Failed the SIE? What To Do Now.

Passing a securities exam like the SIE exam is an important step in your career. But what if you don’t pass the first time? Here are tips for restudying. Continue reading

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You took the SIE exam or another FINRA exam, and you didn’t pass. What should you do? The old adage, “If at first you don’t succeed…” definitely applies here. Take a few days to rest if needed, but it’s best to get back into studying as soon as possible. To help with the process of refocusing your efforts, here are some important things to know and recommendations for increasing your chances of passing the SIE exam the next time.

You’re not alone.

First, don’t be too hard on yourself. Securities exams are not designed to be easy, and many people have to take an exam more than once. It happens. Keep in mind that although the SIE exam is the foundational exam for the securities industry, it is still a challenging exam that requires around 60 hours of study time.

How many times can you take the SIE exam?

The good news is you can retake the SIE exam as many times as you need to (as long as your firm allows it if taking the exam through a firm). However, FINRA imposes a waiting period after each exam attempt. There is a 30/30/180-day rule with respect to the SIE and other FINRA exams. This means that you must wait 30 days after the first time you fail, and another 30 days if you fail again. If you fail a third time or more, you’ll have to wait 180 days to retake the exam.

What Happens When You Fail the SIE Exam?

At the end of your testing session, you will see your unofficial result on the computer screen telling you whether you passed or failed. You’ll only see a numerical score if you fail the exam. When you pass, it will just say “pass” with no score given. If you don’t pass, your score report will include a section analysis that shows your performance on each section of the exam. This is very helpful so you know which sections to focus on when you start studying again.

If you take the SIE exam in person at a testing center, you’ll get a printout of your results. If you take the exam remotely using Prometric’s ProProctor system, you’ll receive an encrypted email with your results. You can also contact the FINRA support team to request a copy of your score report at (240) 386-4040.

Where else do your exam results appear and who can see them?

You might be wondering whether current or future employers will be able to see that you failed a securities exam. The short answer is, it depends. Within three business days of taking an exam, FINRA will post your official results to their systems. There are two primary systems where your exam history might be visible to others.

Central Registration Depository (CRD)

One system is the Central Registration Depository (CRD). CRD is the securities industry online registration and licensing database. Information in CRD is obtained through forms that broker-dealers complete as part of the registration and licensing process. If you’ve never been registered in the securities industry and aren’t taking the SIE exam through a firm, then your exam result will not appear in CRD. However, if you take the SIE exam through a broker-dealer and the broker-dealer files a Form U4 for you, then your SIE exam result will be pulled into your CRD exam history. Your firm will have access to your CRD record.

But don’t worry, a non-passing exam result and score will only be displayed in CRD until you retake and pass the exam. After you pass the exam, any prior history of failing will not appear in the system. Passing results will not show scores—they will simply say “pass.”


Another FINRA system that displays information about registered individuals is the BrokerCheck website. BrokerCheck is a free tool for the public to research the professional backgrounds of brokers and brokerage firms. The information in BrokerCheck comes from CRD. If you’ve only taken the SIE exam, your result will not appear on BrokerCheck. But once you pass a representative-level exam such as the Series 6 or Series 7, then a passing SIE result will show up in BrokerCheck. Non-passing exam results do not appear in BrokerCheck.

Tips For Passing Your Next SIE Exam Attempt

Try to redouble your efforts and study hard for the next 30 days so you can retake the SIE exam as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the more likely it is that the material you’ve learned will slip away. You also risk giving up completely if you wait too long to get back on track.

In addition, FINRA does change its exam questions. Therefore, the sooner you retake an exam, the higher chance you have of facing some of the same or similar questions. Write down everything you can remember about the exam. Then, use your experience to your advantage and focus your studying on what you know was on the exam and may well be again.

How to re-study for your securities exam

Needless to say, you should carefully consider how to approach preparing for a second attempt at the SIE or another securities exam. It shouldn’t be done in one weekend of cramming. The SIE is a knowledge test. Learning (and passing) comes from layering the knowledge and building mental connections that you can use when you take the exam—and beyond. As with any knowledge test, the more effort you put into studying, the better your chance of success. That said, your re-study strategy will depend to some extent on your score on the first exam attempt.

