Prior to October 1, 2018, if you wanted to land a job in the financial services sector you essentially had to be sponsored, or offered that job contingent upon you passing the relevant exam(s). This is a lot of pressure, particularly if you didn’t have an applicable degree or experience.
What if you made it to the job offer, started studying for the Series 7 and 63 exams, and realized you were bored to death or you just could not remember why a bond curve might invert? The Securities Industry Essentials (SIE) exam is your solution. It requires no Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) member sponsor, so if you’d like to try out the sector intellectually or bolster your resume with a new certification, this is your chance.
That being said, if you pass the SIE test, you will need to take top-off exams, depending upon the exact position you’re after. And, for those top-off exams, you will need a FINRA member sponsor.
- It’s challenging to evaluate test preparation services online. In many cases, word of mouth from friends in the field—ideally, those who have used a service like this—may be most helpful.
- It isn’t necessary to use a test prep service if you are able and willing to prepare on your own.
- Taking exams is a solid strategy to impose disciplined learning on yourself. You may not have enjoyed this approach as a student, but having some sort of goal can make it easier to make progress, as life has a tendency of interrupting loose ambitions.
- There are many options to choose from when it comes to test prep companies.
If the idea of studying by yourself for the SIE exam induces dread, there are several exam prep services out there. Here are some general principles by which you can evaluate them:
- The SIE exam is relatively new, so test prep services may not be as robust as other professional qualifications. Be sure to do your own research, read reviews of many services, and inspect their sites to make sure they offer a legitimate prep course.
- The services are typically tiered. Do you want just the bare-bones prep material? Extra time with an instructor? An in-person classroom environment? A charismatic presenter? A beautiful user experience? Make sure you know what you need in order to be accountable for your goals.
- Like many things in life, you get out of it what you put into it. Taking a course may not prepare you for the exam if you aren’t hungry to learn.
Keeping all of that in mind, here are the top options to help you choose the course that's right for you.
The 6 Best SIE Exam Prep Courses of 2020
Best Overall: ExamFX
ExamFX offers three packages for SIE exam prep: Self-Study, Video Study, and Live Online. Pricing varies depending on the package you choose, but it typically ranges from $100 to around $210.
While the Self-Study tier includes features like an interactive learning portal, a readiness exam, a guarantee assessment, instructor support, and more, the Video Study package includes on-demand video lectures and online flashcards. If you're looking for the maximum level of service, the Live Online tier includes everything the aforementioned packages have, with the addition of live online training.
One highlight of ExamFX is the guarantee exam. At the end of the training, if you score 80% or above on the guarantee exam—and if you take the SIE exam within three days and fail—the company will refund the cost of the material.
Be sure to book your exam time early so you can do it within the three-day window, just in case you think you'll need to take advantage of this offer.
Best Value: Solomon Exam Prep
Do you want flashcards and an audiobook, but no exam guide or video lectures? Then Solomon Exam Prep is the perfect choice for you. The company offers an unbundled range of materials and resources, making it more affordable and customizable than the other offerings in the SIE exam prep world.
The cheapest resource costs around $40 and increases from there, depending on the product, package, or bundle. If you're on a budget, this exam prep service would likely be appealing.
Solomon Exam Prep encourages users to purchase bundles because they're offered at a discounted rate. There are four packages to choose from: Essentials, Video Premium, Audio Premium, and Total.
All tiers include a study guide, exam simulator, flashcards, and support from a professor. Should you opt for one of the pricier packages, add-ons like video lectures and audiobooks will be included with your purchase.
Most Comprehensive: Knopman Marks
If you're looking for in-person classes in the tri-state area, Knopman Marks is a great choice. There are many available in New York City.
While their packages are more expensive than some others in this round-up— it's around $250 for the self-study option, about $200 more for an in-person course—Knopman Marks states that they currently have a 97% pass rate for the SIE.
If you opt for the bundle, you'll receive six diagnostic exams, one assessment, video lectures, digital flashcards, personal instructor access, a textbook, class supplements, and more. You'll also have access to all materials for up to one year.
Overall, Knopman Marks is a comprehensive option that provides unlimited resources to its users, from start to finish. While it might be pricier than some of the other offerings, the value is incomparable. Plus, if it means you pass on your first try, it'll be well worth the money.
Best for Career: Securities Institute of America, Inc.
The Securities Institute of America, Inc. (SIA) offers a variety of bundles if you're looking to get the SIE credential and then pass the requisite top-offs like the Series 6 or Series 7.
The materials distributed by SIA, Inc. have been created in partnership with John Wiley & Sons, the largest publisher of financial information in the world. SIA's products are intuitive and help guide you through the learning process step-by-step so that you feel prepared on the day of your exam.
Packages cost approximately $40 to $300, though it depends on whether you want to purchase the textbook, exam prep software, the online video class, the mobile e-book, or bundles.
While reviewing SIA's study supplements, you can chat with a representative online or call the company during business hours to ask any questions you might have.
