How to Prepare for Your Real Estate License Exam

The big day is coming—the day you walk into a testing center and take your state’s real estate license exam. Whether that leads straight to the next stage of your new career or to an exam re-take depends on how well you prepare. To do your best, you need to know what to expect on the exam and at the testing center. Do these things to make sure you’re ready for your big test.

Know what to study

San Francisco-based broker (and my former publishing-industry co-worker) Britton Jackson of Jackson Fuller Real Estate said she did well in her online pre-license course, including the quizzes, but then “I took my first practice exam and made a 50.” Her advice? Understand that although your course covers a lot of useful information, it may not match up perfectly with the material on your state exam.

This isn’t just a California issue. You should expect some differences between your pre-license course topics and exam wherever you live. That means you need two different paths of study: your coursework plus exam prep. And exam prep probably means a lot of drills. “What was most useful for me in getting ready for the state exam was practice exam questions,” Britton said.

When Britton took her pre-license course, the state exam prep questions came on a CD rather than the interactive online format used now. Like today’s test prep tools, the CD had “a zillion practice questions. I would do those and find out which areas” needed more review. “By the time the test rolled around I was very familiar with the kinds of questions I could expect.”

Some real estate schools with classroom instruction also host one-day exam prep sessions as part of the course package or as add-ons. If your pre-license course is online, use the student forums to connect with practice buddies. And check out your state’s real estate license candidate handbook online for an outline of the topics the state exam will include.

However, you study, focus on mastering the topics and answering questions quickly. License exams are timed, and you want to make sure you can answer them all on exam day.

Pay attention to the administrative details

Studying aside, there’s more information you need to plan your exam day and get into the testing site.

Choose your exam date

In most cases, you’ll have to schedule your exam online at least 24 hours in advance. Most exams take between three and four hours. If you’ll need coverage at home or work during those hours, arrange it as far in advance as you can.

Know what to bring and what to leave at home

Each state has its own rules on what you can bring into the exam room with you and what you should leave at home. These rules are spelled out on the state real estate agency’s website or in your state’s candidate handbook for real estate students. Don’t assume that what applied to a friend in another state applies to you.

For example, in New York, real estate exam takers may bring their own calculator as long as it doesn’t have an alphabet keypad or printing functions, but in California, students can’t bring any calculator into the real estate exam room. You may be required to leave your personal items like keys, handbag, and cell phone in a locker outside the test room, and you may be prohibited from using your phone during test breaks.

What you have to bring can vary, too. You’ll definitely need to provide a government-issued ID, like your driver’s license, passport, or military ID. Some states require a secondary form of ID. In New York, you must also bring your registration printout. Again, the candidate handbook is the place to find yout complete list.

Plan your transportation and parking

Most test sites won’t let you in if you arrive after the exam begins, so get there early. For example, the California Depart of Real Estate recommends that exam candidates arrive 30 minutes before their test time. Plan your commute and parking so you’re not hunting for a parking spot when you should be in the testing room.

Preparing for your real estate license exam is a big project. Take it step by step and give yourself plenty of time to tackle each item on this list so you can show up on test day relaxed and ready to ace your exam.

Casey Kelly-Barton is a freelance content-marketing writer who specializes in business and career development, marketing, and e-commerce.