If you didn’t have a strong performance on the exam:

The minimum passing score for the SIE exam is 70%. If you scored below 60% on your first try, you may want to approach studying as if for the first time. If you’re using Solomon SIE study materials, use a pre-set Solomon study schedule and follow it every day. Doing this will greatly increase your chance of passing. If you don’t follow a pre-set Solomon schedule, we recommend the following plan at a minimum:

    • Read the SIE Study Guide. Not reading the Study Guide is the number one reason people fail their exam. Take notes as you read and review your notes regularly. If you don’t understand something, try to explain it to someone else or to yourself out loud. This “be the teacher” technique will help you master the material. Read Solomon’s article about this technique.
    • Quiz yourself with SIE practice questions in the Exam Simulator. After reading each chapter of the Study Guide, take up to six sub-chapter quizzes per sub-chapter in the Solomon Exam Simulator. The quizzes are for learning more than they are for assessment, so don’t be alarmed if your quiz scores are low and do not get bogged down by taking more than six sub-chapter quizzes per chapter.
    • Assess your knowledge with SIE practice exams in the Exam Simulator. Once you’ve read the entire Study Guide, at least once, then take at least six full practice exams in the Exam Simulator. Aim to get your Solomon Pass Probability™ score to at least 75% before you take the SIE exam again. If your Pass Probability™ is below 75%, review your results charts in the Exam Simulator and re-study the chapters and topics where you’re not doing well.
If you almost passed:

What if you were very close to passing the SIE exam on your first attempt, scoring close to 70%? In this case, you probably don’t need to start studying from scratch. Look at your exam score report and focus your studies on the exam sections that you didn’t perform strongly in. Also, if you’ve taken at least five full SIE practice exams in the Solomon Exam Simulator, look at your Exam Results charts to see if there are any sections that you’re scoring under 75% in. Focusing on these weaker sections, take the following steps:

    • Reread parts of the SIE Study Guide. Revisit your weaker sections in the Study Guide and/or review the notes you took when you read it the first time.
    • Quiz yourself with SIE practice questions in the Exam Simulator. Take three more quizzes on your weaker sub-chapters. Remember, the purpose of taking quizzes is to strengthen your learning, so try not to focus too much on your quiz scores. You can even take the sub-chapter quizzes open book!
    • Watch the SIE Video Lecture. If you have the Solomon Video Lecture, watch the lecture on these weaker chapters as well. The Video Lecture provides a helpful overview of the key concepts for each chapter. You can download the Video Lecture slides and print them out to take notes while you watch.
    • Assess your knowledge with SIE practice exams in the Exam Simulator. The Exam Simulator is a tool to help you apply the concepts you’ve learned, but it’s also a diagnostic tool for gauging your readiness to pass the exam. After you’ve done all the previous steps for the chapters you needed to revisit, you’re ready to take five more full practice exams in the Exam Simulator. When your Solomon Pass Probability™ score is 75% or above, you should be ready to sit for the SIE exam again.

You can do it.

Don’t let this temporary setback put the brakes on your career goals! Everyone can pass the SIE exam, no matter what their educational background or career experience is. You just need to follow an effective study plan with quality study materials. You can do it!

Visit the Solomon SIE page for more information about Solomon study materials for the SIE exam. And try Solomon’s free, 75-question SIE practice test to gauge your knowledge and sample the industry-leading Solomon Exam Simulator.

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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Solomon Poll: Inflation Expectations for 2022

What are inflation and inflation expectations, and why are they important? Learn what these terms mean and the results of the latest Solomon poll. Continue reading

Can you predict what the economic future of the U.S. will be next month? How about next year? If you’re not sure, Solomon Exam Prep suggests you look at leading indicators, which are economic measures that have been found to anticipate a change in the economy. They are also tested subjects on securities licensing exams such as the FINRA Securities Industry Essentials (SIE) exam and the NASAA Investment Adviser (Series 65) exam. 
One important leading indicator is inflation. So, we asked Solomon LinkedIn followers to predict whether the rate of inflation in 2022 will increase, decrease, or stay the same. According to the poll, a whopping 81% of respondents believe that inflation will increase in 2022. Ten percent predict that inflation will stay the same, and nine percent think it will decrease.  
For securities licensing exams, leading indicators are important to understand because they are believed to have predictive power, and therefore, allow economists to see what the economic future may hold. That is why Solomon Exam Prep study guides for the Securities Industry Essentials (SIE), Series 7, Series 65, and Series 66 all discuss inflation. So, what exactly is inflation and why does it occur? 

