How to Pass the MSRB Series 54 Exam

Thinking about taking the Series 54 exam? Keep reading to learn what the Series 54 qualifies you to do, what the exam covers, and how you should prepare for it. Continue reading

What is the Series 54 exam?

The Series 54, also called the Municipal Advisor 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. As of November 30, 2021, all municipal advisor professionals working in the capacity of a municipal advisor principal must pass the Series 54 to be appropriately qualified.

Passing the Series 54 exam qualifies you to manage, direct, and supervise municipal advisory activities. These activities include advising a municipality regarding issuing municipal securities, such as the structure, timing, or terms of an issue. Soliciting municipal securities business from municipalities on behalf of a third party is also a form of municipal advising.

Are there other exams I need to take to become a municipal advisor principal?

Yes. To become properly qualified as a municipal advisor principal, you must also pass the Series 50, Municipal Advisor Representative Qualification Exam.

About the Exam

The Series 54 exam consists of 100 scored and ten unscored multiple-choice questions. You have three hours to complete the exam, and you must score a 70% or higher to pass.

Series 54 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 54 exam).

Topics Covered on the Exam

The Series 54 exam is designed to make sure that municipal advisor principals are competent in the supervisory application of rules and regulations. This means that the exam measures your ability to apply regulatory requirements to the municipal advisor’s activities, rather than just a general knowledge of what those regulations are.

The Series 54 exam covers the three main topic areas of the MSRB Series 54 Content Outline:

Series 54 exam topics in a table

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 54 Content Outline and use it in conjunction with the Solomon Series 54 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 54 exam consists of multiple-choice questions, each with four options. You may see the following four question structures. However, keep in mind that these sample questions don’t necessarily represent the difficulty level or subjects covered in the exam.

Closed Stem Format:

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

Which of the following would be most likely to require registration as a municipal advisor?

    1. Providing a municipality with a price quote for an investment product within the municipality’s investment criteria
    2. Offering the municipality a possible price range for a new issue
    3. Displaying a comparison of debt financing structures
    4. Providing advice on issuing securities to the municipality through its municipal advisor
Open Stem Format:

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

When dealing with municipal entity clients, the two primary duties that a non-solicitor municipal advisor must fulfill with reference to standards of conduct are:

    1. The duties of care and loyalty
    2. The duties of care and suitability
    3. The duties of loyalty and prudence
    4. The duties of fairness and consistency
“Except” (or “Not”) Format:

This type requires an answer that is incorrect or is an exception among the four answer choices.

Documentation that defines a municipal advisory relationship with a client must include all of the following except:

    1. A description of the advisor’s compensation arrangement
    2. Educational background information about the municipal advisor’s associates
    3. The termination date of the relationship between the advisor and the client
    4. A description of all activities to be performed for the client
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 actions are required for a municipal advisor to comply with MSRB rules on supervision?

    1. Designation of a single chief compliance officer
    2. Annual certification of supervisory policies
    3. Providing clients with an annual update of supervisory practices
    4. Designation of a principal at each of the firm’s offices to oversee the system
    1. I and II
    2. I and IV
    3. II and III
    4. III and IV

Answers: 1. D   2. A   3. B   4. A  

Try a free sample of Solomon Exam Prep’s Series 54 Exam Simulator. You’ll receive instant feedback on each question with a robust explanation of the correct answer.

Taking the Series 54 Exam

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) administers the Series 54 exam, and you must take it at a Prometric test center. Like all qualifying exams in the securities industry, the Series 54 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 may 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.

Before the exam starts, you’ll take a 30-minute tutorial on exam administration. After you finish the tutorial, the exam will begin and you’ll have three hours to complete it.

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 54 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, listen to the Solomon Series 54 Audiobook. 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 54 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. Studies show this helps almost as much as explaining to an actual person (see Solomon’s blog post to learn more about this strategy!). 
Take advantage of Solomon’s supplemental tools and resources:
    • Use all the resources. The Series 54 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.
    • 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.
    • 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. Sleep consolidates learning into memory, studies show. Be good to yourself while you’re studying for the Series 54: exercise, eat well, and avoid activities that will hurt your ability to get a good night’s sleep.

You can pass the MSRB Series 54 exam! It just takes focus and determination. Solomon Exam Prep is here to support you on your path to becoming a Municipal Advisor Principal.

Explore all Solomon Series 54 exam prep, including the Study Guide, Exam Simulator, Audiobook, and Video Lecture.

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Series 54 Solomon Study Guide, 3rd Edition, Now Available

The new 3rd edition of the Solomon Series 54 Study Guide covers everything you need to know to pass the exam and become a Municipal Advisor Principal. Continue reading

If you’ve already passed the Series 50 exam and are working as a Municipal Advisor Representative, then you’re well-positioned to consider taking the Series 54 exam. The MSRB Series 54, or Municipal Advisor Principal Exam, qualifies you to supervise associates who conduct municipal advisory business. But how should you prepare for the exam?

