Starting Monday, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority will begin offering its new qualification exam — the Securities Industry Essentials (SIE) — for prospective candidates 18 or older seeking to enter or re-enter the securities industry.

The SIE will assess a candidate’s knowledge regarding fundamental securities-related topics, including knowledge of basic products, the structure and function of the securities industry, the regulatory agencies and their functions and regulated and prohibited practices, the broker-dealer self-regulator said Thursday.

FINRA currently administers 27 exams, 16 at the rep level and 11 at the principal level.

Nine of the 16 rep-level exams, such as Series 6 and 7, have been restructured or modified to reflect the consolidation of “general knowledge” questions into the SIE, while seven of the rep-level exams are being eliminated.

For instance, the revised Series 7 will have 125 questions instead of the previous 250.

After Oct. 1, FINRA will have 21 exams, including the new SIE.

Robert Cook, FINRA’s president and CEO, said in a Thursday statement that the new exam structure “will bring greater consistency and uniformity to the process for entering or returning to the securities industry. It will also provide more people the opportunity to explore career options in the securities industry.”

(Related: FINRA’s New Competency Exams a ‘Significant’ Event for Some BDs)

FINRA recently released FAQ guidance on its qualification and registration requirements as set forth in Rules 1210 through 1240, as they relate to the SIE and revising the rep-level exams.

Anyone 18 or older can take the SIE, which costs $60. The combined cost of the SIE and a revised “top off” (Series 6 or 7) qualification exam will, for most exams, remain the same.

As FINRA explains, the SIE is multiple choice, consists of 75 questions and test takers have 1 hour and 45 minutes to complete the exam. A passing result on the SIE is valid for four years. Candidates are not required to have any prior industry experience and they can take the SIE before they have received a job offer from a firm.

In addition to the SIE, registered reps at a FINRA member firm will still need to take a revised Series 6, Series 7 or other qualification exam, appropriate to their prospective job functions.

Candidates must also satisfy other requirements relating to the registration process, including a background check.

Most reps who have already taken qualification exams, such as the Series 6 and 7, will not need to take the SIE.

Additionally, if a representative wishes to add an additional registration they will generally not need to take the SIE, only the job function-specific qualification exam.

For example, if a registered rep has already passed the Series 7 and wishes to do investment banking, he or she will only need to take the Series 79 exam.

“FINRA has eliminated duplicative testing of general securities knowledge on the representative-level exams by moving such content into the SIE,” said John Kalohn, FINRA’s vice president for Testing and Continuing Education, in the statement.

“The SIE provides candidates the opportunity to demonstrate their mastery of the fundamental knowledge about the securities industry. We believe this is an important step in the process of qualifying to become registered in the securities industry.”

As part of consolidating FINRA registration rules, individuals who transfer to a financial services affiliate of a firm may qualify for a waiver that allows their credentials to be reinstated, should they return to the industry within a seven-year period and meet the requirements of the waiver program.

Details on the waiver program can be found in the Qualification and Registration Requirements FAQ.

FINRA is also expanding “permissive registrations,” allowing firms to permissively register or maintain the registration of individuals functioning as associated persons, including individuals working solely in a clerical or ministerial capacity for a firm.

This process is subject to the conditions specified in Regulatory Notice 17-30, which has been approved by the Securities and Exchange Commission.