Series 7 Exam Session 4 Assignment

While we often think of exams as a way to test students’ comprehension of material, exams can serve more than one purpose. Being aware of why we are testing students and what exactly we want to test can help make students’ and instructors' experience of exams more useful. The following tips will gear you towards issues you should think about during the entire exam process, from planning to reflection. 

Before you start preparing an exam

Why are you giving an exam to your students?

  • To evaluate and grade students. Exams provide a controlled environment for independent work and so are often used to verify students’ learning.
  • To motivate students to study. Students tend to open their books more often when an evaluation is coming up. Exams can be great motivators.
  • To add variety to student learning. Exams are a form of learning activity. They can enable students to see the material from a different perspective. They also provide feedback that students can then use to improve their understanding.
  • To identify weaknesses and correct them. Exams enable both students and instructors to identify which areas of the material students do not understand. This allows students to seek help, and instructors to address areas that may need more attention, thus enabling student progression and improvement.
  • To obtain feedback on your teaching. You can use exams to evaluate your own teaching. Students’ performance on the exam will pinpoint areas where you should spend more time or change your current approach.
  • To provide statistics for the course or institution. Institutions often want information on how students are doing. How many are passing and failing, and what is the average achievement in class? Exams can provide this information.
  • To accredit qualified students. Certain professions demand that students demonstrate the acquisition of certain skills or knowledge. An exam can provide such proof – for example, the Uniform Final Examination (UFE) serves this purpose in accounting.

What do you want to assess?

What you want to assess should be related to your learning outcomes for the course.

  • Knowledge or how it is used. You can design your test questions to assess students’ knowledge or ability to apply material taught in class.
  • Process or product. You can test students’ reasoning skills and evaluate the process by focusing the marks and other feedback on the process they follow to arrive at a solution. Alternatively, you can evaluate the end product.
  • The communication of ideas. You can evaluate students’ communication skills ­their ability to express themselves - whether this is by writing a cogent argument, or creating an elegant mathematical proof.
  • Convergent thinking or divergent thinking. You can test your students’ ability to draw a single conclusion from different inputs (convergent thinking). Or you may alternatively want them to come up with different possible answers (divergent thinking). Do you expect different answers from students, or do you expect all of them to provide the same answer?
  • Absolute or relative standards. Is student success defined by learning a set amount of material or demonstrating certain skills, or is student success measured by assessing the amount of progress the students make over the duration of the course?

How do you decide what to test and how to test it?

The overall exam should be consistent with your learning outcomes for the course. There are a number of ways to review and prioritize the skills and concepts taught in a course. You could:

  • Use the topics list provided in your course outline
  • Skim through your lecture notes to find key concepts and methods
  • Review chapter headings and subheadings in the assigned readings

What are the qualities of a good exam?

  • A good exam gives all students an equal opportunity to fully demonstrate their learning. With this in mind, you might reflect on the nature and parameters of your exam. For example, could the exam be administered as a take-home exam? Two students might know the material equally well, but one of them might not perform well under the pressure of a timed or in-class testing situation. In such a case, what is it that you really want to assess: how well each student knows the material, or how well each performs under pressure? Likewise, it might be appropriate to allow students to bring memory aids to an exam. Again, what is it that you want to assess: their ability to memorize a formula or their ability to use and apply a formula?
  • Consistency. If you give the same exam twice to the same students, they should get a similar grade each time.
  • Validity. Make sure your questions address what you want to evaluate.
  • Realistic expectations. Your exam should contain questions that match the average student’s ability level. It should also be possible to respond to all questions in the time allowed. To check the exam, ask a teaching assistant to take the test – if they can’t complete it in well under the time permitted then the exam needs to be revised.
  • Uses multiple question types. Different students are better at different types of questions. In order to allow all students to demonstrate their abilities, exams should include a variety of types of questions. Read our Teaching Tip, Asking Questions: 6 Types.
  • Offer multiple ways to obtain full marks. Exams can be highly stressful and artificial ways to demonstrate knowledge. In recognition of this, you may want to provide questions that allow multiple ways to obtain full marks. For example, ask students to list five of the seven benefits of multiple-choice questions.
  • Free of bias. Your students will differ in many ways including language proficiency, socio-economic background, physical disabilities, etc. When constructing an exam, you should keep student differences in mind to watch for ways that the exams could create obstacles for some students. For example, the use of colloquial language could create difficulties for students whose first language is not English, and examples easily understood by North American students may be inaccessible to international students.
  • Redeemable. An exam does not need to be the sole opportunity to obtain marks. Assignments and midterms allow students to practice answering your types of questions and adapt to your expectations.
  • Demanding. An exam that is too easy does not accurately measure students’ understanding of the material.
  • Transparent marking criteria. Students should know what is expected of them. They should be able to identify the characteristics of a satisfactory answer and understand the relative importance of those characteristics. This can be achieved in many ways; you can provide feedback on assignments, describe your expectations in class, or post model solutions.
  • Timely. Spread exams out over the semester. Giving two exams one week apart doesn’t give students adequate time to receive and respond to the feedback provided by the first exam. When possible, plan the exams to fit logically within the flow of the course material. It might be helpful to place tests at the end of important learning units rather than simply give a midterm halfway through the semester. 
  • Accessible. For students with disabilities, exams must be amenable to adaptive technologies such as screen-readers or screen magnifiers. Exams that have visual content, such as charts, maps, and illustrations, may need to be rendered by Waterloo's AccessAbility Services into a format that meets an accommodation. 

