Anyone with ambitions of a career in commodities or the futures market must pass the National Commodities Futures Examination, more commonly known as the Series 3 exam. Administered by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), the exam is required by the National Futures Association (NFA) and the Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). Unlike the Series 6 and 7 exams, sitting for the Series 3 exam does not require a securities firm's sponsorship.
Covering such complex topics as futures contracts, hedging, options, margin requirements, and myriad regulatory rules, the Series 3 is a challenging, two-part, 150-minute exam, requiring rigorous exam prep. Although an official Series 3 exam pass rate is not published, it's widely accepted to be about 70%. Based on a review of the top Series 3 exam prep course providers, candidates who use a study course have a 90% to 95% chance of passing the exam on the first attempt.
Considering the expense of the exam and exam prep materials, it can cost over $400 to sit for the Series 3 exam, which is why it's essential to select an exam prep course that meets your particular learning style and study preferences. We reviewed a dozen Series 3 course providers to identify the best in six categories. We considered the providers' experience and reputations, the selection and quality of study materials, question bank and practice exam efficacy, style and availability of instruction and support, pricing, available success rate information, and much more. Here are the courses that earned the highest marks in our review.
The 6 Best Series 3 Exam Prep Courses of 2020
- Best Overall: Securities Training Corporation
- Best Question Bank: Kaplan University
- Best On-Demand Video Instruction: Training Consultants
- Best Value: Securities Institute of America
- Best Low-Cost Self-Study Course: Solomon Exam Prep
- Best All-Inclusive Premium Course: Greico Financial Training Institute
Best Overall: Securities Training Corporation
Most exam prep providers offer a basic level and a premier level package. Securities Training Corporation's premier package includes everything needed to match any learning style, making it our choice as the best overall package.
50-year track record
Comprehensive learning tools and training methods
Six-month access to all materials
Money-back guarantee not available with the standard course
No mobile app but online tools are mobile responsive
Securities Training Corporation (STC) has been helping financial professionals pass securities exams for more than 50 years. With that experience, STC knows something about how to package a Series 3 exam course to meet the needs of any learning style, which it has done with its Series 3 Premier package. For students who want the best overall package, STC should be your choice.
At $299, the STC Premier course is exam-focused, stacked with best-in-class learning tools and training methods. Students have six-month access to online and printed study materials updated in real-time and used in conjunction with online progress exams. STC also allows for custom exams, providing students with the ability to focus on topics they find the most challenging. In addition to eight final exams, STC offers Greenlight Exams designed to help students determine their readiness for the Series 3 exam. Students are provided with a snapshot of their scores so they can zero in on areas that need improvement.
Two of the more popular study tools include Crunch Time Facts, which is a collection of statements and factoids students must know to sit for the exam, and online flashcards, a self-testing tool that can be organized by topic chapter.
Students can top off their self-study with on-demand lectures with downloadable handouts and topic quizzes embedded throughout each lecture.
For $260, STC offers a Standard package that doesn't include the flashcards or on-demand lectures. Students who want access to virtual or in-person live instruction can pay $415 for the Premier Plus package.
All packages provide students with an instructor hotline, but STC's Pass Guarantee is only available with the Premier and Premier Plus packages.
STC claims a 95% pass rate on all its securities exams.
Best Question Bank: Kaplan University
Many securities exam students value a study course's question bank more than any other learning tool. Kaplan University's popular SecuritiesPro™ QBank is our choice because of its hundreds of questions that can be used in unlimited practice tests.
Long track record of successful Series 3 exam prep
Comprehensive offerings for any learning style
Robust question bank and practice test application
Course access for five months with a five-month extension for $49
No money-back guarantee
No mobile app platform
Throughout its 50 years as an exam course provider, Kaplan University has consistently produced high-quality exam prep courses. For many students taking the Series 3 exam, a course provider's question bank can be the most valuable tool in the box, and Kaplan's SecuritiesPro QBank is our pick for best question bank of all the courses we reviewed. QBank provides users with the ability to create unlimited practice exams, customized to their study needs. The good news is the SecuritiesPro QBank is available in both the Basic Self-Study package for $209 and the BasicPlus Self-Study package for $299. It can also be purchased separately for $109.
SecuritiesPro QBank provides users with access to hundreds of practice exam questions with the ability to track progress through checkpoint exams along the way. Practice exams can be customized based on users' study needs and downloaded for offline studying.
It's good to know that, if you choose Kaplan for its highly rated question bank, you are also getting a comprehensive course with study tools and training methods to match any learning style. Kaplan's BasicPlus package includes its widely acclaimed licensing exam manual, which complements on-demand or live online class instruction. It also includes practice exams, checkpoint exams, a midterm exam, and a mastery exam, along with a performance tracker to monitor progress.
The Basic Self-Study course is designed for students who don't need or want online instruction, and it doesn't include checkpoint, midterm, or mastery exams. Both courses provide five-month access with additional five-month access available for $49.
