What is the Securities Industry Essentials (SIE) Exam?

The SIE is a new regulatory exam that will allow candidates to demonstrate their mastery of the essentials of the financial industry. The exam will cover the foundational knowledge used in careers in investment banking, wealth management, sales and trading, and more.

This is a big change from the current exam structure, which requires individuals to be employed and sponsored by a FINRA-registered firm before taking an industry qualification exam.

Infographic of Changes to Regulation Procedure Pre and Post-SIE Exam

Key SIE Exam Information

Number of questions75 multiple-choice questions
Passing score70%
Cost of exam$60
Time to complete105 minutes
Credential valid for4 years
Content on exam1. Knowledge of capital markets
2. Understanding securities products
3. Understanding trading, customer accounts, and prohibited activities
4. Rules and regulations
Download SIE Exam Handout


A 2-Minute Introduction to the SIE Exam

Frequently Asked Questions

Who can take the SIE Exam?

The SIE Exam will be available to anyone 18 years old or older. That means college students, MBAs, career changers, and anyone interested in pursuing a career in the financial services industry can take the SIE, which is the first step in landing that dream job.

What is the new process to become fully licensed?

To become fully licensed after October 1, 2018, individuals must pass both the SIE and a specialized top-off exam tailored to their area of practice (e.g., investment banking, securities trading, operations). Though the SIE can be taken at any time, the top-off exams will only be available to employees of FINRA member firms.

Registration CategoriesBefore October 1, 2018On or After October 1, 2018
Investment Company and Variable Contracts Products Representative (IR)Series 6 (100 Questions)SIE (75 Questions) + Series 6 (50 Questions)
General Securities Representative (GS)Series 7 (250 Questions)SIE (75 Questions) + Series 7 (125 Questions)
Investment Banking Representative (IB)Series 79 (175 Questions)SIE (75 Questions) + Series 79 (75 Questions)

The question difficulty level of SIE is expected to be similar to Series 7, For example, a question on Outside Business Activities (OBAs), a topic that will be included on the SIE since it applies to all registration categories, will be tested at the difficulty level currently tested on Series 7.  A topic that doesn’t apply to all registrations will be tested at a foundational level on the SIE if at all, but then in detail and degree of difficulty similar to current exams on the relevant top-off(s). Series 6, 79 and 99 candidates should expect topics on the SIE that are not covered by the current exams (e.g. options and municipal bonds).

The specifics of the top-off exams are noted in revised outlines for each exam.  In all cases the number of questions and time allotted for exam completion has been reduced because of the elimination of redundancy. After retiring unnecessary exams, eight top-offs remain and go into effect October 1, including the MSRB’s Series 52, for which no details have yet been released.

Top Off SeriesNumber of QuestionsTime for Completion
Series 65090 minutes
Series 7125225 minutes
Series 225090 minutes
Series 5250105 minutes
Series 5750105 minutes
Series 7975150 minutes
Series 825090 minutes
Series 995090 minutes

Why is FINRA changing its exams?

FINRA is responding to industry requests for improvement with this exam restructuring program. The SIE Exam will streamline the overall qualification exam structure, eliminate duplication across exams, and make it easier and quicker for individuals to become fully registered securities professionals. In addition, the SIE offers an opportunity for individuals seeking to enter or re-enter the securities industry to demonstrate their knowledge of the securities industry and stand out in the crowded field of potential applicants.

Where can I take the SIE Exam?

The SIE will be available worldwide at Prometric testing centers.

When can I take the SIE Exam?

The Securities Industry Essentials (SIE) exam will be available starting October 1, 2018.

How will the SIE Exam affect Undergrads?

By passing the SIE Exam, undergrads can add a resume credential that will help them stand out in a crowd of applicants and accelerate their careers. Potential employers will value the initiative and knowledge demonstrated by candidates who pass the SIE. It is anticipated that the SIE will become a minimum requirement for many financial services careers in the future.

How will the SIE Exam affect Summer Graduate Training Programs?

2018 analyst and associate programs will not change, but 2019 programs will need modification for the SIE. Some firms may require new hires to pass the SIE prior to starting their training program, and will include only top-off training for S79/S7. Firms that don’t require SIE prior to hire will need to incorporate SIE training, in addition to S79/S7 top-off programs, which may lengthen their programs and affect order of delivery.  Also, firms should plan to address situations where some new hires have passed the SIE and others have not.

How will the SIE Exam affect current Industry Professionals?

