Tag Archives: series 34 exam prep

Passing the Series 34 Exam

By Bart Mallon, Esq.

Discussion about How to Take and Pass the Series 34 Exam

On Thursday I took the Series 34 Exam and I passed.  I answered 30 out of 40 questions correctly for a 75% (it takes a 70% score to pass).  This score is not as good as I had hoped for, but it is good for a couple of reasons.  First, it proves that anyone can pass these exams without buying expensive study guides (I created a free Series 34 exam study guide).  Secondly, the exam gave me an opportunity to really see which areas the NFA is going to focus on therefore which areas of the study guide I needed to improve.

Score Breakdown

My scores broke down as follows:

  • Definitions and Terminology   7 of 10 (70%)
  • Forex Trading Calculations   6 of 8 (75%)
  • Risks Associated with Forex Trading   3 of 4 (75%)
  • Forex Market – Concepts, Theories, Economic Factors and Indicators, Participants   6 of 10 (60%)
  • Forex Regulatory Requirements   8 of 8 (100% – did you expect anything else from a forex attorney?)

Total Correct: 30 of 40

Time to complete the exam – approximately 42 minutes

What I exactly did to study for the exam

The way that I studied for the exam is likely to be different than the way that you study for the exam.  The time I spent creating definitions for each test topic can be spent memorizing the concepts and defintions.  As a brief overview, here is how I studied:

1.  Research to create free series 34 study guide.  Initially I researched all of the topics which were listed in the NFA study outline.  This took a good chunk of time as I had to read information from many different forex resources and then synthesize the information into a short description that I could understand and that would hopefully be helpful to forex managers.  Much of this research involved summarizing original NFA sources including NFA rules, interpretive releases and notices to members.  I also read through some of the good forex trading resources and provided links to these resources as appropriate.

2.  Created note cards.  After creating and posting the items on the checklist, I created note cards which were based on the study guide.  After creating the note cards I went through them a few times – I would imagine that it was about 8-10 times all the way through all together.  This is obviously not very much, but by creating the note cards I was able to ingrain the concepts faster.  There were a few concepts which I needed a little extra help with so I would focus on these note cards.

3.  Exam questions.  Two nights before the exam I reviewed the practice questions which I created.  I made a total of 16 fairly tough questions before the exam.  The night before the exam I re-read through all of the exam questions again.

4.  Final review.  On the night right before the exam I did a final real through of the important NFA resources and the forex trading guide.  I also did more drilling with my note cards and reviewed the exam questions a final time.  I also started an overview sheet which I will turn into another quick glance resource for this website.

Why I did not score as high as I would like

I have taken and passed a number of different proficiency exams which are administered by FINRA – the series 3, the series 7, the series 24, the series 63, the series 65, and now the series 34.   For each of these previous exams I prepared much better and accordingly received much higher scores.  Generally my scores were in the high 80% range (I don’t have the print outs anymore).  Here, my scores were not as high and I think it is for a couple of reasons:

1.  I did not do any practice calculations.  There were around five questions which really required the use of a calculator.  These questions included basic and more advanced calculations related to the actual profits and losses on positions.  There was also a question dealing with the price per pip calculation.  I feel that the reason I struggled with this part of the exam is that I did not really do any sort of practice problems on these types of calculations – I simply memorized the example I used in the definition.  I don’t believe that this is good enough if you want to make sure you will pass – because of this, I am going to create more practice questions related to the actual calculations.

Be prepared to use the calculator on the exam.  As an additional tip, do not spend too much time on one single problem – I must have spent a good 10 minutes on one calculation problem and after my calculations, I didn’t even come up with the right answer.  For this question I just had to guess.  There was another calculation problem which I made a more educated guess on as well.

2.  I did not focus really any of my study time on shorting currency pairs.  Because I spent no time even thinking about this, I was a bit unprepared for a couple of problems which discussed this as a possibility.  These questions were generally pretty basic questions and from previous study I was able to answer them correctly (I think).  For these questions I think that the series 3 exam and the series 7 exam helped in terms of general investment management knowledge.

3.  Ambiguously stated regulatory terms.  The exam included at least one question with ambiguously stated regulatory terms.  I believe the question made reference to a Member and Associated Member of some sort of regulated body.  These terms are not precise and do not make sense – there is no such thing as an associated member.  As I have discussed before the NFA is a self regulatory organization (SRO).  Firms must be Members of this SRO and the employees of the firm are termed “Associated Persons” or “Principals.”  I was not sure if this question was making reference to APs of a NFA Member firm.  I cannot remember how this worked out and I may have switched my answer at the very end (something you are not supposed to do).  This is one of the frustrating things about FINRA exams in general – it is not necessarily how much you know, but that you know how to take the exam.  This is more true with regard to the Series 7 and other exams, but it still holds true for this on

4.  Current Account, Capital Account, Balance of Trade and Balance of Payments.  I did not understand these concepts during my studies and still do not understand them.  The one phrase that I remembered is that the BOT is the largest part of BOP….and this was on the exam in some form.  I think there might have been another question on these issues which I likely answered incorrectly.

