What is the Series 9 and 10 exam?

Tyler York
What is the Series 9 and 10 exam

Intro

The FINRA Series 9 and 10 are called the General Securities Sales Supervisor Exams. As the name implies, these exams are meant to assess the ability of an entry-level principal to supervise Series 7-licensed general securities sales representatives. While these are two separate exams, they are almost always taken together within two years in order to obtain your principal-level General Securities Sales Supervisor license. Below, we’ll give you a complete overview of the Series 9 and 10 exams, including key stats, difficulty, cost, pass rate, tested topics, how to take the exam, and how to register for your test date.

The Series 9 / 10 Exams: Key Stats

The Series 9 and 10 exams are separate exams that each have their own cost and format. In a somewhat confusing format, the Series 10 is considered “Part 1” of obtaining this license, and the Series 9 is considered “Part 2”. However, you can take these exams in any order.

Series 10 Exam (Part 1) Key Stats

The Series 10 exam focuses on personnel management, customer accounts, sales practices and trading activities, and public communications. Here’s the key stats for Part 1, the Series 10 Exam:

Series 10 Exam (Part 1) Key Stats
Time4 hours
Format145 multiple choice questions, plus 10 unidentified experimental questions
Passing score70% (102/145)
Exam fee$175
PrerequisitesPassed the FINRA Securities Industry Essentials (SIE) Exam and the FINRA Series 7 Exam

Series 9 Exam (Part 2) Key Stats

The Series 9 focuses on customer options accounts, sales practices and options trading, options communications, and related management activities. Here’s the key states for Part 2, the Series 9 exam:

Series 9 Exam (Part 2) Key Stats
Time1 hour and 30 minutes
Format55 multiple choice questions, plus 5 unidentified experimental questions
Passing score70% (39/55)
Exam fee$130
PrerequisitesPassed the FINRA Securities Industry Essentials (SIE) Exam and the FINRA Series 7 Exam

Taken together, these two exams combine for 5 hours and 30 minutes, 200 multiple choice questions with 15 additional unidentified experimental questions, and a total cost of $305.


You are welcome to take the exams on the same day, but you do not have to.

What is the difference between the Series 9 and 10 and the Series 24?

Passing your Series 9 and 10 exams qualify you as a limited securities principal. This gives you the ability to supervise sales activities of a broker dealer. They also give a branch manager the ability to supervise sales in corporate securities (equity and debt), investment company products and variable contracts, municipal securities, options, government securities and direct participation programs (DPPs). The General Securities Sales Supervisor license does not allow the sales supervisor or branch manager to supervise other areas of a securities business, such as underwriting, trading or compliance.

The Series 24 exam qualifies you as a general securities principal. This means that you can supervise all areas of your firm’s investment banking and securities business, including underwriting, trading and market making, advertising, and compliance. However, while the overall scope of the Series 24 is broader than the Series 9 and 10, the Series 24 license does not cover municipal securities or options, while the Series 9 and 10 license covers both. 

How hard are the Series 9 / 10 exams? 

The Series 9 and 10 are both difficult, principal-level exams. They require a strong handle on all materials covered by the FINRA Series 7 exam, and additional learning related to managing different kinds of securities transactions and supervising associated persons. 

The Series 10 exam is four hours and 145 questions, and is therefore substantially longer than the Series 9 exam, which is 90 minutes and 55 questions. The Series 10 covers general securities trading activities and supervision, while the Series 9 is more focused on options trading activities and supervision. Between the two tests, many consider the Series 9 to be trickier due to its options content. You will need to solve options questions that are as difficult or more difficult than those on the Series 7 exam.

It is recommended that you plan to study 50-60 hours in order to pass the Series 9 exam, and closer to 100 hours to pass the Series 10 exam.

There is no official pass rate for either the Series 9 or Series 10 exams, but the understanding is that the pass rate is approximately 70% for both exams.

Photo by Joshua Mayo on Unsplash

What subjects are covered on the Series 9 / 10 exams?

Official FINRA Series 10 (Part 1) outline

The official FINRA outline for the Series 9 / 10 exams breaks the content into eight sections, four per exam. Let’s start with the Series 10:

TopicQuestionsPercent
1. Supervise Associated Persons and Personnel Management Activities2819%
2. Supervise the Opening and Maintenance of Customer Accounts4934%
3. Supervise Sales Practices and General Trading Activities5236%
4. Supervise Communications with the Public1611%
Total145100%

Let’s go over each of the Series 10 sections and their content:

Supervise Associated Persons and Personnel Management Activities – 28 questions, 19% of the exam

This section covers verification of new hires, maintaining the registrations and disclosures of the people you are supervising, handling disciplinary actions with your employees, maintaining product and market knowledge including compliance and CE requirements, and conducting branch office inspections and relegating duties. 

Supervise the Opening and Maintenance of Customer Accounts – 49 questions, 34% of the exam

This section covers reviewing new account documentation and determining whether you should bring on a client, reviewing customer account transactions for appropriateness including suitability, reviewing customer margin accounts and margin requirements, and overseeing administrative maintenance of customer accounts.

Supervise Sales Practices and General Trading Activities – 52 questions, 36% of the exam

This section covers identifying customer complaints and taking action, overseeing corrections to any trade errors, reviewing daily trade activity to ensure completeness and compliance, reviewing trading activity by your own employees, and supervising the sales practices of products by your employees. 

Supervise Communications with the Public – 16 questions, 11% of the exam

This section covers telemarketing practices, retail communications (e.g. social media), content standards, review of incoming and outgoing correspondence including approval when required, and review of institutional communications.

