If you’re getting ready to take a securities exam, or any exam for that matter, it’s good to know what you’re getting yourself into.
Here at StateRequirement, we want you to be able to walk into the testing center with confidence that you will leave being one step closer to getting your Series 6 & 63 Licenses. In this article, you will learn everything that you need to know to face your exams without fear.
We’ve scoured through the best resources to find the information you need to be prepared. So sit back and keep your reading glasses handy. We’re sure to get in the weeds with this guide.
We recommend that you bookmark this page so you can easily find it the next time you need it.
Basics of Securities Exams
What is the Format of the Exam?
The format of all of the securities exams is:
- Multiple Choice
- Closed Book
So what exactly is a proctored exam?
In the simplest terms, proctored means someone is present while the candidate is taking the assessment. Proctored tests can be administered on a computer or using paper and pencil. Depending on the type of test, the proctor may or may not have to be certified.
Proctored assessments are the optimal administration format. You know for certain that the responses were given without input from other people or the use of supplemental tools (calculators, textbooks, etc.). You can also control the environment and eliminate the risk of distraction.
The Series 6 and 63 exams are administered by Prometric, a third-party testing company. You will take the exam in a controlled room with a provided PC. There will be a proctor overseeing you and any other applicants for the duration of your test.
For some, this may cause anxiety, which we will cover later in this article.
The exam is a multiple choice test, with four options available as answers. This means that if you aren’t sure about a question, you still have a chance of getting the answer correct.
There will not be an essay section to your insurance license exam, as the laws that your test is based upon are not open to interpretation or opinion.
Series 6 Format
- The exam contains 50 questions
- The allotted time to complete the exam is 90 minutes, or one hour and thirty minutes (1:30)
- The passing score is 70 out of 100 answers correct (70%)
- The cost of the exam is $40
- The SIE Exam is a co-requisite to Series 6 Exam
Series 63 Format
- The exam contains 60 questions
- The allotted time to complete the exam is 75 minutes, or one hour and fifteen minutes (1:15)
- The passing score is 43 out of 60 answers correct (72%)
- The cost of the exam is $135
- There are no prerequisites to the Series 63
Scheduling the Exam
You can learn more about scheduling the exams on our pages below:
Series 6 License
Series 63 License
When registering for the exams, you have a 120-day “enrollment window” that you must take the exam in, so be sure you are ready to study and prepare for the exam when you register.
StateRequirement recommends that you schedule your exam two to three weeks in advance after you get your study materials. This will allow you enough time to properly study and prepare for the exam without having too much time to psych yourself out.
Test taking is a mental game, and you should do everything that you can to put yourself in the right head space.
One other element that we would like to suggest is that you only study and schedule for one exam at a time. These tests are not just blow-off exams and can be very data heavy. It is easy to misremember that you have 30 days for one type of policy, and 35 for another.
Be smart, and work on one license at a time.
Are the Series 6 and 63 Exams Hard?
This question will vary greatly depending on a number of factors including:
- Your experience level with the subject matter and terminology used
- Your ability to deduce necessary information from questions
- Your test-taking confidence
- Whether or not you studied effectively
- Your study materials
The pass rates for either exam are not made public by FINRA or the NASAA, but pass rates from Kaplan’s website are as follows:
These numbers are of course based on students who used Kaplan’s study materials exclusively.
We highly recommend that you take a live study course when attempting the Series 6 and 63 exams. This gives you an opportunity to ask questions to an expert while studying. This could mean the difference between passing or taking the exam again.
For Securities pre-license education and study materials, StateRequirement recommends:
People generally go into the Series 6 and 63 with the intention to pass the exam the first time. Unlike the insurance exams, folks are generally well prepared for these exams. This is most likely the case, as even though we see higher pass rates, the actual material on the exams is either similar or even more difficult.
Testing is a mind game, and you need to control the factors that you can to yield the best results.
