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Series 7 Exam Prep: How to Pass the FINRA Series 7 Exam

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Series 7 Exam Prep: How to Pass the FINRA Series 7 ExamI frequently get asked by young finance professionals what are the best Series 7 exam prep materials and how to pass the FINRA Series 7 exam on their first try.

During my career, I have taken and passed many different financial exams on my first try (CPA, CFP, securities exams, etc).  That is surprising to a lot of people because I’m a person of very average intelligence (some would say even that is overly generous) and I don’t have a great memory.

However, since a passing score on this exam is a 72% and I scored in the 90’s on my first try, I frequently get asked for tips on how to prepare for and pass this exam.

Fortunately, you don’t need to be a brain surgeon to pass the Series 7 Exam.  Anyone can pass it with the right preparation.

In my opinion, you only need to do two things to pass this exam on your first try:

1.  Use the best Series 7 review materials available, and

2.  Master the material before taking the exam

That’s it.

Use the Best FINRA Series 7 Review Materials

The material tested on the Series 7 exam is not difficult.  However, there is a ton of material to get through and learn.

The best Series 7 exam review materials take an enormous amount of information and condense it so that you are only studying what will be tested.  The review materials tell you everything you need to know to pass the exam.  All you have to do is put this information in your brain.  Remember, the main purpose of Series 7 exam review materials isn’t to make you a perfect registered representative–it’s to teach you what you need to know to pass the Series 7 exam.

The best FINRA Series 7 exam review materials condense, simplify, and summarize the information so that anyone can understand it.  I firmly believe that even somebody who has never taken a finance course in their life could pass the Series 7 Exam if they used solid review materials and put in the time to learn the material.

The best Series 7 review materials also make the information easy to remember.  Their materials contain acronyms, funny rhyming sayings, and other ways of remembering key points.

The best Series 7 review providers also have a good collection of practice problems/exams.  Some of these problems will likely be similar or even identical to problems you will see on the exam.  I cannot emphasize enough the importance of doing as many practice problems as possible.

What Are the Best Series 7 Exam Review Materials?

There many companies out there that provide Series 7 exam review materials, so you have a lot of choices. However, not all FINRA Series 7 exam review materials are created equally–trust me on this one.  The Kaplan, STC, and Wiley materials tend to be the most popular and highly recommended.

If you are looking to save money on your purchase, there are generally review course materials, flashcards, and practice problems on Amazon at a fraction of the normal price.  If you are looking to purchase Series 7 review materials or are unimpressed with the review materials from another provider, take a look at the STC , Kaplan, or Wiley  materials.  I originally began preparing for my Series 7 exam with the materials from another provider but felt like I wasn’t learning and retaining the information like I needed to.  After about a week I switched to one of these providers and it made all the difference.

Master the Material Before Taking the Exam

Given that test takers have varying levels of education, relevant work experience, learning styles, and ability to memorize and retain information, exam prep time will vary by person.  Some people may be ready with only a few weeks of studying while others will require months of preparation.

However, there are some general principles that I believe will apply to most test takers.

  • Some topics, such as options, investment suitability, and municipal bonds are tested much more heavily than other topics.  Allocate your study time accordingly.
  • The muni questions tend to be a little more difficult than many of the other questions.  Make sure you really know this material.
  • Some of the test material is conceptual, such as the option strategies and calculations.  Once you master these concepts, you should be able to apply them to any problem they throw at you.  This is the low hanging fruit of the exam.  Take advantage of it.
  • Investment suitability is another heavily tested part of the exam.  Like options, it’s also pretty conceptual in nature and should be free points for most test takers.  If you need help learning the options or suitability portions of the material, shoot me an email.
  • The rest of the exam is mostly pure memorization.  You can’t memorize every random fact they can throw at you, so just do your best.  Good review materials will help you to know how to allocate your study time.
  • Everyone’s test is likely a little bit different.  If your buddy recently took the test and tells you that he didn’t see a single question on topics ABC or XYZ, that doesn’t mean that you won’t.
  • Do a lot of practice tests.  And then do more.  Do as many as you possibly can.  I can’t emphasize enough how important this is.  This is probably the most important thing you can do to prepare for your exam.  You will likely see similar, if not identical questions on your exam.  I know I did.  If you want to find additional practice problems and exams, Amazon usually has some at a reasonable price.
  • If possible, do full practice tests in a single sitting rather than a few questions here and a few questions there.  This will prepare you for the mental fatigue you will experience while taking a 6 hour test.  Aim to score in the 80’s on your practice exams.
  • Test takers can generally push back their test date without financial penalty as long as it is not done within 10 days or so of the exam date.  Unless you are restricted by a work deadline, push back your test if you aren’t ready.  It’s better to push it back than take it and fail.
  • Memorize the formulas in your study materials.  You will likely need to use some of them.

