Securities brokers must be licensed by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority to sell and discuss securities. The Series 6 and 7 licenses are two such licenses granted by the regulatory authority. While they both allow brokers to sell securities, the Series 7 license allows brokers to sell a wider range of products. To get either license you must be affiliated with a Financial Industry Regulatory Authority member firm and pass an exam.
Series 6 -- The Limited License
The Series 6 exam -- known formally as the "Investment Company and Variable Contracts Products Representative Qualifications Examination" -- consists of 100 multiple choice questions. The exam lasts 2 hours and 15 minutes. The Series 6 exam only covers two types of securities: mutual funds and variable contract products.
Expanding to Series 7
The Series 7 exam is a longer exam, covering all securities including stocks, bonds, mutual funds and private placements. It is also referred to as the "General Securities Representative Qualification Examination." Because the exam covers more material, it is significantly longer. It consists of two sections, each with 125 multiple choice questions and each section lasts three hours.
Significance and Fees
With a Series 6 license you are permitted to sell mutual funds and variable contract products to clients. As of 2014, the fee to write the Series 6 exam is $95. With a Series 7 license you are permitted to sell all securities to clients. The fee for the Series 7 exam is $290 as of 2014. You are permitted to rewrite either exam if you fail.