After the exam is ready

Prepare a marking scheme or rubric

Preparing a marking scheme ahead of time will allow you to review your questions, to verify that they are really testing the material you want to test, and to think about possible alternative answers that might come up.

  • Look at what others have done. Chances are that you are not the only person who teaches this course. Look at how others choose to assign grades.
  • Make a marking scheme usable by non-experts. Write a model answer and use this as the basis for a marking scheme usable by non-experts. This ensures that your teaching assistants and your students can easily understand your marking scheme. It also allows you to have an external examiner mark the response, if need be. A rubric can be an effective tool to help you or your teaching assistants assess student work quickly and accurately. Sharing the rubric with your students as they begin to study for the exam is also a good idea. 
  • Give consequential marks. Generally, marking schemes should not penalize the same error repeatedly. If an error is made early but carried through the answer, you should only penalize it once if the rest of the response is sound.
  • Review the marking scheme after the exam. Once the exam has been written, read a few answers and review your key. You may sometimes find that students have interpreted your question in a way that is different from what you had intended. Students may come up with excellent answers that may be slightly outside of what was asked. Consider giving these students partial marks.
  • When marking, make notes on exams. These notes should make it clear why you gave a particular mark. If exams are returned to the students, your notes will help them understand their mistakes and correct them. They will also help you should students want to review their exam long after it has been given, or if they appeal their grade.

Inform students of the purpose and parameters of the exam

  • Clearly communicate with students about what your goals are for any test or exam.  Don't assume that students know what the pedagogical purpose of the test or exam is.  Have a discussion about your goals and desired outcomes, and help students understand how specific aspects of the test or exam fit these goals.  Be open to making some changes if students have ideas to offer. 
  • Point out the important sections in course plans, textbooks, and readings to guide test and exam preparation; where possible, provide multiple samples of tests and exam questions and answers. Consider conducting an exam review exercise.
  • Although you might not provide students with exam questions in advance, you should be prepared to answer questions such as:
    • What will the exam cover?
    • How much emphasis should I put on the textbook / lectures / etc…?
    • What material (if any) am I allowed to bring into the exam room?
    • When will I get my mark?
    • What happens if, for a good reason, I can’t attend the exam? Do I get to re-write?
    • Will I be given the chance to choose the topics on which I do questions?
    • Will I be told which criteria I am being assessed on?
    • If I disagree politically or philosophically with the marker, will I get poor marks?
    • Will allowances be made if English is not my first language?

After your students write the exam

Monitor the quality of your exams

Exams provide you with the opportunity to obtain feedback on student learning, your teaching methods, and the quality of the exam itself.

