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Intro to FINRA Question Styles

Are you in the process of preparing for a psychometric experience? The answer is “Yes” if you are currently studying for a FINRA Series exam. Psychometrics is dedicated to objective measurement of skills and knowledge, and FINRA-administered Series Exams are shaped following rigorous psychometric standards.

The development of questions for Series exams is a serious process.  New questions get thoroughly vetted by committee to ensure they are valid measurements of a candidate’s knowledge level and align with the functional objectives of each test.  All questions must meet the style guide standards that have been developed.

You’ve probably heard that there are extra questions that don’t count on these exams. These randomly incorporated questions serve an important purpose.  They are validated prior to inclusion in the actual test bank.  You are actually a “lab rat” when you take these questions and your answer choices provide statistics for future analysis.  After careful review, some experimental questions will pass muster and get added to the test bank; others will either be re-worked or removed.

FINRA Question Style

The questions on these exams may test your recall of facts or may ask you to draw conclusions from a set of circumstances. Many of them involve job related scenarios, requiring application of information contained in the content outline designed by FINRA, the MSRB, NASAA or the CFTC.   Some require evaluation of situations and ask for the best decision or the first action to take.  There are also some calculation questions, but these are not typically great in number.

The tests include only multiple choice questions with 4 choices.  They are structured in one of the following formats:

  • Closed-Stem: the stem, or part that poses the question, is a complete sentence and concludes with a question mark. The answer choices are complete or incomplete sentences.
  • Open-Stem: the stem is an incomplete statement, and the answer choices are conclusions to the sentence.
  • Except or Not: the stem may be open or closed. Questions of this style that are looking for the exception are easy to misinterpret. Critical reading skills are a must!
  • Complex Multiple-Choice: these questions include four “Roman Numeral” statements, phrases or terms. Most often you must find the best two choices, but some require you to order choices in a sequence, either first to last or last to first.
  • “Most/Least/Best”: these questions require the selection of an option that is either better or worse than the others based on a scenario. These often are longer questions and require complete concentration.

TQ Myths

There have been some longstanding test tips that simply are not true when it comes to FINRA exams.  Success is totally up to you – there are no easy ways to outsmart these tests.

Below are three test-taking falsehoods that don’t align with today’s psychometric processes:

  • Choose C if you’re uncertain. Doesn’t work. The tests banks are built to include an approximately equal number of correct answers among choices A, B, C & D.  There is no great likelihood that one answer choice is right more frequently than the others.
  • Choose the longest answer if you’re uncertain. Also not true.  In the review process, any pattern that makes one answer choice stand out is minimized.  By the way, the corollary to this statement – the longest answer is always wrong – is also a myth.
  • Question stems will include lots of irrelevant information to distract you. No longer the case.  Today’s questions are not designed to lead you astray; they are not “gotcha” questions intentionally.  There may be more information than is required in a question but it is relevant to the scenario you are dealing with, not just extraneous detail.  Confusion by verbosity is not a sound evaluation of competence.

Now that you have a better feel for Series Exam Qbanks, you’ve probably recognized that there is no substitute for practice.  Give yourself the best possible chance for success by sticking with a winning study strategy and excellent prep materials.  Questions?  The exam prep experts at Knopman Marks are here to help you every step of the way.  Stay in touch at [email protected]

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.