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How to Pass the Series 6 Exam

If you’re working on becoming a financial or investment advisor, retirement specialist, insurance agent, or private banker, then passing the Series 6 exam is a required step for your success.

According to the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) guidelines, individuals must pass two exams to become a registered representative: the Securities Industry Essentials (SIE) Exam and the Series 6 exam.

These tests can be taken in any order. Though you can take the SIE before you become employed by a financial firm, the Series 6 exam can only be completed after you have secured employment and are “sponsored” by a financial firm.

Because these two exams have such an impact on whether you’re able to move forward with your career, there are several steps you can take to ensure you earn a passing grade.


How Is the Series 6 Exam Structured?

The Series 6 exam is composed of 55 questions. Of these, 50 are scored, and five are experimental, unscored questions. These unscored questions will appear randomly throughout your exam, so you must address them like any other question. Exam experts use these experimental questions to test their validity and performance before adding them to the scored bank.

Series 6 Exam Snapshot

Time allowed to complete the exam1 hour and 30 minutes
Number of scored questions50 (5 additional unscored)
Passing score70% (35 questions correct)

What Topics Does the Series 6 Cover?

The Series 6 exam focuses on the day-to-day activities of a professional who deals with mutual funds, unit investment trusts, variable annuities, and variable life products. The functions and descriptions, along with the number and percentage of exam questions related to each are shown in the table below.

FunctionNumber of QuestionsPercent of the Test
1. Seeks Business for the Broker-Dealer from Customers and Potential Customers

Knows and complies with rules of soliciting business and cold-calling, and lawfully uses communications, sales materials, and other materials to market the products.

2. Opens Accounts After Obtaining and Evaluating Customers’ Financial Profiles and Investment Objectives

Understands the client profile information that must be collected and how this information applies to recommending appropriate financial strategies.

3. Provides Customers with Information About Investments, Makes Suitable Recommendations, Transfers Assets, and Maintains Appropriate Records

Knows product features and can educate customers on product risks and rewards. Can make recommendations that are appropriate for a given profile.  Knows processes for transferring assets and understands and complies with recordkeeping requirements. Knows available resources for tracking product performance.

4. Obtains and Verifies Customers’ Purchase and Sales Instructions; Processes, Completes, and Confirms Transactions

Knows rules and processes for completing purchase and sales transactions with customers and supplies required documentation and disclosures.


How Hard Is the Series 6 Exam?

All questions on the Series 6 exam are multiple-choice and offer four options. The questions can be lengthy and filled with significant and sometimes distracting detail, which adds to their complexity. Compared to the SIE exam questions, Series 6 questions are much more situational than definitional, and require a deeper knowledge of investment company and variable products. As a result, they go beyond the overview of these products introduced on the SIE exam.

Although the exam is not designed to trick candidates, careful reading of each question is crucial. Some questions are posed from a negative perspective, using question stems like “all of the following are true EXCEPT” or “of the practices below, a registered representative is not permitted to engage in which of the following.” These questions require significant care in assessing, as it’s easy to miss the disqualifying “not” as you get caught up in the details.

The exam is designed to ensure you know more thorough concepts that relate to doing business with related products. But because the breadth of products covered is somewhat narrow, the exam expects a deeper level of understanding.

How to Get Sponsored for the Series 6 Exam

As mentioned, although you can take the SIE Exam without sponsorship, to take the Series 6 Exam you must be associated with a financial firm that is in the securities business. This means that a firm has hired you or contracted you to work in a capacity that requires this registration. Your firm will require you to complete a detailed application – Form U4 – and after FINRA receives the form and clears you, a testing window will be opened. You’ll need to take your Series 6 Exam at a Prometric testing center within 120 days of the opening of the window.

Key Steps to Passing the Series 6 Exam

Because the Series 6 exam is such a crucial step in your ability to move forward with your career, thorough preparation is key. Here are eight tips to help increase your chances of successfully passing.

  1. Take the 50-question assessment exam. This practice test will give you an idea of the information you must master for exam success, as well as a sense of the knowledge you already have. There’s no need to dwell on this test score. Instead, it should simply be used as a baseline.
  2. Read the Series 6 textbook with the goal of achieving a high-level, general understanding of the concepts. So, put down the highlighter, and don’t focus on memorization as you read. You should, however, complete the exercises and quizzes as you go to help you retain and drill on key concepts.Note: Reading the textbook should take no more than 25% of your total study time.
  3. Complete a full-length practice exam to see your improvement from the initial assessment.
  4. Watch the online video lectures to cover the most heavily tested concepts on the exam. Be sure to download the slides and take notes as you go. Completing the exercises throughout the sessions will ensure you’re improving your grasp of the material. In addition, these lectures will give you a good sense of how the information is tested, along with critical test-taking tips.Note: Your lecture notes are an important tool for your final review. Take time to complete the lectures so you have useful notes.
  5. Shift your focus to the practice questions. Here’s where you’ll see your retention and understanding improve. Take several 20- to 30-question quizzes on each chapter, along with about 10 full-length exams, shooting for scores at least in the mid-70s. Always use unanswered questions , and when building your exams, select the testing mode that allows you to view answers as you go. Rather than memorize the questions, concentrate on understanding concepts so you can apply your knowledge to different presentations of the material. You will not see exact replicas of practice exam questions on the actual test.Note: Don’t be disappointed with low scores as you start testing. Instead, view wrong answers as an opportunity to strengthen a weakness and fill in your knowledge gaps. If you don’t understand the material after you’ve read the answer, take advantage of the text reference and go back to the book to gain further understanding. This may seem like a slow process, but if you apply it diligently, your scores will strengthen. Another best practice is to make flashcards on topics that continue to trip you up.
  6. Take advantage of all Training Center resources. Download the Class Summary in the Training Center to review key concepts by chapter and go over your lecture notes carefully.Note: Review these resources several times before your exam, as they include highly testable points.
  7. In the week or so before you test, be sure to complete the diagnostic and benchmark exams. These are designed to present a mix of topics similar in proportion to what you’ll see on the actual exam. The benchmark should be taken about two to three days before your official exam. Note: Your goal is to score 70% or above on these. Be sure you review incorrect questions carefully.

A Few Important Series 6 Exam Insights

  • You will recognize many Series 6 subjects in your study of the SIE materials. While you’ll be expected to master more detail for Series 6 questions, the concepts will be familiar.
  • Focus on the risks and rewards of each product as you prepare. Make sure you understand how to align fund objectives with the investment objectives of customers.
  • Don’t expect a math test, but be ready for about five questions that require you to compute a numeric answer.
  • Some candidates think the SIE Exam is harder than the Series 6 because it covers such a broad range of topics.

Download a Sample Series 6 Exam

Think you’re ready to pass the Series 6? Download a sample text — featuring correct answers and explanations — to ensure you’re ready.


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.