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In Finance, what is Series 53?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 04 November 2019
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The Series 53 is an examination administered to people who want to qualify as municipal securities principals. Principals oversee representatives who buy and sell municipal securities, working with a variety of clients. Like other people working in the financial industry, they are required to pass an examination to confirm their fitness for the work. The exam tests knowledge of legal and ethical issues presented in municipal securities trading and people need at least a 70% score to pass and receive their Series 53 certification.

The Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board (MSRB) oversees the Series 53, while the test itself is administered by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). It is also known as the FINRA Municipal Securities Principal Exam. There are 100 questions on the exam, arranged in a bell curve style with easy questions at the beginning and end, and difficult questions in the middle. Three to 10 experimental questions may also be included and these test questions do not apply to the final score. Test takers have three hours to complete the test.

Series 53 exams are offered regularly at proctored exam facilities. These facilities provide test takers with the test itself along with access to calculators and scratch paper, if they are needed. Test takers will need to demonstrate that they passed either the Series 7 or Series 52 exam before they will be allowed to take the Series 53. The questions are multiple choice and scores are typically returned very quickly.

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Subjects on the exam include things like customer accounts, rules and regulations, sales supervision, and new issues. People need to be knowledgeable about how municipal securities work, who is responsible for regulating then, and what happens during transactions to be successful supervisors in environments where these financial products are sold. In addition to qualifying people to act as municipal securities principals, this test can also be used to qualify to sell 529 plans, financial products designed to allow people to prepay higher education costs to ensure that their children or other beneficiaries can attend college.

Test preparation for this exam is strongly recommended. A number of companies make study guides people can use to prepare for the test. It is also possible to take classes designed to familiarize students with the material. Study materials include practice tests with questions like those seen on the exam itself, giving people an opportunity to self-assess to see if they are ready for the examination.

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