What is inflation and why does it happen?

Inflation means an increase in the prices of goods and services and a decline in the purchasing power of a currency. It can be understood as a part of business cycles, which are fluctuations in the economy. A business cycle has four phases. The first phase, expansion, is characterized by an increase in economic activity and above-average economic growth. In this phase, the production of goods rises and unemployment falls. Lenders make credit more available because they believe businesses and people will be able to repay their loans. Available credit means lower interest rates, which fuels expansion, resulting in more jobs. 
The expansion phase feels good because jobs are plentiful, and wages rise. But a risk of the expansion phase is the possibility of inflation because increasing wages and available credit tend to boost prices.  Inflation can result when demand for goods and services outstrips their supply. This usually occurs near the end of an expansionary phase, when too much money is chasing too few goods. Inflation can occur because of:

    • High consumer confidence in the economy
    • An economy that has reached its production potential
    • Excess money in the economy
    • Increases in wages and other production costs, such as a rise in commodity prices

What does inflation mean for investors?

With rising prices come rising interest rates. For example, if the cost of living is increasing at 5%, as measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI), investors will be unwilling to purchase a bond paying 4% and lose purchasing power. Lenders will need to raise interest rates to keep up with inflation. 
In an inflationary environment, investors may be less inclined to make long-term investments. The possibility that a long-term bond or other long-term investment will not keep up with inflation may drive investors to short-term and variable-rate bonds. Unfortunately, to grow, many businesses, especially capital-intensive companies such as oil and gas refineries, airlines, and telecommunications companies need to borrow for the long-term. As a result, an inflationary environment can reduce business investment and cause an economic downturn.

What are inflation expectations?

To return to the Solomon LinkedIn poll – does it matter what people think will happen with inflation in the future? The short answer is yes, and there’s even a term for this: inflation expectations. Inflation expectations refer to the rate at which people and businesses expect prices to rise in the future. Inflation expectations are important because they can actually affect the real rate of inflation. For example, if everyone expects prices to increase by two percent over the next year, then businesses will likely raise their prices by two percent or more, and workers will want comparable salary increases.  
If the Solomon LinkedIn poll results are any indication, inflation expectations for the next year are that prices will increase. Do you agree that 2022 will see a rise in the rate of inflation? Comment below to share your thoughts on the topic. 
Follow Solomon on LinkedIn for more polls, industry updates, study tips, and more!

How to Pass the FINRA Securities Industry Essentials (SIE) Exam

Thinking about taking the SIE exam? Keep reading to learn what the SIE is, what topics the exam covers, and how you should prepare for it. Continue reading

Updated June 9, 2022

Should I Take the SIE Exam?

Are you interested in the world of stocks, bonds, and investments? Thinking about a career as a financial advisor? Or perhaps your goal is to become an investment banker or a hedge fund manager? There are many attractive career options in the securities industry, but no matter which path you’re considering, you’ll probably need to take the Securities Industry Essentials (SIE) Exam.

If you’re not sure whether a career as a securities industry professional is right for you, the SIE is a great way to test the waters. For college students, the SIE provides a broad overview of the securities industry and financial knowledge that will be helpful even if you don’t pursue a securities industry career. And passing the SIE will make you more competitive when looking for a financial or investment-related internship.

For job seekers in general, having the SIE under your belt shows potential employers that you are serious about a career in the industry and have mastered industry fundamentals. And because the SIE is a co-requisite to several securities industry qualification exams, passing it allows you to jumpstart your career goals.

What is the SIE Exam?

The SIE exam is an introductory-level exam that covers fundamental securities industry knowledge. The SIE focuses on industry terminology, securities products, the structure and function of the markets, regulatory agencies and their functions, and regulated and prohibited practices.

The SIE is a co-requisite of several qualification exams, including the Series 6, Series 7, Series 22, Series 79, Series 82, and Series 99. Passing the SIE does not qualify you to become a registered securities industry professional, but it is usually the first step. Because the SIE is “co-requisite,” instead of “pre-requisite,” you don’t have to take the SIE before taking other FINRA exams. However, taking the SIE first is highly recommended because what you learn on the SIE is extremely helpful to you when you take any other security exam. The knowledge that you learn on the SIE is wind in your sails when you take any other registered representative level securities qualification exam, such as the Series 6 or Series 7.

