Of all the securities exams, the Series 7 is considered the most difficult. That's as it should be because it measures a person's readiness to sell complex financial products to investors who rely on their registered representatives' competence and integrity. It's also why 65% fail the test on their first attempt. However, when utilizing exam prep courses to prepare, the passing rate increases to 80% to 95%, depending on the course.
As challenging as the Series 7 exam is, it requires a substantial commitment of time and effort to prepare with materials and tools that meet a student's particular learning style and study preferences. Between the cost of sitting for the exam and the cost of study materials, students invest as much as $400.
The learning experience of Series 7 exam prep courses varies from provider to provider, which is why it's vital to do the due diligence to see which ones stand out. Assuming you are eligible to sit for the Series 7 exam, having passed the Securities Industry Essentials (SIE) exam and being sponsored by a FINRA-member firm, you might benefit from our review of 15 of the more widely used exam prep providers from which we have identified the best in six different categories.
The 6 Best Series 7 Exam Prep Courses of 2020
Best Overall: Securities Training Corporation
The combination of a high-quality study package for every need and budget, a responsive instructor hotline, and a money-back guarantee makes Securities Training Corporation our choice as the best overall exam prep provider.
Long track record
Impressive passing rate
Responsive instructor support
No mobile app
Top package is a little on the pricey end
Securities Training Corporation (STC) was one of the first companies to offer exam prep courses back when securities exams were first introduced in 1969. Since then, it has strived to be the industry leader. By adding a money-back guarantee to its offering of high-quality study packages, along with responsive instructor support, STC makes our list as the best overall exam prep provider.
Starting at $225, STC's base study package is as fully loaded as some other providers' premium packages. The enrollment, valid for six months, includes both online and printed study manuals, access to an instructor hotline, 24/7 tech support, and final exams. It also features Crunch Time Facts, which summarize the "must-know" facts by chapter from the study manual.
For $395, students can add on-demand lectures and online flashcards. The flashcards, which can be organized by course, chapter, or FINRA exam sections, allow students to test their knowledge and focus on areas of weakness.
Finally, for $475, students can add live virtual or in-person classes. The package also includes weekly instructor-led question-and-answer sessions.
STC boasts a self-published 95% pass rate. Between a high pass rate and its money-back guarantee, STC's exam prep course offers a great return on investment for students.
Best Value: Securities Institute of America
With the backing of leading financial publisher John Wiley & Sons, Securities Institute of America (SIA) not only produces high-quality courses, but they also create the best value, with a lineup of reasonably priced courses that cater to any learning style.
Reasonably priced course package for any learning style or budget
Live chat and phone support
Backed by renowned financial publisher John Wiley & Sons
A limited number of bundle packages
Question bank is smaller than others
No live content
With its lineup of reasonably priced, high-quality course packages offered with a money-back guarantee, Securities Institute of America is the best value among exam prep providers. With a proven 17-year track record of exam prepping, renowned financial publisher John Wiley & Sons thought highly enough of SIA to acquire them in 2013. That gives SIA the industry heft needed to provide high-quality products at reasonable prices.
The best study package SIA offers is its Series 7 Complete Self Study Solution for $259. The package includes the popular Wiley Series 7 exam textbook, a 2,100-question practice exam bank, 20 hours of online video classes, and an ebook. The videos and test bank are available for six months.
If you don't need the online video course, you can pay $194.95 for the Series 7 Textbook and Exam Prep Software with unlimited access to the test bank for six months. The software allows you to take practice exams anytime and anywhere using a PC, Mac, phone, or tablet. If you are an audio learner, SIA also offers a mobile audiobook of its textbook for $144.
If you pass the Greenlight Exam within five days of your exam date, SIA will guarantee you pass the Series 7 exam, issuing a refund on course materials if you don't.
SIA doesn't publish a passing rate for its Series 7 students, but, with a money-back guarantee, it must be very confident its students will pass the test.
Most Comprehensive Offerings: ExamFX
With three reasonably priced, full-featured study packages that appeal to multiple learning styles, ExamFX has the most comprehensive offerings.
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
Founded in 1996, ExamFX is a division of Ascend Learning, one of the top technology-based learning solutions providers in the country. ExamFX has combined leading-edge technology with proven adaptive learning methods in three full-featured study packages to create the most comprehensive offering at a reasonable price.
ExamFX appeals to multiple learning styles by offering a self-study package ($149.95), a video study package ($199.95), and a live online package ($249.95). All packages include an interactive learning portal, online exam simulations, a readiness exam, instructor support, and a guarantee exam that qualifies users for ExamFX's money-back guarantee.
