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 20 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 an increasing number of brokers, as well as 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 $175 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 Series 65 exam prep courses based on course materials, pricing, pass rate, and more to find the top five among a variety of categories.
The 5 Best Series 65 Exam Prep Courses of 2020
ExamFX: Best Overall
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-featured packages
Mobile "quick knowledge" app
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 top technology-based exam prep course providers in the country. 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 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 $229, ExamFX's Video Study package includes everything found in the Self-Study package and adds on-demand video lectures and online flashcards. The $294 Live Online package adds live virtual training.
Another distinctive feature of ExamFX's courses is a mobile app that can be purchased separately. The app provides a "quick knowledge" check to help students assess their exam readiness.
ExamFX doesn't publish a Series 65 exam pass rate. However, all ExamFX packages include a pass guarantee if a student doesn't pass the test on the first attempt. To qualify for the guarantee, students need to pass the Guarantee Exam with at least an 80% score within three days of the exam date.
Securities Training Corp: Best Value Premier Package
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 $24 more than the Standard Package, making it our choice for the best value in a premier package.
Value-packed 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. At each price point, from its Standard to its Premium Plus, STC offers the most comprehensive package.
Starting at $185, 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 $209 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. Those additional tools, for just $24 more than the Standard package, make this Premier course the best value of all the premier packages we reviewed.
For students who want live instruction, the $325 Premier Plus course includes everything in the Premier course and adds 12 hours of live virtual or in-person instruction.
While STC doesn't publish a pass rate for its Series 65 exam students, it does offer a money-back guarantee for failing the exam on the first attempt, but only on its Premier and Premier Plus packages.
Securities Institute of America: Best Study-Your-Way Offering
In addition to its one comprehensive study package, 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 for more than 17 years. 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 ebook, 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 choose to buy just the textbook and test bank for $125, or separately purchase the exam prep software for $60, or the textbook for $90. The online video instruction is also available individually for $99, or it can be paired with the test bank for $125. Finally, for audio learners, SIA offers a mobile e-book for $90.
SIA's published passing rate for its Series 65 exam is an impressive 90%, 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.
Kaplan Financial Education: Most Comprehensive Premier Package
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.
Comprehensive list of offerings for any learning style and budget
Feature-packed Premium package for students who want it all at a reasonable price
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 only available on Premium package
No mobile app platform
Over its 50 years as a financial education company, Kaplan has set the standard for high-quality, comprehensive exam prep courses. While Kaplan offers solid mid- and lower-range courses, it's 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, a study calendar, a performance tracker, and practice exams, 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. For students who want to be assured they have everything it takes to pass the Series 65 exam, the Premium course is a great value.
While Kaplan does not offer a money-back guarantee, it publishes a Series 65 pass rate of 88%, which should give students confidence in their study materials.
NRS FINRA Training: Best Single Package Offering
NRS (National Regulatory Services) has literally packed everything that Series 65 students need into a single package with no waste, thus proving their motto "Everything you Need, Nothing you Don't" and making them our pick for best single package offering.
Reasonably priced all-in-one package
Mobile-friendly manual and practice exams
Unlimited custom practice exams
Unlimited access to instructors
Only one course offering
NRS (National Regulatory Services) has provided financial services firms with compliance and registration products and services for more than 30 years. In 2016, NRS acquired FIRE Solutions to boost its exam prep course offering, which currently consists of a single course. But it's the most complete course you can find, without unnecessary add-ons, providing students with a straightforward path to success.
The $210 course leads off with a 20-chapter study guide that comes in mobile-friendly, online, and printable formats, coupled with a corresponding 20-question quiz for each chapter to gauge initial comprehension. Students can choose between live or on-demand tutorials to support their learning.
As students complete their four 20-question section tests and their four 130-question final exams, NRS's Green Light Status Indicator steers students with a system-generated study plan based on their answers and initial assessments. They can also create unlimited 20- or 50-question custom exams from any chapter.
Students have access to unlimited email and phone access to instructors, as well.
All of this is included in the $210 price, which is a good investment considering NSR's No Pass/No Pay guarantee. Students who achieve a designated Green Light average score on their practice final exams are eligible for the guarantee should they fail the exam on their first attempt.
NSR does not publish a passing rate for its Series 65 exam students.
What Is a Series 65 Exam Prep Course?
A Series 65 exam prep course consists of the study materials, tools, and resources a person needs to prepare for the exam. Most of the top courses can be accessed online, offering a range of learning methods to accommodate their students' various study needs and preferences. Courses may include self-study materials or are guided through virtual, video, 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 are allowed to 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 of the 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 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.
How We Chose the Best Series 65 Exam Prep Courses
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 five 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.
National Association of Plan Advisors (NAPA). "RIA Industry Continues to See Steady Growth." Accessed August 31, 2020.