Series 66 vs 65 Exams: Definitions and Differences

Updated June 24, 2022

A certification gives you an added advantage in the job market by showing employers you are knowledgeable and experienced in your field. In order to become an investment professional, you must first pass the necessary certification exams, including the series 66 and 65 exams, which are two important tests that cover a range of topics surrounding financial investments. In this article, we discuss the contents of these exams, how you can decide which exam you should take and tips on how to pass each exam.

Related: Top 11 Finance Certifications To Enhance Your Expertise

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What is the series 66 exam?

The series 66, also known as the Uniform Combined State Law Examination, is an exam that qualifies individuals as securities agents or investment adviser representatives. The exam covers a wide variety of financial concepts, like economic factors, client/customer investment recommendation, strategies, investment vehicle characteristics, laws and regulations. The North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA) generates the question content and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) administers the exam.

What is the series 65 exam?

The series 65, also called the Uniform Investment Advisor Law Examination, qualifies individuals to be investment adviser representatives and allows professionals to charge a fee for consultations regarding securities and investments. The content of this exam focuses on product, securities transactions, financial planning and regulations. The NASAA also generates this exam's content while the FINRA administers this exam.

Here are two jobs that require you to take the series 66 or 65 exam:

  • Investment adviser representative: They advise clients on investing in securities like stocks, bonds, exchange-traded funds or mutual funds.

  • Financial adviser: They help clients reach their investment and financial goals by teaching them money management skills.

Key differences between the series 66 vs 65 exams

While the series 66 and 65 exams seem very close in content, there are a few distinctions that make them different. Here are examples of how the exams differ from one another:

  • Number of questions: There are 100 questions on the series 66 exam and 130 questions on the series 65 exam.

  • Time given to complete exams: The FINRA gives 2 hours and 30 minutes to finish the series 66 exam and 3 hours to finish the series 65 exam.

  • Passing score: You need a 73/100 to pass the series 66 and a 94/130 to pass the series 65 exam.

  • Co-requisites: You must complete the series 7 exam along with the series 66 in order to become licensed. The series 65 exam has no prerequisite.

Related: Complete Guide for How to Become a Financial Advisor

Outline of series 66 exam

A majority of the questions on each exam involve information regarding the national registration standards and laws from the Uniform Securities Act (USA). The outline for the series 66 exam consists of:

Section 1. Economic factors and business information (5 questions)

This section covers:

  • Basic economic concepts

  • Quantitative methods

  • Financial reporting

  • Different types of risks related to investments

Section 2. Investment vehicle characteristics (20 questions)

This section covers:

  • Pooled investments

  • Fixed-income securities

  • Equity securities

  • Derivative securities

  • Alternative investments

  • Insurance-based products

Section 3. Client/customer investment recommendations and strategies (30 questions)

This section covers:

  • Client profiles

  • Portfolio management types

  • Capital market theory

  • Retirement plans

  • Tax considerations

  • Trading securities

  • Performance measurement

Section 4. Laws, regulations and guidelines including prohibition on unethical business practices (45 questions)

This section covers:

  • State and federal securities acts

  • Federal laws

  • State laws

  • Regulations

  • Ethical practices

Outline of series 65 exam

The outline for the series 65 exam includes:

Section 1. Economic factors and business information (20 questions)

This section covers:

  • Monetary policy

  • Financial reporting

  • Quantitative methods

  • Basic risk concepts

Section 2. Investment vehicle characteristics (32 questions)

This section covers:

  • Fixed-income securities

  • Fixed-income valuation methods

  • Equity valuation methods

  • Pooled investments

  • Derivative securities

Section 3. Client investment recommendations and strategies (39 questions)

This section covers:

  • Business entities and trusts

  • Client profiles

  • Capital market theory

  • Tax considerations

  • Retirement planning

  • Special accounts

  • Exchange and markets

Section 4. Laws, regulations and guidelines including prohibition on unethical business practices (39 questions)

This section covers:

  • State and federal securities acts

  • Rules for investment advisers

  • Ethical practices

So which exam should you take?

Here are a few other factors to consider when deciding which exam to take:


Co-requisites offer you expanded knowledge of the finance industry. The FINRA offers a licensure exam called the series 7, which is an exam you must also complete along with the series 66. You do not have to complete them in any order, though you must have both exams completed to qualify for licensure. If you do not want to complete the series 7 exam, then you might take the series 65.

Focus of each exam

The series 66 is more heavily focused on state laws and regulations of investment advisers, while the series 65 focuses more heavily on content found in the series 7, like product, suitability and economics. If you want to sell package investment products or buy and sell securities, you might consider taking the series 7 and series 66 because the series 65 certification does not allow you to handle security transactions.

Professional goals

While some individuals who take these exams may want to have a career in financial advising, some individuals may only want to use the certification as a side business. This is common among the finance industry as many accountants take the series 65 so that they may offer investment advice to their existing clients for a fee.

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Tips to remember when studying for the series 66 and 65 exams

Here are a few tips to help you make the best use of your time when studying for the series 66 and 65 exams:

Use effective study habits

It is important that you practice proper study habits while studying for these exams. There is a lot of information to learn, so it is essential to spend a lot of time studying. Here are a few ways that you can study effectively:

  • Have cell phones and electronics out of reach to optimize your study time.

  • Study in small increments of time. For example, you can study for twenty minutes, then spend two minutes standing up and stretching.

  • Take notes while you are studying so that you can remember what you have learned.

Read more: Top 10 Study Skills and Techniques

Find a tutor

There are several series 65 and 66 exam tutors who can coach you through your exam prep. The added benefit of a tutor is that they have likely taken these exams before, so they know what to prepare you for. You can find tutors online through various tutoring agencies who offer you advice on what content to study and walk you through practice exams.

Review resources from NASAA

The NASAA offers several free study guides online to help you prepare for the exams. These study guides prepare you for these exams so that you are familiar with the content. You can find these exams by going to NASAA's website for series 65 and series 66 study guides.

Take practice exams

Use practice exams as a tool to further your studying and familiarize yourself with the content on the tests. There are several series 66 and 65 exams offered online, including many free options.

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