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Everything You Need to Know About FINRA’s Online Testing

An informative webinar hosted by Knopman Marks, with special guests from Prometric, offered an insider’s look at the emerging online testing experience. The panel explored the pros and cons of testing online versus at a traditional brick-and-mortar testing center. They also shared student survey data about the exam scheduling experience and detailed testing enhancements that are underway.

Prometric said that while FINRA continues to consider remote testing for all exams, no dates have been announced. Remote testing is available for the SIE, Series 6, Series 7, Series 63, Series 65, and Series 66 Exams. Long term, Prometric is exploring an Assessment Anywhere feature that could allow remote testing on a variety of devices, from diverse locations. More than 10,000 online securities exams have been administered through September 26.

After closures due to COVID-19, Prometric started reopening testing centers on May 1, while remote testing became available July 13. “The challenge in remote proctoring is striking the right balance between candidate convenience and security,” said Bob Hoenscheid, account director at Prometric. “That will continue to evolve.”

For Brian Marks, president of Knopman Marks, the scheduling and exam process during COVID-19 has exceeded expectations. “There could have been a nightmare scenario, given the backlog and the issues with COVID,” said Marks. “What we’ve seen, and what our survey data confirms, are a lot of positive experiences.”

Marks reported that overall pass rates have been strong since Prometric reopened: 2,627 Knopman Marks students have taken the exam, with a 98.24% pass rate.

In an instant poll during the webinar, participants reported that candidates’ scheduling and testing experiences since COVID-19 had been better than expected, though confusing for some. The group that tuned in for the webinar included personnel from compliance/registration (making up 70% of attendees), learning & development (20%), and HR (5%), as well as test takers (5%).

Joining Marks for the webinar, Being Prepared: The FINRA Online Testing Environment, were colleagues Dave Meshkov, head of course design, and Marcia Larson, head of partnerships. Participating from Prometric were Hoenscheid and Sarah Wagner, client success manager.

Webinar Snapshot: Scheduling and Online Testing 

If you missed the webinar, or the live Q&A with panelists at the end of the session, you can view a recording here, or read on for highlights.

  • Students find it relatively easy to schedule exams and get the date they want. A Knopman Marks of more than 400 students who have taken an exam since Prometric reopened testing centers revealed that most students:1. found it easy to schedule an exam (72%),
    2. were able to find available slots to schedule their exam either each day or at least a few times a week (60%), and
    3. were able to get the exam date they wanted (72%). Note: The survey was conducted before remote testing launched.
  • Prometric is up to full occupancy in about 80% of test centers. Prometric has partnered with Johns Hopkins University to study the health and safety of candidates and employees in testing centers. Every Prometric test center employee completes a daily attestation about their health as it relates to COVID-19, Hoenscheid explained. He noted that social distancing practices are enforced at testing centers and candidates and staff must wear a mask.
  • Prometric is analyzing any differences in pass rates online v. onsite. Anecdotally, Hoensheid noted that there was an initial spike in pass rates in financial services exams when testing centers reopened, and as remote testing launched. “For most financial service firms, the rates have stabilized to pre-COVID levels in the last 30 days or so,” he said. “The supposition is candidates were waiting to test and had done so much prep, those candidates were more prepared.” Find tips from Knopman Marks faculty on how candidates can keep the material fresh when they’re “running in place” while waiting to test.
  • Remote testing was enhanced. New additions include hiring a few hundred remote proctors dedicated to the FINRA programs and putting in place a buffering technology so momentary lapses in internet connectivity don’t result in a disconnect or a restart. FINRA stated during a recent weekly webinars that they’re working to make their online testing interface more similar to the Prometric Center-delivered exam. To be consistent with the test center experience, candidates testing online can now flag questions for review and go back to make changes. Extra time is now available for LEM (limited English proficiency) and special accommodation requests. See our tips for remote testing here.
  • Remote testing is continually evolving. AI could play a role in assisting with proctoring and in determining the amount of time spent on certain questions. “It will be a different world,” Hoenscheid said.

Online Test Taking Environment v. Prometric Test Centers

Asked what candidates should consider when deciding whether to take their exam remotely or at a testing center, Prometric emphasized comfort and convenience. “It’s primarily around candidate convenience, and the environment that you feel will be most conducive to positive testing,” Hoenscheid said. “I often hear that the focused environment of test centers gives candidates the opportunity to do their best. There are inevitably distractions at home for a lot of people.”

Knopman Marks emphasized exam readiness when choosing between online or onsite testing. “We advise our students to take the exam when they’re ready,” said Larson, from Knopman Marks, noting that exam availability may also inform a candidate’s decision.

Students who don’t have a quiet place to take their exam at home may prefer a testing center. To troubleshoot or become aware of any potential tech issues, Knopman Marks recommends doing a system check and downloading the app before scheduling a remote exam. Candidates using work-issued laptops have experienced tech problems due to firewalls and other restrictions. This two-minute Prometric video offers a good idea of what it’s like to test remotely.

Still not sure if onsite or online is for you? View our pros and cons recap.

Suzanne Riss is an author and Director of Communications at Knopman Marks Financial Training. Previously the award-winning Editor-in-Chief of Working Mother magazine, she is a fierce advocate for issues facing working moms and an authority on work/life trends. Her expertise has been tapped in interviews by The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Good Morning America, the Today Show, and CNN. Suzanne's third book, Work Disrupted, published by Wiley, was released in January 2021.