MSRB Revises Exam for 529 College Savings Plan Dealers

Date: August 20, 2008

Contact:           Jennifer A. Galloway, Chief Communications Officer
                        (703) 797-6600
                        jgalloway@msrb.org


THE MUNICIPAL SECURITIES RULEMAKING BOARD REVISES
EXAM FOR 529 COLLEGE SAVINGS PLAN DEALERS

Alexandria, VA - The Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board (MSRB) has revised the selection specifications and study outline for its Municipal Fund Securities Limited Principal Qualification Examination (Series 51) program. While no content changes are being made, the MSRB is changing the weightings of various subjects contained in the exam to reflect developments in the market, particularly with respect to the 529 college savings plan market.  "A review of the Series 51 Exam validated its existing content, but made a case for rebalancing certain topics addressed in the test," said Loretta Jones, Director of Professional Qualification at the MSRB.  While the MSRB does not disclose details about the question banks for its exams in order to maintain the integrity of its testing program, Jones said the changes cover categories such as product knowledge, sales supervision and operations. 

The updates reflect feedback the MSRB received in a survey of industry professionals charged with evaluating the subject matter covered in the current test. The revised Series 51 examination program will be implemented on November 1, 2008.  The MSRB routinely evaluates its exams to ensure they reflect new MSRB rules and changing marketplace conditions.

The Series 51 examination, which was first administered in January 2003, was developed to qualify individuals at broker-dealers and bank dealers supervising activities of professionals who conduct business in municipal fund securities, such as 529 college savings plans and local government investment pools. A subcommittee of the MSRB's Professional Qualifications Advisory Committee (PQAC) developed a survey distributed to practicing Series 51 principals employed at different sizes and types of dealer firms nationwide.  These principals were asked to evaluate the importance of tasks and knowledge associated with the job of the Series 51 principal.

Virtually all states sponsor 529 college savings plans, in which earnings accumulate tax-free when used to pay for qualified college expenses.  529 plans are considered municipal securities and the MSRB regulates activities of broker-dealers. More than 4,000 dealer employees are Series 51 registered.

Jones said the revised Series 51 examination remains a 60-question test, and candidates are allowed 1-1/2 hours to complete it.  Candidates for the Series 51 Examination must also have passed the General Securities Principal Examination (Series 24) or the Investment Company Products/Variable Contracts Limited Principal Examination (Series 26), or they must take and pass either of these examinations concurrently with the Series 51 Examination in order to become a municipal fund securities limited principal. 

For more detailed information about the changes to the examination, see MSRB Notice 2008-35 at http://www.msrb.org/msrb1/whatsnew/2008-35.asp. Information about the MSRB's municipal fund security regulatory program for 529 college savings plans and local government investment pools is available at http://www.msrb.org/msrb1/mfs/default.asp.


The MSRB protects investors, state and local governments and other municipal entities, and the public interest by promoting a fair and efficient municipal securities market. The MSRB fulfills this mission by regulating the municipal securities firms, banks and municipal advisors that engage in municipal securities and advisory activities. To further protect market participants, the MSRB provides market transparency through its Electronic Municipal Market Access (EMMA®) website, the official repository for information on all municipal bonds. The MSRB also serves as an objective resource on the municipal market, conducts extensive education and outreach to market stakeholders, and provides market leadership on key issues. The MSRB is a self-regulatory organization governed by a 21-member board of directors that has a majority of public members, in addition to representatives of regulated entities. The MSRB is overseen by the Securities and Exchange Commission and Congress.