Solomon Exam Prep is excited to release the 3rd edition of “The Solomon Exam Prep Guide: Series 54 MSRB Municipal Advisor Principal Qualification Examination.” With this updated version of the Study Guide, professionals who want to become registered Municipal Advisor Principals can learn the content they need to know to pass the Series 54 exam.

About the Series 54 Exam

The Series 54 exam is 110 questions long and tests your knowledge of three main topic areas:

    1. Understanding the Municipal Advisor Regulatory Framework
    2. Supervising Municipal Advisory Activities
    3. Supervising Municipal Advisor Firm Operations

Passing the Series 54 requires you to study and master a wide range of municipal advisory knowledge. This is because, as Solomon Exam Prep President and Co-founder, Jeremy Solomon, explains, “Municipal advisors have a crucial responsibility to establish and enforce compliance procedures at their firm, which is why the Series 54 exam is so challenging. To pass the Series 54, high-quality study materials are a must, and Solomon delivers just that with a consistently high pass rate to prove it.”

“Municipal advisors have a crucial responsibility to establish and enforce compliance procedures at their firm, which is why the Series 54 exam is so challenging. To pass the Series 54, high-quality study materials are a must, and Solomon delivers just that with a consistently high pass rate to prove it.”
Jeremy Solomon
Solomon Exam Prep President and Co-founder

What changes with this new edition?

The core content of the Series 54 Study Guide remains the same, but some key changes in the 3rd edition include:

    • Expanded and updated coverage of the MSRB’s pay to play rule

    • Expanded coverage of the MSRB’s advertising rules

    • Expanded and updated discussion of the MSRB’s rules about giving and receiving items of value

    • Supplemental information on continuing disclosure agreements

    • Expanded coverage of mandatory recordkeeping for municipal securities transactions

    • More detail on mandatory recordkeeping of customer complaints

Content updates for this new edition are also reflected in the Solomon Exam Simulator. The online Exam Simulator complements the Study Guide with hundreds of practice questions for the Series 54. Hone, track, and assess your knowledge by taking unlimited chapter quizzes and full exams to practice what you’ve learned.

Series 54 Study Materials

The Series 54 Study Guide is available as a digital subscription with a hardcopy upgrade option. You can purchase the Study Guide individually or in a package with supporting Series 54 study products. Customers also have access to free tools and resources. These include 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 54 study materials, including Study Guide, Exam Simulator, Audiobook, and Video Lecture, visit the Solomon Series 54 product page.

Related Posts

MSRB Announces Results of Series 54 Exam for Municipal Advisor Principals

Solomon Exam Prep congratulates the 810 individuals who have passed the Series 54 exam and are now qualified to work as municipal advisor principals. Continue reading

On December 16, 2021, the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board (MSRB) announced that 810 individuals at 474 municipal advisor firms have passed the Series 54 exam and are now appropriately qualified as municipal advisor principals. Individuals who manage, direct, or supervise a firm’s municipal advisory activities must pass The Series 54, or Municipal Advisor Principal Qualification Examination.

Initially, the MSRB gave municipal advisors a one-year period within which to pass the exam. Due to COVID-19, the deadline was extended twice, and November 30th, 2021, was the final deadline.

Solomon Exam Prep has helped many of those 810 individuals prepare for the Series 54 exam. Solomon offers several study materials for the Series 54, which can be purchased individually or in four package options. Visit the Solomon Series 54 product page to learn more.

The Solomon material was invaluable in helping me pass this exam [Series 54]. The organization of the content, the tests, the video and lecture material, were all exactly on point. Thank you!
Mark Melio
Melio & Company, LLC, Northfield, IL

Before taking the Series 54 exam, individuals must have already passed the Municipal Advisor Representative Qualification Exam, also known as the Series 50. The Series 50 is required of anyone working as a municipal advisor. Passing the Series 50 qualifies individuals to provide advice about municipal financial products to, or on behalf of, municipal entities.

According to the MSRB, 2,953 people have passed the Series 50 exam and are currently associated with a municipal advisor firm.

Solomon Exam Prep has helped 1732 students prepare for the Series 50 exam. Solomon offers materials for self-study, plus live web classes for the Series 50. The Series 50 live web class is five days of intensive instruction with a Solomon professor, focused on the major content areas of the exam. For more information about Solomon Series 50 study products and live classes, visit the product page here.

