 14 students prepare for their exam more effectively so that they can pass the first time.   

The Solomon Series 14 Study Guide, 2nd edition, includes: 
  • A chapter dedicated to research reports and research analysts, with new practice questions 
  • Expanded and revised discussion of Regulation SHO vs. OTC close-out rules 
  • Streamlined and simplified explanation of margin accounts 
  • Expanded and revised discussion of Regulation M stabilizing activities 
  • New material about tax rules for gifting shares to charity 
  • New material about stock splits for restricted stock 
  • New material about SPACs 
  • New material about categories of issuers, such as WKSIs and EGCs 
  • The SEC’s March rules update regarding Regulation D and Regulation A offerings 

Solomon has also updated the Series 14 Online Exam Simulator to reflect the changes made to the Study Guide. The new Series 14 Exam Simulator contains over 2,400 questions written by Solomon content experts. This massive question bank means that you will encounter new questions with each practice quiz or exam you take. Plus, each question provides a robust explanation so that you learn even more as you test yourself.

I would like to say a big thank you to Solomon for helping me pass my Series 14 exam. I took this exam the first time and missed passing by few marks. I was really sad and discouraged so reached out to Jeremy Solomon and he really took the time to talk to me and provide his guidance and advice. He also provided me with additional resources immediately to help with my second attempt. I recently passed this exam. Their study material is easy to understand and the Online Exam Simulator also has a lot of questions chapter-wise which were very helpful. Their customer service has been amazing and very responsive. Thank you Solomon. I will definitely recommend Solomon for anyone planning to take this exam.

Rachna Shah

CBRE. Beverly Hills, CA 

Solomon Exam Prep is committed to providing industry-leading securities licensing materials, which are continuously kept up-to date. If you are an existing Solomon Series 14 customer, the new 2nd edition will be automatically updated in your account, free of charge. 

To view samples of the Solomon Series 14 Study Guide and Exam Simulator, visit the Solomon website here