A note about pacing through the exam

One of the nice things about FINRA exams is that they always follow a very similar pattern.  At the beginning of the exam the questions will be easy and you will probably breeze through the first 5-8 questions.  From there the questions will begin to get tougher and somewhere around questions 20-28ish there are likely to questions which seem impossible.  It is at this point when the despair usually begins to kick in – REMEMBER THIS and keep it all in perspective.  You can miss a lot of questions and still pass.  After you make it though the tougher questions, the end is easy and you will likely breeze through the last 10 questions or so.  Like I said this is a common feature of FINRA exams and I have had the same exact feeling in each exam and really believed that I may not pass.

On the day of the exam

I scheduled my exam for 8:00am.  I always try to schedule these exams for the morning for a few reasons, the most important of which is that I just want to get the exam done with.  If I schedule the exam in the afternoon I am going to spend the day being distracted and trying to get extra studying in – this is just me, you should schedule your exam for the time you think you will be able to do your best.

I woke up at 5:40am, took out the dog, took a shower and was at the coffee shop by about 6:10.  I had a coffee and a bagel with cream cheese and then made my way to the bus stop.  I waited for the bus and went through my note cards on the bus ride down to the exam center.  After I got dropped off and walked to my exam center, it was 7:10am and I had a few minutes to kill before I was supposed to be at the center (FINRA recommends being at the testing center a half hour before the time which the exam starts).  I found a nearby bench and continued to go through my flash cards.  At 7:30am I made my way to the exam center and there were 7 people who were there before me.  I waited for the lady to check me in and I was finally seated by about 8:05am. After the exam I was given my print out and was on my way.  I would recommend eating more than I did; usually I am a bit more prepared but it seems to have turned out ok.

How would I study for the exam knowing what I know now.

The most important thing about this exercise of taking the exam is that I can share my experience with you before you take the exam.  Knowing what I know now, I would have modified my studying a little bit.  By far the easiest part of the exam were the regulatory questions – these were very basic and they could have been made harder.  The regulatory questions which I have included in my practice questions are harder (note: the structure of the regulatory questions may change in the future so I have deliberately made tougher questions with regard to the regulations).  As I said before there was a good mix of calculations which were necessary, so I would have focused on this more – during my study time I did not once touch a calculator.  I would have ingrained the American Terms and European Terms into my head from the beginning (this would have made it easier for me to focus on the concept tested instead of trying to first remember the definition).  These two terms user used to describe exchange rate quotes in many different contexts.  Besides these relatively minor modifications, I would have studied in a very similar matter – that is, making note cards, reading, making study guides, focusing on parts I was not quite as  confident about, etc.

For those persons who have not taken a FINRA exam before I highly recommend purchasing a study guide (or more than one study guide) which includes multiple exam prep questions.  Doing a large number of questions will help you when taking the actual exam.  The good thing is that you will generally take the series 3 exam before you take the series 34 exam and the series 3 is much more difficult than the series 34.  If you passed the 3 you will have an understanding of the pace of the exams, the types and styles of questions, and how to deal with more of the pedantic parts of the exam taking process (like showing up before, signing in, etc).

I would imagine that it would take someone 20 to 30 hours to properly prepare for the exam, spread out over a week or two weeks.  If someone is diligent about putting in this study time, there should be no problem passing the exam.  If you have specific questions, I have tried to answer these in other parts of the website.  Also, please feel free to contact me or leave a question below.

Reason for taking the exam – Forex Attorney and Develop Free Study Guide

As you may know I am an attorney with a practice focused on helping hedge fund managers start their hedge funds.   I also have a related compliance business which focuses on helping forex managers and forex introducing brokers register with the NFA (please see my other site devoted to forex registration information).  Through these ventures, I have clients who are involved in the forex area in many different respects and it is likely that these clients (including forex hedge fund managers) will need to take this test sometime in the future.  I believe that as a lawyer I am more effective if I can give my clients actual advice based on personal experience.

I also wanted to develop a free exam prep guide for the community – there is no reason why you should need to spend money on a study guide for this exam.  I am hoping that members of the community will be able to add to the guide over time and we can develop this into a very useful resource.


The Series 34 Exam is a passable exam and I believe I have provided forex managers with a lot of good information on the exam through these posts and through the free study guide.  Please help me to continue to make this resource and website useful for forex managers.

