Frequently Asked Questions About the FINRA Series 6 Exam

By: Kaplan Financial Education
April 9, 2019

So, you're planning to earn your Series 6 license? The questions most frequently asked about the Series 6 top-off exam and license are answered in this article, equipping you with the information you need to plan for this next step in your career.

What is the Series 6 License?

The Series 6 license (also known as the Investment Company/Variable Contracts Products license) enables you to register as a company's representative and sell mutual funds, variable annuities, and insurance.

Administered by FINRA, the Series 6 license is good for the entire period that you work for a FINRA-member firm or self-regulatory organization (SRO). It only expires if you are terminated or leave a firm and do not find employment within two years at another FINRA-member firm or SRO. You do have to maintain it with continuing education, however. FINRA explains this in an article about firm and regulatory requirements.

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What is the difference between the Series 6 and Series 7 license?

If you hold a Series 6 license, you’re called a limited representative, and you can sell mutual funds, variable annuities, and variable insurance policies. By contrast, the Series 7 license enables you to sell corporate stocks and bonds, municipal bonds, mutual funds, options, direct participation program partnerships, collateralized mortgage obligations, and more. A Series 6 license is more restrictive in terms of what you can sell compared to a Series 7 license, which permits you to sell most securities except commodities futures, real estate, and life insurance. Both serve specific needs and are appropriate to financial professionals who want to offer certain capabilities to their clients.

What jobs can I get with a Series 6 license?

If you’re interested in providing investment advice, retirement-planning services, and other types of financial guidance to clients. or you want a career in insurance or mutual fund sales, this is a good license to have. Officially listed as Investment Company Products/Variable Contracts Limited Representatives by FINRA, Series 6 license holders are usually financial advisers or insurance agents who also sell mutual funds; they work in brokerages, investment firms, banks, and insurance companies. In fact, you need to be employed by a sponsoring FINRA-member firm before you can sit for the Series 6 exam.

How do I earn a Series 6 license?

Earning a Series 6 license involves four key steps:

  1. Take and pass the SIE exam.
  2. Secure a sponsorship from a FINRA-member firm.
  3. Register for the Series 6 exam.
  4. Study for and pass the Series 6 top-off exam.

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What is the Series 6 top-off exam? Why should I take it?

As part of implementing the Securities Industry Essentials (SIE) exam, FINRA restructured their examination programs. FINRA is the governing body that ensures that anyone who sells securities products is qualified and tested. As part of this restructuring, FINRA created a tailored top-off examination for earning the Series 6 license.

You should take the Series 6 top-off exam if you want to be licensed to sell mutual funds, variable annuities, and insurance.

What are the requirements to sit for the Series 6 exam? Do I need a sponsor?

To take the Series 6 exam, you need a FINRA-member firm or SRO to sponsor you. The firm files a Form U4 (Uniform Application for Securities Industry Registration), which registers you for the exam. Fortunately, most firms that hire or train you will have a mandatory Series 6 licensing program included in their training package.

There are no education requirements to sit for the Series 6 exam, although most candidates have a college degree in a finance-related field, and many choose to complete a Series 6 exam prep package prior to sitting for the exam.

May I take the Series 6 exam before the SIE exam?

Yes, although the more natural progression is to take the SIE exam first, mainly because you don’t have to be sponsored to take it, and it is a more general exam that covers securities concepts. The SIE exam and Series 6 top-off exams are “co-requisites,” which means you can take and pass them in any order. Of course, you have to pass both to earn your Series 6 license.

Do I need to take the Series 6 top-off exam if I already have a different securities license?

It depends on the license. You might not need the Series 6 if you have a Series 7 license and you don’t plan to sell life insurance. If you have a Series 3 license and decide to stop selling commodity futures in favor of mutual funds, you’ll need to earn the Series 6. You should consult with your firm before deciding whether you need a license or not.

Is the Series 6 exam paper or computer-based?

Like all other securities qualification exams, the Series 6 exam is administered by computer at a Prometric testing center.

What topics are covered on the Series 6 exam?

The Series 6 exam topics include mutual funds, variable annuities, securities and tax regulations, retirement plans, and insurance products. The focus of the exam is the day-to-day activities, responsibilities, and job functions related to selling and purchasing these products.

How many questions are on the Series 6 exam?

The exam consists of 50 multiple-choice questions, and each question has four answer choices. There are also five additional unidentified and unscored pretest questions that do not contribute to your score that are randomly distributed throughout the exam.

% of Exam# of Exam Questions
1 - Seeks business for the broker-dealer from customers and potential customers24%12
2 - Opens accounts after obtaining and evaluating customers’ financial profile and investment objectives16%8
3 - Provides customers with information about investments, makes suitable recommendations, transfers assets, and maintains appropriate records50%25
4 - Obtains and verifies customers’ purchase and sales instructions; processes, completes, and confirms transactions10%5


How much time does it take to study for the Series 6 top-off?

Most candidates spend 40 to 60 hours studying for the FINRA Series 6 exam.

How hard is the Series 6 exam?

The Series 6 top-off exam expects candidates to be able to apply their knowledge to specific scenarios. The questions are detailed and related to the day-to-day activities, responsibilities, and job functions of limited representatives. Therefore, candidates should expect it to be challenging but quite passable with dedicated and focused preparation.

How much does it cost to sit for the Series 6 exam?

The exam cost is $40.

What are the pass rates and passing scores for the Series 6 exam?

The passing score for the exam is 70%. Because the Series 6 top-off exam just went live in October 2018, a pass rate has not been announced. However, in our most recent customer surveys, 90% of respondents have reported passing the Series 6 exam after using Kaplan prep materials.

If I fail the Series 6 exam, what is the wait time before I can retake it?

Candidates who do not pass the top-off exam must wait 30 days before taking it again. However, if you fail it three times in succession, you must wait 180 days. Your firm will also have to sponsor you again for each retake, and you will also have to pay the full fee each time.

Ready to earn your Series 6 license?

We hope this article answers your pressing questions about the Series 6 top-off exam and license. If you’re interested in taking the exam, we have Series 6 exam preparation packages. Or if you’re just getting started, check out our SIE package and our SIE and Series 6 combo series.

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