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9 Helpful Tips for Taking the Securities Industry Essentials (SIE) Exam

SIE Exam candidates thinking about test taking strategies for passing

Posted by: Kaplan Financial Education
Published: November 13, 2018

As you prepare to sit for FINRA’s Securities Industry Essentials (SIE) exam, you may be wondering what the experience will be like on exam day. Oftentimes, candidates get anxious prior to an important exam just from the anticipation of the unknown. But there are things you can do prior to the exam to reasonably control your nerves and put your best foot forward when you sit to take the exam.

If you’ve completed an SIE exam prep program, you’ve already solidified your knowledge. Now take your exam prep across the finish line by applying these nine crucial tips on SIE exam day.

Tip #1: Read the Full Question

Confidence is an important tool in your test-taking arsenal. But misplaced confidence can also cause problems when you’re sitting for the SIE exam if you’re not careful. Questions are often written to trap people who assume too much. The question may not be asking what you think it is if you don’t read it in its entirety. Read each question completely before choosing your answer.

Tip #2: Watch for Hedge Clauses

A hedge clause is a term like if, not, all, none, or except. In the case of if statements, the question can be answered correctly only by taking the qualifier into account. Be on the lookout for these words, and make sure you fully consider how they affect what’s actually being asked.

Tip #3: Look for Keywords and Phrases

Certain words provide clues to the situation being presented. For example, the word prospectus gives you a clue that the question is about a new issue.

Tip #4: Interpret the Unfamiliar Questions

It’s likely that you will come across some questions on the SIE exam that seem unfamiliar at first glance. Don’t let it throw you off. Sometimes questions present information indirectly, making something you’re quite familiar with seem unfamiliar. It can be helpful to interpret the meaning of certain elements before you can answer the question. To thoroughly test your grasp of the knowledge, expect the exam to test concepts from multiple angles.

Tip #5: Use Information from Prior Questions

This is something test takers don’t always think about in the moment. But be attentive to it. Some questions need to provide you with information to set a scene and give you what you need to answer the question being asked. That information may prove valuable, providing clues to an answer on another question later in the exam. 

Tip #6: Define What is Being Asked

Questions sometimes provide too much information, and not all of it is relevant. Learn to separate the story from the question to get to the heart of what’s really being asked. This is something you can practice before the exam so you’re prepared for it when you face it.

Tip #7: Use a Calculator

Most of the questions that require calculations on the SIE exam are written so the math involved is simple in nature and function. But in a potentially high-stress situation, you are more prone to making mistakes. Use a calculator to ensure that common math errors don’t lead to incorrect answers.

Tip #8: Beware of Changing Answers

If you are not completely sure of an answer, you should trust your first hunch. Only change answers when you discover you didn’t read the question correctly, or you find additional helpful information in another question.

Tip #9: Pace Yourself

Keep an eye on the time remaining, which will be displayed on your computer screen. Be aware of the time you have left to complete the exam and the number of questions you have remaining. Don’t panic, but pace yourself appropriately to ensure you’re not scrambling in the end. A common way test takers maintain a pace is answering the questions they know instantly first, and then coming back to the more difficult questions later.

A Candidate's Complete Guide to the New SIE Exam Free eBook - Kaplan Financial EducationA Candidate's Complete Guide to the New SIE Exam

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

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