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Recent rule changes in the investment industry have highlighted the differences between Registered Investment Advisors (RIAs), who are legally obligated to put their clients' interests first, and brokers, who are not. Investors appear to be voting with their assets in choosing to work with RIAs over brokers. While the number of broker-dealers has steadily declined over the last 15 years, the RIA industry has averaged more than 8% annual growth in assets under management, making it the fastest-growing advisor channel.
That's why more and more brokers and people entering the advisory business are signing up to take the Series 65 exam to become an Investment Advisor Representative (IAR) working with an RIA firm. As an IAR, advisors must act in a fiduciary capacity, offering investment advice to clients for a fee.
Passing the Series 65 exam, formally known as the Uniform Investment Advisor Law Exam, is the only requirement for becoming an IAR. Candidates don't need to be sponsored by an investment firm to sit for the exam, but they need to file a Form U10 (Form U4 for brokers) and pay the $187 exam fee. The 130-question exam, which focuses on the rules and regulations governing advisor conduct, as well as the different types of investment vehicles, can be challenging, which is why your choice of exam prep courses can be critical.
We reviewed 15 current Series 65 exam prep courses based on course materials, pricing, pass rate, and more to find the top four in various categories.
Best Overall : ExamFX
The combination of a feature-rich study package for every need and budget, leading-edge technology, and a money-back guarantee makes ExamFX our choice as the best overall Series 65 exam prep provider.
Comprehensive offering of study packages to match learning styles
Reasonably priced, full-feature packages
Adaptive-learning simulation exams
Course access limited to 90 days
Limited menu of separate study materials
Founded in 1996, ExamFX has become one of the country's top technology-based exam prep course providers. Each of its three study packages comes loaded with essential study materials, driven by proprietary technology, all backed with a money-back guarantee. That combination makes ExamFX our choice as the best overall exam prep course provider.
Some students could get by with ExamFX's $159.95 Self-Study package, which includes an interactive learning portal, online exam simulations, a readiness exam, instructor support, and the company's Guarantee Exam, which qualifies students for a money-back guarantee.
The online exam simulations are one of the best tools in ExamFX's toolbox. Utilizing a proprietary adaptive learning technology, the online exam simulations keep students focused on areas that require further comprehension. It's supported by an extensive question bank that provides a continuous stream of new questions for an unlimited number of exams.
For $234.85, ExamFX's Video Study package includes everything found in the Self-Study package and adds on-demand video lectures and online flashcards. The $322.80 Live Online package adds live virtual training.
ExamFX doesn't publish a Series 65 exam pass rate. However, all ExamFX packages include a money-back guarantee if a student doesn't pass the test on the first attempt. To qualify for the guarantee, students must pass the Guarantee Exam with at least an 80% score within three days of the exam date.
Best Value Premier Package : Securities Training Corp
Securities Training Corp offers a high-quality study package at every level to meet the varying needs, preferences, and budgets of its students, but its best tools come with its Premier package for just $25 more than the Standard Package, making it our choice for the best value in a premier package.
Long track record
Live online or in-person instruction available
No mobile app
Limited menu of separate study materials
As one of the first to offer exam prep courses back in 1969, Securities Training Corp has the experience and expertise to know what students need in their study packages. From its Standard to its Premier Plus, STC offers the most comprehensive package at each price point.
Starting at $193.33, STC's Standard package is loaded with six-month access to an online and printed study manual, eight tailored practice final exams, and Crunch Time Facts—a "hyper-targeted" shortlist of what students need to know. The package also includes 24/7 tech support and an instructor hotline available via email or phone.
At the next level, the $218.41 Premier course adds eight progress exams, digital flashcards allowing students to create their own custom study deck from 1,500 flashcards, on-demand lectures, and the STC Pass Guarantee. For just $25.08 more than the Standard package, those additional tools make this Premier course the best value of all the premier packages we reviewed.
For students who want live instruction, the $339.63 Premier Plus course includes everything in the Premier course and adds 12 hours of live virtual or in-person instruction.
STC's published pass rate is 95%, and it offers a money-back guarantee for failing the exam on the first attempt, but only on its Premier and Premier Plus packages.
Best Study-Your-Way Offering : Securities Institute of America
In addition to its one comprehensive study package, the Securities Institute of America (SIA) offers an à la carte menu of study tools, allowing students to build their own study program according to their needs and preferences.
Solid menu of reasonably priced study tools sold separately
Live chat and phone support
Backed by renowned financial publisher John Wiley & Sons
Offers just one study package
Question bank is smaller than others
No live content
Securities Institute of America has been a top provider of securities exam courses since 1996. And in 2013, SIA was acquired by the renowned financial publisher John Wiley & Sons, giving it the resources to develop high-quality study materials at reasonable prices. SIA understands that people taking the Series 65 exam need the flexibility to study their way, which is why it offers the best à la carte menu of study materials of all providers we reviewed.
For those who prefer all-in-one study packages, SIA offers a solid one. Its Series 65 Complete Self-Study Solution is comprehensive and, at $200, is reasonably priced. The package includes a 516-page textbook (physical and digital), a test bank with 1,800 questions, 13 hours of online video instruction, and an e-book, all with six-month access.