Whether or not we like it, tests like these are sometimes more a measure of your ability to test well, rather than how well you know the material. This may not seem fair, but it is the truth, and we have to play by the rules that are set in front of us.
Be sure to read on, as we will give you our best ways to make sure that your ability to test is as effective as you get to make it.
Series 6 and 63 Preparation
What material is covered on the exams?
Series 6 Outline
According to FINRA, the outline of the Series 6 exam follows the four functions that a license holder will be working with:
- Seeks Business for the Broker-Dealer from Customers and Potential Customers (24% – 12 Items)
- Opens Accounts After Obtaining and Evaluating Customers’ Financial Profile and Investment Objectives (16% – 8 Items)
- Provides Customers with Information About Investments, Makes Suitable Recommendations, Transfers Assets and Maintains Appropriate Records (50% – 25 Items)
- Obtains and Verifies Customers’ Purchase and Sales Instructions; Processes, Completes and Confirms Transactions (10% – 5 Items)
Within these four functions, you will need to know the things surrounding these topics:
- Industry Regulations, including SEC and State Requirements
- FINRA Supervision
- Reporting Requirements
- Sales Literature
- Different Types of Funds
- Risk Factors
- Account Registration and Management
- Types of Communications
- Seminars, Lectures, and other Group Forum Requirements
- Product Specific Advertisements and Disclosures
- Process for Bringing New Issues to Market
- Official Statements, Preliminary Official Statements (POS) and Notice of Sale for Municipal Securities
- Regulation D Offerings
- Customer Screening
- Information Security and Privacy Regulations
- Account Authorizations
- Essential Facts Regarding Customers and Customer Relationships
- Portfolio or Account Analysis and its Application to Product Selection
- Portfolio Theory
- Investment Risks, Returns, Costs/Fees
- Tax Consideration
- Market Analysis Considerations
- Trade Execution Activities
- Best Execution Obligations
There will also be a number of laws that should be understood at some level to be efficient with on the exam.
- Securities Exchange Act of 1934
- Investment Advisers Act of 1940
- Securities Act of 1933
- Investment Company Act of 1940
- FINRA Rules
- MSRB Rules (Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board)
- Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA)
- NASD Rules (National Association of Securities Dealers)
- Federal Reserve
Be sure to study the full FINRA Series 6 Outline for more detailed information.
Series 63 Outline
According to the NASAA, the outline of the Series 63 exam contains these key subjects:
- Regulation of Investment Advisers Including State-Registered and Federal Covered Advisers (5%)
- Regulation of investment adviser representatives (5%)
- Regulation of broker-dealers (15%)
- Regulation of agents of broker-dealers (15%)
- Regulation of securities and issuers (5%)
- Remedies and Administrative Provisions (10%)
- Communication with customers and prospects (20%)
- Ethical practices and obligations (25%)
As you can see from both outlines, communication with the public, customers, and prospects, along with ethics are the most widely covered topics. These exams and licenses are put into place not to make you the best salesperson, but to keep the general public safe from deceptive marketing practices and unsuitable product selection.
Having a good grasp on what a licensed securities salesperson should and should not do will go a long way in your studies, as well as make you a more successful businessperson for the long term.
Studying for the Series 6 and 63 Exams
Since the insurance exam is just that, an exam, preparing to take it can be accomplished just like studying for any other exam.
So what is the best way to study for an exam? For this, we are going to borrow some help from site-specific to studying for, taking, and passing exams. We’ll customize it for the insurance exams, but you can visit the original article at TopUniversities.
1. Take Enough Time To Study
While “cramming” may have worked back in high school, this isn’t the time to try to learn everything in one night. There is a lot of very specific information on these exams, and 0% of it is common sense information. You can’t fake your way through this test. Build a solid base of information before you attempt.
StateRequirement recommends that you give yourself at least two weeks to study for this exam. If you are less confident, take a little longer, but don’t take too much time, as you may either start to lose some of the information or subconsciously not take studying seriously.
