You may have noticed that the last couple months I’ve been off the blog radar even more than normal. That’s because I’ve been studying for a professional credential called the Series 65 test. This is the FINRA/NASAA test for investment advisor representatives – basically, the minimum qualification for giving people investing and financial planning advice. That said, I personally would not feel qualified in any way, shape, or form to hang out my own shingle just on the strength of this test.

I’ve mentioned the Series 65 before, about a month ago ( here and here), when I attempted it the first time and failed. The initial pass rate is pretty low, and all my practice exams to that time were not passing scores, so I wasn’t surprised. I’d spent the week before that attempt intensively studying, including taking a two-day cram class (in Tukwila, not a place I would ever choose to go voluntarily. I imagine it’s cheap to do it there, but I spent the night in the hotel where the class was held, and my room was must definitely not cheap in the money sense, although more so in quality).

After I basically disappeared for that week, Benji started getting a lot more clingy and concerned about where I was. I felt bad about that, because before he was just confident I’d be around. Faith shaken!

Anyway, that was at the end of September. I had to wait 30 days to retake the test, so I scheduled my next try for this Tuesday, November 3.

Then I spent most of my free time, and a lot of not-so-free time studying. I reread the four most important chapters and took thorough notes. I re-watched the lecture videos available on Kaplan and took more notes. Then I typed up my notes from the September in-person class and then re-read and annotated them thoroughly. The class was really too short to cover any of the material well, and was billed at helping you pass the test, not learn the material. This was clear based on the huge holes in content, especially law. Anyway, throughout all that I also took zillions of practice tests and kept on reviewing what I missed over and over.

The point is that between September and October, I spent 150 hours studying for the test and worked an average of 115 hours each month, when normally I work 40-50 hours a month. On the bright side, I did get paid for all that time.

But on the down side, I spent very little time with any of my friends, Ian, or Benji. I cut biking short or went for jogs instead, exercise that takes less time. I didn’t plan meals or go shopping, kept the house just this side of a pig sty, and generally let everything slide that didn’t pertain to the test. It was a difficult two months for our entire family, and that was with the help of both sets of grandparents.

So on Tuesday before my test, I chatted with Mom about test-taking strategies, and we talked about the advisability of changing your answer if you’re uncertain. Mom said that she’d read a study that said in an overwhelming number of cases, people changed from a right answer to a wrong answer, or simply from one wrong to another wrong. Mom couldn’t believe this, so she went back over thousands of standardized tests that her high school students had taken, and in the hundreds of cases of changed answers found only two where the student correctly changed. And, as the research found, many even switched from a right to a wrong answer, actually lowering their overall scores.

I’d actually noticed this in my practice test-taking, too: In many, many cases where I switched answers on uncertain questions, I had originally selected the correct choice, and then switched to an incorrect one.

I took the test again, and this time more of the questions actually made sense. My strategy was to not move on from a question until I had decided for certain on the answer. No marking questions to review later*, no going back over things. Think each question through thoroughly, for as long as it takes to select an answer, then move on. I had 3 hours to answer 140 questions, ample time.


Anyway, this time I felt much more confident, and sure enough, I passed. Not only that, but passing was a 72%; I got an 80% overall, and 85% on the law questions, which were heavily weighted. Hooray! A pass! I can finally put away my gigantic stack of study materials (RIP, the half-dozen highlighters I used up) and move on.

What do I plan to do? Spend time on what really matters – my family, my friends, and of course bike rides. Get back to working a reasonable number of hours a month. Plan and cook meals again. And add “investment advisor representative” to my credentials. Boo-yah.

I went for a jog after my test, and it was a beautiful afternoon.

* I wonder if the rise of our modern predilection for jumping from thing to thing constantly, both when working and playing, makes this strategy harder. My gut instinct was to keep going quickly, then go back to questions I didn’t know. But is that because I’m used to moving on quickly in everything now? Or is it the older test strategy I learned from school standardized tests, when time was tighter and having any answer was better than none? I don’t know.

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