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The Average Success for the Series 65 Test and How to Pass


If you’d like to become an investment advisor representative (IAR), you’ll need to successfully pass the Series 65 exam. The Series 65 exam is a North American Securities Administrators Exam that’s administered by FINRA, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. The Series 65 pass rate is typically around 65%-70%, underscoring the importance of proper study and preparation beforehand.

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What Is the Series 65 Exam?

The Series 65 exam is a comprehensive test that’s designed to measure financial advisors’ knowledge of specific topics. The exam consists of 130 scored questions spanning four key areas:

  • Economics
  • Characteristics of different investment vehicles
  • Business ethics, including laws, regulations and guidelines concerning acceptable practices and behaviors
  • Investment recommendations and strategies

All questions are multiple choice, so there’s no essay writing involved. Additionally, there are 10 pretest questions, which are unscored. Test-takers have 180 minutes to complete the Series 65 exam.

What Is a Passing Score for the Series 65 Test?

To pass the Series 65 exam, you must answer at least 92 of the 130 questions correctly. Effectively, that means you need to get at least 70% of the questions right to pass, though final scores are not calculated as a percentage.

Test scores are made available to test-takers almost immediately after they’ve completed the exam. That’s an advantage since you’ll be able to find out right away whether you’ve passed.

Test takers who fail the Series 65 exam can retake it. There’s a 30-day waiting period between attempts. This waiting period extends to 180 days if you fail the exam on three consecutive attempts. Each time you register for the exam, you’ll have to pay the registration fee. As of June 2023, the Series 65 exam fee was $187.

How many times can you take the Series 65 test if you fail? As many as you like, until you pass. Just remember that you’ll need to observe the applicable waiting period and pay the fee each time you sit for the test.

What Is the Series 65 Pass Rate?

A man preparing for the Series 65 exam.

As mentioned, the pass rate for the Series 65 exam is usually between 65% and 70%. That means roughly a third of candidates fail when attempting the test.

In terms of what contributes to the failure rate, it can be a combination of things, including:

  • Overall difficulty of the exam
  • Lack of proper study and preparation
  • Issues experienced on the test day, such as an illness that keeps you from performing at your best level
  • Difficulty with test-taking in general

Not passing the Series 65 exam the first time can be disheartening, but it’s not a roadblock to a successful attempt in the future. The key to increasing your odds of passing the first time around lies largely in knowing how to study for the exam.

How to Prepare for the Series 65 Exam

If you’ve already taken the Series 7 exam and passed, you may have a slight edge when it comes to preparing for the Series 65 exam. The Series 7, along with the SIE exam, is necessary to obtain General Securities Representative registration. Exam material focuses on topics largely related to the different securities a GSR is authorized to sell.

Regardless of whether you’ve taken the Series 7 exam or not, you can benefit from mapping out a study plan to prepare for the Series 65 test. Candidates may spend a few weeks or a few months studying for the exam, depending on how much time they’re able to allocate in their schedules.

There are different resources available to help you study, including Series 65 exam prep courses. These courses may be offered online or offline, via live teachings or pre-recorded video lessons. The cost can range from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, depending on the format the course takes and what you’re provided with in terms of supplemental education resources and support services.

If you’re considering a test prep course, ask yourself what format might work best for you based on your schedule and learning style. Weigh the course provider’s Series 65 pass rate for test-takers if that information is made available. Lastly, consider whether the provider offers any type of money-back guarantee or help with retesting fees should you not pass the exam initially.

How to Register for the Series 65 Exam

Once you’ve completed your study preparations, you can register for the Series 65 exam. To do that, you’ll need to enroll through the FINRA website, schedule an exam date and pay the registration fee. After enrollment, FINRA will give you a 120-day window in which you can complete the exam.

Series 65 tests must be taken in person at a local test center unless you have accommodation needs that would allow you to take the exam online. FINRA encourages candidates to schedule their exam date as far in advance as possible to get the date that works best for their schedule.

On the day of the exam, you should plan to arrive at least 30 minutes early and you’ll need to bring a valid, government-issued ID with you. The name on your ID Should be an exact match for the name you used to register for the exam. If it doesn’t or if your ID is expired, you won’t be admitted to take the exam.

You won’t be able to bring any study materials with you into the exam center and you may be asked to empty your pockets to show that you aren’t carrying any prohibited items. The test itself is closed book, so no study guides or other reference materials are allowed. Violating the rules can result in:

  • Having your test date cancelled
  • Losing your test exam fee or being required to pay a cancellation fee
  • Forfeiture of your test results if you were able to complete the exam

Long story short? The Series 65 exam is something to be taken seriously from start to finish. The better prepared you are beforehand, the better your odds of achieving a passing score.

Bottom Line

A woman registering for the Series 65 exam.

Familiarizing yourself with the Series 65 exam pass rate can give you some context for what to expect. It can also be a motivator to put your best foot forward when it comes to studying so that you’re not at risk of having to retake the test down the line.

Tips for Growing Your Advisory Business

  • If you want to scale your business, having a professional website and social media presence can help increase your visibility in online searches. You might also consider the value of running Google ads to show up in local search results. If you’d like to take a shortcut to marketing you may invest in lead-generation services instead. With SmartAdvisor, for instance, you can connect with leads without spending hours promoting your business.
  • Whether you need to complete the Series 65 exam or another exam can depend on your professional goals. If you’d just like to be able to sell securities, for instance, then you’ll need a Series 7 license. A Series 66 license, meanwhile, is effectively equivalent to passing both the Series 63 and Series 65 exams. Evaluating your short- and long-term goals can help you decide which licenses to pursue.

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