Real estate agents across the United States must be licensed to work in this field, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported. Professional examinations are a crucial part of the licensing process. Because each state has its own licensing requirements, the exam each state administers can be different from what you would find in other areas. Your state may also require you to pass a national real estate exam. If you decide, after you are an experienced real estate sales agent, to become a broker, you should expect to take another exam to qualify for a license as a broker.

What to Expect From a Real Estate Licensing Exam

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If you think real estate agents are only experts on different types of homes and the features within them, you might be surprised to learn about the extent of knowledge you will be tested on before you can acquire a license. The topics covered on the licensing exam can include just about any concept, practice or measure of skill used in the real estate sales industry. Real estate contracts, financing, property valuation and financial analysis, transfer of property, property ownership regulations, the practice of real estate and disclosures and laws of agency and fiduciary duties of a sales agent are all fair game. Expect to be quizzed on difficult topics relating to deeds, specific types of laws relevant to real estate sales, taxes and assessments, mortgages, closing and real estate math skills.

In many states, multiple-choice questions make up the bulk of the exam. Although the precise length of the test can vary from state to state, it’s not unusual to answer up to 150 of these multiple-choice questions. However, you may also need to solve more complex problems posed in simulation questions. These questions require you to think critically about the information presented and make decisions based on that data – which you will have to do daily in real life in your work as a real estate sales agent.

The real estate sales licensing exam itself can take as long as four hours to complete, depending on your state. Although this test is grueling, the outcome – the start to an exciting new career – is worth it.

Preparing for Your Examination

All states require some amount of prelicensing coursework in the field of real estate. Again, different states require approved prelicensing courses to cover different content areas. The topics you cover in your prelicensing classes are likely to be heavily represented on your state’s real estate licensure examination. To help you begin preparing for the big test, you should pay close attention to your courses and make a conscious effort to learn the concepts and practices of real estate for the long term rather than cramming to perform well on different quizzes, assignments and course final exams. The more thoroughly you know the material from your prelicensing courses, the easier it will be for you to review these concepts as you start preparing for the exam.

Although you can study independently for your real estate licensing examination, many aspiring realtors find that they benefit from a more focused and structured study plan. Well-known educational services companies like Peterson’s commonly offer real estate exam preparation materials, practice tests and courses. A lot of study is needed to perform well on a real estate licensing test, so don’t wait until the last minute to begin brushing up on what you learned in your courses. Test-takers are usually advised to give themselves at least six weeks to study for the exam.

Generally, as long as you maintain your real estate license in good standing and renew it regularly – typically required every two to four years, the BLS reported – you don’t have to retake the licensing exam. However, some states require candidates to retake the exam if their licenses have been expired or inactive for a length of time, such as several years. Keeping your license active may mean keeping up with continuing education requirements, so you should be prepared to be constantly learning in this career field.

Different states have different practices for determining what constitutes a passing score. In California, you must answer 70 percent of questions correctly. Other states set different thresholds based on the difficulty of specific questions in different sections of the same. 

Additional Resources

How Does Someone Become a Real Estate Agent?

Are There Different Rules in Different States for Real Estate Agents?

Do I Need to Have a College Degree to Become a Real Estate Agent?

What Degree Should I Get for Real Estate?