  • Write impressions on your exam and keep them. During the exam and the marking of the exam, keep track of which questions seem to be well understood, and which questions were frequently misunderstood.
  • Collect numerical data. If you have machine-scorable exams, you can get statistics on your questions, such as which questions were missed most often or which distracters were most often chosen. In other cases you can collect an overview of the marks.
  • Get student feedback. You can leave space specifically for feedback on exams, or you can obtain feedback in class after the exam. Consider asking your students to complete an exam wrapper – a short survey asking students about exam preparation strategies they used, what questions they found difficult to answer, and what they might do differently to prepare for the next exam (see our Teaching Tip on Teaching Metacognitive Skills).

Reflect on the gathered information

Reviewing examination results can help you identify concepts and methods that students are having difficulty with – questions that were missed – as well as concepts and methods that were well understood – questions generally successfully answered. Or it may highlight well-constructed or poorly ­constructed exam question. Consider using this information to:

  • Change how you teach the remainder of the term
  • Check for improvement on specific topics or methods over a term
  • Redesign the course or the examination for future classes
  • Assess your teaching practice – what is working especially well and what can be improved upon


  • Brown, S., Race, P., & Smith, B. (1996). 500 tips on assessment. London, UK: Kogan Page.
  • Brown, S., & Smith, B. (1997). Getting to grips with assessment. Birmingham, UK: staff and Educational Development Association.
  • McKeachie, W., & Svinicki, M. (2013). McKeachie's teaching tips: Strategies, research, and theory for college and university teachers (14th ed.). Belmont, USA: Wadsworth Publishing.
  • Worthen, B. R., Borg, W.R., & White, K. R. (1993). Measurement and evaluation in the schools. New York: Longman.

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Qualification Examinations

Regulatory Notice
Notice Type

Referenced Rules & Notices

Incorporated NYSE Rule 10
Incorporated NYSE Rules 345.10, 345.15(2) and 345.15(3)
Incorporated NYSE Rule Interpretation 345.15/02
Information Notice 3/12/08
MSRB Rule G-3
NASD Rules 1031(a) and (b)
NASD Rule 1032
NASD Rules 1041 and 1042
NYSE Information Memoranda 91-09 and 96-06
SEA Section 15A(g)(3)
Suggested Routing

Key Topics

Canada Securities Representative (Series 37)
Canada Securities Representative (Series 38)
General Securities Representative (Series 7)
Municipal Securities Representative (Series 52)
Qualification Examinations
United Kingdom Securities Representative (Series 17)

Executive Summary

FINRA periodically reviews the content of qualification examinations to determine whether revisions are necessary or appropriate in view of changes — including laws, rules and regulations — pertaining to the subject matter covered by the examinations.

Based on these reviews, FINRA has revised the following examination programs:

•   General Securities Representative (Series 7);

•   United Kingdom Securities Representative (Series 17);

•   Canada Securities Representative (Series 37); and

•   Canada Securities Representative (Series 38).1

The changes are reflected in the content outlines on FINRA's website and will appear in examinations starting on November 7, 2011.

Questions regarding this Notice should be directed to:

•   Joe McDonald, Senior Director, Testing and Continuing Education Department, at (240) 386-5065; or

•   Patricia Monterosso, Lead Qualifications Analyst, Testing and Continuing Education Department, at (646) 315-8753.

Background & Discussion

Section 15A(g)(3) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 authorizes FINRA to prescribe standards of training, experience and competence for persons associated with FINRA member firms. In accordance with that provision, FINRA has developed examinations that are designed to establish that persons associated with FINRA member firms have attained specified levels of competence and knowledge, consistent with applicable registration requirements under FINRA Rules.

NASD Rules and the rules incorporated from NYSE2 require that a "representative," as defined in the respective rules,3 register and qualify as a General Securities Representative,4 subject to certain exceptions. For those representatives who are not engaged in municipal securities activities, the NASD and NYSE Rules provide that registration and qualification as a United Kingdom Securities Representative or a Canada Securities Representative is equivalent to registration and qualification as a General Securities Representative.5

The Series 7 examination qualifies an individual to function as a General Securities Representative. The Series 17 examination qualifies an individual to function as a United Kingdom Securities Representative. Either the Series 37 examination or the Series 38 examination qualifies an individual to function as a Canada Securities Representative. Series 17, 37 and 38 candidates must also satisfy certain foreign prerequisite training and competence requirements.6

Committees of industry representatives, together with FINRA staff, recently reviewed the Series 7, 17, 37 and 38 examination programs. As a result of these reviews, FINRA has revised the content outlines to reflect changes to the laws, rules and regulations covered by the examinations. Among other revisions, FINRA has revised the outlines to reflect the adoption of rules in the consolidated FINRA rulebook.

