Series 66, the Uniform Combined State Law Examination

Financial Advisor
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Before you can begin working as an investment adviser representative (IAR) in most U.S. states, you must pass both Series 66, the Uniform Combined State Law Exam, and Series 7, the General Securities Representative Qualification Examination.

Series 66 is developed by the North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA) and administered by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). (Series 7 is developed and administered by FINRA.) Passing the Series 66 exam is the equivalent of passing both Series 65, the Uniform Investment Adviser Law Exam, and Series 63, the Uniform Securities Agent State Law Exam, so there is no need to take those two NASAA exams once you've passed Series 66. Series 65 is the state law test for investment adviser representatives; series 63 is for broker-dealer representatives.

A registered investment adviser (RIA) refers to a firm, never to a person. An IAR works at an RIA.

Definition of an IAR

According to the Uniform Securities Act of 1956, an IAR is someone employed by or associated with an RIA who does any of the following:

  • Makes investment recommendations or otherwise gives investment advice
  • Manages client accounts or portfolios
  • Determines which recommendations or advice regarding securities should be given
  • Solicits, offers, or negotiates for the sale of or sells investment advice
  • Supervises employees who perform any of the above tasks

The Uniform Securities Act of 1956 was a federal law designed to act as a model for states to create their own securities regulation laws. It has been amended and revised several times since then.

Exam Basics

Series 66 consists of 100 multiple choice questions and covers four broad topics:

  1. Economic factors and business information
  2. Investment vehicle characteristics
  3. Client investment recommendations and strategies
  4. Laws, regulations, and guidelines, including prohibition on unethical business practices

Test takers have 150 minutes to complete it. A passing score is 73 out of 100. A candidate who fails the exam must wait at least 30 days before taking it again. The same rule applies to someone who has failed a second time and who wishes to take it a third time. After a third failure, a candidate must wait at least 180 days before taking the exam again. This same rule applies to all subsequent failed attempts.

Series 66 can be taken either before or after Series 7. Series 66 omits questions related to securities products, securities analysis, and investment strategy that are a significant part of Series 65 and are also covered at greater length and detail in Series 7.

Signing Up for the Exam

You may take Series 66 even if you aren't currently working for a FINRA member firm. You should enroll at the FINRA website. The cost is $165.

If you are working for a FINRA firm, your company will usually make the request for you by filing a Form U4 through FINRA's Central Registration Depository, which is also known as Web CRD.

Once you have been notified your enrollment has been completed, you will have 120 days to take the exam at a Prometric or PearsonVue test center.

Test Preparation

The pass rate for the exam isn't publicly available, but Series 66 is generally considered to be difficult. Many people who are planning to take the exam first complete a test preparation course and/or use a study guide with practice questions.

Getting Licensed

After you have passed Series 66 and Series 7, there are typically a few other requirements before a state will give you a license to work as an IAR. You're generally required to complete an application (usually done by a firm using Form U4) and a background check, get bonded (offer financial protection against losses for clients), and pay a fee.

The NASAA website provides links to the websites of the securities regulators in all 50 states.