Kaplan neither publishes a pass rate for its Series 3 exam nor offers a money-back guarantee.
Best On-Demand Video Instruction: Training Consultants
Series 3 exam students will find the on-demand video lectures produced by Training Consultants to be high-quality, comprehensive, and effective at leading them through the complex material, making it our choice for the best Series 3 exam on-demand video instruction.
Comprehensive offering of learning tools and methods
High-quality, exam-focused on-demand video lectures
Strong instructor support
Unlimited practice and final exams
Six-month access for the online course
No money-back guarantee
No mobile platform, though online materials can be viewed on any device
Only three-month access for the textbook course
Founded in 1979, Training Consultants has a solid track record of helping students obtain their securities licenses. Its Series 3 exam prep course stands out for its exam-focused, on-demand, multi-media video lectures featuring a senior instructor for every section or every chapter of the entire course.
For $305, Training Consultants' online course is comprehensive, featuring a personalized study plan displaying each student's learning roadmap. The roadmap links students to the learning tool needed for each step along the way, advising students of where they stand and where they need to focus their efforts.
At the core of the online study course are the on-demand video lectures produced in high-quality, studio-recorded format. The video course delves deep into each chapter with a senior instructor highlighting key exam items while providing additional insights and examples. Video presentations may be viewed, paused, and repeated as many times as necessary.
Students also receive an online and print version of a textbook that aligns with the online lectures while providing additional chapter exercises.
Each course lecture leads to a spot check quiz to help students understand and retain the information. At the end of each chapter, students are presented with practice questions sets, which can be regenerated with fresh questions an unlimited number of times. In addition, there is an endless supply of practice final exams.
For $240, Training Consultants also offers a Textbook Package that doesn't include the on-demand video lectures or the online textbook, and its access is limited to three months.
Training Consultants is also noted for its high level of instructor support available to students via phone, email, and chat during business hours. Note that Training Consultants' textbook course only provides phone support.
Training Consultants does not indicate a Series 3 passing rate, nor does it offer a money-back guarantee.
Best Value: Securities Institute of America
For $239, the Securities Institute of America (SIA) stacks its Series 3 exam prep course with everything students need to pass the exam, making it our choice for the best value.
Great value for the cost
Six-month access to 850-question test bank
Strong instructor support
Backed by the renowned financial publisher John Wiley & Sons
No mobile app, but online tools are responsive to mobile devices
With its 25-year history and strong pedigree as an arm of financial information giant John Wiley & Sons, the Securities Institute of America has built a reputation as a value-packed provider of securities exam courses. For the low cost of $239, SIA packs its Complete Self-Study Solution with high-quality learning tools and methods to match any learning style, making it our choice for the best value in a Series 3 exam prep course.
The Complete Self-Study Solution starts off with a 228-page study guide. It then layers on a test bank with 850 questions and nine hours of online video instruction, all with six-month access. SIA doesn't offer a mobile app, but its online materials are responsive to mobile devices.
For $189, students can shed the online instruction and e-book while retaining access to the 850-question test bank, which is still a good value. Both study packages have access to instructor support by phone and live chat.
What makes SIA an even better value is its Greenlight Exam Guarantee for all students. Students who pass the Greenlight Exam within five days of sitting for the actual exam are eligible for a full refund if they don't pass the test on their first attempt.
SIA guarantees its results with its Greenlight Exam Guarantee for all students. To qualify, students must pass the Greenlight Exam within five days of sitting for the Series 3 exam. If they pass the Greenlight Exam and fail the actual test, SIA refunds the full purchase price.
SIA claims a 90% pass rate average for all securities exams.
Best Low-Cost Self-Study Course: Solomon Exam Prep
For just $161, the Solomon Exam Prep Series 3 Essentials Package has just what students need to pass the exam, making it our choice for the best low-cost self-study course.
Developed by investment education experts
Low-cost self-study package
Extensive practice testing capacity
Limited course offerings
No money-back guarantee
Drawing upon a pool of seasoned investment educators and practitioners since 1992, Solomon Exam Prep knows precisely what Series 3 students need to pass the exam. They've packaged these "essentials" into a single course, offered at the low price of just $161.
Recognizing that the Series 3 Exam requires a high standard of knowledge and competency, the Solomon Series 3 Essentials Package focuses on the most important and challenging concepts of the exam. Students who master those concepts are much more likely to pass the exam.
The package includes an online study guide with questions and answers after each chapter, as well as helpful study tips. However, the most powerful tool in the box is the Series 3 Exam Simulator, an industry-leading online testing solution that provides several ways to prepare for the exam.
The 180-day subscription provides access to a 1,200-question database that can produce an unlimited number of randomly generated 10-question quizzes that correspond to each section of the exam outline. There's also an unlimited number of randomly generated 125-question practice exams with immediate feedback.
