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.