# Critiques of Achievable SIE Prep

Hey.

I passed the SIE exam (first time) today. So that was a relief.

However, I have serious issues with Achievable. The actual FINRA exam felt much, much harder than anything Achievable wrote out. I may have lucked out, but I had no options questions (math-wise), 1 market-maker bid-ask order math question, and a series of pitifully easy “what is the current yield”-tier level of questions.

Nevertheless, the ones that were open-ended, such as those talking about mutual fund characteristics, regulations and what you can/can’t do, etc.: FINRA made it much trickier than any of the answer choices Achievable has. Almost every question had 2 answer choices that looked very similar to each other that it had my brain overheating at times. Achievable makes the right answer often enough a little too obvious.

“But you passed, so it’s all good, right?” I mean, sure, for this test. Unfortunately, when you pass, you have no clue if you missed 3 questions or 20. The way my version of the test was constructed, it felt like I missed a lot of questions. I would not be surprised if my actual score was in the high 70s - low 80s (if FINRA actually showed your actual %). In comparison, I was getting low to high 90s on Achievable’s practice exams, and I did 37 practice exams.

Why do I consider this an issue? Because it makes me extremely wary that I will pass the Series 7 (and even the Series 65) the first time with Achievable.

To the Achievable folks: You need to make your questions a lot, lot harder and the answer choices a lot, lot trickier. I can only use an analogy here, but let’s say you were trying to teach me 1+1 = 2. The way you create your questions, your questions (as of today) look more like this:

What is 1+1?

A) 2
B) 13
C) 14
D) 15

Whereas FINRA would write such a question like this:

What is 1+1?

A) 1
B) 2
C) 3
D) 4

What I’m trying to get at is, unless you were an expert in mathematics (I know this analogy doesn’t really work, but bear with me), you’d start creating shortcuts with the Achievable questions. “Oh, we’re adding two digits that are really small, so obviously if I see anything that has 2 digits bunched together, it can’t be the answer.” Then you go to the actual FINRA exam, and because there was so much information you had to memorize and retain, your brain is going “Is it 2? Is it 3? C’mon, I know this!”

If something isn’t clear, please let me know.

Also, just in my version, Achievable never actually quizzed me on Regulation A (but I knew it because I glanced at it at the last minute). Lo and behold: I had a question about Regulation A. It’s these little oversights of not asking about “anything and everything” when quizzed in each section that made the test much harder than it had to be. I want to be overprepared. Just my 2 cents.

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Hi, congrats on passing your SIE, and thanks for taking the time to write your feedback!

There’s a joke in this industry that goes something like, “If you passed with a 71, then you wasted your time studying too much.”

I know you like to overprepare (you’ve reached out for clarification almost 100 times during your studies), but that mindset is rare.

Ultimately, almost everyone here is studying to pass the exam, and we’re extremely effective at it: almost all of our customers pass on the first try. And we stand behind our effectiveness with a pass guarantee. Given that you did pass, regardless of how you felt about it, it’s safe to say our method was effective.

I appreciate the feedback about making our questions harder; we make hundreds of updates every month based on feedback to stay as close to the actual exam as possible. FINRA exams have a huge amount of natural randomness since you’re only getting asked around 100 questions from a pool of several thousand. It sounds like you had a more tricky version, but we also have a large number of folks who tell us our questions were exactly like what they saw on the exam. If we made our materials more difficult to cover every single tidbit of information, even if we expected it would only show up <1% of the time, our courses would be much, much longer, instead of taking about half the time others typically required.

If you want to spend double the time to be overprepared and get a perfect score, you can certainly do so. Frankly, we wish everyone had the same motivation and work ethic, but again, most people are just here to pass the test as quickly as possible. When people have doubts, we encourage them to try other materials to see the difference - and we’ll welcome you back.

In short: you studied hard, our prep is effective, and you passed!

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Hi, Justin. You may be right that I could have gotten unlucky (definitely not extremely unlucky—not all questions gave me a headache).