Students can purchase the online study guide and the exam simulator separately for $89 each, but instructor support is only available with the Essentials Package.
Solomon doesn't publish a passing rate, nor does it offer a money-back guarantee.
Best All-Inclusive Premium Course: Greico Financial Training Institute
Greico Financial Training Institute's Premier Gold package checks all the boxes for a course that includes everything students need to pass the Series 3 exam, making it our choice as the best all-inclusive premium course.
Comprehensive course offerings
High-quality, on-demand video instruction
Extensive practice testing capacity
No mobile app
No money-back guarantee
With its 25-year history of producing quality exam prep courses, Greico Financial Training Institute has mastered the formula for creating well-priced, comprehensive course packages that meet most students' needs. Its Premier Gold package, in particular, has everything a student might need to pass the Series 3 exam, regardless of learning style.
The cornerstone of the $299 Premier Gold package is its multi-media, online, on-demand class, accompanied by a comprehensive textbook with section questions and chapter quizzes. Greico has created a "gamified learning" format with videos and graphics in addition to real instructors for a more engaging experience.
Another valuable feature is the online question bank, which can be customized to a student's learning needs. The question bank enables students to create custom quizzes by topic, section, and chapter. Students can select the number of questions for each quiz and choose to view the answers with complete explanations.
The simulated exams are weighted to accurately replicate the look and feel of the actual Series 3 exam, with students' ability to monitor their readiness to pass the Series 3 exam.
For students who prefer textbook study over on-demand video instruction, Greico offers a Silver option that still includes the online question bank, customizable quizzes, and simulated exams for $199.
But for the lack of a money-back guarantee, a mobile app, and a published pass rate, Greico may have contended for the best overall Series 3 exam prep course.
What Is a Series 3 Exam Prep Course?
A Series 3 exam prep course consists of the materials, resources, and study tools a candidate for the Series 3 license needs to prepare for the exam successfully. The course providers offer a range of learning tools and methods to meet students' learning styles and study needs, including online and offline materials, self-directed study, on-demand video instruction, and live virtual instruction. Courses typically include a customizable study calendar or task plan to guide students through the course based on their timeline and individual needs.
A vital component of a Series 3 exam prep course is the question or test bank, allowing students to create quizzes and practice exams drawing from a database of hundreds of questions. Most courses enable students to monitor their progress and test their readiness to sit for the exam.
Is the Series 3 Exam Difficult?
The Series 3 exam is unique in that it consists of two separate parts, one covering futures trading theory and the other covering market regulations. Each part is scored separately, requiring a 70% score to pass each section. You can pass one part with an 80% score but fail the other part with a 69% score, which means you fail the entire exam. There are a total of 120 multiple choice and true/false questions (85 in part one and 35 in part two) that must be completed in 150 minutes.
The test can be especially challenging for people with little or no familiarity with the futures market or commodities trading. It can also be difficult for people who lack good test-taking skills because the questions can be tricky. A solid Series 3 exam prep course is designed to improve your test-taking skills while building the requisite knowledge to pass the exam.
How Long Does It Take to Study for the Series 3 Exam?
Depending on your learning style and study habits, Series 3 course providers recommend you commit to 60 to 80 hours of study. People familiar with the industry or good test-takers might get away with as few as 40 hours. But, no one should underestimate the difficulty of the Series 3 exam.
What Is the Pass Rate of the Series 3 Exam?
Although there is no official pass rate published by FINRA or the NFA, it is widely accepted that the pass rate for the Series 3 exam is around 70%. If you fail to achieve at least 70% on both parts of the exam, you can retake the exam after 30 days. If you fail to pass in three attempts, you must wait 180 days to retake the exam.
Based on the pass rates published by some Series 3 exam prep providers, you can increase your chances of passing the exam from 70% to over 90% by strictly following an exam prep course regimen.
How Much Does a Series 3 Exam Prep Course Cost?
Based on our review of Series 3 exam prep course providers, an exam prep course's cost can range from $160 to $300 depending on the provider, your study needs, and your learning style. Unlike the Series 6 and 7 exams, taking the Series 3 exam does not require a securities firm's sponsorship. Securities firms tend not to subsidize the costs associated with applying and preparing for the Series 3 exam. So, for most people, applying for the exam, which costs $130, and preparing to sit for the exam can cost as much as $430. However, because there is no ceiling on how much you can earn in the commodities trading field, it can be a worthwhile investment.
How We Chose the Best Series 3 Exam Prep Courses
We conducted an initial review of a dozen of the top Series 3 exam prep providers based on track record, cost, breadth of course offerings, instructor support, and quality of technology and materials. With an eye toward the various learning styles and study needs of Series 3 exam students, we narrowed the list to the best providers in six categories, including best overall, best all-inclusive premier packages, best question bank, best low-cost self-study course, best on-demand video instruction, and best value based on cost.
Securities Institute of America. "What is the Series 3 pass rate?" Accessed October 21, 2020.