How to Pass the MSRB Series 53 Exam

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

What is the Series 53 exam?

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

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

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

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

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

About the Exam

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

Series 53 exam details in a table

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

Topics Covered on the Exam

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

Series 53 exam topics

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

Question Types on the Exam

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

Closed Stem Format:

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

Which agencies enforce MSRB rules for broker-dealers?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Taking the Series 53 Exam

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

Test-Taking Tips

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

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

How to Study for the Series 53 Exam

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

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

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

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

Series 53 Solomon Study Guide, 4th Edition, Now Available

The 4th edition of the Solomon Series 53 Study Guide covers everything you need to know to pass the Series 53 Exam and become a Municipal Securities Principal. Continue reading

If you’re already working as a Municipal Securities Representative (Series 52), then you may be considering taking the Series 53 exam as a next step. Passing the MSRB Series 53, or Municipal Securities Principal Qualification Exam, qualifies you to oversee the municipal fund securities activities of a securities firm or bank dealer. You’re also qualified to supervise others working in several capacities related to municipal securities.

The Series 53 exam is 100 questions long and tests your knowledge of six main topics:

    • Federal regulations
    • General supervision
    • Sales supervision
    • Origination and syndication
    • Trading
    • Operations

Given this broad scope, you shouldn’t take the Series 53 exam lightly. How can you prepare for exam day?

Solomon Exam Prep has just released the 4th edition of “The Solomon Exam Prep Guide: Series 53 MSRB Municipal Securities Principal Qualification Examination.” With this updated version of the Study Guide, professionals seeking their Series 53 license can learn the content they need to know to pass the Series 53 exam. Solomon Study Guides are continuously kept up-to-date and cover all key exam topics.

“Preparing for the Series 53 requires significant study time with high-quality materials. Solomon's innovative study system ensures you learn the information you need to know as efficiently as possible.”
Jeremy Solomon
Solomon Exam Prep President and Co-founder
What changes with this new edition?

While the core content of the study guide remains the same, some key changes include:

    • More detailed coverage of the MSRB’s advertising rules
    • Expansion and update of the process for close-outs
    • Revised coverage of 529 plans
    • Greater detail about how to handle customer complaints
    • Expansion of the taping rule section
    • Additions to the free-to-trade wires section
    • Expansion and update of material on limitations on gifts, gratuities, and non-cash compensation
    • A new appendix summarizing the most important and relevant MSRB rules

Content updates for these new editions are also reflected in the Solomon Exam Simulator. The online Exam Simulator complements the Study Guide with over a thousand practice questions for the Series 53. Hone, track, and assess your knowledge by taking unlimited chapter quizzes and full exams to practice what you’ve learned.

Series 53 Study Materials

The Series 53 Study Guide is available as a digital subscription with a hardcopy upgrade option. It can be purchased individually or in a package with accompanying Series 53 study products. Customers also have access to free tools and resources, including a study schedule in digital and pdf formats, which helps students master the exam material with maximum efficiency.

To learn more about Solomon Exam Prep’s Series 53 study materials, including Study Guide and Exam Simulator, visit the Solomon Series 53 product page.

Also coming soon is the Solomon Series 53 Audiobook! The Audiobook is a word-for-word recording of the Solomon Series 53 Study Guide, giving you greater flexibility in where and how you study for the Series 53 exam.

Related Posts

What Does “Tender” Mean on Securities Exams?

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

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

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

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Best Execution: It’s Not Just for Capital Punishment!

MSRB Rule G-18, effective March 21, 2016, establishes a best-execution rule for municipal security transactions. The rule requires brokers and dealers to make reasonable efforts to find as favorable a price as possible for a customer’s transaction, given the prevailing conditions of the market. G-18 is comparable to FINRA Rule 5310, though it is designed specifically to meet the needs of the municipal securities market. —This post is relevant to the Series 52 and Series 53.— Continue reading

Rule G-18
MSRB Rule G-18, effective March 21, 2016, establishes a best-execution rule for municipal security transactions.  The rule requires brokers and dealers to make reasonable efforts to find as favorable a price as possible for a customer’s transaction, given the prevailing conditions of the market. G-18 is comparable to FINRA Rule 5310, though it is designed specifically to meet the needs of the municipal securities market.

