Tag Archives: series 30

Series 3 Exam | Commodities & Futures Exam Topics

Hedge Fund Managers and the Series 3 Exam

Those managers who engage in commodities and futures trading (and who don’t qualify for an exemptions) will need to register as commodity pool operators with the CFTC and become members of the NFA.  In order to do this all owners and “associated persons” of the manager/CPO will need to take and pass the Series 3 exam.  This article provides a brief overview of the Series 3 exam for hedge fund managers.

Commodities and Futures Contracts License

The NFA requires an individual to successfully complete the Series 3 in order to become qualified to sell commodities or futures contracts.  The exam is designed for anyone who is going to act as an Associated Person, Commodity Trading Advisor, Commodity Pool Operator, Introducing Broker, or Futures Commission Merchant.  [Note: under the forex registration rules, those managers who trade in the spot forex markets will soon also need to take the Series 3 and a new exam called the Series 34 exam.]  The Series 3 is also a prerequisite to the Series 30 Futures Branch Manager exam.

The Series 3 exam is required of individuals who conduct business with the public on the U.S. futures exchanges and:

  • offer or solicit business in futures or options on futures at a futures commission merchant (FCM) or introducing broker (IB) or who supervise any such person.
  • are associated with a commodity trading advisor (CTA) who solicits discretionary accounts or who supervises persons so engaged.
  • are associated with a commodity pool operator (CPO) who solicits funds for participation in a commodity pool or who supervises such persons.

Registration Process

The NFA Series 3 Exam is administered by FINRA. There is a two-step process that a candidate must complete to be able to take the Series 3 Exam.

Step 1 – The individual must apply with FINRA to take the exam by completing and submitting an application form and payment, or by submitting the application online. The testing application form can be downloaded from the FINRA’s web site. Effective January 2, 2009, the fee for an individual to take the Series 3 National Commodity Futures Examination will be $105.

Step 2 – Once the U10 registration has been approved and processed by FINRA, a Notice of Enrollment will be emailed to the candidate. FINRA will assign a 120-day window during which the exam can be scheduled and taken. The candidate may then contact their local test center to schedule an appointment to sit for the exam. Due to the many sessions administered at testing centers, the candidate should schedule test-taking as far in advance as possible to secure an appointment on the desired date.

Testing Locations

The exam is delivered via a computer system specifically designed for the administration and delivery of computer-based testing and training. Exams are given at conveniently located test centers worldwide and an appointment to take your exam can be scheduled online or by calling your local center. For a list of test centers in your area (U.S. and International) click here.

Series 3 Exam Overview

The Series 3 Exam for commodity futures brokers is divided into two parts – futures trading theory and market regulations. Each part must be passed with a score of at least 70 percent. There are 120 total multiple choice and true/false questions, and exam takers are provided 2 hours and 30 minutes to complete the exam. The Series 3 Exam also contains 5 additional experimental questions that do not count towards the exam taker’s score, and additional time is built into the exam to accommodate for these questions.

The Series 3 exam is divided into ten topics and is graded in two main parts: Market Knowledge and Rules/Regulations. The Market Knowledge part covers the first nine of the following topics, and  consists of 85 questions. The Rules/Regulations part covers category ten, and consists of 35 questions. You must achieve a 70% on each part in order to pass the exam.

Part 1: Market Knowledge – The first part of the Series 3 exam covers the basics of the futures markets. Exam takers will need to understand futures contracts, hedging, speculating, futures terminology, futures options, margin requirements, types of orders, basic fundamental analysis, basic technical analysis and spread trading.

Part 2: Rules/Regulations – The second part of the Series 3 exam consists of market regulations. Exam takers must familiarize themselves with relevant NASD rules and regulations for this part of the exam.

Exam Topics

  1. Futures Trading Theory
  2. Margins, Limits, Settlements
  3. Orders, Accounts, Analysis
  4. Basic Hedging
  5. Financial Hedging
  6. Spreads
  7. General Speculation
  8. Financial Speculation
  9. Options
  10. Regulations

Useful Terms to Know for the Series 3 Exam

Exam takers are expected to be familiar with the following terms and definitions prior to taking the Series 3 exam. The definitions presented below have been extracted from  Investopedia.

Bucketing: A situation where, in an attempt to make a short-term profit, a broker confirms an order to a client without actually executing it. A brokerage which engages in unscrupulous activities, such as bucketing, is often referred to as a bucket shop.

Delta: The ratio comparing the change in the price of the underlying asset to the corresponding change in the price of a derivative. Sometimes referred to as the “hedge ratio”.

Double Top: A term used in technical analysis to describe the rise of a stock, a drop, another rise to the same level as the original rise, and finally another drop.

First Notice Day: The first day that a notice of intent to deliver a commodity can be made by a clearinghouse to a buyer in fulfillment of a given month’s futures contract.

Intrinsic Value: 1. The actual value of a company or an asset based on an underlying perception of its true value including all aspects of the business, in terms of both tangible and intangible factors. This value may or may not be the same as the current market value. Value investors use a variety of analytical techniques in order to estimate the intrinsic value of securities in hopes of finding investments where the true value of the investment exceeds its current market value. 2. For call options, this is the difference between the underlying stock’s price and the strike price. For put options, it is the difference between the strike price and the underlying stock’s price. In the case of both puts and calls, if the respective difference value is negative, the intrinsic value is given as zero.