Any individual 18 or older may take the SIE exam. Unlike other FINRA securities exams, employment and sponsorship by a FINRA member firm is not required in order to take the SIE, and exam results are valid for four years. Individuals can sign up to take the SIE exam on the FINRA website by creating an account, paying the $80 exam fee, and scheduling the exam. The SIE can be taken at a Prometric test center or online via the ProProctor platform.

About the Exam

The SIE exam consists of 75 scored and 10 unscored multiple-choice questions covering the four sections of the FINRA SIE 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. FINRA updates its exam questions regularly to reflect the most current rules and regulations.

About the SIE exam

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 SIE exam).

Topics Covered on the Exam

FINRA divides the SIE exam into four sections:

SIE exam topics

The SIE exam covers many topics including the following:

    • Common Stock
    • Preferred Stock, Warrants, Rights and ADRs
    • Bonds and Yields
    • Types of Bonds
    • Treasury Securities, ABS, CMOs, and Munis
    • Mutual Funds and Other Investment Companies
    • Life Insurance Products and Municipal Fund Securities
    • Options, Partnerships, Hedge Funds, and Private Placements
    • Risks
    • Customer Disclosures & Taxation
    • Underwriting, Issuing, and Registering Securities
    • Exemptions from Registration & Types of Broker-Dealers
    • Markets, Financial Institutions, and Clearance & Settlement
    • Economic Factors and Business Cycles
    • Tools of Government Policy and International Factors
    • Opening an Account & Types of Accounts
    • Cash and Margin Accounts
    • Order Processing
    • Handling Corporate Actions, Account Compliance, and SIPC Rules
    • Prohibited Activities and Trading Rules
    • FINRA Conduct Rules
    • FINRA Membership

Question Types on the SIE Exam

The SIE 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.

When interest rates go up, what happens to the price of typical preferred stock?

    1. It rises.
    2. It falls.
    3. It stays the same.
    4. It is unrelated to interest rates, so it is impossible to tell.
Incomplete Sentence Format:

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

ADRs trade in:

    1. The foreign currency that underlies the ADR
    2. U.S. dollars
    3. A combination of foreign currency and U.S. dollars
    4. A special exchange rate that takes into consideration how much foreign currency can purchase one U.S. dollar
“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 advantages to the issuer of debt financing over equity financing except:

    1. No ownership dilution
    2. No loss of control
    3. Interest payments are a deductible business expense
    4. Fixed repayment schedule
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.

The prices of which of the following two types of preferred stock are least sensitive to changes in interest rates?

    1. Participating preferred
    2. Cumulative preferred
    3. Adjustable-rate preferred
    4. Convertible preferred
    1. I and II
    2. II and III
    3. I and IV
    4. III 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.

Rank the following yields for a premium bond held to maturity from highest to lowest.

    1. Yield to call
    2. Coupon rate
    3. Yield to maturity
    4. Current yield
    1. II, IV, III, I
    2. IV, I, III, II
    3. II, IV, I, III
    4. III, I, IV, II

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

How to Study for the SIE Exam

Follow Solomon Exam Prep’s proven study system:
    • Read and understand. Read the Solomon SIE Study Guide, carefully. The SIE 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 SIE Audiobook, which is a word-for-word reading of the 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 SIE Exam Simulator. Aim to pass at least six full practice exams and try to get your Solomon Pass Probability™ score to at least an 80%; when you reach that point, you are probably ready to sit for the SIE exam.
Use these effective study strategies:
    • Take handwritten notes. As you read the SIE 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 SIE 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 previous blog 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 SIE 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 SIE: exercise, eat well, and avoid activities that will hurt your ability to get a good night’s sleep.

You can pass the FINRA SIE Exam! It just takes focus and determination. Earning this certification will provide valuable knowledge and open up rewarding career opportunities. Solomon Exam Prep is here to support you on your first step to entering the securities industry.

To explore all Solomon Exam Prep’s SIE study materials, including product samples, visit the Solomon website here.

