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November 5, 2023


Last updated: June 29, 2024

Five Things you Must do If you Fail A FINRA Exam

By: Securities Institute Staff

Failing a FINRA exam can be devastating for many test takers. Your confidence is shaken, your career or promotion can be delayed. And having to tell coworkers and loved ones that you came up short is never any fun. But there is hope and there are a lot of steps you can take to ensure you are successful on your next exam. This article gives you the 5 steps you must take to pass your FINRA qualification exam on your next attempt.

1) Create a written account of your exam experience

There is actually good news for students who have failed an exam. And the good news is that you have seen the test. You know what the exam experience is like and you can use that to your advantage. To do this you must make a written account of everything you can remember from your exam. Students tend to remember questions they struggled with. Write these questions down. Many students can remember the questions in great detail. Especially if the content gave them a hard time. Even if you cannot remember the exact questions, most students remember the topics. This is often the case when the topic or test point shocks or surprises the student. If you saw a question on a topic you have never heard of, it tends to stick with you. Once you have written out the questions and topics you remember, write down the details of how you took the exam. For example:

  • How long did you take to complete the exam?
  • Did you review any questions ?
  • Did you change any answers ?

How long did you take to complete the exam?

FINRA exams are created in such a way that all students have enough time to complete the exam. But, time management is essential to passing. Going too quickly and finishing the exam with a lot of time remaining is a huge issue. It is actually worse than running out of time. It is better to rush at the end of the exam to finish the final 3 or 4 questions. It is far worse to walk out of the test with 30 minutes remaining on the test clock.. Reading questions too quickly and missing a key word can cost a student 10 or more points. For these students it can be the sole reason for receiving a failing grade. Use this information to fine tune your approach to the exam. Make the required changes and practice time management.

Did you review any questions ?

Marking questions for review is another area where people get into trouble. On FINRA tests it is ok to mark a few questions to review. Yet, if you get to the end of the test and there are 30 or more questions to review, this is a warning sign. We have heard many accounts of test takers marking every question to review. Then going back and reviewing the questions again. This is not a good practice. In almost all cases the students failed their exam.

Did you change any answers ?

Changing answers is not a good idea. Your first choice is usually your best choice. Second guessing yourself causes students to change their correct answers to incorrect answers. Sticking with your initial response tends to lead to better results.

The difficulty of the exam questions are structured to be a bell curve. Approximately 15 percent of the questions are going to be easy. 15 percent of the questions are very difficult. 70 percent of the questions will range from easy to difficult.

2) Review your test scores

Once you complete the overview of your testing experience, review your practice tests. How closely does your grade on the actual exam compare to your scores on your practice tests ? Were you consistently passing the practice tests with a comfortable margin for error ? Here it is important to take a long look at your scores. Ensure you were passing the practice tests for the right reasons. No matter whose practice tests you are taking, there is a point where learning stops. Taking tests over and over leads to memorization. Students can mistakenly feel that they are ready to pass the real FINRA exam. Based on the fact that they are scoring 80’s and 90s on the practice exams. Often it is clear that the scores increase because students morized the question. As a result they know the answer. This leads to higher test scores. And provides students with a false sense of readiness. A red flag here is when a student sees their scores increasing while the time spent taking the exam falls. To ensure against memorization, buy exam questions from another professional level publisher.

3) Evaluate your exam preparation methods

The next step to ensure your success after failing a securities exam is to review your study methods. Here you need to do a deep dive into how and when you studied for your test. Answering the following questions will help you evaluate your study efforts:

  • Did you read a professional level exam review textbook cover to cover?
  • When did you complete the reading relative to your exam date?
  • Did you attend a class or watch on demand video training ? If so, when did you complete the classes or video lectures relative to your exam date?
  • How many hours did you spend preparing for your exam?
  • How many weeks or months did you spend preparing ?
  • Were you 100 % focused on your study efforts while studying?
  • Was the time selected to study a time of day when you are most alert?

If you did not read a textbook completely. You have most likely found the reason why you failed the test. Students who complete reading weeks priors to the test also run into difficulty on exam day. You must read the book and refer to it often. Completing your live class within 2 or 3 weeks of the actual exam is also ideal. On Demand video lecture classes should be completed and referred back to continuously. This will ensure mastery. When preparing for your exam students should be 100 percent focused on the material. Studying should be conducted at a time that is optimal for learning. Some people are morning people. Others are night owls. Only you know when you are at your most alert.

4) Use best practices to ensure you pass the next time

Having completed the review, you are ready to put your study plan into practice. Here are the best ways to prepare for success on your next attempt:

  • Take your next FINRA exam sooner rather than later
  • Make sure you improve your study efforts based on your answers to the above questions
  • Ensure you study ALL exam topics. Do not just focus on the areas where you struggled

It is understandable that students who have failed their FINRA exam may be a bit gun shy and hesitant to try again. In reality the sooner you retest the higher the probability you will pass the exam. The reason is simple. Knowledge decays over time. People forget what they learned. The sooner you get back to studying the better. The sooner you hit the ground running, the less work you have to do. The longer you wait, the more you must relearn. It is ok to take a few days off. Do not take a few weeks off. This reduces your chances of being successful. People who fail FINRA exams tend to focus their efforts on the areas where they scored poorly. This is a big mistake. Students who do this find their scores going up in the areas they were weak in. Unfortunately, they fail the exam. Why? Because they did not maintain a level of mastery where they had been strong. You must maintain your expertise in your strong areas. While, firming up your understanding in the areas of poor performance.

5) Stay positive and be confident

Many students who have failed A FINRA exam find themselves facing test anxiety. While this is understandable, worrying about a second failed attempt is counter productive. To help overcome this you can be confident in a number of areas. Including the fact that you know what is going to be on the actual exam. You have seen the test. It is not going to be materially different from your first exam. So you know what to expect. You should be free from the worry of “what am I going to see on the exam?” You already know the answer to this. While the questions will not be the exact same. The style content and difficulty level will be very very similar. This should reduce your test anxiety substantially. Focus on this fact and use it to your advantage. If you do, you will be attacking the exam from a position of strength. You will have the advantage on test day. We have given you the road map to success on your next FINRA exam. Follow the guidelines we have provided and you will be successful.

We hope that this article will help you pass your FINRA exam on your next attempt. All of our securities exam prep packages come with our money back pass guarantee. Our securities exam prep courses feature television quality video training lectures that follow our textbooks topic by topic. We include countless examples of test questions based on student feedback. So you know how topics are tested. Our test banks create randomized simulated exams with the click of a button. And provide detailed explanations to ensure you understand the correct answer. 

Good Luck on your exam

The Securities Institute of America, Inc.