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SIE Exam: Everything You Need To Know

What is the Securities Industry Essentials Exam?

The Securities Industry Essentials Exam, also known as the SIE Exam, is an entry level examination. It is required for all prospective securities industry professionals. It is the  co-requisite for anyone who wishes to become registered with a FINRA member firm. The SIE Exam must be taken in addition to passing a top off exam. The SIE combined with a top off exam, grants candidates a securities license.

Who should take the Securities Industry Essentials Exam?

Candidates employed by a FINRA member must pass the SIE and related top off exam.  Individuals considering entering the industry, should take the SIE Exam. It is a critical first step in a financial services career.  Passing the SIE Exam is the starting point for every securities industry professional.  It is your ticket to become a licensed stockbroker.  The SIE Exam is an introductory-level exam. It is for anyone who wants to pursue a career in the financial services industry. College graduates and career changers often take the SIE. Passing the SIE Exam is a great addition to anyone’s resume. It is also a great way to show a prospective employer that you are serious about a career in financial services.

Do I need a sponsor to take the SIE Exam ?

No. Candidates who take the Securities Industry Essentials Exam do not need a sponsor. You may take the SIE Exam without employment by a FINRA member firm. Test takers can self enroll  with FINRA on their website. Here are the steps you need to take to enroll to take the exam:

  • Create an account on the FINRA website 
  • Provide the required information
  • Pay the testing fee with a credit card

What is the format of the SIE Exam?

The Securities Industry Essentials Exam is in multiple-choice format. Each question will have four possible answers presented in A B C D format. The exam tests the candidates’ mastery of general securities industry knowledge. Candidates must answer every question on the exam. Test takers may not proceed to the next question until an answer has been selected. Each exam has 75 questions testing prospective candidates’ knowledge in the following areas:


Section Number of Exam Questions  Percent of total exam questions 
Knowledge of Capital Markets  12 16%
Understanding Products and Their Risks 33 44%
Understanding Trading, Customer Accounts and Prohibited Activities 23 31%
Overview of Regulatory Framework 7 9%
Total 75 100%


The FINRA content outline provides a general exam overview of the information tested. SIE test takers can expect to see a variety of exam questions relating to:

  • Common stock, preferred stock, rights and warrants
  • Corporate debt, municipal bonds and government securities 
  • Money market instruments, banker’s acceptances and commercial paper 
  • Mutual funds, investment companies and exchange traded funds 
  • Economics and the Federal Reserve Board
  • Issuing securities, primary market transactions and initial public offering 
  • Secondary market, market operations and market structure 
  • Customer accounts and margin accounts 
  • Recommendations to customers and making suitable recommendations 
  • The Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) 
  • The Securities Act of 1933. The Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and The Investment Company Act of 1940
  • Rules, regulations and general securities industry information

What is the passing score for the SIE? 

The SIE exam has a minimum passing score of 70 percent. This is the minimum level for the candidate’s understanding.

How hard is the SIE Exam ? 

The SIE is an entry level examination. It tests candidates’ understanding of the core knowledge for prospective securities industry professionals. The difficulty of the SIE exam is generally lower than that of the specialized top off exams.  On a scale of 1-10, the SIE exam would have a difficulty of 5. while the series 7 exam would have a difficulty of 8. The exam should not be taken lightly.

What is the Time Limit for the SIE Exam ? 

The SIE exam has a time limit of 1 hour and 45 minutes. The time limit provides enough time for all test takers to complete the exam. In addition to the 75 scored questions, each test will contain experimental questions. These questions do not count towards the final score and are not graded. They are included in the exams so FINRA can determine if the questions are valid. Valid questions appear in future exams. Test takers will not know which questions are experimental and which questions are scored. Additional time is added to each exam to provide time for these questions. Each question has 1.4 minutes to complete. Easy questions may take only 30 seconds to answer. While more challenging questions often take longer.

 When will I get the results of my SIE Exam?

Candidates taking the SIE get the results of the exam immediately upon completion. A candidate who passes the SIE exam will receive a grade of “pass”. FINRA does not provide a numeric score.

What if I fail the SIE exam ?