The overpreparedness remark is more so that I have more latitude with making mistakes and not feeling like when I hit that submit button, it could go either way—maybe I failed, maybe I didn’t. The Series 65 (probably the next one I will study for) is 140 questions, so, obviously, each missed question penalizes me “less” in terms of %. And yes, many people don’t have the luxury like I had of studying for a particular test for a few months each.

I’m not trying to aim to get 100%, because I would never know if I got everything right. However, that is just it: FINRA’s inability or unwillingness to show us our scores even if we pass makes it hard to make a judgement call if your studying material is the least “risky” of all that exists.

To make it more clear, imagine if, by getting feedback from all the test-takers that chose your company’s product for study prep, FINRA did release % scores. Maybe you have a sample size of 10,000. If Achievable found out most people only missed 3-5 questions on the actual exam, that would show you’re doing a very good job with the product’s material and quality of questions. But if you found that most people were missing 20 questions on the exam, that would have you wondering what might need improvement. In this example, this is the SIE being referenced.

I won’t be a negative nancy the whole way. I will state that I enjoyed far more reading your textbook sections than Kaplan’s or anyone else’s. It’s digestible, quick, and reinforces concepts quickly. Also, you and your colleagues are far more receptive to getting back to my questions and concerns.

To reiterate some suggestions that Achievable could implement for the future (beyond harder, trickier questions):

1. A way to clear all flagged questions.

2. A section much like Flagged Questions, but it’s titled “Missed Questions”. This is different from “Troublesome Questions”. “Missed Questions” would be a compilation of all questions you missed on the exams (so, if I took 30 exams, chapter/midterm exams included, and missed 10 questions each, I’d have 300 questions listed there). It shouldn’t clear even if I get them right, just so I still have them as reference and to practice later again and again.

3. An ability to flag quiz section questions (you can’t do this currently). I had to go from Chapter 1 to Chapter 15, do all the quiz sections over again, copy-paste into my Notes app questions that I felt like I couldn’t answer within 2 seconds or that I got wrong, and paste all of this into a Google Site for later quizzing.

4. Optional: A custom practice exam (much like your handpicked exams A and B) that consists of as many hard questions as there are (so, for the SIE, if it’s possible: 75 hard questions). This would be a separate option.

I don’t know what your timetable is for feature rollouts, but it seems like I’d be waiting months before anything major comes about that would implement a major QoL improvement to the product.

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Thank you both for your feedback - we truly appreciate it!

Achievable is a feedback and data-driven company. We value everyone’s thoughts, both positive and negative, and discuss them as a team to understand the best way to build and improve our courses. Sometimes features that seem helpful are actually detrimental from an instructional design perspective - there’s a lot to consider. As we make changes, we closely monitor how they impact exam outcomes, study habits, and satisfaction.

Regarding a few specific points of feedback:

We’re adding this soon, in parallel with the other flagged question updates we discussed previously.

We have implemented this on an exam level; if you click the “Focus” button, you’ll be quizzed on everything you’ve missed or guessed. We haven’t added a global version since we feel it would be overwhelming, but we’re keeping this as an open discussion item.

The system automatically prioritizes quizzes you’ve gotten incorrect or haven’t seen recently, so you basically get this behavior without needing to flag anything. In any case, we are considering adding flags to quizzes.

The practice exams are realistically weighted to match the actual exam, so you can rely on your scores as a good estimate of your performance on exam day. We’ll discuss other ways you can build a custom exam with the toughest questions.

We move quickly, and have implemented some of your other suggestions in a matter of days. Stay tuned for more!

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Not here to argue with anyone’s perspective, but I felt JUST THE OPPOSITE of original post! LOL I felt that Achievable’s test questions were a LOT trickier than anything I saw on my actual exam. : )

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I wanted to post a thought I had, I’ve taken the SIE twice and going on my third. but I have to say I’ve never come across math question other stock splits. so i tend not to study the mathy questions to hard. what are your thoughts on this ?