In deciding how and where to execute a trade, a broker-dealer is expected to consider these factors:

• The character of the market for the security, such as its price, volatility, and liquidity
• The size and the type of transaction
• The number of markets checked
• The information reviewed to determine the current market for the security or similar securities
• The accessibility of the quotation
• The terms and conditions of the transaction as communicated to the broker-dealer

Because municipal securities trade over-the-counter, the term “market” should be interpreted broadly to include trading among broker’s brokers, alternative trading systems, or other counter-parties. Dealers must be especially vigilant with transactions in markets where trading is thin and limited pricing information is available.

If a dealer does not get the best price possible in the market, this does not necessarily mean that reasonable diligence was not used.  However, if the dealer makes another trade soon after and gets a better price for a similar security and there has been no significant change in the market, this is an indicator that the dealer did not use reasonable diligence.

The following are a few examples of characteristics that may be used to determine if two securities are similar:

• Issuer
• Source of repayment
• Credit rating
• Coupon
• Maturity
• Redemption features
• Sector of the market
• Geographical region
• Tax status

Broker-dealers must institute written policies and procedures that address how they will make a best-execution determination in the absence of pricing information or multiple quotations. They must document compliance with those policies and conduct reviews at least once a year to assess their effectiveness.

Broker-dealers are exempt from the best execution requirement when acting on behalf of a sophisticated municipal market professional (SMMP).  An SMMP is:

• A bank, savings and loan association, insurance company, or investment company
• A registered investment adviser
• Any other individual or entity having total assets of at least $50 million

Note: Because broker-dealers are not considered to be customers, the best-execution standard does not have to be applied to trades between broker-dealers that are not on behalf of a customer.

This post is relevant to the Series 52 and Series 53.

Bank Loan Disclosures on EMMA

EMMA, the Electronic Municipal Market Access website, now allows issuers to voluntarily share bank loan disclosure information online. Continue reading

EMMA, the Electronic Municipal Market Access website, now allows issuers to voluntarily share bank loan disclosure information online.

EMMA was created by the MSRB to give investors online access to official statements for municipal bonds, as well as other disclosure documents.  By adding the ability for issuers to share bank loan disclosure information, the MSRB is helping to provide investors with more transparency and more information with which to approach the municipal market.

The information can be posted on the issuer’s customized homepage. Getting it displayed is a two-step process. First, the issuer must submit the bank loan disclosure via the EMMA Dataport Submission Portal.  Once the information is submitted, it can be published on the Customized Issuer Homepage by using the Issuer Dashboard.

Investors will find bank loan disclosures and other documentation under the Continuing Disclosure tab on the issuer’s customized homepage.

EMMA is covered on the Series 7, 50, 51, 52, and 53 exams.  For more information about EMMA and the services it provides, please visit: http://emma.msrb.org/aboutemma/overview.aspx

Study Question of the Month – January

This month’s study question from the Solomon Online Exam Simulator question database is now available. Submit your answer for a chance to win a $10 Starbucks gift card! Relevant to the Series 7, 24, 26, 27, 51, 52, 53, 62, 79, 82, 99. –ANSWER POSTED– Continue reading

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

***Submit your answer to info@solomonexamprep.com to be entered to win a $10 Starbucks gift card.***

 Study Question

Question (Relevant to the Series 7Series 24, Series 26, Series 27, Series 51, Series 52, Series 53Series 62Series 79, Series 82, Series 99) 

Jon and Jenny are married. They each have an individual account and they have a joint account owned by both of them. What is the combined maximum SIPC coverage for all their accounts?

Answers:

A. $500,000

B. $1,000,000

C. $1,500,000

D. $750,000

Correct Answer: C. $1,500,000

Rationale: SIPC covers a maximum of $500,000 per “separate customer” at a broker-dealer or clearing firm including up to $250,000 in cash.Total coverage can be higher for multiple accounts if the accounts are considered to be held by separate customers. There are five categories of separate customers defined by SIPC. These categories include 1) individual accounts, 2) joint accounts, 3) accounts held by executors, administrators, and guardians/custodians/conservators (such as UGMA accounts), 4) accounts held by corporations, partnerships, or unincorporated associations, and 5) trust accounts. Thus, two individual accounts held by two different people, and one joint account would be considered three separate customers by the SIPC, and therefore subject to a maximum of $1,500,000 of coverage.

Congratulations! This month’s winner is Abe B.

Weekly study questions are from Solomon’s industry-leading Online Exam Simulator.

