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What to Do If You’ve Failed the SIE or Another Securities Licensing Exam

Passing one or more securities licensing exams is a requirement for many financial industry careers. While getting a pass the first time around is the hope of every exam candidate, in reality some candidates have to take an exam more than once.

How Long Is the Waiting Period Before I Can Retake an Exam?

A waiting period of thirty days applies if you don’t pass the exam on the first attempt. The same goes for your second attempt. If you fail the exam on your third attempt, the waiting period extends to 180 days (six months) for each subsequent attempt. Unfortunately, there are no waivers for reducing the wait time. Although the waiting period must be satisfied, you may take the test as many times as necessary to pass.

Generally, you’ll work through your firm to arrange your new exam attempt. Your licensing or registration team will re-request the exam for you and pay another exam fee. You’ll then receive a new exam window, which is the 120-day enrollment period during which you can schedule your exam appointment. Even if you are not taking the SIE exam through a firm, the same waiting period will apply, and you will pay a new exam fee.

How to Make Sure You Pass the SIE Exam on Your Next Try

The first step in preparing for the retake is to adjust your mindset. A failure can be demoralizing, but you can’t let it keep you down. It’s a temporary setback that’s experienced by many. Take a day or two to feel bad, but then don’t look back.

Your retake strategy will be crucial. To plan your attack, you’ll need to objectively assess your last test attempt, using your test score for guidance.

  • If you scored above 65, you’re not far off the mark. You’ve proven that you have mastery of most concepts, but refinement is needed. Your plan should focus mostly on testing to isolate and improve weak areas. If you’re working, plan on spending at least an hour every other day to study, with longer blocks of time on weekends for taking full tests. At a minimum, while studying, you should plan to complete ten times the number of questions on your actual exam. For example, if you failed an exam with 85 questions, ensure you complete at least 850 questions before you test again.

On days where you have less time to study, do short quizzes of 20–30 questions on a specific chapter, ensuring you carefully read explanations as you go. But when you have more time, you must take full exams on all topics, shooting for consistent scores of 75%+. As you are testing, jot down topics you consistently get wrong, and spend time re-reading information on those topics in your textbook. In the week before your test, review any summaries, notes, or charts from your study materials and complete at least two full exams. Scoring around 80% is your objective. If you’re there, you can approach your retake with confidence!

  • If your score was 65 or below, you need to spend more time mastering fundamentals. Realistically, you should approach your retake almost like you’re studying for the first time. If you’re working, try to allocate about an hour a day to study, with longer blocks of time on weekends.

This is not the time to take shortcuts, so if you did not read the textbook the first time around, reading it should be your first priority. Assume that reading and re-reading will take about 25%–30% of your time. If you have access to on-demand lectures, reviewing them and taking careful notes is highly recommended. About 50% of your prep time should be spent on these tasks.

After strengthening weak areas through short quizzes, it’s time to go back to exams on all topics. Take shorter exams when you have less time, but make sure you take at least one or two additional full-length exams on the weekends. In the last week before your test, review any summaries, notes, or charts from your study materials and complete at least two full exams. To be ready for exam day, you should be scoring near 80% consistently. Take the time you need to prepare. Thorough preparation will give you the confidence you need for exam success!

Your study materials are essential for a successful retake strategy. If you haven’t already used it, you can download an SIE practice exam here. If you’ve practiced with all the questions from your materials, consider purchasing additional materials from a different vendor. Having new questions will be crucial.

Follow your plan with diligence, and your exam retake will be a distant memory. Good luck with moving forward in your new career!

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.