Official FINRA Series 9 (Part 2) outline

And now, let’s revisit the official FINRA outline for the Series 9 / 10 exams to break down the content in the Series 9:

TopicQuestionsPercent
1. Supervise the Opening and Maintenance of Customer Options Accounts1833%
2. Supervise Sales Practices and General Options Trading Activities1935%
3. Supervise Options Communications59%
4. Supervise Associated Persons and Personnel Management Activities1324%
Total55100%

Let’s go over each of the Series 9 sections and their content:

Supervise the Opening and Maintenance of Customer Options Accounts – 18 questions, 33% of the exam

This section covers the review of new account documentation and approvals, reviewing options trading activities of your clients to ensure they’re meeting the applicable standards, and reviewing margin accounts to confirm proper handling and timely adherence to margin requirements.

Supervise Sales Practices and General Options Trading Activities – 19 questions, 35% of the exam

This section covers the review of customer complaints and appropriate actions, correcting options trade errors, reviewing daily options trade activity for completeness and exceptions, and monitoring the overall process of options trading within your branch or department.

Supervise Options Communications – 5 questions, 9% of the exam

This section covers the review of options retail communications and related approvals, the review of incoming and outgoing options correspondence and related approvals, and the review of options institutional communications and related approvals.

Supervise Associated Persons and Personnel Management Activities – 13 questions, 24% of the exam

This section covers the maintenance of market, product, and regulatory knowledge related to options.

As you can see, the Series 9 is almost like a mini version of the Series 10 that is just focused on options trading. This is why FINRA considers the Series 10 the first part of this exam pair, and the Series 9 the second.

Who can take the Series 9 / 10 exams? (eligibility and sponsorship requirements)

You must have your FINRA SIE and FINRA Series 7 licenses in order to sit for the Series 9 and 10 exams. 

Additionally, candidates cannot take the FINRA Series 9/10 Exams or other principal-level qualification exams unless they are associated with and sponsored by a FINRA member firm or other applicable self-regulatory organization (SRO) member firm. For more information on registration requirements, refer to FINRA Rule 1210.

How do I register for the Series 9 / 10 exams?

Registration can feel daunting – luckily, the FINRA firm that you are a member of should have a compliance team member help you through the registration process. Registered FINRA firms are members of FINRA’s Central Registration Depository (CRD) program, and must file an application on your behalf through the CRD portal using Form U4 (the Uniform Application for Securities Industry Regulation or Transfer Form). 

Once your firm has filed Form U4, this opens your enrollment window, which is a 120-day period where you’re allowed to sit for your Series 9 and/or 10 exams. Once your enrollment window has been opened, you or your sponsoring firm can schedule an exam date and time with a Prometric Testing Center. There is no online administration for the FINRA Series 9 or 10 exams at this time – you have to take it in a test center. We recommend that you plan your exam date far in advance, so that you can pick an optimal time for your schedule and also ensure that you do not miss the opportunity to test during your designated enrollment period. 

Please note that while the enrollment window for taking the Series 9 or 10 exams is 120 days, you have two years from the completion of one exam to take the other. If you take the second of the two exams after your first enrollment window expires, you will need to open a new enrollment window. Speak to your compliance officer at your firm for their recommendation on how to approach this process.

For complete details, please visit FINRA’s Registering a New Candidate page.

How much is the Series 9 / 10 exam cost?

The exam fee for the Series 10 exam is $175. The exam fee for the Series 9 exam is $130. These fees are assessed with the form filings submitted through the CRD, so the firm is the one that needs to make the payment on your behalf. While it depends, many firms will cover this exam fee for you or reimburse you once you pass the exam. 

Test prep programs for the Series 9 / 10 exam vary in cost depending on the type of program and the vendor you work with. Most self-service online programs range from $449 to $699, while live classes, live online classes, intensive bootcamps, and tutoring can all cost hundreds of dollars more. Given the complexity of this exam, it is strongly recommended that you use prep materials in some form when preparing for the Series 9/10, and you should factor that cost into your plans. Many firms will provide a list of recommended vendors or give you prep materials or classes outright, but some will require you to purchase them out of pocket and either reimburse you after you pass or not reimburse you at all.

How to take the Series 9 / 10 exams?

The Series 9 and 10 exams are computer tests administered by Prometric Test Centers nationwide. You cannot sit for the exam online or take it in another testing location. Your test center will give you a tutorial on how to take the exam prior to taking it.

Candidates are given 4 hours to complete the Series 10 exam. There are no sections or breaks during the testing period.

Candidates are given 1 hour and 30 minutes to complete the Series 9 exam. There are no sections or breaks during the testing period.

Candidates are not permitted to bring reference materials to their testing session. Severe penalties are imposed on candidates who cheat or attempt to cheat on FINRA-administered exams.

How are the Series 9 / 10 scored?

The Series 9 and 10 exams are scored right or wrong on each of the multiple choice questions. Each question has four answer choices. Each candidate’s exam includes additional, unidentified pretest items that do not contribute toward the candidate’s score (10 on the Series 10, 5 on the Series 9). The pretest items are randomly distributed throughout the exam. Therefore, each Series 10 exam consists of 155 questions (145 scored and 10 unscored), and each Series 9 exam consists of 60 questions (55 scored and 5 unscored). You do not know which of the questions are experimental, so it is recommended that you answer all of the questions and do not attempt to determine which questions are experimental. 

Additionally, there is no penalty for guessing, so candidates should make sure to answer every question by the end of the test period, even if they do not know the answer.

All candidate test scores are placed on a common scale using a statistical adjustment process known as equating. Equating scores to a common scale accounts for the slight variations in difficulty that may exist among the different sets of exam items that candidates receive. This allows for a fair comparison of scores and ensures that every candidate is held to the same passing standard regardless of which set of exam items they received.

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