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Getting Into FINRA Exam Study Mode

Is there a FINRA exam in your future?  If so, it’s time to refresh your study habits – FINRA exam style.  Your study approach will make all difference in achieving your passing score the first time around!

Let’s get started with three ground rules.

  • You need to put in the time. There’s no magic or short cut.  Just like an athlete preparing for a big race, discipline is critical.  Set up your study plan and stick with it.
  • At least 60-70% of your study time should be devoted to practice questions. While reading the book is necessary, don’t get stuck in the detail at the expense of working practice questions.  Your study plan should plan for the right mix of reading and questions.
  • You can improve your score by up to 10% just because of your good testing skills. We’ll address this in detail in another blog, but keep in mind reading the full question and all answer choices is the first testing skill to master.  You may be surprised at how often you catch yourself NOT doing this!

Now for some specific study tips:

  • Make a schedule for yourself, working backwards from your testing date. If you are planning to take a class (highly recommended), it’s ideal to have about a week after class before you test so that you can master the additional information you learned.  Knopman Marks provides advice on the number of hours you need to study on our website.  For example, for Series 7 we recommend 80 – 100 hours.  Be realistic with what you can do each day and stick with it.  Once you’ve set your schedule, treat your study time like a dentist appointment.  Be there on time or reschedule.
  • Set up a regular place to study that isolates you from distractions. Make sure you are comfortable and have good lighting. Yes, this is common sense, but it’s really important.  You can waste a lot of your scheduled study time if you don’t have an optimal setting.  It’s proven that a regular study location will get you into study mindset more quickly and make your study time more productive.
  • Read the exam manual first. However, don’t get out the highlighters and struggle tediously over details.  Instead, read for context and do the chapter exams as you go.  Expect there to be information you don’t understand thoroughly as you go through the manual but that’s OK!  You will work out the details as you do practice questions.  If you let yourself spend too much time on any one topic, you may be focusing on something that isn’t highly testable — such a waste.
  • Use the Q-bank tools to analyze your results and guide your study. After you’ve read the manual start taking full Q-bank practice exams over all topics.  Take several of these to get a good assessment of your areas of strength and weakness.  Then, use the helpful analysis capabilities in the q-bank to review your performance by topic.  If you are consistently low in a topic – below 60% — do a 20 – 30 question quiz on the topic.  Read the rationale carefully, and if the concept still isn’t making sense, go back into the book as referenced and re-read the material.  This process is where you really improve your grasp on your areas of weakness.  Shoot for scores in the high 70’s close to your test date.
  • Keep a notebook by your side. Jot down specific concepts that are not making sense to you both as you are reading and as you are doing questions.  It’s important to “know what you don’t know”!  Review from time to time to see if you are gaining ground on your weak areas as you continue working questions.  If you feel like you still aren’t understanding the information after you go to class or listen to online lectures, email [email protected] for further guidance, or check with your instructor while you are at class.

As you study, remember, this quote from author Robert Collier, “Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day-in and day-out”.  Stick with it, and success will be yours!

Questions?  Knopman Marks is your partner and will help you make the most of your study efforts.  Email us at [email protected] for help at any time.

Marcia Larson is Vice President, Faculty, at Knopman Marks Financial Training, New York, NY. She has extensive experience in financial licensing and regulatory training, having authored, developed and presented courseware for numerous securities and insurance exam preparation and continuing education and compliance programs. Before joining Knopman Marks, Marcia was Director of Annuity Products and Business Development at CUNA Mutual Group, where she developed and marketed industry-leading annuity products and retirement solutions and implemented distribution relationships. She was previously VP, Securities Products for Kaplan Financial, managing securities training products and subsequently, international training and businesses development. Marcia has trained thousands of financial industry exam candidates throughout their careers, and also college students as an adjunct professor. Marcia was a summa cum laude graduate of Wartburg College with degrees in Business Administration and Piano Performance. Marcia also holds the designations of Chartered Financial Consultant® (ChFC®), Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU®), Certified Employee Benefit Specialist (CEBS), and Fellow Life Management Institute™ (FLMI®). She currently teaches the SIE, Series 6, 7, 24, 50, 52, 63, 65, and 66 exams.