SIA, Inc.’s programming is tailored for someone looking for more than just professional enhancement: It's ideal for someone actually looking to move into a financial services career.
Most Informative: Securities Training Corporation
With the Securities Training Corporation (STC) featuring one of the bigger catalogs of financial services training materials, there are numerous options available.
If you excel face-to-face with an instructor, STC's in-person training sessions will be a draw, and you can attend them throughout major U.S. cities like New York and Chicago. This can also be helpful you’re looking to take a more unusual Series exam. For instance, one of the most common is the Series 7 and Series 63 combination that allows you to become a general securities representative.
But there are quite a few Series exams covering all sorts of specialties within the financial services industry. If you know what you want to do and it isn’t going right for the Series 7 and Series 63, you might want to peruse the vast catalog at Securities Training Corporation and see if any of their offerings suit your needs.
Courses run from about $120 to $830 depending upon the bundle. Most bundles are on the lower end of that range, with the in-person and live webinar SIE-only trainings costing around $200.
Best for In-Person Classes: Kaplan Test Prep
You may already know about Kaplan Test Prep through the tutoring services they offer at various brick-and-mortar locations throughout the United States. But did you know that they can also help you prepare for your financial exams?
As you might infer, Kaplan appears to have the most extensive listing of live courses. If you are outside of a major financial center and want in-person training, Kaplan may be able to help.
Courses range from bare-bones to bundles, with a variety of options for in-person training sessions. All packages include a study calendar to help you prioritize your time, practice exams, a performance tracker, and more.
Premium packages offer live online or in-person classes or on-demand courses. Depending on the kind of service you're looking for, prices can range from about $100 to $230 for SIE exam prep, with Series 6 or Series 7 packages ranging up to about $480.
What Is the SIE Exam?
The Securities Industry Essentials® exam, or SIE exam, is an assessment offered through FINRA for prospective professionals in the securities industry. It is considered an entry-level exam and covers products and their risks, regulatory agencies, prohibited practices, and the structure of the securities industry markets.
The SIE exam is given as a way for students and prospective candidates to demonstrate their knowledge of the industry to potential employers and firms. It is offered to anyone age 18 or older, and the results are considered valid for four years. You don’t need to be associated with a broker-dealer in order to take the exam.
While the SIE exam does help demonstrate basic industry knowledge, it does not qualify the examinee to participate in any sort of securities industry business or even register with a FINRA member firm. In order to do that, you’ll need to pass the SIE exam along with a qualification exam relevant to the type of business you want to conduct. For example, if you want to become a registered representative, you’ll need to pass both the SIE exam and the Series 7 exam.
Such qualification exams are only available to those who are employed by or otherwise associated with a FINRA member firm.
What Is an SIE Exam Prep Course?
An SIE exam prep course is a focused financial industry course designed to help students pass the SIE exam, ideally on the first attempt. Courses vary but may include study materials, lectures, practice exams, and question banks. As students move through the material, they become prepared for specific sections of the exam.
How Long Do You Need to Study for the SIE Exam?
The SIE exam itself is composed of 75 questions and takes an hour and 45 minutes to complete. A passing grade is 70 or above.
In order to pass the SIE exam, you will likely need to dedicate many hours over the course of weeks (or months) to study the material. While everyone retains information a bit differently, it’s recommended that you spend at least 50 hours seriously studying before your exam. If you don’t already have a strong financial background, you should probably dedicate even more time to your prep.
With that said, the current pass rate of the SIE exam is about 82% overall.
How Much Does an SIE Exam Prep Course Cost?
There are many different SIE exam prep courses to choose from, depending on how much help you think you need and how you learn best.
For example, you can purchase a generic online review course for as low as $40, though it’ll be mostly self-guided. If you want an in-person prep course, you can expect to pay somewhere in the neighborhood of $200 to $300.
Some prep courses have a better reputation (and pass rate) than others, so choose the one that best suits your schedule, learning style, and comfort level with the SIE exam. Also, keep in mind that while a prep course can be an invaluable investment, it won’t replace the hours of independent study that you should still commit to the exam.
Is an SIE Exam Prep Course Worth It?
While it is possible to pass the SIE exam without taking a prep course, students are able to become more efficient in studying for the exam. Courses focus on the topics known to be covered on the exam and can take practice exams to see where their strengths and weaknesses are. In doing so, students don't waste time studying concepts they are already strong in and can focus on improving weak areas.
How We Chose the Best SIE Exam Prep Courses
To help determine the best SIE exam prep courses, we looked at factors such as cost, published pass rate, and availability. Since different examinees respond to certain class structures differently, it’s important to choose the model that best suits you—whether that’s online, in-person, or in a book.
We also looked at what is offered in each course, such as review books, flashcards, practice exams, access to instructors for questions, and the like. Additionally, we took course policies, such as money-back guarantees, into account. Ultimately, using our roundup of the best SIE exam prep courses, you will find the right program to help you pass your exam and advance your career.