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Ten Study Pitfalls to Avoid on the SIE and Series Exams

Are you preparing for the SIE, Series 7, Series 79, or another securities exam?

If you blaze your own study trail, you might just miss out on some make-or-break steps. Knopman Marks’ SIE Exam pass rates are the industry’s highest. We specialize in preparing exam candidates for success. Our plan makes the exam prep process efficient, covering all the material with the right amount of emphasis on each topic.

Follow our plan, and we’ll put you in a strong position to pass the first time by avoiding common study blunders, such as:

  1. Deviating from the study plan. To help you maximize the use of your study resources, an action plan is provided in the Knopman Marks Training Center. The defined study steps have been tested with thousands of students. We are the experts, so commit to our plan. If you believe you have a plan that’s better for you, feel free to let us vet it first. If we have provided you with a custom study plan for your specific securities training program, stick with that one.
  2. Thinking the textbook isn’t necessary. Candidates often think that financial industry knowledge from prior courses or work experience can replace the textbook. They try to save time by skipping ahead to practice questions. This usually isn’t a good plan. About 20% of your total study time should be allotted for review of the textbook and other study materials in order to build foundational knowledge and get you focused on the topics that are most heavily tested.
  3. Not doing practice questions early in the study process. It’s super important to understand how the information is tested, and working through questions is the way to learn. Don’t worry about low practice scores – get those 50s out of the way early on. The practice questions help grow your knowledge base, and your scores will climb if you use them correctly. Waiting until the last few days to start doing questions usually spells disaster and creates significant anxiety. You can access practice exams through our Learning Center, or download a free SIE practice exam.
  4. Not taking notes during on-demand lectures or class. Commit to taking notes when watching the on-demand lectures or attending class. Taking notes will boost learning and can double your memory, or increase it by as much as 70% if you go through your notes within 24 hours of taking them. How you take notes matters too: Studies show that handwriting notes is even better for retention than typing them.
  5. Taking advice from friends who have passed. What helped your friends pass the SIE might not work for you. Remember, these tests are dynamically generated – the financial topics and concentration can vary between exams.
  6. Defining your weaknesses with a single practice exam. You should definitely use the exam breakdowns to find your weak areas, but you need a reliable sample size to get a good reading. A single exam won’t do. The KM diagnostic and benchmark exams are designed for this purpose, so if you follow the study plan, you’ll know exactly where they fit in. Work through several exams, compare your performance breakdowns, and fill in gaps with targeted quizzes, i.e., quizzes on topics where you score below 65%. Go back to full exams on all topics after this process to gauge your progress.
  7. Working questions without following a review process. For at least the first 60% of questions you complete, you should review the answer explanation – even if you got the question right. If you did miss a question, especially if the concept is still unclear after reading the explanation, spend time going back into the book to get more context and clarity. Learn “the why” so you can apply the information next time around.
  8. Not keeping track of concepts you repeatedly miss. One of the best ways to fix problem areas is to jot down a note to yourself after you’ve missed a question. Keep a notebook with you as you take practice questions for this purpose and you’ll have an excellent, customized review tool. But don’t just copy down the explanations from the questions you missed. Go the extra mile to research the concept and make the note meaningful.
  9. Repeating questions to gauge your preparedness. You should complete unused questions whenever possible to get the best reading on your exam readiness. Consistently scoring 80%+ on questions you have seen before might not mean you are ready, while a 73% on questions you have not seen before means you’re good to go.
  10. Leaving unused questions for testing just prior to the exam. It’s important to know where you stand just before you test, and your performance on unused exam questions is the best predictor. To check yourself, you’ll need to complete never-before-seen questions 2-3 days before your actual exam. If you don’t have a test date, don’t get antsy and complete all unused questions. Save some.

Take advantage of these tips and our study resources to give yourself the best possible chance of passing your securities exam.

How to Start Studying

Ready to work with Knopman Marks to prepare for the SIE Exam? Register here, or learn more about the test and download a practice exam here. Good luck!

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.