Current industry professionals who are already licensed will not need to take the SIE exam. If they require a new license for a different job role, they may have to take a “top-off” exam, but it will be shorter than today’s exams.

HR and learning development professionals also see opportunity in the new SIE program. The SIE content can provide cost-effective industry training for staff who do not require registration. Employees will benefit from improved understanding of the financial services business and its regulations, while firms will benefit from a ready “bench” to fill openings that require registration.

If I need to take the Series 7 or Series 79 exam this fall, which exams should I take?

New exams are always difficult to predict, so if time permits, we recommend taking the current Series 7 and 79 exams prior to October 2018. Understand your options during this transition.


How can I pass the SIE Exam?

FINRA exams are designed by professional psychometricians (test-makers) and truly distinguish individuals who have or do not have the required knowledge of the securities industry and its products, rules, and regulations. To pass, candidates must prepare specifically for the SIE, learning and mastering the testable concepts. In general, students need to read a textbook, participate in classroom training (live or on-demand), and drill with practice questions to be successful. We have a great set of SIE materials to get you through the test and hope you will train with us!

Will there be classes available for SIE and/or Top-off Exams?

Yes, Knopman Marks will offer in-person and virtual classes for SIE and top-off exams beginning in October. Daytime and evening class options are available.

What happens if I fail the SIE Exam?

As with the current FINRA exam program, candidates must wait 30 days before retaking an exam after the 1st or 2nd exam failure.  After the third failure the wait is 6 months. A new exam fee must be paid for each attempt.

Do I need to take the SIE Exam if I’m already licensed?

No. If you currently hold a Series 7, Series 6, or Series 79, you will be grandfathered into the new exam and receive the credential. If you leave the industry, your SIE Exam credential will be valid for four years.

If I want to, can I take only the Series 7 Exam, Series 79 Exam, etc. to become licensed?

No. Once the SIE Exam is available, you will need to take the SIE + the specialized top-off exam to become licensed. You may become licensed solely with the legacy exam only if you have an open exam window prior to the change.

If your job changes in the future and requires a different type of registration, you will need to take only the top-off exam, once you have taken the SIE.

How can I register for the SIE Exam?

Exam appointments can be made with Prometric directly. Once candidates are enrolled for an exam they will have a 120-day window to schedule an appointment with Prometric, as they do currently.

Although it is recommended that exam dates are scheduled as far in advance as possible, it is anticipated that scheduling an SIE or top-off exam may be easier than in the past at many exam centers due to the shorter length of the new exams.

Extra time will no longer be offered for completion of the SIE and top-off exams.  Other testing center accommodations for special needs will be available.

SIE Exam Voucher Program and Exam Payment

The SIE exam fee is $60.  Under the new SIE/top-off exam process, the cost of both exams will be equivalent to the current single exam cost.  For example, the current Series 7 exams costs $305.  Upon SIE implementation, the SIE will cost $60, and the Series 7 top-off will cost $245.

FINRA announced a “voucher” process that will allow member firms to pay SIE exam fees for non-associated persons. Firms can buy SIE vouchers from FINRA for $60 each, and assign them to exam candidates.  Candidates will then use the voucher number as their payment method when registering to take the SIE exam.

SIE exam vouchers may be purchased by member firms through the FINRA enrollment system for $60 each.  The vouchers expire with no redemption value 6 months from date of issue, and firms will not receive refunds for unused vouchers.

Vouchers can be transferred to another person if the original recipient does not take the SIE, but the original 6-month expiration period does not change.  For example, assume a voucher is issued on January 1st with expiration on June 30th. If the original recipient decided on March 1st not to take the SIE, the firm could transfer it to another SIE candidate.  However, that second candidate must test prior to the original expiration date of June 30th or the voucher will expire.

There is no limit on the number of times the voucher may be transferred within the 6-month period.

Internal Process Changes for Many Financial Firms

The SIE change will require that firms reconsider their process for candidate registration.  Among issues to be addressed are:

  • Whether the firm will offer vouchers and how the voucher system will be communicated
  • How current processes and systems must be revised to accommodate tracking of the SIE and top-off exams, particularly when the SIE is completed by unregistered and non-associated persons
  • Building awareness of the SIE and associated opportunities cross-functionally
  • Adjusting summer training programs that include Series 7 for two exams instead of one and addressing scheduling changes for new hires that already have already passed the SIE
  • Determining whether the SIE will be a pre-hire requirement for some or all businesses
  • Considering whether SIE training and testing should be used for training and development of internal personnel who do not require registration.
Download SIE Exam Handout

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