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The Latest on Remote FINRA Exams

Bob Hoenscheid, director of global account management at Prometric, the company that administers all FINRA exams, recently spoke with Knopman Marks about everything from the best times to schedule your remote exam and the latest testing enhancements, to the steps taken to protect the health and safety of those testing on-site.

Remote testing is available for the SIE, Series 6, Series 7, Series 63, Series 65, and Series 66 Exams. FINRA continues to consider the online availability of other exams but no dates have been announced. More than 10,000 online securities exams have been administered since remote testing became available July 13, through September 26, 2020.

Q&A About Remote FINRA Exams with Prometric’s Bob Hoenscheid

1) When is the best time for candidates to schedule a remote exam to minimize wait time?

Students may want to schedule their exam at non-peak times for less wait time. Peak times are 9:00 am to 11:00 am, weekdays. Non-peak times are early mornings, at 5:00 am or 6:00 am, and evenings after 5:00 pm.

2) A popular question among students: Are there plans to change the  forward-only restriction with online exams so they offer the same opportunity to go back to questions that’s available when testing on-site? 

To be consistent with the test center experience, candidates testing online can now flag questions for review and go back to make changes. 

3) What’s been the biggest surprise in this move to online exams?

We didn’t anticipate the level of interest across virtually every high-stakes program. FINRA had never shown interest in remote proctoring platforms because of security concerns. It’s been an iterative learning experience.

4) Was the widespread interest in remote testing for FINRA exams challenging to accommodate? 

We launched the ProProctor platform in 2017. Since COVID, there has been an exponential increase in the level of interest in remote exam proctoring, in the thousands of percent. This has caused us to have to dramatically scale in terms of the technology for the platform. With that have come a few inevitable issues related to that scaling, including issues with scheduling and buffering. That’s why we have made sure there are enough flesh-and-blood proctors to accommodate the demand.

5) What steps have been taken to improve the experience for the remote exam candidate, such as addressing issues of wait time, pre-test?

We’ve brought on a few hundred FINRA-dedicated proctors for online exams to support our own proctors. FINRA has been a great partner in working with us to identify gaps and strategize about new features to improve the experience for candidates. We’re continuing to upgrade and refine how readiness agents greet candidates and how we proctor remote exams.

Our overall goal in our remote proctoring program is to approximate, as best we can, the experience in test centers. We have similar security protocols pre-exam and during the exam. We have refined the questions we ask candidates to verify ID and how we conduct an environmental scan to ensure the area in which someone is taking the remote exam is compliant and free from anything that would give them an undue advantage.

6) What about technology glitches?

Initially, when we launched the platform, we had a technology in place that suspended the exam immediately if there was any break in internet connectivity. This led to the exam restarting. But most of us have flashes of breaks in connectivity at home every day, so that functionality was no longer acceptable. In response, we built in a buffering technology system that tries to reconnect if there’s a lapse in connection. This has significantly decreased the number of exam restarts.

7) To date, are more tests completed remotely versus in personfor the FINRA exams that have both options?

The majority of exams are being taken in testing centers.

8) Do you see any difference in pass rates for tests taken online versus on-site?

We are still gathering metrics and doing analysis, but so far they seem about the same.

9) Are additional accessibility options for remote test takers in the works?

Over 90% of the accommodations are supported for remote test takers today, whether they need extra time, breaks for food or water, or screen magnification. Certain accommodations will never be possible for remote exams, such as a reader recorder. Having someone in the room while testing from home will not be possible. Other accommodations, such as when we have to ship an extra large monitor to a testing center, are not possible to do for someone testing at home. However, while maintaining the credibility of the exam is our first priority, we are committed to making it as inclusive as possible. We work closely with FINRA and other stakeholders to understand and address barriers to access and inclusion.

10) As a result of COVID-19, Prometric has taken many steps, such as enforcing social distancing and mandating masks, to ensure that on-site testing centers are safe. How is that going?

None of our records indicate that COVID-19 is spreading at on-site centers. We get about one report of a COVID case in a recent exam candidate per week in the U.S., and notify all fellow test takers and staff. But we have not had one additional related COVID case or any vector cases. Prometric continues to partner with Johns Hopkins University to study the health and safety of candidates and employees in testing centers.

11) What advice would you give to FINRA exam candidates?

Regardless of how you take your test, make sure you get a good night’s sleep the night before.

If you’re taking your exam at a test center, know that your safety is a paramount concern. Free your mind of anxiety around safety at testing centers. We have taken all possible steps to ensure your safety. If you’re taking your exam online, know that readiness agents and proctors will be encouraging. Once the exam launches remotely, it’s virtually identical to a test center experience—with the exception of the forward-only functionality. Prepare, be confident, and get it done.

Learn more about how remote testing is evolving and see survey results from recent Knopman Marks candidates who took remote exams, here. Booked your remote exam? Knopman Marks faculty share their tips to keep material fresh while waiting for your test date here.

For FAQs about testing centers and scheduling your exam, visit our FINRA Exam Contingency Resource Center.

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.