How To Pass Your FINRA/NASAA Exams

When I was first hired by a small, start-up Broker/Dealer in Portland, Or. in 1992, the boss said to me, " Welcome to the team. Here, read this, take a test ". I said, "okay". He handed me a 700 page text book- the Series 7 text book and I read the thing cover to cover - 3 times! I actually wrote notes on each chapter the third time through. I had no practice questions, no practice final exams. I believe, to this day, that the only thing that got me through that exam was writing all of those notes.

Today, of course, there are a lot of resources and tools to help get us through all of our exams. One of the best tools I've seen come down the pike over the years is the electronic calendar that most publishers offer. A very nice tool to help the busy professional with the time management demands these exams extoll. There are online practice questions and Final Exams, as well as video libraries to help us with the tremendous volume of information these tests cover.

One of the most common questions I get from students is how best to study for their exams. This is usually the "recipe" I recommend to best understand and retain the information necessary to pass their exams:

STEP 1. Instead of trying to tackle the entire textbook from cover to cover, take it chapter by chapter with practice questions after each chapter to help retain the concepts and practice your test-taking techniques. For example: Read Chapter 1, then do 20 questions from your online practice questions (You can also, if available, enhance your reading with a video on the specific chapter). Next, read chapter 2, then do 20 questions from the online practice questions, then do 20 questions from Chapters 1 & 2. Next, read chapter 3, do 20 questions on the chapter, then 25 questions on Chapters 1, 2 & 3. Next, read chapter 4, do 20 online practice questions, then do 30 questions on chapters 1, 2, 3 & 4. GET THE IDEA! This, I truly believe, is the best way to obtain, retain and reinforce the necessary information. WARNING! I find that many students try hundred if not thousands of practice questions when they are studying for their exams. This can sometimes dilute the core content that you need to retain for the test. I believe in being over prepared as opposed to under prepared but some of these publishers add content questions that WILL NEVER show up on their exam!

STEP 2: Use exam supplements/create cheat sheets. These help us retain key facts we KNOW will show up on the test, i.e. interest rates, options, state laws.

STEP 3: Take a class in your area if possible. The classes are designed to focus specifically on the test content. Hopefully, if its a good class, they will show you the subtle differences between the text material and the real test. THEY DO DIFFER.

STEP 4:  Take Practice Final Exams so that you can simulate the test-taking experience prior to your test. I like at least 4 Practice Finals to give you a good average score. Also, many of these exams provide diagnostic breakdown of your scores to fill in any remaining holes you may have. Depending on which exam you are taking you would ideally want to score at least in the 70's if not higher. Most practice exams are designed to get you within 5% of your real score.

STEP 5: Pass your exam!

I truly believe if you systematically study the material, it will give you your best chance at success. Boy, I still remember sitting in that library, day after day reading that damn textbook. Chapter after chapter, after chapter, after chapter.......