If you fail the SIE exam, you will receive a numeric exam score. A range of performance for each of the basic knowledge sections is also provided.  You must wait 30 days before taking the exam a second time. If you are unsuccessful on your second attempt, you will be subject to another 30 day waiting period. A third failed attempt subjects the student to a 6-month waiting period. The 180 day waiting period must lapse before a candidate may schedule the SIE exam again.

Can I conduct business after passing the SIE Exam?

No, you will not be licensed to represent a financial institution or to conduct investment business solely based upon passing the securities industry Essentials Exam. You must pass a top off Exam before transacting any securities related business and prior to functioning in any capacity that requires full registration. You will be required to pass one or more of the following top off exams:

  • Series 6 – Investment Company and Variable Contracts Products Representative Exam
  • Series 7 – General Securities Representative Exam
  • Series 22 – Direct Participation Programs Limited Representative Exam
  • Series 57 – Securities Trader Representative Exam
  • Series 79 – Investment Banking Representative Exam
  • Series 82 – Private Securities Offerings Representative Exam
  • Series 86/87 – Research Analyst Exam
  • Series 99 – Operations Professional Exam

Which top off exam you take will be determined by the role at your employing firm. Most employer sponsors assign the appropriate qualification exam requirements.  

I have not found a Job. How long are the passing results of my SIE Exam good for ?

Your passing grade is good for a period of 4 years. You have up to 48 months from the date you passed the SIE exam to pass the appropriate top off exam. If you do not enter the financial industry within that time frame you will be required to re take the SIE exam 

How do I schedule my Securities Industry Essentials Exam?

SIE Exam Candidates must make an appointment to take the Exam at an approved testing center. Most areas in the US have a significant number of exam centers approved to administer the SIE Exam. There are a large number of Prometric testing locations open every business day. Some locations are open seven days per week. You may take your Securities Industry Essentials Exam any day the test center is open. To ensure you are able to take the SIE Exam on a date that is convenient for you. Contact the testing center in your area 3-4 weeks in advance. For more information read How To Schedule The SIE Exam

What is the Test Center like?

Professional proctors control and watch Prometric test centers. The staff safeguard the integrity of the exam. The testing room is set up much like a computer lab you would see at a college or library. Each computer in the testing area is administering a different exam to test takers. Some individuals may be taking the SIE or Series 7 exam. While others may be taking an exam in a completely different industry.  There is no reference material of any kind in the testing area. The center provides a basic 4 function calculator and scratch paper or a dry erase tablet. Only take your appointment confirmation and a government issued ID.  A driver’s license, passport or Military ID are acceptable. Make sure your identification is valid and not expired.  The testing proctors will check your ID and take a thumbprint to verify your identity. Make sure you know where the center is. You should have clear directions. Do not add to the stress by getting lost or looking for parking. If you live in a remote area and the center is far away, you should consider staying in a local hotel. Arrive at least 20 minutes before your scheduled exam appointment.

After I pass The SIE Exam, what do I do next ?

After passing the Securities Industry Essential Exam, the next step is passing  a top off Exam. This will allow you to function as a registered person with a FINRA member firm. Candidates must have a sponsor to take all top off exams.  If you are already employed by a financial services firm, Great. You are all set. Employment seekers now have a great addition to their resume and can contact local firms.

How do I prepare for the Securities Industry Essentials Exam?

It is very important to choose your SIE study material carefully. Quality study material produced by a professional level publisher is key. At a minimum your training materials should contain:

  • A comprehensive textbook
  • Well produced video training classes
  • Challenging test banks

Reading an SIE Textbook completely is a must. Do not skim through it. There are no shortcuts. Watch the video class lectures and take notes.  The video lectures provide more examples and test tips. So you know how the material in the chapter is being tested. Take SIE Exam practice question to ensure you have mastered the knowledge. You must take full simulated final exams. Your scores should provide at least a 5 point margin of error before taking the actual SIE exam. We recommend  60 hours of preparation 

Do I have to take the SIE Exam if I am already Registered ?

No, individuals registered with a FINRA member firm are exempt. FINRA grandfathered registered agents and principals.

I was registered and left the business. Do I need to take the SIE Exam if I want to return to the financial services industry?

If you were registered within the last 24 months, you are not  required to requalify.  This 24 month window is your grace period.  If the time out of the business is more than 24 months but less than 48 months, you must take the top off exam only. You are not required to take the SIE.  If the break in employment is more than 48 must the SIE and top off exam must be taken.