I prepared for the Series 50 (Municipal Advisor) exam using your materials and was extremely satisfied. Having the materials in multiple written and audio formats provided a lot of flexibility in where and when I could study. The scope of the Series 50 exam is so broad that even very experienced individuals would benefit by this type of preparatory course. I highly recommend this product.
Derek Morse
Morse Associates Consulting, LLC, Reno, NV

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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Update: Series 54 Deadline Extended to November 30

Principals at municipal advisor firms must pass the Series 54 exam by November 30, 2021, to continue acting as principals. Continue reading

As we covered in a previous blog post on the Solomon Industry News Blog, the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board (MSRB) had announced plans to push back the deadline for municipal advisor principals to take the new Series 54 exam. However, the MSRB did not say how much of an extension they intended to give.

Now we know. On September 2, the MSRB filed a request with the SEC to extend the Series 54 deadline from November 12 to November 30.

The SEC must still approve the extension before it becomes official.

UPDATE – September 30, 2021: The MSRB issued a notice stating that November 30, 2021, is the deadline for passing the Series 54 exam.

Read the full MSRB notice here.

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November 12 deadline for MSRB Series 54 Municipal Advisor Principal Exam

Principals at municipal advisor firms must pass the Series 54 exam by November 12, 2021, to continue acting as principals. Continue reading

When the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board (MSRB) created an exam specifically for principals at municipal advisor (MA) firms, the plan was for all MA principals to take it within a year.

The exam, known as the Series 54, was first made available on November 12, 2019. The MSRB required that all MA principals who wanted to continue acting as principals would have to pass the Series 54 by November 12, 2020.

But like many plans in 2020, the MSRB’s plan for the Series 54 was disrupted by Covid-19. With FINRA testing centers shut down for months, and uncertainty regarding when testing would resume, the MSRB added a one-year grace period to its original deadline. MA principals would now have until November 12, 2021, to pass the Series 54 exam.

The regulator recently reminded MA firms that “those who engage in the management, direction or supervision of…municipal advisory activities” will need to pass the Series 54 on or before November 12.

UPDATE: On August 11, the MSRB announced that it would seek SEC approval for an additional extension. The MSRB did not say how long the planned extension would be, but the regulator plans to announce this by September 10. The MSRB also announced an “interim accommodation” allowing those who need to take the Series 54 exam online to do so. Details about how to apply for this accommodation will be posted on no later than August 20.

UPDATE: On September 2, the MSRB announced that it has filed a request with the SEC to extend the Series 54 deadline from November 12 to November 30, 2021. View the blog post about this announcement here.   

What is a Municipal Advisor?

A municipal advisor, or MA, differs from a municipal securities dealer in that an MA does not underwrite and sell municipal securities. Instead, an MA gives advice about structuring an issue of municipal securities, selecting an underwriter, investing the proceeds, and related matters. Unlike a municipal securities dealer, an MA is the municipality’s fiduciary, which means that the MA must put the municipality’s interests before its own. MAs became regulated in a manner like municipal securities dealers as one of the reforms resulting from the 2008 financial crisis.

When MAs first came under the MSRB’s jurisdiction, the MSRB only had one qualification exam for MA personnel: the Series 50, which is taken by representatives and principals alike. During the grace period, principals who have only passed the 50 have been allowed to continue as principals. After the deadline, MA principals will need to have passed both the Series 50 and the Series 54.

Solomon Exam Prep has helped hundreds pass the Series 50 and Series 54 exams.

Solomon offers an innovative suite of exam prep products for the Series 54 to help you pass this difficult test, plus a step-by-step study schedule to tell you how to do it. Choose from an easy-to-understand Study Guide, an Exam Simulator with hundreds of relevant practice questions and detailed rationales, and a Video Lecture to help you learn and highlight the most critical information for the exam.

Solomon recommends at least 40 hours of studying to give yourself the best chance at passing this challenging principal exam.

Do yourself a favor and start studying well before the deadline, and let Solomon help you on your road to success! Explore Solomon’s Series 54 study materials by clicking the link below.

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 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.

Series 54 Pilot Results to be released soon, Says MSRB

At the 2019 National Association of Municipal Advisors annual conference in Chicago, Gail Marshall of the MSRB announced that results of the MSRB Series 54 Municipal Advisor Principal pilot exam will be released the week of October 7, along with a final Series 54 exam outline. Continue reading

At the 2019 National Association of Municipal Advisors annual conference in Chicago, Gail Marshall of the MSRB announced that results of the MSRB Series 54 Municipal Advisor Principal pilot exam will be released the week of October 7, along with a final Series 54 exam outline.

According to Marshall, the Series 54 exam will launch in November and firms will have till November 2020 to fulfill their Series 54 requirements.

Individuals who took the Series 54 pilot will be informed whether they passed or failed via an email. Those who passed will not receive a score, those who failed will receive some statistical information about their performance on the Series 54 pilot, according to Marshall of the MSRB.  Pass/fail information will not be released publicly.

Jeremy Solomon, president of Solomon Exam Prep, notes that anyone interested in taking the Series 54 Municipal Advisor Principal Exam must first pass the MSRB Series 50 Municipal Advisor exam.

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