The video study package adds on-demand video lectures and online flashcards. The live online package includes all the features of the lower-priced packages but adds live online training.
ExamFX's best feature is the simulated online exams, which utilize adaptive learning technology to help students focus on areas that need further study. The question bank is extensive, providing a continuous stream of new questions for an unlimited number of practice exams.
ExamFX also has a mobile app students can purchase to use as a quick knowledge check to assess their exam readiness. The app includes five practice exams with 100 questions, one with 125 questions, and a final practice exam.
Students who take and pass ExamFX's guarantee exam within three days of the exam date are eligible for a money-back guarantee if they don't pass the actual exam. Although ExamFX doesn't publish a Series 7 exam pass rate, it points to its money-back guarantee as evidence its students are well-prepared for the exam.
Best Budget Premium Package: Kaplan Financial Education
While all of Kaplan's study packages are stacked with features, its Premium Instruction Package is the most complete package for the price.
Comprehensive list of offerings for any learning style and budget
Robust question bank and practice test application
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
With more than 50 years as a financial education company, Kaplan is one of the more established exam prep providers. With that level of experience, Kaplan knows what students want in a high-end Series 7 study course, and they have the scale to deliver it at a reasonable price.
At $139, its Basic Self-Study Package is perfect for budget-minded self-starters. Its primary study tool is an extensive license exam manual, which is backed by Kaplan's highly acclaimed SecuritiesPro™ QBank. 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. The basic package also includes a performance tracker and study calendar to help students stay on track with their study goals.
For $189, students can add checkpoint exams, a video library, and a midterm exam. The premium package is offered in two formats that include all the features of the lower-cost options and add either live online instruction for $299 or on-demand instruction for $279. The most noteworthy feature of the premium package is InstructorLink™, offering personal assistance anytime as students prepare for the exam.
Kaplan does not offer a money-back guarantee, but its 85% Series 7 exam passing rate is indicative of its success in preparing students for the exam.
Best Mobile Learning Experience: Achievable
As a fairly recent startup based in San Francisco, Achievable has taken a high-tech approach to delivering an exam prep course by creating a best-in-class mobile learning experience.
Excellent mobile learning experience
Low-cost study package
Mobile practice exam app
No online virtual learning
Limited instructor support
San Francisco-based Achievable was founded in 2016, which is relatively recent compared to its competitors. What Achievable lacks in actual video or audio content (one of its main drawbacks), it makes up with its mobile-first platform that allows for studying on-the-go. For students who prefer to study wherever and whenever—during a commute, during lunch, while in bed, etc.—Achievable is your best option.
Achievable offers just one Series 7 exam prep course that includes an online textbook, "intelligent" flashcards, review questions, and full-length mock exams for only $149 and good for one year. Their practice exams are randomized, pulling from a question bank so large, you can take dozens of exams without seeing a duplicate question. While it doesn't offer a video course, Achievable does sprinkle videos throughout the textbook material to reinforce key concepts or provide a visual explanation of complicated topics.
Achievable applies a learning science using algorithms to optimize students' study schedule by focusing on problem areas while pushing students further to learn new concepts. Students are quizzed continuously, making it easier to remember information while keeping them motivated as they see their performance improve.
You can even take Achievable exam prep for a test drive. Students can have free access to the platform with the first few textbook chapters and practice exams.
Achievable does not offer any online or video courses, and it doesn't have formal instructor support, but it does boast a 98.2% success rate, which it is willing to back up with a money-back guarantee.
Best User Experience: Knopman Marks
Although Knopman Marks offers just one study package, its comprehensiveness and easy-to-follow format provide students with the best exam prep user experience.
High first attempt passing rate
One-year access to course materials
Personalized instructor support
Mobile app for offline training
Limited course package offering
No money-back guarantee
Established in 1991 by Harvey Knopman, a 40-year veteran in the securities training industry, Knopman Marks has earned a reputation for developing and delivering high-quality exam prep courses. What it lacks in course options, it makes up for with a comprehensive and easy-to-follow single course that provides users with an excellent user experience, as evidenced by its 95% passing rate.
For $350, students receive both a physical and an electronic textbook. The course includes online and printable practice exams with more than 2,200 questions that come with rationales and textbook references. There are more than 15 hours of video lectures covering 20 lessons and 900 digital flashcards. Students also have access to downloadable study supplements that include class summaries and worksheets. There is even a mobile app (iPhone and iPad only) for offline training. It all seems overwhelming, but Knopman also provides a step-by-step study guide.