FINRA also has revised the outlines to better reflect the functions and associated tasks performed by General Securities Representatives, United Kingdom Securities Representatives and Canada Securities Representatives, and to better reflect the relationship between the different components of the outlines.

FINRA has divided the content outlines into five major job functions denoted F1 through F5:

•   F1: Seeks Business for the Broker-Dealer through Customers and Potential Customers;

•   F2: Evaluates Customers' Other Security Holdings, Financial Situation and Needs, Financial Status, Tax Status, and Investment Objectives;

•   F3: Opens Accounts, Transfers Assets, and Maintains Appropriate Account Records;

•   F4: Provides Customers with Information on Investments and Makes Suitable Recommendations; and

•   F5: Obtains and Verifies Customer's Purchase and Sales Instructions, Enters Orders, and Follows Up.

Additionally, each job function includes certain tasks describing activities associated with performing that function. Each of the revised outlines also includes a knowledge section describing the underlying knowledge required to perform the major job functions and associated tasks, and a rule section listing the laws, rules and regulations related to the job functions, associated tasks and knowledge statements. There are cross-references within each section to the other applicable sections.

As described in greater detail below, the number of questions associated with each of the five functions, F1 through F5, differs depending on the examination. FINRA has made other revisions to the examinations, which also are described below.

Lastly, in conjunction with the changes to the content outlines, FINRA has made changes to the weighting of questions on content outline topics and to the question banks for these examinations.

Series 7

The number of questions associated with each of the five functions performed by a General Securities Representative (Series 7) are as follows:

•   F1: 68 questions;

•   F2: 27 questions;

•   F3: 27 questions;

•   F4: 70 questions; and

•   F5: 58 questions.

The number of questions on the Series 7 examination remains at 250 multiple-choice questions,7 and candidates continue to have six hours to complete the examination. Currently, a "scaled score" of 70 percent is required to pass the Series 7 examination,8 while a scaled score of 72 percent will be required to pass the revised examination.

Municipal Securities Activities

Pursuant to current Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board (MSRB) Rule G-3, either the Municipal Securities Representative (Series 52) examination or the Series 7 examination qualifies an individual to function as a Municipal Securities Representative. In connection with the periodic review of examination content mentioned above, FINRA has revised the Series 7 examination to reduce the emphasis on municipal securities activities. FINRA notes that the MSRB has filed with the SEC a proposed rule change to amend MSRB Rule G-3 to provide, among other things, that, with regard to municipal securities activities, an individual qualifying as a Municipal Securities Representative by passing the Series 7 may engage only in municipal securities sales to, and purchases from, customers.9

Series 17

The number of questions associated with each of the five functions performed by a United Kingdom Securities Representative (Series 17) are as follows:

•   F1: 20 questions;

•   F2: 15 questions;

•   F3: 25 questions;

•   F4: 20 questions; and

•   F5: 20 questions.

The number of questions on the Series 17 examination remains at 100 multiple-choice questions. However, candidates will have 150 minutes (2.5 hours) to complete the examination, whereas today they have two hours to complete the examination. Also, currently, a score of 70 percent is required to pass the Series 17 examination, while a score of 72 percent will be required to pass the revised examination.

Series 37

The number of questions associated with each of the five functions performed by a Canada Securities Representative (Series 37) are as follows:

•   F1: 22 questions;

•   F2: 12 questions;

•   F3: 18 questions;

•   F4: 16 questions; and

•   F5: 22 questions.

The number of questions on the Series 37 examination remains at 90 multiple-choice questions, and candidates continue to have 150 minutes (2.5 hours) to complete the examination. Currently, a score of 70 percent is required to pass the Series 37 examination. A score of 72 percent will be required to pass the revised examination.

