When preparing for Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) exams, knowledge isn’t all that matters. It is important to incorporate time management into the FINRA exam experience. The test-taking tips below may help you to get the passing grade you need, so apply them with diligence.

1. Be Aware of the Clock

Most FINRA exams don’t require you to keep up a rapid pace to finish them, but it is important to be aware of the clock, and to move at a steady pace from the start, from the very first question. Our advice is to calculate the number of questions you should complete every 30 minutes to stay on target and round up slightly to build in a safety margin.

For example, let’s say you have an 85-question exam with 2.5 hours to complete it. Start by rounding up the number of questions to 100. Next, calculate how many questions you must finish each half-hour. Your “100-question pace” equals about 20 questions every 30 minutes.

While testing, you should do a quick time check after the first 30 minutes. If you are through 18 or 19 questions, you are on the right track. If you are through only 10 questions after the first 30 minutes, it’s time to pick up the pace. Be sure to keep checking yourself every 30 minutes thereafter to ensure proper time management.

Feeling the need to rush in the last hour can be counter-productive. You may feel pressure to answer questions hastily and may make costly mistakes. The 30-minute time-check strategy detailed above ensures that you finish your exam with time to spare.

2. Be Strategic with Long Questions

A big surprise to most FINRA exam candidates is the length of the questions. Some are multiple paragraphs, loaded with extra facts, distractors, and unnecessary words. It is important to look through the non-essential information to extract the important information. The best way to do this is by reading the last sentence of the question first. In other words, get to the punchline. If you are still unsure of the context, try also scanning all four answer choices before reading the entire question. This technique ensures that you are reading the question with a purpose.

For example, you might come across a lengthy question and perform in-depth math calculations, only to arrive at the end and see that it is a regulatory question – requiring no math at all. Be sure you know what the question is asking before you apply time and energy to finding the answer.

3. Don’t Project Your Performance

It has probably been a long time since a C- was an acceptable exam score, but a C- is the minimum grade required to pass a FINRA exam, and taking one question at a time is key.

You will run into tough questions during your exam, and it is human nature to remember only those that are most challenging. Don’t dwell on those challenging questions. Instead, look at each question as a new opportunity. You can miss one out of every four questions and still pass.

It is virtually impossible to gauge your performance with FINRA exams. By focusing only on the current question, you maximize your chances of doing well on every, individual question, which, in most cases, leads to a promising outcome.

4. Remember the Structure of the Exam

FINRA exams are designed so that the most challenging questions appear in the middle. Use this to your advantage: you will perform at your best once you are warmed up and before you’re tired. Despite applying all the FINRA exam advice above, expect to fall a little off pace in the middle when you see some more advanced questions. That’s okay – do your best, take it one question at a time, and above all, don’t panic. You will find that the exam eases up at the end.

Also, do not­ use the strategy of marking all the challenging questions for review so that you can complete them at the end of the exam. This approach leads to many problems including poor time management, fatigue, confusion of flagged questions, and other unintended consequences. Simply push through according to your plan, and all will balance out at the conclusion of your test.

A Final Word

Your test date is rapidly approaching. Take a moment to reflect upon your preparation: you have studied, you have completed plenty of practice questions and full exams, you have read the textbook, reviewed the videos, drilled the flashcards, and overall, you believe you have done your best. All that is left is to pull it together on exam day. Put yourself in control of your exam with these strategic exam management tips and your study efforts will pay off. Good luck!

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Written by Brian Marks
Partner at Knopman Marks Financial Training since 2010. In the course of his career, Brian has been featured in a number of publications for his industry knowledge and opinions, spoken at conferences and roundtables all over the country, and trained over 20,000 students. His courses are always hilarious, and his approachability and expertise make him an invaluable resource for people of all levels preparing to take their exams. At Knopman Marks, Brian also handles business strategy, course content preparation and maintenance, and financial management. Brian prepares students for the SIE, Series 3, 7, 17, 24, 57, 63, 65, 66, 79, 86/87, and 99 exams. He obtained his Bachelor’s Degree from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.