For students who prefer to study their way, SIA offers a range of study tools that can be used individually or pieced together as a DIY study package. You can buy just the textbook and test bank for $124.95, or separately purchase the exam prep software for $59.95, or the textbook for $89.95. The online video instruction is also available individually for $99, or it can be paired with the test bank for $124.99. Finally, SIA offers a mobile e-book for audio learners for $89.95.
On its website, SIA boasts "the highest pass rates" in the industry, and it backs that up with its Greenlight Guarantee. Students who take and pass the Greenlight Exam within five days of their exam date are eligible for a refund if they don't pass the Series 65 exam on their first attempt.
Most Comprehensive Premier Package : Kaplan Financial Education
Kaplan's Premium Instruction package comes with everything anyone needs to successfully pass the Series 65 exam, making it our choice for the most comprehensive premier package.
SecuritiesPro™ QBank, a robust test bank allowing for hundreds of unique practice exams
Course access for five months with a five-month extension for $49
Personalized instructor support for Premium packages
No money-back guarantee
Instructor support not available for all packages
No mobile app
As a financial education company since 1970, Kaplan has set the standard for high-quality, comprehensive exam prep courses. While Kaplan offers solid mid- and lower-range courses, its Premier Instruction package sets the standard for reasonably priced, high-end Series 65 exam prep courses.
At $159, the Basic Package may offer the least value for the money of the three packages. But it does include SecuritiesPro™ QBank, Kaplan's very best study tool. QBank provides access to hundreds of practice exam questions that help users zero in on weaknesses. The exams, which can be downloaded for offline use, are customizable according to students' study progress.
In addition, the Basic Package includes a performance tracker and study calendar to help students stay on track with their study goals. The Basic Package also includes Kaplan's popular License Exam Manual, making this a fairly solid course. For $199, the Essential Package adds checkpoint exams, a midterm exam, and a video library.
However, for $289, the Premium Package adds downloadable class notes, a mastery exam, either live online or on-demand instructor-led courses (the live online course goes for $329), and InstructorLink™, which provides personal assistance anytime as students prepare for the exam. The Premium course is a great value for students who want to be assured they have everything it takes to pass the Series 65 exam.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is a Series 65 Exam Prep Course?
A Series 65 exam prep course consists of the study materials, tools, and resources needed to prepare for the exam. Most of the top courses can be accessed online, offering a range of learning methods to accommodate students' varying study needs and preferences. Courses may include self-study materials or be guided through virtual or live instruction, or some combination.
An essential element of a Series 65 exam prep course is the test bank, which allows students to take numerous practice exams to gauge their comprehension as they move systematically through the course. When students can consistently score at least 90% on the practice exams and a final exam that simulates the actual exam, they are deemed prepared to pass the Series 65 exam.
What Is a Passing Score on the Series 65?
To pass the Series 65 exam, candidates must achieve a minimum score of 72.3% by correctly answering 94 of 130 multiple-choice questions in 180 minutes.
Candidates increase their chances of passing the exam on the first attempt by completing an exam prep course. Candidates who don't pass on their first attempt can sit for the exam again after 30 days. If they fail on their second attempt, they must wait another 30 days to retake the exam. After a third failed attempt, candidates must wait 180 days for another try.
How Long Does It Take to Prepare for the Series 65 Exam?
Unlike many other securities exams, preparing for the Series 65 exam primarily involves memorizing rules and laws. People with good recall might require less preparation time than those who struggle with recall. Regardless, some exam sections are more challenging than others, especially for people with no background in securities.
Exam prep course providers recommend a total study time of between 50 and 70 hours. People who work full-time at another job while preparing for the exam should plan on at least three to four weeks of preparation.
How Much Does a Series 65 Exam Prep Course Cost?
The cost of Series 65 exam prep courses can range from $160 to $350, depending on a person's study needs and preferences. For self-starters who don't require many resources, a self-study manual can be purchased for as little as $60. Students who prefer a more guided curriculum, online videos, or virtual learning instruction can find resources for $200 to $300 or more. For many students, the cost of a course that includes numerous practice exams that track their progress is worth the extra investment.
Unlike the Series 7 license, which many broker-dealers will sponsor, the Series 65 license is typically obtained by individuals on their own. So candidates should be prepared to cover the entire cost. If you are concerned about using your own money, it's best to go with a provider that offers a money-back guarantee.
The RIA industry's fast growth has spurred a lot of competition among exam prep course providers offering Series 65 exam prep courses. We found nearly two dozen companies offering Series 65 courses, but only 15 made our initial cut based on such factors as pricing, pass rates, length of operating history, money-back guarantees, availability of support, ease of use, and depth of practice exams.
We then narrowed the choices to four based on what Series 65 candidates tend to look for in an exam prep course. Some look for the best value in a course, while others prefer providers with flexible options to create their own study course. Some students want more comprehensive courses, while others look for a reliable and straightforward all-in-one offering. Ultimately, all of these factors were weighed to select the best Series 65 exam prep courses.