The Series 99 exam consists of 110 questions (with ten pretest questions) and is designed to test knowledge of back office operations and systems. This exam is called the Operations Professional Qualification Examination and is provided by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). The only individuals required to take the two and a half-hour Series 99 exam are persons considered covered, as defined by FINRA Rule 1230.
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These individuals are operations personnel who have the obligation to protect the firm and its customers from regulatory and financial harm. Covered personnel also include supervisors who are responsible for back office functions and people who design and implement back office operations and controls. This means that clerical and administrative staff who possess the Series 6 or Series 7 license are waived from this requirement.
The testing fee for the Series 99 exam is $125. The topic questions on the exam are: twenty questions on securities, fifteen questions on markets and financial responsibility, forty-five questions on customer accounts, and twenty on professional conduct.
The questions on the Series 99 exam are very broad and simplistic in nature. Anyone working in the capacity of a back office function should have familiarity with the topic areas. Basic knowledge questions like “What is a security, common stock and dividends” are asked. Knowledge of registration exemption and rules, violations and order tickets, continuing education, customer complaints, account types, compliance, and the Patriot Act are required.
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The Series 99 exam tests on investment companies, mutual fund distribution, National Association of Securities Dealers (NASD), FINRA and Securities Industries Rules and Regulations. Questions on the Series 99 test are created, reviewed, and approved by a committee of industry professionals. Each question varies in complexity, and only one correct answer exists. Test questions are modified based on industry trends, and it is the responsibility of the test taker to be aware of changes in rules and regulations.
In order to take the test, a person must be sponsored by a FINRA member firm. The member firm files a Form U4 (Uniform Application for Securities Industry Registration or Transfer) in the Central Registration Depository (CRD). The test is administered by computer randomly with the results provided immediately upon completion of the exam. It is suggested that the applicant answer all questions on the exam because there is no penalty for guessing.
The testing site provides scratch paper and calculators for simple math questions. The passing score is 68%, which reflects the minimum number of correct test questions. A candidate gets a print out of how he or she did in each topic area; however, the actual test questions are not provided due to security reasons. A candidate who fails the exam should review the topic areas in which he or she performed weakly before taking the exam again.