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SIE Exam Textbook

FINRA Exam Restructuring: Should I Test Now or Wait for the SIE?

FINRA’s extensive Exam Restructuring Program launches October 1, 2018.  It radically changes the existing representative registration process by replacing the standard single FINRA Series exams with a two-step testing sequence that includes the Securities Industry Essentials Exam (SIE) and a “top-off” exam.  It also eliminates certain exams because of their redundancy with other registrations.

What is the SIE and why do I care?

The Securities Industry Essentials Exam (SIE) is the foundation of FINRA’s new Exam Restructuring Program.  After October 1, all new registrants will need to pass two exams instead of the single legacy exam to complete their registration.  For example, a candidate for Series 7 registration must pass both the SIE and the Series 7 “top-off exam” after the October 1 launch. We want you to understand your options during this transition.

Current ExamsAfter October 1st Exam Restructuring
Series 6SIE + Series 6 Top-off
Series 7SIE + Series 7 Top-off
Series 22SIE + Series 22 Top-off
Series 52SIE + Series 52 Top-off
Series 57SIE + Series 57 Top-off
Series 79SIE + Series 79 Top-off
Series 82SIE + Series 82 Top-off
Series 86/87SIE + Series 86/87 Top-off
Series 99SIE + Series 99 Top-off
Series 11, 17, 37/38, 42, 62 and 72Windows for these registration categories can no longer be opened

As the launch approaches, firms and registration candidates are facing the question of when to test. Making the right decision relies on careful consideration of timing consequences.

To SIE or not to SIE?

In general, Knopman Marks recommends that taking the current exam is the best course of action. This means that candidates for all current registrations should open their exam windows no later than Friday, September 28, 2018. This will allow one chance to pass the current exam within the 120-day window ending in January 2019.

If a current exam is taken and failed on or after October 1st, the candidate must take the SIE and top-off. There is no second chance on current exams following the exam restructure launch.  However, there is no 30-day wait in this situation.  For example, a candidate who fails the current Series 7 could take the SIE and Series 7 top-off after October 1st without any waiting period. While the best plan is always to pass the first time around, it’s definitely nice to have the option of an immediate retake.

To plan conservatively and allow for a second chance at a current exam, the first attempt should be scheduled for no later than August 31, 2018

SIE Transition Timeline

Why not wait for SIE and Top-off?

Content on new exams is often unpredictable (now that the SIE’s live, you’ll want to check out our review of question structuring on the exam), so pass rates on the SIE just after launch may not be as stable as on current exams. Additional points to consider:

  • You must sit for and pass two exams instead of one. Even though you can take the two new exams on the same day if you want to, you still need to schedule two separate exam times at a Prometric Center.
  • Although the two exams together are about 10% fewer questions than the current single exam, the breadth of material covered is not less. In fact, it is broadened on the Series 79, among others. Series 79 candidates will be tested on concepts that are not on the current exam, such as FINRA rules for retail transactions, retirement plans, and customer accounts, to name a few. The SIE and new top-off exams will expand content covered on the following exams: Series 6, 22, 52, 57, 79, 82, 86/87.
  • The new exams aren’t expected to be easier. You should expect Series 7 level of difficulty on the SIE. Anticipate that the top-offs will be equivalent in difficulty to current exams.

Preparing for the SIE and New Top-off Exams

Transitioning into your new SIE/Top-off exam program with confidence requires access to the best study materials, instruction and prep processes. Knopman Marks’ SIE prep materials are already available for order, and we are proud to announce that our comprehensive top-off study resources will be available in September. We will release specific information when available.

New Materials for Exam RestructuringRelease Date
Securities Industry Essential (SIE) AVAILABLE NOW
Series 6 Top-offOctober 2018
Series 7 Top-offAVAILABLE NOW
Series 52 Top-offAVAILABLE NOW
Series 57 Top-offAVAILABLE NOW
Series 79 Top-offAVAILABLE NOW
Series 99 Top-offOctober 2018

Meanwhile, for candidates who want to get a jump on top-off exam preparation prior to the release date of the new materials, the table below provides study instructions using current study resources.

Series Top-off Materials Conversion Chart

ExamChapters to Study from Current BookOnline Video Lectures to ReviewRecommended Study Hours
Series 7 Top-off1, 2, 3, 4 (advanced strategies only), 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 17.5All except misc. FINRA regulations75-100
Series 52 Top-offAll content, EXCEPT:
1.7 through 1.10
7.1, 7.2, 7.4
8.6, 8.12
10.3.2, 10.3.3, 10.3.5, 10.3.6
All except fixed income overview in lesson 140 – 60
Series 57 Top-off2 through 8, 13 and 141, 2, 3, 4 (ex-investment banking), 6 (only options and CBOE rules)40 – 60
Series 79 Top-off4 through 172, 3, 450 – 75
Series 99 Top-off4 through 91 (only from customer accounts onward), 240 – 60

Frequently Asked Questions

What if I am currently studying for S7/S79 and have not set an Exam Date?

We recommend taking your exam prior to August 31st to give yourself two chances to pass the current exam. If you cannot take the exam by August 31st, we would still recommend studying for the current exam. Make sure you have an open window for the exam prior to Friday, September 28th to take the current form of the exam.

I need to schedule my exam after October 1, can I still take the current exam?

Yes, but only if you have a window opened prior to September 28th. If you have an open window, you will be able to sit for the current exam once after the exam restructuring.

If I need to take the SIE and Top-off but already have materials for the current exam, can I use these to prepare?

Sort of. If you plan to take SIE, we recommend enrolling in our SIE study program. If you’d like to prepare for the top-off exam now you can do so using our current materials. Review the conversion chart above to guide you in using your current materials to study for the new exams.

I already have a FINRA registration.  If I need additional registrations, can I take the shorter top-off Exam?

FINRA’s new exam program may make it easier to add new registrations.  The top-off exams for persons that hold the SIE are substantially shorter because they do not test on duplicative foundational material. These persons can take just top-off exams to attain the following registrations: 6, 7, 22, 52, 57, 79, 86, 87 or 99.

You should check with your firm’s registration department if you are not sure about which exams are required for your role.

What about the Series 63?

The state exams (Series 63, 65, 66) are not being impacted by the restructuring. The same is true for the principal exams (e.g. Series 24). These exams will be the same both before and after October 1st.

What is the best way to prepare for the SIE and top-off exams?

The right study process is critical for building exam confidence and readiness.  When you enroll in a Knopman Marks course, your Training Center will include a document called Your Step-by-Step Study Plan that lays out the most efficient process for you to master the material. Follow it precisely and you will know when you are ready to pass your exam.  Our pass rates – the industry’s highest – are proof that our process works!

Will there be classes available for SIE and/or Top-off Exams?

Yes, Knopman Marks will offer in-person and virtual class options for SIE and top-off exams.  2018 class dates for the SIE can be viewed here.

As always, Knopman Marks welcomes your questions about exam preparation, pre- and post- exam restructuring. We look forward to partnering with you during this transition period and are committed to providing the best possible results to all programs and candidates in FINRA’s new world of restructured registration exams.

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.