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Solomon Partners with Colleges & Universities to Bring SIE Exam Prep to Students

Oregon Business Monthly highlights Solomon’s work bringing SIE exam prep to college students through our many partnerships with higher education institutions across the country. Continue reading

Solomon Exam Prep is ‘the ticket’ into the securities industry, according to Oregon Business Magazine

Read the story about Solomon Exam Prep published in the July/August 2021 issue of Oregon Business Magazine: “Securities industry exams: Passing offers high rewards.

Oregon Business Monthly highlights Solomon’s work bringing SIE exam prep to college students through our many partnerships with higher education institutions across the country. If you’d like to read more about the importance of passing the SIE and Solomon’s role in helping students enter the securities industry, view the article by clicking the link below or hit the download button to get a pdf version.

Read Oregon Business Monthly Article Online

PDF Download of Oregon Business Monthly‘s Article

Leading from the Start

Solomon Exam Prep has been a leader in SIE exam prep since the beginning. When the Securities Industry Essentials (SIE) exam was launched by FINRA on October 1, 2018, Solomon Exam Prep was prepared – Solomon had been busy developing its SIE study materials and had released the SIE Study Guide and Exam Simulator in September 2017. Since then, Solomon has continuously worked to develop industry-leading study support for the SIE, adding the Video Lecture, Audiobook, and Flashcards to its suite of materials, as well as offering monthly SIE live web classes.

Resources for Colleges and Universities Available

Developed by professors with real world experience in the classroom, Solomon’s SIE course features individualized student and instructor support, and high pass rates.

Institutions such as the University of Delaware, Adelphi University, University of Nebraska-Omaha, Seton Hall University, Ohio Dominican University, Georgetown University, Widener University, and University of Dallas have already discovered the benefits of partnering with Solomon.

“Offering the Securities Industries Essential (SIE) Exam Prep Class is a game changer. Students are more engaged and are excited about the potential for future employment opportunities that successfully passing the SIE exam will provide.”
Larry L. Day
Instructor of Finance, Jackson State University

Solomon can tailor its SIE curriculum to fit any course. Most colleges and universities choose to incorporate Solomon in the following ways:

Credit Course
Solomon provides all necessary materials required to offer a course for a quarter, trimester or semester

Non-Credit Course
Complete lesson plans offered as a mini-course between terms and structured for allotted time

As Part of a Current Course
Lesson plans offered as a sub-section of an existing class, such as a Finance or Capital Markets Course

Student Self-Study Program
Includes customized informational materials for a specific program and a dedicated partner page where students sign up to receive a significant discount on SIE materials

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

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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The Power of Explaining: A Study Strategy Backed by Research

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

Updated June 23, 2022
Solomon Exam Prep’s learning system is built on understanding how people learn. Solomon is always looking for new ways to help our students learn more effectively and pass their securities exams.  

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

Why does explaining work?

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

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

According to Amsterlaw and Wellman, “children in the explanation condition significantly outperformed the comparison and control groups….” In other words, explaining increased their understanding.

How to use this strategy for licensing exams:

What does this mean if you’re studying for the Series 65 or the Series 7 or some other securities licensing exam? Solomon Exam Prep suggests finding someone in your life who will listen to you explain topics from your securities exam prep. The person you choose doesn’t need to have any knowledge of securities. The person just needs to be a good listener. Even better, someone who will ask questions.

What if you don’t have anyone who can do that for you? Well, as Dr. Lombrozo showed, the practice of self-explanation is also helpful and will increase your understanding of the material you’re trying to learn.

Other recommended study strategies include:  

    • Listen to the Solomon Audiobook while you read the Solomon Study Guide.
    • As you read the Study Guide and watch the Solomon Video Lectures, take notes by hand.
    • When practicing in the Solomon Exam Simulator, read and re-read the question at least twice. 
    • If you answer a question correctly, explain to yourself why it was correct before reading the question rationale.  
    • If you answer a question incorrectly, read the rationale carefully. Explain to yourself what the right answer is, and why. Write down the explanation in your notes. 
    • Study with a partner. Trade off testing each other on concepts and asking for an explanation.  

Visit the Solomon Exam Prep  website to explore study materials for 21 different securities licensing exams, including the SIE and the Series 3, 6, 7, 14, 22, 24, 26, 27, 28, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 63, 65, 66, 79, 82 and 99.

Solomon Exam Prep SIE Practice Exam Now Available!

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

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

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

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

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

Solomon Study Question of the Month for April

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

Study Question

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

*** Comment below or submit your answer to 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.