As featured on REP./WealthManagement.com
By Harvey Knopman and Brian Marks
Passing FINRA examinations is a necessity both for aspiring advisers looking to break into the industry and established ones seeking to further their careers. While each exam has its own format and particular area of focus, there are certain tips that test takers can implement, no matter the test to best position themselves for success.
For starters, any test candidate is wise to train like an athlete in order to prepare both mentally and physically for the often lengthy and time-crunched exams. For instance, the Series 7 exam includes two three-hour, 130 question sections with only a 30 minute break in-between. Time can especially become an issue when it comes to the Series 3 exam. Designed to match the quick pace of the futures environment, the Series 3 includes 120 questions and a 150-minute limit. The Series 79 is a five-hour, no-break exam featuring 175 graded questions.
To best position themselves for success, FINRA exam candidates must fully replicate the experience of the particular test they are looking to pass. At Knopman Financial Training, those preparing for the Series 7 exam, for example, sit for eight 125 question practice computer exams and also four 100 question paper tests. Besides the experience itself, these 12 combined practice exams also provide candidates with valuable insight into their strengths and weaknesses.
Other tops tips include:
- Adhere to the 48-hour rule – Scientific studies on sleeping habits show that simply resting up the night before an important event isn’t enough. The real benefits to candidates come from a good night’s sleep two nights before a FINRA exam.
- Rely on up-to-date information – When FINRA introduces new regulations or announces updates, test materials are impacted as well. Current information and up-to-date study materials are critical as candidates risk failure by depending solely on second-hand preparation materials provided by a well-meaning friend or colleague.
- Read preparation materials in their entirety – This doesn’t just mean going through everything once. Read the material at least two or three times thoroughly. The remainder of the time should be spent practicing questions.
- Be a smart test taker – The term “not excluded” really means “is included.” A question that starts with “All of the following statements are false except…” is actually asking “Which of these statements is true?” Candidates should get comfortable staying confident while reading the stems of questions very carefully and weeding through double negatives. The Series 63, 65 and 66 exams can be especially particular in their minutiae. FINRA exams are true exercises in test taking skills.
- Focus on definitions and applications – Many candidates focus on rote memorization of these facts, yet these exams also require that test takers understand the application of concepts. Know and be able to apply these definitions and terms.
- Identify exactly what each question is about – If a questions begins, “Under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940,” then the answer will be specific to that Act.
- Remember, these exams are about ethics – If something sounds dishonest or prohibited, then it probably is dishonest or prohibited. These tests will provide ethical dilemmas. After successfully passing exams, the actual job will include acting in the best interest of clients. If in doubt, choose the most ethical answer.
Between the challenging content, number of questions, aggressive time constraints and tricky wording, the various FINRA exams can seem quite daunting. Proper preparation is crucial to success. These tests are passable for those that put in the time and take to heart the approaches described above. Just as a marathoner has (hopefully) trained ahead of race day, the most successful test takers have trained to develop the stamina to be both physically and mentally prepared for all the complexities of these tests.
Best of luck!