I have a motto as a mentor that I tell the advisors I work with on an almost daily basis: the more you learn as a financial advisor, the more you’ll earn. While this motto can refer to multiple ways of learning such as reading books, listening to podcasts, and attending continuing education events, it also refers to ‘traditional’ learning in the form of taking exams and qualifying for important designations. There are a number of different exams and licenses in this industry and it can be easy to become confused about what each is and if you do or do not need it. For example, the Series 6 and 7 are both securities exams that allow you to buy and sell stocks, mutual funds, and other products. The Series 65 is a little bit different. If you’re wondering if you need the Series 65 and how you can best prepare yourself to take and pass the exam, you’re in the right place.

What is the Series 65 and Do I Need It?

The Series 65 is administered by FINRA and is regulated by the SEC. Since the Department of Labor’s new fiduciary rule came into play, awareness of the Series 65 has increased as this is an exam that is all about the rules and regulations advisors need to abide by when giving investment advice. The test consists of 130 questions with 10 additional ‘test questions’ that do not affect your grade. You have three hours to take the exam and must get a 72% to successfully pass.

If you plan to start a career as an advice-based financial advisor, I wholeheartedly believe that you need to take and pass the Series 65 exam. The good news is, this is not an overly difficult exam as it is based mostly on memorization and the ability to learn key ideas and facts. However, you do need to have a plan in place and you must follow that plan to successfully pass this test.

How Can I Prepare for the Test?

Once you’ve decided to take the Series 65 exam, it’s imperative that you get started on preparation right away and avoid procrastinating. This is especially true for those who have been out of school for a while and have fallen out of the habit of studying or test-taking. Here are some ways to launch your preparation efforts:

Create a Study Plan  How long do you have to study for the exam? Once you have determined this, you can break it down into how much time you should study per day so you can be fully prepared. I usually tell advisors to plan for 90 minutes of study time per day. If you try to do much more than that, you’ll likely burn out or lose some retention of material.

Decide How to Best Manage Your Time  You not only need to manage your study time (this means making it a priority and figuring out how to fit it into even the busiest of days), but also your time while you’re taking the exam. Remember, this is a timed test. If you get stuck on a question and waste 20 minutes on it, you’ll likely not pass the exam.

Develop Problem-Solving Methods Ahead of Time  Have a plan in place to deal with issues during the test. If you get stuck on a question, how long will you spend before you move on? What will you do if you’re only halfway through the exam and running out of time? Come up with as many ‘what-if’ scenarios as you can before the exam and have a Plan A and a Plan B in place ahead of time.

What Are Some Resources I Can Use?

The resources you should use to study for the exam depend a lot on your method of learning. For example, if you learn best by visual means, you probably would not get as much out of a classroom setting as someone who has a kinesthetic (hands-on) learning style. Once you’ve determined your primary method of learning, you can look at the following resources to help you study.  

Self-Study I learn well by reading books, so when I need to study for something I tend to stock up on the proper books and develop a self-study program. I highlight, make notes, and use flashcards to absorb the information I need. If you learn in this method, you can find tons of books from Kaplan, on Amazon, and even on Craigslist that can help you achieve your goals.

Live Options Do you learn best by being hands-on and through discussion with others? If so, you may want to attend some live classroom sessions that will help you prepare. Kaplan has some great classes throughout the country and, depending on where you live, you may also find classes at local community colleges and community centers.

Online Options There are plenty of online courses available if you study best by taking pre-exams, watching videos, and participating in chat groups. Simply search for Series 65 online study guides and you’ll see a host of options to choose from.

The Series 65 exam is a necessary part of your journey to becoming a successful entrepreneurial advisor. If you’d like to learn more about taking and passing the Series 65 Exam, please take a look at our mini course that we offer on our site. I go into all the information you’ll need to study for and pass this exam so you can use it to further your goals as an advice-based planner.