MSRB Rule Changes: Series 51, 52, and 53

The MSRB has added two new rules effective July 9, 2014. They are Rule G-47 (Time of Trade Disclosure) and Rule G-48 (Transactions with Sophisticated Municipal Market Professionals). MSRB has also amended Rule G-3 (Classification of Principals and Representatives) and Rule G-19 (Suitability), effective September 30, 2014. These four changes coordinate MSRB rules with FINRA rules and remove regulatory redundancies. Continue reading

The MSRB has added two new rules effective July 9, 2014. They are Rule G-47 (Time of Trade Disclosure) and Rule G-48 (Transactions with Sophisticated Municipal Market Professionals). MSRB has also amended Rule G-3 (Classification of Principals and Representatives) and Rule G-19 (Suitability), effective September 30, 2014. These four changes coordinate MSRB rules with FINRA rules and remove regulatory redundancies.

MSRB Rule G-3.  MSRB narrows the definition of Limited Representative – Investment Company and Variable Contracts Products (Series 6). Under FINRA rules, a Series 6 license only allows individuals to be involved in the purchase and sale of funds and variable products. The new MSRB rule will now be consistent with the FINRA rules. Representatives who want to participate in broader activities, such as underwriting, research and investment advice must now take and pass the Municipal Securities Representative Qualification Examination (Series 52).

Amended Rule G-3 also eliminates the designation of Municipal Securities Financial and Operations Principal (FINOP). Since municipal securities dealers that require a FINOP are also FINRA members and since FINRA has similar FINOP requirements, Rule G-3 eliminates the redundancy by removing its separate FINOP designation.

MSRB Rule G-19.  MSRB’s amended suitability rule conforms to FINRA’s own recent changes to its rule. Specifically, the amended rule recognizes three components to a broker-dealer’s suitability obligations. First, a broker-dealer must understand the complexity and risks of a security or investment strategy and consciously decide its suitability for at least some investors. Second, it must reasonably believe that a recommendation is suitable for a particular customer based on the customer’s personal and investment profile. Third, when a broker-dealer has control over a customer account, it must reasonably believe that a series of recommended securities transactions are not excessive.

MSRB Rule G-47.  This new rule requires broker-dealers to disclose to its customers all material information about a transaction and the security at or prior to the time of trade. Information is considered “material” if a reasonable investor is likely to consider it important in making an investment decision. Disclosures must include a complete description of the security and any facts important to assessing the potential risks of the investment.

MSRB Rule G-48.  Rule G-48 exempts broker-dealers from any obligation to disclose material information to customers who are sophisticated municipal market professionals (SMMPSs). It also exempts broker-dealers from informing an SMMP that the price of a secondary market agency transaction is fair and reasonable, as long as the broker-dealer has not recommended the transaction or exercised discretion as to its execution. Finally, Rule G-48 exempts broker-dealers from the obligation to perform a customer-specific suitability analysis for an SMMP.

Study Question of the Week: August 14, 2014 Edition

This week’s study question from the Solomon Online Exam Simulator question database is now available. Relevant to the Series 7, 51, 52, 53, 62, 82, and 99. –ANSWER POSTED– Continue reading

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

Study ? of the Week

Question (Relevant to the Series 7, Series 51, Series 52, Series 53Series 62, Series 82, and Series 99): 

When money is regularly put into an escrow account in order to redeem the bonds before maturity this is called:

Answers: 

A. A sinking fund redemption

B. Advance refunding

C. Defeasement

D. A make whole provision

Correct Answer: A. A sinking fund redemption

Rationale: A sinking fund redemption requires the issuer to set money aside regularly in a reserve account for the redemption of the bonds before maturity.

Weekly study questions are from Solomon’s industry-leading Online Exam Simulator.

Study Question of the Week: July 9, 2014 Edition

This week’s study question from the Solomon Online Exam Simulator question database is now available. Relevant to the Series 7, 51, 52, 53, 62, 79, 82, and 99. –ANSWER POSTED– Continue reading

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

Study ? of the Week

Question (Relevant to the Series 7Series 51Series 52Series 53, Series 62, Series 79, Series 82, and Series 99): 

When new bonds are issued with the purpose of using the proceeds to pay off older bonds, it is called?

Answers:

A. Refunding

B. Defeasement

C. A sinking fund redemption

D. A bond SWAP

Correct Answer: A. Refunding

Rationale: A bond refunding is the replacement of existing bonds with new “refunding“ bonds. The issuer of refunding bonds often seeks to lower its interest payments by paying off its previously issued (refunded) bonds with newly issued bonds that pay interest at a lower rate. Another reason to refund existing bonds may be to release the issuer from legal covenants or restrictions in the original indenture.

Weekly study questions are from Solomon’s industry-leading Online Exam Simulator.