I have long thought that candidates should be able to take their licensing exams prior to being sponsored by a firm. Fortunately, as of October, 2018, candidates can take the SIE (Securities Industry Essentials) Exam on their own before even going to look for a job. Although you still need sponsorship to take the top-off exams such as the Series 7 or Series 6, it is a good start.
The initial idea was that the SIE would cover all of the information that is the same on all of the top-off exams. However, since I have a deep knowledge of the exams prior to and after the change, that’s not exactly true. For example, the Series 7 Exam was supposed to be broken down into the SIE and Series 7 Top-Off Exams. That would’ve been nice but the SIE and Series 7 Top-Off Exams go into much more than the Series 7 alone did. So, even though each individual exam requires less studying than the old Series 7, when you combine the two, you’ll need to know at least another 30% more than you did for the old Series 7 Exam.
SIE Exam Breakdown
The SIE Exam as an introductory exam covers a basic knowledge of things such as what a stock is, what a bond is, introduction to options, a basic understanding of retirement plans, basics of mutual funds, how the stock market works, regulatory agencies (FINRA, NASAA, MSRB, and so on) and their functions, prohibited practices, etc.
Candidates get up to 1 hour and 45 minutes to complete the SIE Exam. Candidates will be asked to answer 85 multiple choice questions on computer at the exam center. However, out of the 85 SIE questions, only 75 count towards your grade. What this means is that there are 10 experimental questions mixed into the exam, which you’ll likely not recognize. At the end of the exam, you’ll receive your grade. A passing grade is 70 or above. So, this means that you must get at least 53 of the questions that count correct.
Once you’ve passed the SIE, you can move on to get sponsorship to take one of the top-off exams such as the Series 7.