The best way to approach this situation is to gather all of your study materials, then call your testing company and schedule a time to take the exam. This will give you a real, hard deadline that you can work towards.
Note: Schedule and study for one exam at a time. This will make sure that you have less information to retain at one time, and much less chance to mix up numbers.
2. Organize Your Study Space
Make sure you have enough space to spread your textbooks and notes out. Have you got enough light? Is your chair comfortable? Are your computer games out of sight?
Try and get rid of all distractions, and make sure you feel as comfortable and able to focus as possible. For some people, this may mean almost complete silence; for others, background music helps. Some of us need everything completely tidy and organized in order to concentrate, while others thrive in a more cluttered environment. Think about what works for you, and take the time to get it right.
3. Use Flow Charts And Diagrams
Visual aids can be really helpful when revising. At the start of a topic, challenge yourself to write down everything you already know about a topic – and then highlight where the gaps lie. Closer to the exam, condense your revision notes into one-page diagrams. Getting your ideas down in this brief format can then help you to quickly recall everything you need to know during the exam.
Flash cards are also a great way to study. Don’t want to write down hundreds of terms and definitions? You don’t have to! Check out Quizlet.com. Tons of people before you have compiled their study materials, making this awesome resource for learning terms.
Just search for the test type and state, then choose whose list you want to use, or create your own.
Keep in mind, however, that since this information is all put together by individuals, there’s a chance that some of it could be less than accurate.
4. Take Practice Exams
We’ve done a lot of research to find the best practice exams and study material for you. There are a few free sample practice questions across the net, but we find the most comprehensive material is with Kaplan. All of their self-study packages come with Series 6 and 63 practice exams.
5. Explain Your Answers To Others
One of the best ways to verify that you understand a topic is to teach it to someone else.
Find a willing party and borrow some time from them. Anyone who will listen will do just fine. If they have questions, that’s even better. The better you know the material, the smoother you will be, and the better chances that you will ace the exam.
As Albert Einstein said, “If you can’t explain it to a six-year-old, you don’t understand it yourself.”
6. Organize Study Groups With Friends
This may be more difficult now that you’re out of school, as not everyone is taking the same exam at the same time as you are.
If you take either an in-person course or a live online course, you may be able to find a peer group that is all studying for the same thing that you are.
If you can find people, take advantage of the combined effort and have some study group fun!
7. Take Regular Breaks
While you may think it’s best to study for as many hours as possible, this can actually be counterproductive. If you were training for a marathon, you wouldn’t try and run 24 hours a day! Likewise, studies have shown that for long-term retention of knowledge, taking regular breaks really helps.
Everyone’s different, to develop a study routine that works for you. If you study better in the morning, start early before taking a break at lunchtime. Or if you’re more productive at nighttime, take a larger break earlier on so you’re ready to settle down come evening.
Try not to feel guilty about being out enjoying the sunshine instead of hunched over your textbooks. Remember Vitamin D is important for a healthy brain!
8. Snack On “Brain Food”
Keep away from junk food! You may feel like you deserve a treat, or that you don’t have time to cook, but what you eat can really have an impact on energy levels and focus. Keep your body and brain well-fueled by choosing nutritious foods that have been proven to aid concentration and memory, such as fish, nuts, seeds, yogurt, and blueberries. The same applies to exam day – eat a good meal before the test, based on foods that will provide a slow release of energy throughout. Sugar may seem appealing, but it won’t help when your energy levels crash an hour or so later.
9. Plan Your Exam Day
Be sure that you have everything that you need to be gathered up the night before. The testing centers all require that you bring identification and other materials with you on the day of your exam. If you don’t have everything that is required, you could be going home without testing, and without receiving a refund for your exam fee.
You should also be sure that you are not hungry or thirsty when you sit down to test. There is nothing that will kill concentration faster than a rumbling belly during the exam. This is an easy fix, just make sure you eat well on test day!
