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How to Pass the Series 65 and Series 66 Exams

Is success on the Series 65 and Series 66 licensing exams posing a challenge for your candidates? It’s no secret that these are tough exams. In fact, candidates who easily pass other exams are not always so successful with either of these. If you’re looking for some guidance, the tips below may give you fresh ideas for supporting your candidates and boosting results. 

Let’s start with a quick review of the nuts and bolts:  

  • Series 63 + Series 65 = Series 66. Candidates get credit for two exams in one if they’re eligible to take it. 
  • Series 66 requires a Series 7 co-requisite, Series 65 does not. The Series 65 could be the only exam a candidate takes, so it spans a wide range of product  foundations, investment advisor regulatory content, economics, and portfolio planning concepts. Candidates taking the Series 66 have more state law and planning-focused questions that pick up where the Series 7 left off. 
  • Series 65 is a bit longer than Series 66 (140 questions vs. 110 questions). The extra questions on the Series 65 are the product-related and economics questions that were covered in the Series S7.  Although both exams are long, the Series 65 is a marathon and requires even more stamina. 

10 Tips to Pass Series 65 and Series 66 Exams   

  1. Expect products and law. Overall, Series 65 has a heavier tilt toward products, and Series 66 has a heavier tilt toward law. 
  2. Prepare for content creep. Although product questions are fewer on Series 66 than on Series 65, there’s significant “content creep” on both exams involving “hot products” and unethical sales practices. Variable annuity, mutual fund and option product features often come up in these questions despite not being part of the formal content outline for either exam 
  3. Find more math on Series 65. Series 65 has 4 times the number of business analysis and economics questions.  These are math-based questions, and many candidates find them especially difficult. 
  4. Beware of burn-out with Series 66. Series 66 candidates often suffer from burn-out when they jump into a third study effort right after completing the SIE (Securities Industry Essentials) and Series 7. There is no letting up on the gas when preparing for Series 66. The rumor that the Series 66 is similar to Series 63 in difficulty is false, false, false. 
  5. Prepare for a heavy lift. The Series 66 requires nearly as many study hours as the Series 7.  If it is taken right after the Series 7, there may be some efficiencies in content overlap, but it’s still a heavy lift. 
  6. Manage test anxiety. Series 65 can be a beast for Series 6 candidates, especially if they haven’t taken an exam recently. Consider what tools can be offered to help them feel prepared and realize that they are likely to feel intimidated and overwhelmed. Guidance on study essentials and managing text anxiety are especially valuable for these candidates. 
  7. Choose between the two exams. If your candidates have a choice of which exam they can take, candidates who are strong on products and analysis should go with Series 65, while candidates that prefer regulations should go with Series 66. 
  8. Consider a pivot. If a candidate is on the Series 66 path, has failed twice and is now facing a 180-day wait for the third exam attempt, consider pivoting to the Series 65 (if firm policies permit).  There’s no waiting period between exams.   
  9. Build stamina. The sheer length of these exams adds to their difficulty.  Make sure candidates take a minimum of three timed full-length exams to build stamina and practice focus.  Even better, add on an extra 10 to 15 questions to full exams for a cushion. 
  10. Focus on concepts over calculations. Most candidates expect many more math calculation questions then they actually see. Usually, there’s only a handful. It’s more important to understand how to do the math than to complete the calculations.  Recognizing the right equation or formula that applies to a situation is often as far as the questions go.    

Looking for More Series 65 and Series 66 Exam Resources?

  • Download Knopman Marks’ At-a-Glance Guides. These straightforward guides detail study techniques, recommended time commitments, last-minute prep, and more.
    Download Series 65 Guide

    Download Series 66 Guide

To maximize your chances of passing, sign up now. 

Series 65 training or Series 66 training.


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.