Are you considering taking the Series 9 exam and becoming certified as a general securities sales supervisor? If so, you’ll need to understand what the exam entails and how to prepare effectively.
This guide provides a comprehensive look at the Series 9 exam, including its structure, content, and scoring process. It also offers expert tips to help you prepare well so you can pass on your first attempt.
What is the Series 9 Exam
The Series 9 exam, more formally known as the General Securities Sales Supervisor Qualification Exam, is one of two exams you must pass in order to obtain your Series 9/10 license.
Developed and administered by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), the Series 9 exam evaluates the competency of individuals aspiring to supervise sales activities within a municipal securities firm.
As such, the exam gauges candidates’ proficiency in four functions:
- Opening and Maintaining Customer Options Accounts: This section delves into the intricacies of managing customer options accounts
- Sales Practices and Options Trading: In this section, candidates must demonstrate their understanding of supervising sales strategies and general options trading activities
- Options Communications: This section examines candidates’ capability to oversee options-related communications
- Personnel Management: This section evaluates candidates’ competency in managing and direct participation programs
Note: Before you begin preparing for the Series 9 exam, you’ll need to verify your eligibility. Specifically, you must have an affiliation with — and sponsorship from — a FINRA member firm or appropriate self-regulatory organization (SRO). You also must hold the Series 7 and Securities Industry Essentials (SIE) qualifications.
Interested in learning more about the Series 9 designation? We recommend checking out our in-depth Series 9/10 article for more information.
You’ll have one hour and 30 minutes to complete the Series 9 exam, which includes 60 multiple-choice questions. Keep in mind that five of these questions are there simply to help FINRA collect data so won’t affect your score.
Function 1: Supervise the Opening and Maintenance of Customer Options Accounts
- 1.1 Review new account documentation to determine if approval is appropriate
- 1.2 Review recommended customer options trading activities to determine if strategies meet applicable standards
- 1.3 Review margin accounts to confirm their proper handling and timely adherence to margin requirements
Function 2: Supervise Sales Practices and General Options Trading Activities
- 2.1 Identify and review customer complaints and take appropriate actions
- 2.2 Oversee the correction of options trade errors
- 2.3 Review daily trade activity for completeness of records or exceptions (e.g., orders, routing, and execution)
- 2.4 Monitor the general operational process of options trades
- 2.5 Take disciplinary or corrective actions relating to the conduct of associated persons; address regulatory actions regarding violations or potential violations of securities industry laws, rules, and regulations; and address customer and industry disputes
- 2.6 Develop and maintain policies, procedures, and controls relating to the creation and retention of books and records
- 2.7 Supervise compliance with financial responsibility requirements as well as funding and cash management
Function 3: Supervise Options Communications
- 3.1 Review options retail communications and determine if approval is appropriate
- 3.2 Review incoming and outgoing options correspondence, including approvals where required
- 3.3 Review options institutional communications and determine if approval is appropriate.
Function 4: Supervise Associated Persons and Personnel Management Activities
- 4.1 Maintain marketplace and associated product and regulatory knowledge
Make sure you allocate adequate time for each topic and focus on potential areas where you may need to deepen your knowledge to help ensure your success in the exam. You’ll need a score of 70% or more in order to pass.
Over 81% of our readers use Kaplan’s online courses — which come with a 93% pass rate — when preparing for their Series 9 exam. For comprehensive study packages, StateRequirement recommends:
Series 9 Exam Prep
Whether or not you pass your exam will inevitably come down to how well you prepare. Even though the ideal studying experience will differ from reader to reader, here are some general tips and guidelines you should keep in mind when preparing for your exam.
Recommended Study Materials
The right study materials will not only help you grasp the content more deeply, but also keep you informed about the latest industry trends related to your exam.
Here are some examples of the types of resources you can use when preparing:
- Regulatory Documents: These can help you familiarize yourself with the latest regulations and updates you’ll need to know for your exam
- Content Outlines: You can use FINRA’s detailed content outline to ensure you don’t miss a topic during your preparation
- Professional Online Courses: You’ll also likely want to purchase a third-party course, such as one provided by The Securities Institute of America or Kaplan, because they can go a long way in helping you pass on your first attempt
Think of it this way: Just as selecting the right tools for a project can help ensure success, choosing the best study materials will set the foundation for you to ace the exam.
Mock Exams and Sample Questions
Incorporating mock exams into your study plan is essential.
Why? Mock exams allow you to “get a feel” for the real exam, familiarize yourself with the types of questions you’ll need to answer, and check you’re capable of finishing the exam within the required timeframe.
Regularly taking mock exams also can help improve your confidence during the exam, which can prevent you from making unnecessary mistakes.
Exam Day Tips
Finally, here are a few tips you should keep in mind during your exam. They can help you optimize your performance, manage your time efficiently, and navigate complex questions with confidence.
- Strategize for ambiguous questions. If you encounter a question that stumps you, don’t dwell on it. Bookmark or flag it, and then move on to questions you can answer more readily. Return to those flagged questions once you finish the rest of the exam
- Keep time management in focus. Time can slip away quickly during an exam. Practice pacing yourself so you can attempt every question without feeling rushed. Consider wearing a simple wristwatch to keep track of the time, if permitted
- Review key concepts and formulas. In the days leading up to the exam, review key concepts, rules, and formulas essential for the Series 9 exam. Consider creating flashcards or a summary sheet for quick reference
- Arrive early and relaxed. On exam day, plan to arrive early to allow for any unexpected delays. Bring necessary identification and materials, and take a few moments to breathe and center yourself before starting
Remember, exam-taking can be a skill in itself. As such, it’s important you do the best you can to get as comfortable as possible in advance.
Series 9 Exam FAQ
What is on the Series 9 exam?
The Series 9 exam covers topics related to the supervision of sales activities in options and equities, including oversight of sales practices, compliance, and trade processing. Specific areas of focus include regulatory guidelines, customer accounts, and sales practice rules. For more information, see at our Series 9 Exam article.
How difficult is the Series 9 exam?
The Series 9 exam is challenging and requires an in-depth understanding of regulations, sales practices, and financial responsibilities. Having said that, you can definitely pass it on your first attempt if you dedicate a substantial amount of time to studying, use the right exam prep materials, and take a sufficient number of mock exams.
Do you take the Series 9 and Series 10 exams together?
Candidates typically take the Series 9 and Series 10 exams together. However, you can take them separately if you prefer. The Series 9 exam focuses on options and equities while the Series 10 exam deals with the supervision of securities sales (which will cover municipal securities, corporate securities, and government securities), and money market funds. You must pass both in order to obtain a Series 9/10 license.
What is the passing score on the Series 9 exam?
The passing score for the Series 9 exam is 70%. This and the Series 10 exam together form the General Securities Sales Supervisors Qualification Exams. Candidates must pass both in order to be fully qualified, but they don’t have to take the exams together. This offers a certain degree of flexibility in the testing process.