Test Taking 101

Over the last several years, I have spent my time trying to figure out why the NASAA Series 65 and 66 exams have lower pass rates then the FINRA Series 6 and 7 exams. I believe, anecdotally, the answer choices on the 65 and 66 seem to be more subjective thus leading to lower scores. To me, subjective questions and answers undermine the linear nature of standardized testing. Take for example the following:

An investor that does not take into consideration whether a stock is undervalued or overvalued would be described as

A. Active

B. Strategic

C. Indexing

D. Contrarian

If you were to look this topic up in the different textbooks, you would see the concept of undervalued/overvalued are not even associated with any of these answer choices and therefore, the test taker is left with making a subjective choice, marking the question for review, and then coming back to it several times, possibly changing their answer.

I believe this type of question would most likely be found in the middle of the distribution curve - those questions that would have the highest difficulty and lowest success rate.

I have always told my students to focus on the easiest questions. Those on the outer portion of the distribution curve. These are the questions you need to be most diligent with and score the highest on rather than the middle portion of the curve that contains the most difficult questions. However, under the stress and pressure of test taking, this is just too counter-intuitive for most people. They have to spend more time on the challenging questions. They have to buckle down!

Remember, it is a numbers game! If you can get 80% on the outer portions and a 60% on the middle portion of the curve you pass! Let me repeat this - YOU PASS!

I have quite a few friends that are far more intellectually gifted than I.  All they have to do is sniff a textbook and get a 90%. I have, on the other hand, had to work a lot harder to pass. The good news is - I have always passed! I have never failed a standardized exam. I truly believe that if YOU take the test rather than letting the TEST take you, you will find a much better success rate.