Discussion about Forex Registration and the Series 34 Exam


Creating Series 34 Exam Prep Materials

One central issue in the investment management industry is increases in regulation of previously unregulated or lightly regulated activities.  The major area which will see direct regulation within the next 12 months is the retail off-exchange foreign currency industry.  As we have discussed, forex managers and those parties which solicit retail forex investors are is expected to have to register with the NFA as forex CPOs, forex CTAs or forex introducing brokers.  As part of this process, individuals subject to registration are going to need to pass the Series 34 exam.  This article will discuss the exam and the new exam prep materials I have been creating to help managers pass the exam.

Overview of the Series 34 Exam

The Series 34 exam is a brand new test created by the NFA at the very end of last year. I have talked with the National Futures Association (which is the self regulatory organization in charge of the forex registration process) and they have told me that individuals can now take the Series 34 exam.  To take this exam individuals are going to need to submit a Form U-10, pay the $70 testing fee and sign up with either Pearson Vue or Prometric to actually take the exam.  The exam is 60 minutes long, has 40 questions and requires 70% correct answers for successful completion.

Series 34 Exam Preparation Materials

There are very few Series 34 materials out there for managers to study from.  I have talked with many different groups and they are planning on potentially releasing a Series 34 exam study guide, but these groups will be waiting until they are able to judge the demand for such a product.  Of course we cannot know the demand for the product until the CFTC proposes its forex registration rules, but it is a safe bet that many forex managers will need to take the exam.  Accordingly, I have started creating a free series 34 exam study guide for the general public.

The free series 34 exam study guide will provide an explanation of all of the major concepts that the NFA has stated will be covered in the exam.  I have provided in depth explanations on the concepts through my own research through many available online resources.  I believe that these materials will be strong, especially with regard to the regulatory requirements for forex managers – I have been reporting on these requirements now for over 6 months and have been able to cull together great resources.

In addition to the free guide, I will also have premium materials available for purchase.  These materials will include an outline, notecards, and practice questions.

  • The series 34 outline will be similar to an outline that you might see prepared for a law school exam – I have taken numerous exams (including many FINRA sponsored exams – Series 3, Series 7, Series 24, Series 63, Series 65) and have found that an outline is a great way to make sure all of the basic concepts are ingrained prior to taking the exam.
  • The series 34 notecards will be an exact replica of the notecards which I will use to study.  You can either print out the notecards and cut them out or you can copy the information onto individual notecards yourself.  I would recommend you write out the information onto individual notecards – in this way you enforce the learning process.  Probably my favorite way of studying is through notecards.  I can take them with me anywhere I am going and then study them when I am in line at a store, on a bus, during a TV commercial, etc.
  • The series 34 practice questions will be similar in style to the questions which you will expect to see on the exam.  I am going to write practice exam questions before I take the exam based on what material I think will be covered in the exam.  I am going to try to write toward areas of expected weakness so I anticipate the questions will be more difficult than those to be seen on the exam.  Additionally, I plan to go back and add more questions after I take the exam to best reflect the nature and difficulty of the questions on the exam.

Information on How to Study for the Series 34 Exam

The ultimate goal of the above exam prep materials is to provide forex managers with the tools they need in order to pass the test on the first try.  It is a waste of time and money to study and then not pass the test on the first time because of lack of preparation or study materials.  If the manager does not pass the exam on the first try, they will need to wait 30 days before they can take it again; if a manager does not pass the exam on the second try, they will need to wait 60 days before they can take it again.

As I have coached managers through the test taking process numerous times before I understand what is needed to pass on the first time – it is simply not enough to only read an exam prep guide.  You must read an exam prep guide and proactively study the concepts which will be tested.  Very smart people have failed the regulatory exams because of not properly studying.   You will need to over-study.

A common joke in the industry is that the perfect score is 70% because it means that you didn’t study too much to pass.  If someone else is paying for you to take the exam, and if you are still considered “on the clock” if you take time off of work to go take the exam, then this thinking may be fine (if you don’t mind taking tests) – however, for busy forex managers your time is too valuable to waste by not passing on the first try.  You should go into the test confident that you will pass and not hoping that you studied “just enough” to pass.

Series 3 Exam – A Pre-Requisite

While anyone can take the Series 34 exam, forex managers will likely need to have passed the Series 3 in addition to the Series 34 exam.  [HFLB Note: the CFTC has not promulgated rules on this issue so this is not a for sure requirement yet.]  I have taken the Series 3 exam and passed and provided more information here (general guidelines on how to study for a FINRA exam can be found here) – please review these articles in addition to the other resources linked on this page.

Timing of Materials Release

I should be able to release the materials later on this week.  I am currently planning to take the exam sometime this week.  I will update this article once the materials have been posted on our other websites.  In the meantime, please feel free to contact us with any questions you might have.

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