Series 38

The number of questions associated with each of the five functions performed by a Canada Securities Representative (Series 38) are as follows:

•   F1: 7 questions;

•   F2: 7 questions;

•   F3: 12 questions;

•   F4: 10 questions; and

•   F5: 9 questions.

The number of questions on the Series 38 examination remains at 45 multiple-choice questions, and candidates continue to have 75 minutes to complete the examination. Currently, a score of 70 percent is required to pass the Series 38 examination. A score of 72 percent will be required to pass the revised examination.

Content Outlines

The revised Series 7, 17, 37 and 38 content outlines are available on FINRA's website.

1See Securities Exchange Act Release No. 65358 (September 20, 2011), 76 FR 59751 (September 27, 2011) (Notice of Filing and Immediate Effectiveness of Proposed Rule Change; File No. SR-FINRA-2011-045); Securities Exchange Act Release No. 65376 (September 21, 2011), 76 FR 59759 (September 27, 2011) (Notice of Filing and Immediate Effectiveness of Proposed Rule Change; File No. SR-FINRA-2011-046); Securities Exchange Act Release No. 65374 (September 21, 2011), 76 FR 59761 (September 27, 2011) (Notice of Filing and Immediate Effectiveness of Proposed Rule Change; File No. SR-FINRA-2011-047); and Securities Exchange Act Release No. 65375 (September 21, 2011), 76 FR 59757 (September 27, 2011) (Notice of Filing and Immediate Effectiveness of Proposed Rule Change; File No. SR-FINRA-2011-048). These rule filings were filed with the SEC for immediate effectiveness on September 7, 2011.

2 The current FINRA rulebook consists of (1) FINRA Rules; (2) NASD Rules; and (3) rules incorporated from NYSE (Incorporated NYSE Rules) (together, the NASD Rules and Incorporated NYSE Rules are referred to as the Transitional Rulebook). While the NASD Rules generally apply to all FINRA members, the Incorporated NYSE Rules apply only to those members of FINRA that are also members of the NYSE (Dual Members). The FINRA Rules apply to all FINRA members, unless such rules have a more limited application by their terms. For more information about the rulebook consolidation process, see Information Notice, March 12, 2008 (Rulebook Consolidation Process). For convenience, the Incorporated NYSE Rules are referred to as the NYSE Rules.

3See NASD Rule 1031(b) and NYSE Rule 10.

4See NASD Rules 1031(a) and 1032(a)(1); NYSE Rules 345.10 and 345.15(2); and NYSE Rule interpretation 345.15/02.

5See NASD Rules 1032(a)(2)(B) and (a)(2)(C) and NYSE Information Memoranda 91-09 (March 1991) and 96-06 (March 1996).

6 Series 17 candidates must satisfy certain prerequisite training and competence requirements of the United Kingdom's Financial Services Authority (FSA) and be registered and in good standing with the FSA. Series 37 and Series 38 candidates must satisfy certain prerequisite training and competence requirements of the Canadian regulators and be registered and in good standing with the appropriate Canadian regulator. Series 38 candidates must also complete either: (1) the Options Licensing Course and the Derivatives Fundamental Course; or (2) the Canadian Options Course. Since Series 38 candidates are already subject to a Canadian options prerequisite, the Series 38 examination does not include test questions that assess knowledge of options. More information regarding the prerequisite requirements for the Series 17 and Series 37 and 38 examinations is available on FINRA's website.

7 Consistent with FINRA's practice of including "pre-test" questions on certain qualification examinations, which is designed to ensure that new examination questions meet acceptable testing standards prior to use for scoring purposes, each Series 7 examination includes 10 additional, unidentified pre-test questions that do not contribute towards a candidate's score. Therefore, the examination actually consists of 260 questions, 250 of which are scored. The 10 pre-test questions are randomly distributed throughout the examination.

8 The Series 7 examination questions for a given examination are randomly selected from the Series 7 question bank, which may result in slight variations in the difficulty of the examinations. The use of a scaled score accounts for these slight variations and is intended to maintain comparable passing standards across candidates.

9See Securities Exchange Act Release No. 65393 (September 26, 2011) (Notice of Filing of Proposed Rule Change; File No. SR-MSRB-2011-17).

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