Test-Taking Strategies for NASAA and FINRA Exams

By: Kaplan Financial Education
July 31, 2020
5 professionals who passed their FINRA securities licensing exam

Passing securities (FINRA) exams is necessary for aspiring advisers and financial services professionals looking to advance their careers. While each exam has its own topics of focus and format, there are some general test-taking strategies that can help you succeed in all securities (FINRA) exams.

1. Read the Full Question

You cannot expect to answer a question correctly if you do not know what it is asking. Be sure to read the full question before you answer it. Questions are often written in a way to trap people who make assumptions.

2. Avoid Jumping to Conclusions and Watch for Hedge Clauses

Hedge clauses are included in the exam to throw you off. Hedge clauses include terms like if, not, all, none, or except. When you encounter an if statement, the question can be answered correctly only if you take the qualifier into account. If you ignore the qualifier, you will most likely answer the question incorrectly.

3. Look for Key Words and Phrases

Keep your eyes out for words that reveal the situation presented. For example, if you see the word prospectus in a question, you know the question is about a new issue. Take time to identify key terms to answer this type of question correctly.

4. Interpret the Unfamiliar Question

Some questions on the exam will seem unfamiliar at first. If you have studied the materials, you will know the information to answer all of the questions correctly. Often, questions present information indirectly or differently than you are used to seeing it. You may have to interpret the meaning of some elements before you can answer the question. Know that the exam will approach a concept from multiple angles. Text anxiety can trip you up in these situations, so here is some valuable information for overcoming that.

5. Memorize Key Points

Although reasoning and logic will help you answer some questions, others will require you to memorize information. Include memorization of key points in your 90-120 hours of recommended studying.

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6. Use Information from Prior Questions

Sometimes, information found in one question will help you answer another question. Pay attention to all of the questions as you are going through the exam! You never know when one will help you with another.

7. Define What is Being Asked

Many questions supply so much information that you can lose track of what is being asked. This happens especially with story problems. Take the time to separate the story from the question and identify what is actually being asked.

8. Use a Calculator

Most questions that require calculations are written so that any math needed is simple in nature and function. It is still recommended, however, that you use a calculator so that you do not make easy math errors that lead you to select incorrect answers.

9. Beware of Changing Your Answers

If you are not confident in an answer, your first hunch is the one most likely to be correct. Do not change answers on the exam without a good reason. In general, only change answers if you discover that you did not read the question right or if you find additional helpful information in another question.

10. Pace Yourself

Watch the time carefully when taking the exam. Your time remaining will be displayed on your computer screen, so you will always know how much time you have left. Some people will finish early and others will run out of time. Make sure you pace yourself throughout the exam.

11. Make Sure You Know the Exam Format

Be sure you know what the exam will be like before you go into it. This will help alleviate any external stress on the day of the test. T

If you are looking for more information about what to expect at the testing center, visit our What to Expect on the Day of Your Securities Exam article. 


If you are looking for an exam prep provider to help you prepare for an upcoming securities (FINRA) license exam, check out Kaplan's securities licensing study solutions. We have study programs to match all learning styles. 

Free Download:A Candidate's Complete Guide to the SIE Exam

After identifying nine series exams with common content (6, 7, 22, 57, 79, 82, 86/87, 99), FINRA decided to restructure their licensing process. The common content is now tested in the new Securities Industry Essentials (SIE) exam. Download this free guide to learn more about how the new securities licensing process works, the rationale for the change, SIE tested exam content, and how it could change hiring and recruiting practices.