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Taming the Beast II: Study Time Management

Managing your study process with an effective study plan is a critical step in FINRA exam success. Today we’ll talk about some study guidelines that will help you lay out your plan efficiently.

Exam readiness requires time for reading the license exam manual, completing questions, and attending a class or listening to pre-recorded presentations if possible.  You should plan time for each of these activities based on when you plan to test and set up a schedule that give you the time you need to complete each of these steps adequately.

Reading the Manual

Your first step in the process is reading your license exam manual.  Read it like a novel.  In other words, don’t labor over every concept or spend time highlighting – just read through for context and complete the chapter questions along the way.  You will avoid spending time on areas that are not heavily tested, but will give yourself a solid base that you will deepen through working questions.

If you are a reader of average speed, assume you will complete about 30 pages an hour which includes completion of chapter questions along the way.  This metric will help you plan the amount of time you will need for completion of reading, but you should adjust based on your actual results.  Overall, reading the manual should account for no more than 25% of the total time you spend on your study process, excluding class. The remainder should be devoted to practicing questions and exams.

Step 2 – Working the Qbank

After you complete your reading, you should turn your attention to your Qbank and complete questions.  About 70% of your overall study time should be focused on questions.

To start, take 2 100 -question practice exams over all topics.  Study the rationale for each question as you go – whether you got it right or wrong — to improve your mastery of the topics.  Allow 3-4 hours for each of these exams.  It’s not about your score at this point – that comes later.

If you are going to class or plan on listening to recorded lectures, you should try to have completed both the reading and at least these 2 practice exams prior to attending.

Your next step in the Q bank is to do 30 – 50 question exams on each chapter, continuing to read the rationale for each question as you go.  Allow 1-2 hours for each of these exams.  Your objective with each of these chapter exams is 70% or above.  If you don’t receive 70% the first time, work another exam for that chapter.  Take advantage of the study manual references in the rationales of each question.  If you don’t understand the rationale, go back into the book and re-read the pertinent section.

After completing these chapter reviews, it’s time to go back to exams on all topics.  You should work practice exams that are equal to the length of the test you are taking, or for Series 7, 125 questions, which is equal to 1 of the 2 test sessions.  Take these like a test – reviewing rationales after your complete and score your exam.  Expect to spend about 2 hours per 100 questions.  At this point your score matters.  You need to achieve scores of 70-80% consistently to ensure you are ready to pass your exam.  Keep working exams until you do, and you can be confident that a passing exam score will be in your future!

Check back soon for more test taking insights from Knopman Marks Financial Training! As your FINRA test prep partner, we are here to help you make the most of your study time.  Questions? 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.