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Series 65 is an examination given to investment advisors that, if they pass, qualifies them to provide investment advice and services to the public for a fee. Its official title is the Uniform Investment Adviser Law Examination. These examinations, which were developed by the North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA) and are used in the United States and several other countries, are administered by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).
The Series 65 examination consists of 140 questions, of which 130 have value toward successfully passing the test and 10 have no value toward passing the test. The 10 surplus questions are mixed in and are not distinguishable from the other questions. Candidates are allotted up to 180 minutes to complete the test. A successful candidate will answer at least 94 questions correctly of the 130 scored questions, yielding a score of at least 72 percent correct. An unsuccessful candidate is allowed to apply to retest after a 30-day waiting period.
For each examination, questions are selected from a pool of possible questions that have been rated for both content and difficulty. The examinations are compiled to produce equivalent tests with the same level of difficulty, regardless of the specific questions they contain. The questions cover a broad range of topics, including ethics, securities regulations, types of securities and trading options. Questions are updated yearly to incorporate regulatory changes and updates.
An investment or brokerage firm can apply on behalf of a candidate for that person to take the examination, or an individual can apply directly. A sponsor is not required for the Series 65 examination. The computer-based examinations are offered regularly at testing centers throughout the U.S. and in several other countries. After an application has been processed, the candidate will be notified of a 120-day window in which he or she must take the examination.
Passing the Series 65 examination is the first step in being licensed to work as an investment advisor representative (IAR). After passing the examination, the individual must apply to the state or region for licensing. In addition to the examination, governments sometimes require a background check or bonding before qualifying an individual to be licensed.
Persons who have passed and been licensed under both the Series 7, or General Securities Representative Examination, and Series 66, or Uniform Combined State Law Examination, criteria are not also required to take the Series 65 examination in most circumstances. Depending on the regulations of an individual locale, a person holding a certification as a chartered financial analyst, certified financial planner, personal financial specialist or chartered investment counselor might be able to qualify for licensing without completing a Series 65 examination. Even with one of these professional designations, the person still must comply with all other licensing requirements.