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How to Pass the New Series 7 Top-Off Exam

In FINRA’s October 2018 exam restructuring, the legacy Series 7 Exam (aka the General Securities Representative Exam) was effectively split into two new tests: 1) the SIE Exam and 2) the Series 7 top-off exam. As part of this reorganization, the Series 7 Exam, which used to include 260 total questions, was shortened to 135 questions. Ten questions are still experimental, which leaves 125 graded questions.

Exam Specifications

  • Exam length: 3 hours and 45 minutes
  • Number of questions: 125 + 10 ungraded (135 total)
  • Passing score: 72%

Series 7 Top-Off Exam Breakdown

Description of Testable TopicsNumber of Questions
Seeks Business for the Broker-Dealer through Customers and Potential Customers9
Opens Accounts after Obtaining and Evaluating Customers’ Financial Profiles and Investment Objectives11
Provides Customers with Information About  Investments, Makes Suitable Recommendations, Transfers Assets, and Maintains Appropriate Records91
Obtains and Verifies Customers’ Purchase and Sales Instructions and Agreements; Processes, Completes, and Confirms Transactions14

What Is the Pass Rate of the Series 7 Top-Off?

The pass rate for the Series 7 top-off exam is 72%. Scores are adjusted through a process called equating, which takes into account the difficulty of the unique mix of questions on different exams. This way everyone tests on a level playing field. The 10 experimental questions are not included in the scoring.

How Hard Is the New Series 7 Exam?

The new Series 7 top-off exam is considerably harder than the previous Series 7. The questions removed to reduce the exam length were mostly basic, definitional questions, which are now tested on the SIE Exam.

The Series 7 top-off exam has a heavy emphasis on suitability and scenario-based questions, as well as on advanced concepts, such as complex options positions, tax rules, and margin accounting. Although the exam is challenging, our students have had great results. Follow the exam prep strategy and use the study materials discussed below, and you will be well prepared to pass on your first attempt.

Get a Jump on Studying with a Free Worksheet of Series 7 Options Questions

Series 7 Top-Off Exam Overview

Watch Instructor Dave Meshkov’s video where he discusses the format of the new exam, makes recommendations for how to prepare, and provides an overview of the heavily tested areas.

How Long Should You Study for the Series 7 Top-Off?

  • 75–100 hours (5–7 weeks while working full-time)
  • Plan to complete:
    • At least 1,000 online practice questions
    • Two diagnostic exams and two suitability exams

Key Steps to Passing the New Series 7 Top-Off Exam

  1. Start by taking a 75-question assessment exam. This exam will establish your baseline level of knowledge and provide insight into the types of practice questions to focus on and the level of mastery you will need to develop to pass the examination.
    • Note: Your score on this exam is not important; instead the goal of the assessment is to understand what you are up against.
  1. Next, we advise reading the textbook. The goal of the reading is general understanding and to provide a high-level overview of the concepts. The focus should not be retention or memorization. That will come with watching our online video lectures, taking notes on them, and drilling practice questions.
    • Note: Make sure to pace your reading so that it makes up no more than 25% of your total study time. While the reading is important, you want to leave more than enough time for our other resources.
  2. After the reading, complete a full-length (135-question) practice exam to gauge your improvement since the initial assessment.
  3. Next, watch and take notes on our online video lectures. These cover the most heavily tested and important concepts on the exam. Our head of course design, Dave Meshkov, has redesigned our Series 7 top-off lectures to reflect all the feedback we have received since the exam launched and to make the course significantly more interactive. You will find lots of practice questions and detailed explanations embedded throughout the training, which will help you understand not only what information is tested, but more importantly, how it is tested on the exam.
  4. Once you have read the textbook and watched the lectures, shift your focus to practice questions to further drill down, understand, and retain the testable material. We suggest mixing full online exams on all topics with shorter 20-30-question quizzes on specific chapters where you’ve identified weakness. For any concepts you are consistently getting wrong or do not understand, it’s important that you go back to the textbook and reread the specific section that is indicated in the question explanation. Returning to the textbook provides additional context for that topic and will improve comprehension. If you find that information is still not sticking, make a flashcard on that item as well.
    • Note: When creating online exams, always select unused questions only. Do not include previously answered or previously incorrect questions. The goal is NOT to memorize the practice questions, but instead to review the topic so that you answer questions on that concept correctly the next time.
  5. As you move closer to your exam date, complete our four PDF diagnostic exams, found in the Training Center (i.e., Diagnostic Exam 1, Diagnostic Exam 2, Suitability Exam, and Benchmark Exam). These exams are all close in difficulty to the actual exam and have recently been updated to better cover topics that are heavily tested.
    • Note: We suggest spacing these exams out, with the aim of completing the final benchmark exam about 2-3 days before your exam date.
  6. Make sure to take advantage of all your Series 7 top-off supplemental guides and worksheets.
    • For example, our master supplement includes several great study aids, such as:
      1. a formula sheet,
      2. a summary of retirement plans,
      3. and a suitability handout that summarizes the benefits and risks of all the various securities products you are likely to be tested on.
    • Our newly launched options worksheet includes additional practice questions and detailed explanations for the types of options calculations you are likely to encounter (e.g., spreads, spreads without premiums, and straddles).
    • Finally, make sure to read through our class summary several times. The class summary highlights heavily tested information, and if you know that information well, it can give your Series 7 score a boost.

Series 7 Top-Off Study Tips

As you kick off your prep, keep in mind the three, high-level study tips below:

  1. As mentioned, the exam has a heavy emphasis on suitability and determining which investments are most appropriate for investors given their financial situations and other relevant factors. For these questions, there may not always be an answer you 100% agree with, so instead, focus on identifying the best of the four answer choices. To help you practice, our suitability exam is chock-full of these types of questions.
  2. In addition to suitability, expect a few scenario-based questions on each of the following topics: communications with the public, trading, and customer accounts.
  3. Expect the exam to be about 10%–15% math, including questions on options and margin. Keep in mind that there are a lot of different avenues to a passing score, so you do not need to excel on the math questions to pass as long as you make it up in other areas (e.g., suitability questions).

Series 7 Top-Off Exam Action Plan

To get started, review the detailed Action Plan in the Knopman Marks Training Center. Expertly crafted by our instructors, it is a step-by-step guide on how to tackle the exam and best use all the resources Knopman Marks offers.

Ian has personally trained over 10,000 students for their qualification exams. As Managing Director of Product Development, Ian is a key driver of the Knopman Marks SIE program, building the textbook, question bank, and diagnostic exams, as well as following up with every trainee enrolled in our program. In addition to the SIE exam, Ian provides training for the Series 3, 7, 50, 52, 57, 63, 65, 66, and 79 exams, and offers one-on-one tutoring to students seeking additional instruction. He graduated with college honors and received a BA from Washington University in St. Louis.