Posted By: Kaplan Financial Education
Updated: July 28, 2017
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.
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.
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. The test format is as follows:
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!