Follow a Solid Test Taking Strategy

Although not as important as using the best review materials and mastering the information, it’s also important to have a solid test taking strategy.

The FINRA Series 7 exam is 6 hours long.  It is composed of 2, 3 hour testing sessions with an hour break for lunch in between, so it will be a long day.

During the last 48 hours before your exam, make sure you get enough sleep, eat healthy, and don’t over-study.  This is wise advice for any exam, but especially for a 6 hour test.

Most test takers have plenty of time to answer all the questions.  I am a very slow test taker and even I had plenty of time to finish the exam and go back and review any questions I was unsure of.  However, be aware that exam questions at the beginning and end of the exam tend to be much easier than the questions in the middle.  Don’t spend so much time on the hard questions in the middle that you don’t have time to answer the easy questions at the end.

There will be a lot of questions you likely won’t know the correct answer with 100% certainty.  This is normal.  However, eliminating one or two incorrect choices can have a powerful impact on your final score.  I only felt confident on about half of my test problems, yet because I was able to eliminate some incorrect choices and make educated guesses, I was still able to score in the 90’s on the exam.

There are 10 experimental questions on each exam that aren’t graded.  If you see a few questions you have no idea on, they may very well not be graded at all, so don’t beat yourself up too bad during the test.

If you don’t know an answer, look for patterns in the four choices given.  For example, if you get a municipal bond question and 3 choices are types of GO bonds and one is a type of revenue bond, the revenue bond may be the correct answer.  Also, if you see 2 opposing choices, oftentimes one of them will be the right answer.


I hope you have found these insights helpful.  I probably told you nothing new, but hopefully I have boosted your confidence in your ability to pass the Series 7 exam.  If nothing else, remember that the material tested on the FINRA Series 7 exam is not overly difficult, there is just a lot to learn and remember.

However, if you use the very best preparation materials (which will tell you what to study) and study them until you have mastered the information, then you can be confident that you will pass the exam.  If you shortchange yourself on either of these points then you run the risk of failing.

I know a lot of people who have taken the Series 7 exam.  Without exception, the people I know who did not pass the exam on their first try, or who never passed it at all, either were not using solid review materials or simply didn’t invest the time to really learn the material.

Studying for and taking the exam multiple times is not fun, it’s time consuming, and it’s expensive.  Failing to pass the exam can also be a significant hindrance to your career, future earning potential, and professional opportunities.

You might get lucky using below par review course materials or not putting in enough time studying, but why risk it when so much is on the line?   I wish you all the best on your upcoming Series 7 exam!

What are your thoughts about how to pass the FINRA Series 7 exam?  What was your experience like when you took the Series 7 exam?  What other strategies did you use?  Leave a comment below!

Image: Yuri_Arcurs/Bigstock


{ 1 comment… add one }

  • Philip Glenn January 12, 2016, 5:59 am

    Hello, thanks for taking the time to post this helpful information. I wish I read this the first time around. I will be taking the Series 7 for my second time in Feb, and I seem to be struggling with options, muni bonds, and investment suitably. Any advice on those topics will be greatly appreciated.

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