Inverted Market: In the context of options and futures, this is when the current (or short-term) contract prices are higher than the long-term contracts.

Long Hedge: A transaction that commodities investors undertake to hedge against possible increases in the prices of the actuals underlying the futures contracts.

Offset: 1. To liquidate a futures position by entering an equivalent, but opposite, transaction which eliminates the delivery obligation.2. To reduce an investor’s net position in an investment to zero, so that no further gains or losses will be experienced from that position.

Scalpers: A person trading in the equities or options and futures market who holds a position for a very short period of time, attempting to make money off of the bid-ask spread.

Straddle: An options strategy with which the investor holds a position in both a call and put with the same strike price and expiration date.


Please contact us if you have any questions or would like information on how to start a hedge fund.  Other related hedge fund law articles include:

Series 30 Exam Information

Overview of Series 30 Exam

The Series 30 exam is a National Futures Association sponsored exam which is required for those persons who are branch office managers of a NFA member firm (see our post on CPO and CTA Branch Office Information).  Generally if a NFA Member firm (such as a CPO or CTA) has a branch office (any place of business other than the main office), the firm will need to make sure that a branch office manager is employed at each such branch office.

Exam Specifics

  • Branch Manager Examination.
  • 50 True/False and Multiple Choice questions.
  • One hour long.
  • $70.
  • 70% correct answers required to pass

Signing up for the Exam

The Series 30, like all of the other exams sponsored by the NFA, is administered by FINRA.  Accordingly, an applicant will need to first register to take the exam by completing a FINRA Form U-10.  After the U-10 has been completed, submitted and processed, the applicant will be “in the FINRA system” and will be able to sign up for an exam time at either a Prometric or Pearson testing facility.  Applicants can determine available times and locations by visiting these websites.  The test is generally given a number of times a day, six days a week.

Series 30 Exam Topics



The following is a general listing of the major subject areas covered by the examination and does not represent an exhaustive list of the actual test questions.

A. General

  • Books and records, preparation and retention
  • Order tickets, preparation and retention
  • Written option procedures
  • Handling of customer deposits
  • NFA Compliance Rule 2-9, supervision of employees
  • Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery Plan
  • Registration requirements—who needs to be registered, sponsor verifi cation, NFA Bylaw 1101, AP termination notices, temporary licenses
  • NFA disciplinary process
  • Reportable positions
  • NFA Arbitration Rules
  • On-site audits of branch offices
  • Bona fide hedging transactions
  • Trading on foreign exchanges

B. CPO/CTA General

  • Registration requirements
  • Books and records to be maintained
  • Reports to customers
  • Bunched orders

C. CPO/CTA Disclosure Documents

  • Management and incentive fees
  • Performance records
  • How long a CPO or CTA can use a disclosure document
  • Conflicts of interest
  • Pool units purchased by principals
  • Business backgrounds of principals
  • Amendments to disclosure documents
  • Disclosure of disciplinary actions
  • NFA review of document before each use

D. NFA Know Your Customer Rule

  • Client information required
  • Responsibility to obtain additional client information
  • Risk disclosures

E. Disclosure by CPOs and CTAs Required for Costs Associated with Futures Transactions

  • Disclosure of upfront fees and expenses
  • Effect of upfront fees and organizational expenses on net performance

F. Disclosure by FCMs and IBs Required for Costs Associated with Futures Transactions

  • Explanation of fees and charges to customers

G. IB General

  • Accepting funds from customers
  • Guarantee agreements
  • Responsibilities of guarantor FCM
  • Minimum net capital requirements
  • Time stamping of order tickets
  • Books and records to be maintained

H. General Account Handling and Exchange Regulations

  • Risk Disclosure Statement
  • Margin requirements
  • Stop loss orders
  • Preparing orders
  • Proprietary accounts
  • Positions limits and reporting requirements
  • Trade confirmations

I. Discretionary Account Regulation

  • Requirements relating to discretionary accounts
  • Supervision and review of discretionary accounts

J. Promotional Material (Compliance Rule 2-29)

  • Definition of promotional material
  • Standardized sales presentations
  • Use of a third-party consulting or advertising firm
  • Reprints of articles from industry publications
  • Recordkeeping of promotional material
  • Past performance
  • Hypothetical trading results
  • Written procedures for promotional material
  • Supervisory review of promotional material

K. Anti-Money Laundering Requirements

  • Developing policies, procedures and internal controls
  • Customer identification program and recordkeeping
  • Detection and reporting of suspicious activity
  • Training staff to monitor trading activity
  • Recordkeeping
  • Designation of individual or individuals (“compliance officer”) to be responsible for overseeing the program
  • Employee training program Independent audit function

Other NFA Information

The NFA also has this to say about the Series 30 exam:

Branch Manager Examination – Futures (Series 30)

NFA must receive evidence that individuals applying to be a branch office manager have passed the Series 30. However, NFA will not require evidence that they have passed the Series 30 if, since the date they last ceased acting as a branch office manager, there has not been a period of two consecutive years during which they have not been registered as an AP. Additionally, individuals whose sponsor is a registered broker-dealer may, in lieu of the Series 30, provide proof that they are qualified to act as a branch office manager or designated supervisor under the rules of FINRA.

Please contact us if you have a question on this issue or if you would like to start a hedge fund, CPO or CTA.  If you would like more information, please see our articles on starting a hedge fund.  Other related hedge fund law articles include: