Everything You Need to Know About the SIE Exam

By Julie Mendel, SILA-A, CDEI
Aug 30, 2022


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What you need to know about the SIE Exam

Whether you dream of trading on Wall Street or strategizing investments, any career in the securities industry begins by passing the Securities Industry Essentials (SIE) exam. In fact, taking the SIE exam prior to applying to securities firms shows recruiters you are serious about a career in the securities industry and motivated to succeed.

Wherever you see your future in the securities industry, it begins by passing the SIE exam. Below, you’ll find everything you need to know about the SIE exam to help you take that first step.

What is the SIE Exam?

FINRA’s Securities Industry Essentials (SIE) Exam is an introductory exam new securities professionals must pass to enter the industry. The exam was created by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) to reduce redundancies across entry-level exams and for ease of entry into the securities industry.

The SIE exam evaluates candidates’ understanding of fundamental concepts securities professionals use every day. The exam covers basic securities terminology and reviews the inner-workings of the financial services industry, including the role and purpose of various securities industry regulators. Prohibited practices, ethics, and risks specific to the securities industry are also discussed.

The SIE exam is one of two required exams securities professionals must pass prior to working in the industry. In addition to passing the SIE exam, FINRA also requires a co-requisite qualification exam (called “top-off” exams) based on a person’s securities specialty. However, only those sponsored by a FINRA member firm can take a qualification exam.

FINRA created the SIE exam to improve and encourage entry into the securities industry. It consolidated the introductory material into a single test. It also helps prospective securities professionals jumpstart their career without sponsorship. By attracting new talent and training them effectively, FINRA hopes to see the SIE improve the entire securities industry.

Why Take the SIE Exam?

While passing the SIE exam is no guarantee of getting a job in the securities industry, it does help applicants stand out from the crowd. Applicants are not required to take the SIE exam prior to applying, but once hired by a firm, everyone must eventually take and pass the SIE exam.

FINRA’s goal with the SIE exam is to allow new securities professionals to enter the securities industry more easily by proving their qualifications before they are hired. Since everyone in the industry must pass the SIE exam, motivated applicants who have already passed the SIE exam prior to applying are more likely to earn a recruiter’s attention.

Careers are accelerated, too. New hires who have already passed the SIE exam have a much higher chance of passing qualification exams because the SIE exam builds foundational knowledge new hires can use to pass the exam the first time, onboard faster, and begin thriving sooner.

What is on the SIE Exam?

The SIE exam is administered by FINRA and assesses a person’s foundational knowledge of the securities industry.

The exam tests four key components:

  1. 1. Knowledge of the Capital Markets
  2. 2. Understanding Products and Their Risks
  3. 3. Understanding Trading, Customer Accounts, and Prohibited Activities
  4. 4. Overview of the Regulatory Framework

FINRA’s SIE exam content outline details all topics covered within each of the four sections listed above.

The SIE is a one hour and 45-minute-long timed exam with 75 multiple choice questions. A passing grade is 70%, or 53 correct answers out of 75 questions. Test results are displayed as passing or failing upon completion of the exam.

Students who fail the SIE exam must wait 30 calendar days until they can try again. Failing three times within a two-year period extends the waiting time to 180 calendar days. 

Test results remain valid for four years. Anyone 18 years or older is eligible. No FINRA firm sponsorship is required to take the SIE exam. However, sponsorship from a FINRA registered firm is required to take other licensing and registration exams.  

Online SIE Exam Prep Tips for Passing the First Time

The time-tested method for passing the first time is preparing with SIE exam prep, which has the study tools to help develop and test your knowledge in a variety of ways. Online SIE exam prep courses, like those found in WebCE’s Securities Exam Prep Catalog, offer the best chance of passing the SIE exam.

An effective online SIE exam prep package, like WebCE’s Securities Industry Essentials (SIE) Complete Exam Prep, should include various tools like the following to maximize your study efforts:

  1. 1. Exam Tutor exam simulator offers full SIE practice exams and allows for custom-built exams to test knowledge on specific topics
  2. 2. Flash Tutor online flashcards, mobile-friendly and perfect for reviewing key terms and concepts on the go
  3. 3. Study Guide Workbook, designed as a companion for the course material to write notes and complete exercises
  4. 4. My Study Planner assists with creating a customized learning plan because daily studying is important for mastering the key concepts
  5. 5. Read-it-to-me audio for all course content

WebCE’s securities exam prep course packages provide all of these in a convenient, effective presentation to help you pass FINRA’s SIE exam—and bring you one step closer to a career in the securities industry.

How to Schedule and Take FINRA's SIE Exam

The SIE exam is administered by FINRA, who offers both online (remote) and in-person testing options. Students must schedule an SIE exam appointment. Online exams are administered by FINRA. In-person exams are held at local testing centers through Prometric, who administers FINRA’s in-person exams.

Before scheduling an online SIE exam appointment, however, be sure you can meet FINRA’s online testing requirements.

What's Next After Passing the SIE Exam?

In addition to the SIE exam, additional FINRA co-requisite “top-off” qualification exams may be required. Which qualification exam you need to take is based on your specific securities specialty.

While anyone 18 years or older can take the SIE exam, only those sponsored by a FINRA member firm may take the Series exams. This means the SIE can be taken prior to applying to increase your chances of finding a position with a firm. Only after an applicant is hired with a firm, however, can a qualification exam be taken.

The securities industry is competitive and rewarding. Whether you find yourself on Wall Street or managing portfolios, your career begins here, with WebCE’s SIE exam prep.