Students also receive hands-on, personalized guidance, day and night, throughout the process.
For another $225, students can take as many in-person or virtual classes as needed. Classes are scheduled roughly once a month.
In addition to the step-by-step study guide, Knopman helps students keep track of their progress using a series of diagnostic, benchmark, and practice exams to accurately measure their exam readiness and chances of success.
Knopman does not offer a money-back guarantee, but, with a 95% passing rate, students should have the confidence needed to pass the exam first time around.
What Is a Series 7 Exam Prep Course?
The purpose of the Series 7 exam is to assess the competency of entry-level registered representatives seeking to join the securities industry as a General Securities Representative. A Series 7 exam prep course consists of the study materials and resources a person needs to prepare for the exam. Basic exam courses include a study guide (online or printed) and practice exams and are typically designed for self-directed study.
Generally, higher-cost courses include more study resources with more extensive materials. Premium courses can consist of virtual online classes in addition to instructor support. Practice exams supported by question banks are a vital component of exam prep courses, allowing students to gauge their readiness for taking the exam. A useful course provides students with a study guide and calendar to help them organize their time, helping them to track their progress toward their study goals.
Is the Series 7 Exam Difficult?
Clocking in at 125 questions to be answered in three hours and 45 minutes, the Series 7 exam is considered the most difficult of all the securities licensing exams. The minimum passing score is 72, which may not seem that difficult. But the scope of the exam is far-reaching, covering the entire array of securities products and rules governing customer accounts. The questions, which tend to be lengthy with detailed information, are designed to challenge a candidate's understanding of a concept, which is why the practice exams are so important.
While the Series 7 exam is difficult, 80% to 95% of those who utilize an exam prep course (depending on the course) successfully pass the exam.
How Long Does It Take to Study for the Series 7 Exam?
The length of time it takes to prepare for the Series 7 exam depends largely on an individual's time commitment and study habits. Depending on a person's knowledge and experience, the material can be difficult to absorb for someone new to finance. Most providers recommend a timeframe of 80 to 100 hours, with 20 to 30 hours devoted to practice exams. A good exam prep course provides instant feedback on your practice exam progress and helps you to zero in on areas that need improvement.
What Is the Pass Rate of the Series 7 Exam?
While FINRA doesn't publish a pass rate for the Series 7 exams, it is widely accepted to be around 65%. Regardless, the most reliable indicators of passing rates are those published by exam prep providers, which can range between 80% and 95% for people who complete their courses. The providers listed in this review all have a pass rate of at least 85% or, if no pass rate is published, they offer a money-back guarantee.
People who do fail the test on their first attempt tend to do better on their second attempt. If you fail on your first attempt, you are allowed to retake the test after 30 days. The 30-day wait rule also applies if you fail on the second attempt. If you fail again on your third attempt, you will have to wait 180 days to retake the exam.
Should I Get My Series 7?
If you want to work anywhere in the securities industry, you should get your Series 7 license. While the most commonly known reason for obtaining a Series 7 license is to become a registered representative, anyone who wants to work for an investment bank, broker-dealer, or securities firm in just about any capacity would be well-served to obtain a Series 7. That includes working on the regulatory side of the business, equity research, or back-office operations.
To that extent, having a Series 7 license can make you more marketable if you are seeking work in the financial industry.
How Much Does a Series 7 Exam Prep Course Cost?
Obtaining the necessary means to pass the Series 7 exam successfully is viewed as an investment for people who seek a career in the financial industry. Investment firms positively view it as an investment because many will cover the cost of exam prep for qualified job candidates.
If you pay for a Series 7 exam prep course yourself, you can expect to pay between $150 and $400 depending on the extent of learning tools and materials included in the course. A self-study course will cost much less than one that provides for online classes and personal instruction and other resources. Some providers offer supplemental live in-person or online instruction for an extra $150 to $250.
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 7 Exam Prep Courses
Using some baseline criteria like cost, pass rates, money-back guarantee offers, and operating history, we narrowed the field to 15 that we reviewed more thoroughly. From there, we sought to view the providers through the eyes of different types of students and their considerations for the ideal provider.
We know many students are looking for providers offering the best overall value. Some students gravitate toward the premium packages but want one that won't break the bank. Others look for the most comprehensive package they can get for their money. An increasing number of students are more attuned to the technology available, primarily through mobile applications. Finally, everyone wants to know which provider is the best overall. So that's how we measured the 15 providers and came up with the best in each category.
E-financial Careers. "Tips for Acing the Series 7 and Other Financial Exams." Accessed September 9, 2020.