Securities Industry Essentials (SIE) Exam

How difficult is the SIE Exam?


Tackling a difficult challenge
Credit: Robert Baker on Unsplash

The SIE Exam is a co-requisite exam for the FINRA license you will need to do your job, whether that’s the Series 6, Series 7, Series, 79, or another major license. As such, FINRA has made it clear that this is not supposed to be an “easy” test. It’s supposed to be the first gateway to entering the finance industry. Most people with some experience in the field are giving it a “Medium” difficulty rating.

How long to study for the SIE exam?

We’ve researched as well as compiled our own data, and what we’ve found is that people are reporting studying between 20 and 50 hours for the SIE Exam. This varies so widely because of the vastly backgrounds of people that are taking the SIE. If you have a finance degree, you will have less to learn than someone who has no experience in finance. That said, Order types, Options, and Bonds rarely get taught in classrooms.

If you do not have a finance degree, it might be worth doing some background research into finance as a whole. I recommend Investopedia, the Wall Street Journal, and WallStreetOasis as great places to start (and WSO is especially great for those interested in investment banking).

What is the SIE Exam Pass Rate?

70% is a passing score for the exam, but FINRA will adjust it to reflect the specific mix of questions each candidate faces. Through the first 16,000 individuals to take the test FINRA found that 74% passed the exam. This was right in line with their expectations.

What’s on the SIE?

SIE Exam Question Breakdown
Source: WallStreetOasis

The SIE Exam is meant to be your gateway into the finance industry. It covers the basic topics at a high level to help you understand finance and also to help ensure that you’re prepared for it.

The test is mostly comprised of:

  • Rules and regulations – What rules do you need to follow on the job (there’s a lot), and what regulations do you need to stay abreast of in your job (also a lot).
  • The theory and reasoning behind investments – In what situations would you be better served investing in bonds rather than stocks? Et cetera.
  • Suitability – A type of questions that is essentially applying your knowledge. You’re given a customer scenario, and you are asked to come up with the most suitable investment decision for that person.

Additionally, some topics like securities law, SEC regulation, and FINRA rules are only tested in the SIE, so those will be tested thoroughly.

The good news is that the test is widely thought of as straightforward – there are few issues with “tricky” questions or confusing ones.

Recommendations for passing the SIE Exam

When putting together a study plan for the SIE Exam, we recommend the following:

  • Review the FINRA Content outline
  • Study the material and use flashcards to review it. Aim for one to two months for studying, and budget approximately 50 hours to prepare.
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  • Take practice exams and question banks to identify problem areas for re-studying. Aim for a mid-to-high 80s score consistently on the practice exams.
  • Take the practice SIE Exam offered by the FINRA Website – LINK. If you score a high 80 or above on that exam after doing so on the practice exams, you should be in great shape to take the test.

With that simple action plan, the SIE Exam is in your crosshairs! All you have to do is execute and you can pass. Good luck!


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About Achievable

The FINRA SIE Exam is a new test for students and career switchers that want to show their proficiency in finance. Passing the SIE before applying to jobs will help your resume stand out. The proof is in the results: our students have gone on to jobs at Goldman Sachs, Wells Fargo, Fidelity Investments, Edward Jones, and many other great firms.

Achievable’s FINRA SIE course is the most modern and effective on the market. We leverage data analytics and learning science to create a personalized study program for you, on your phone, tablet, or computer. Follow it, and we guarantee that you’ll pass.

Best of all, it’s free to try – visit https://achievable.me to see why more students are switching to Achievable.