What Is Series 66?
Series 66, the NASAA Uniform Combined State Law Examination, is an exam and license that is meant to qualify individuals as investment advisor representatives (IARs) or securities agents. The Series 66 covers topics relevant to providing investment advice and effecting securities transactions for clients. Once licensed, IARs can legally conduct financial advising and wealth management duties.
The Series 66 exam is developed by the North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA), along with the Series 63 and Series 65 exams. It is administered by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).
- The Series 66 is a professional licensing exam for investment advisor representatives (IARs).
- Those who want to become IARs or securities agents must pass both the Series 66 and Series 7 exams.
- The Series 66 exam has 100 multiple-choice questions, with a passing score of 73%.
- The exam covers topics such as economic factors, investment vehicles, client/customer investment recommendation strategies, and laws and regulations.
- The Series 66 is equivalent to taking both the Series 63 and Series 65 exams.
Understanding the Series 66
The Series 66 certification was developed by the NASAA based on requests from the industry. The exam is administered by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), which is also responsible for processing and disseminating test results. FINRA’s Series 7 exam is a co-requisite of the Series 66, which means it needs to be successfully completed along with the Series 66 before a candidate may apply to register in a state.
The Series 7 must be successfully completed before taking the Series 66. Individuals who have passed the Series 7 may take the Series 66 to avoid having to take the longer and possibly more difficult Series 65 exam.
Series 66 Exam and Structure
The Series 66 examination contents include 100 multiple-choice questions that are scored and 10 pretest questions that are not scored. Candidates have a maximum time of 150 minutes (2½ hours) to complete the examination.
To obtain a passing score, a candidate must correctly answer 73 of the 100 questions that are scored (73%). The exam administrator provides electronic calculators for candidates to use, and these are the only calculators allowed in the exam room. A dry-erase marker and a whiteboard are provided. No study or reference materials of any kind are permitted in the examination room, and there are harsh penalties for anyone caught cheating or attempting to cheat.
An individual’s employer can register a candidate for the exam by filing either a Form U4 or Form U10 and paying the $177 examination fee. FINRA’s Series 66 informational web page has additional details.
As of Oct. 21, 2022, you must take the Series 66 in person at a qualified testing center. The Series 66 qualification exam is available online only for candidates who provide medical proof that they cannot take exams in testing centers, due to a disability or other qualifying issue.
Harsh penalties are imposed on anyone caught cheating or attempting to cheat on the Series 66 exam.
Series 66 Exam Content
The NASAA updates information on the exam’s content and posts it online. As of October 2022, the exam questions are allocated as follows:
- Economic Factors and Business Information (5%): This section includes five questions on financial reporting (such as financial ratios, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission [SEC] filings, and annual reports), quantitative methods (such as internal rate of return and net present value), and types of risk (such as market, interest rate, inflation, political, liquidity, and other risks).
- Investment Vehicle Characteristics (20%): The 20 questions in this section include but are not limited to: methods used to value fixed-income securities, types and characteristics of derivative securities, alternative investments, and insurance-based products.
- Client/Customer Investment Recommendations and Strategies (30%): The 30 questions in this section include but are not limited to: types of clients (including individuals, businesses, and trusts and estates), client profiling (including financial goals, current financial status, and risk tolerance), capital market theory, portfolio management strategies, tax considerations, retirement planning, trading accounts, and performance measurement.
- Laws, Regulations, and Guidelines, Including Prohibition on Unethical Business Practices (45%): This section includes 45 questions on state and federal securities acts along with related rules and regulations, ethical practices, and fiduciary obligations.
Series 66 vs. Series 63 and Series 65
- The Series 66 essentially combines material found in both the Series 63 and Series 65. However, you must have passed the Series 7 as a co-requisite for the Series 66, which is not needed for the Series 63 or Series 65.
- The Series 63 by itself provides state-level authority to transact in securities on behalf of clients.
- The Series 65 by itself provides state-level authority to give financial advice and manage client assets.
What does the Series 66 allow you to do?
Passing the Series 66 exam licenses financial professionals to carry out work as an investment advisor representative (IAR) or securities agent with state-level authority. With the Series 66 license, financial professionals can legally act in the capacity of investment advisors or wealth/asset managers.
Is the Series 65 harder than the Series 66?
The Series 65 is another IAR licensing credential offered by the North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA). The Series 66 exam is relatively new. It was created by NASAA in response to requests from broker-dealers and other financial services firms. It is essentially a combination of Series 63 and Series 65, but since a co-requisite for taking the exam is successful completion of the Series 7 exam, it does not include the product, analysis, and strategy questions that are a large part of the Series 65.
While the pass/fail rates for these exams are not publicly available, many consider the Series 66 exam less difficult than the Series 65 because it has 30 fewer questions and does not include topics from the Series 7.
How difficult Is the Series 66 exam?
The Series 66 is difficult since it covers a wide breadth of detailed material. The official pass rates for the Series 66 exam are not officially published; however, test prep programs estimate the pass rate to be around 65% to 70% of test takers. If you fail the exam, you must wait at least 30 days before attempting it again.
How much does the Series 66 cost?
Taking the Series 66 exam costs $177 as of 2022. If you work for a financial firm, they may cover the exam cost on your behalf.
The Bottom Line
Those who want to become professional investment advisors or money managers need to pass both the FINRA Series 7 and NASAA Series 66 exams (although you can also take both the Series 63 and Series 65 in lieu of the 66). The Series 66 combines material from both the Series 63 and Series 65 exams, in a 100-question multiple-choice format. Test takers have 150 minutes and must score 73% or better to pass. Once you pass, you can legally transact in securities and give securities-related advice in all states.