What is the Series 99 exam?

Tyler York
What is the Series 99 exam

Intro

The FINRA Series 99 Exam is called the Operations Professional Exam. The exam tests your ability to perform your job as an entry-level operations professional, including customer onboarding, financial controls, receipt and delivery of securities, funds, and account transfers, and collection, maintenance, reinvestment, and disbursement of funds. Below, we’ll give you a complete overview of the Series 9 exam, including key stats, difficulty, cost, pass rate, tested topics, how to take the exam, and how to register for your test date.

The Series 99 Exam: Key Stats

The Series 99 exam was created by FINRA to ‘assess the competency of entry-level operations professionals’. Here’s the key stats:

Time1 hour and 30 minutes
Format50 multiple choice questions, plus 5 unidentified experimental questions
Passing score68% (34/50)
Exam fee$60
Co-requisitePassed the FINRA Securities Industry Essentials (SIE) Exam

The Series 99 exam is also now referred to as the “Series 99 Top-Off” exam, as the exam must be passed in conjunction with the Securities Industry Essentials (SIE) Exam in order for the candidate to receive a full Operations Professional license from FINRA. You do not need to be sponsored to take the FINRA SIE exam, but must be sponsored by a FINRA member firm in order to take the Series 99 (more on that below).

How hard is the Series 99 exam? 

The Series 99 exam is a moderately challenging exam for entry level professionals looking to pursue a career in operations within the finance industry. It primarily contains facts that you need to know, and doesn’t contain as many math-based questions as some of the other top-off exams like the Series 7 Top-Off. The FINRA Series 99 Top-Off is harder than the old, pre-SIE version of the Series 99 Exam. In the words of one of our corporate clients, it is as if they split all of the easy questions into the FINRA SIE and the more difficult questions into the Series 99 Top-Off. The good news is that the new Series 99 Top-Off is shorter than it used to be.

It is recommended that you plan to study 60-80 hours in order to pass the Series 99 exam. 

Series 99 exam pass rate

There is no official pass rate for the Series 99 exam.

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What subjects are covered on the Series 99 exam?

The official FINRA outline for the Series 99 exam breaks the content into two sections:

TopicQuestionsPercent
1. Knowledge Associated with the Securities Industry and Broker-Dealer Operations3570%
2. Professional Conduct and Ethical Considerations1530%
Total55100%

Let’s go over each of the Series 99 sections and their content:

Knowledge Associated with the Securities Industry and Broker-Dealer Operations – 35 questions, 70% of the exam

This section covers account opening and maintenance, cashiering and account transfers, custody and control of securities, trade reporting and corrections, margin and stock loan / securities lending, settlement, account statements and confirmations, regulatory financial requirements of broker-dealers, and books and records.

Professional Conduct and Ethical Considerations – 15 questions, 30% of the exam

This section covers relationships and dealings with customers, vendors, and associated persons of the firm, customer privacy, the importance of escalating complaints and potential red flags, and broker-dealer supervision and control.

Who can take the Series 99 exam? (eligibility and sponsorship requirements)

Candidates cannot take the FINRA Series 99 Exams or other representative-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.

The FINRA SIE Exam is a corequisite to the Series 99 exam. Candidates must pass both the Series 99 exam and the SIE exam to obtain the FINRA Operations Professional registration. You do not need to be sponsored in order to sit for the FINRA SIE exam, so you can take it before applying to finance industry jobs. If you haven’t taken the FINRA SIE exam yet, Achievable offers a great FINRA SIE Exam prep course with industry leading pass rates. 

How do I register for the Series 99 exam?

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 99 exam. 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. 

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

How much is the Series 99 exam cost?

The exam fee for the Series 99 exam is $60. 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 99 exam vary in cost depending on the type of program and the vendor you work with. Most self-service online programs range from $99 to $149, 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 99, 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.

Lady taking exam at desk

How to take the Series 99 exam?

The Series 99 exam is a computer test 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 1 hour and 30 minutes to complete the Series 99 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 is the Series 99 scored?

The Series 99 exam is scored right or wrong on each of its 50 multiple choice questions. Each question has four answer choices. Each candidate’s exam includes 5 additional, unidentified pretest items that do not contribute toward the candidate’s score. The pretest items are randomly distributed throughout the exam. Therefore, each candidate’s exam consists of a total of 55 items (50 scored and 5 unscored), and you do not know which of the questions are experimental. Therefore, 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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