10. Drink Plenty Of Water
As a final tip, remember that being well hydrated is essential for your brain to work at its best. Make sure you keep drinking plenty of water throughout your revision, and also on the exam day.
Am I Ready?
If you have followed all of the steps that we’ve listed above, and feel confident that you know the information well, then yes, you are ready!
What if I don’t feel ready?
As the testing day approaches, if you feel like you aren’t prepared, then you can always reschedule for a later time.
Each testing company has different rules on when and how you can reschedule. If you don’t follow these rules, you will forfeit your testing fee. Prometric requires that you contact them to reschedule 48 hours prior to test time.
You need to be honest with yourself before you make the call to reschedule. Ask yourself what the real reason is that you want to delay. Is it because you truly aren’t prepared, or is the anxiety of a looming deadline getting the best of you?
Either way, just be sure that you aren’t making decisions for the wrong reasons. Don’t be afraid of the exam, it’s totally passable!
Taking the Series 6 and 63 Exams
What to Bring on Test Day
When you arrive at the Prometric testing center you will need to:
- Arrive 30 minutes prior to your test time
- Identification – This needs to be a valid government issued ID with a photo and signature – A driver’s license, military ID, or passport are good examples
- Sign in to Prometric’s logbook and agree to the exam center rules of conduct
The testing center will provide you with the following materials:
- Dry-erase board
- Dry-erase marker
You are not allowed to bring your study material, cell phone, wallet, or any other personal effects into the test room. Some test centers have lockers or other storage space where you can keep things while testing.
If you attempt to bring something into the proctoring room and are caught, you will be removed from the testing center and forfeit your testing fee.
Don’t try to cheat, it’s not worth the risk.
Testing and performance anxiety are real. They can honestly be a very debilitating factor in your securities exam experience.
If you’re “just not good at tests”, it could be lots of things, one of them being test anxiety. Do you get so nervous that your mind becomes a fog? Do your hands begin to sweat? Do you find it hard to even read the questions on the screen? It could be legitimate anxiety.
Daniel K. Hall-Flavin, M.D. has a great article over at the Mayo Clinic on how to overcome test anxiety.
We’ll do our best to sum it up here:
1. Learn To Study Efficiently
We covered studying for this exam in the last section of this article. Reference this, and find out what works best for you.
Once you’ve got an effective routine, capitalize on it.
2. Establish A Consistent Pre-Test Routine
Since you won’t be taking lots of exams, this may be less relevant to the securities situation. We can still take a lesson though: On test day, make sure that you take plenty of time to put yourself in the right headspace. If you go into it with confidence, you will come out on top.
3. Learn Relaxation Techniques
There are a number of things you can do right before and during the test to help you stay calm and confident, such as deep breathing, relaxing your muscles one at a time, or closing your eyes and imagining a positive outcome.
Daniel K. Hall-Flavin, M.D
4. Don’t Forget To Eat And Drink
Again, we covered this back in the studying section, but it is absolutely critical to your test success.
If you go in dehydrated or hungry, you are shooting yourself in the foot. Take the time, and be prepared.
5. Get Some Exercise
The mind and body are one tool. If you can keep your body sharp, your head will be sharp too.
Take a walk before you attempt the test. This will get your blood moving and help you get into the right mindset.
6. Get Plenty Of Sleep
Sleep is absolutely correlated to your testing success. It’s hard to be sharp when you’re not firing on all cylinders. Be sure you get at least eight hours of sleep the night before your exam.
Testing Tips, Tricks, And Strategies
Alright! This is what you came to see. The shortcut method on how to pass the test without studying!
No. Sadly, this test will still take some time to study, but with these strategies, you will have much less of a chance to get tripped up while taking the exam.
Since this is a multiple-choice exam, as opposed to an essay exam, you won’t be writing any of your answers in sentences. (And don’t worry, you won’t be graded on spelling.)
Penn State has a one page PDF with a great Approach to Multiple Choice Questions. We’re going to throw their suggestions in with some of our own time-tested plans.
1. Read The Last Sentence First
When reading the questions, it’s easy to get tripped up in the details, especially if there are three or four sentences. By reading the last sentence first, you will find exactly what the question is asking. Once you know what you are looking for, you will be able to better understand the rest of the question.
Reading the last sentence first will also help when the question seems to be a double negative or something similar.
2. Predict Your Answer Before Looking At The Choices
If you read the question, and think you know the answer, make a mental note so you can see if your answer is in the choices. If you were correct, great. If not, then keep following these steps.
3. Read All Of The Choices Before You Select An Answer
This is a lifesaver if you find yourself hurrying to beat the clock.
When you read the question and glance down at the choices, you may read the first one and think, “yes, this is the correct answer,” but if you continue reading the choices and find that a different option makes more sense.
Keep in mind, that you shouldn’t rush. This may be a timed test, but you have plenty of time to finish if you pace yourself.
4. Eliminate Any Answers That You Are Sure Are Wrong
One of the beautiful things about multiple choice exams is that even if you don’t know the answer, you still have a 25% (if there are four choices) chance of answering correctly.
To make your chances of “guessing” even better, go ahead and knock out the options that you are certain are incorrect.
If you aren’t 100% sure what the answer is, it’s better to guess between two options rather than four.
When choosing between the last two options, follow the next step…
5. Go With Your Gut
There are times when you read the options, and you have a feeling that one is correct, even though you aren’t sure. Often, this is your studying paying off unconsciously. If two answers make sense, go with the one your gut is pointing you to.
Trust your intuition, unless you can prove that another choice is the correct answer.
6. Remember The Questions That Were Asked
One positive about a test that has upward of 160 questions, is that sometimes you will find an answer to a question in the text of another question.
There will be times that you read a question, then remember two or three questions back a question about a similar subject. When you skip back to the already answered question, you may find that reading it again will help you solve the current question.
This can also be helpful retroactively. If you answer a question but aren’t positive that you were correct, then come across another question that helps solve the first one, you can go back and correct your mistake!
7. If You Don’t Know It, Don’t Waste Your Time On It
If you come to a question that you just can’t make heads or tails of, skip it and come back later.
Remember, you have plenty of time to finish the test, but this doesn’t mean you can spend five minutes trying to solve every difficult question. Skip it, but try to keep the question in the back of your mind, so that you can try to extract the answer to it from reading other questions.
8. At The End Of The Exam, Go Back And Fill In All Unanswered Questions
Before you take the exam, ask the proctor if there is any penalty for “guessing.” We don’t know any states that practice this, but it’s worth asking.
After you have finished answering all of the questions you knew, go back to your unanswered questions. Read them again carefully, and try to remember if any of the other questions would help to answer this one. If not, just eliminate the options that are definitely wrong, then guess between the options that are left.
If you leave it unanswered, you will definitely get it wrong. If you take a wild stab, you have a chance of getting lucky!
Time: When you come to the last two to three minutes of your time limit, if you have lots of unanswered questions, go through and fill them in. Again, finishing with unanswered questions is a sure-fire way to get them wrong.
If you took enough time to study, and follow these strategies, you shouldn’t have any trouble passing the insurance exam.
After the Securities Exam
I Passed, Now What?
First of all, congratulations!!!
Passing the exams is the first step in your new career, and you’re off to a great start.
So the next step depends on the state you are in, and the license types you are going for.
If you are getting more than one type of license, then head back to the study table for your next subject.
What if I didn’t pass?
If you didn’t pass this time, you now have a much better idea of what you are facing. Now that you know what you’re up against, you can go back to your studies with a renewed vigor and zeal. Be sure to study hard on the parts of the test that you were less successful with.
If you were close to passing, go ahead, and schedule another exam; just remember that you need to wait a specified amount of time before you can take the exam again.
You know what you have to work on, so be sure you can explain the topics to a six-year-old, and go out and crush it the next time!