You’ve made it through hours and hours of prelicensing education and now it’s time—gulp—to take your real estate exam. If you don’t know how to study for the real estate license exam, this can be nerve-racking. But with the right exam prep tips, you can effectively prepare yourself, nail that exam, and kick-start your new career. 

Here are 21 real estate exam prep tips, plus some exclusive offers just for our readers to power up your test prep experience and launch your new real estate career.

How to Study for the Real Estate Exam

1. Stick to a Plan

Students usually finish their real estate prelicensing classes and then have a “now what?” moment. Don’t try to go rogue here; use a study plan that walks you through each major content area so you’re not left wondering if you’re missing important subjects. Many prelicensing classes offer a test prep option that flows naturally from the material you’ve already learned.

  • Resource: If you think you need a little extra study prep, don’t stress. Colibri Real Estate, our top pick for online real estate schools, offers an exam prep master package with a pass or don’t pay guarantee.

Readers of The Close can SAVE 25% on any Colibri Real Estate exam prep materials. Use promo code TheClose25 at checkout.

2. Focus on Vocab

Knowing the terminology is the only way to successfully navigate through most of the real estate license exam material. You’ll need to feel comfortable with contracts, ownership types, and fiduciary duties.

Related Article
136 Real Estate Terms & Definitions Your Clients Expect You to Know

3. Practice Real Estate Math

It’s likely that upward of 20% of your test questions are going to involve some sort of math. Don’t worry, you’re not going to be doing calculus or trigonometry, but you are going to need to work through some basic formulas from memory.

Here are the most important formulas you’ll need to know:

  • Area (whether interior square footage or outdoor acreage) = length (in feet) x width (in feet)
  • 1 acre of land = 43,560 feet
  • Property tax rate = assessed value x mill rate
  • 1 mill = 1 dollar per thousand dollars of value
  • Commission formula = house selling price x commission percentage
  • Simple interest = principal amount x rate of interest (over time)

4. Bone Up on Fair Housing

Most states will have anywhere from five to 15 questions relating to fair housing topics on their test. Since there is such a focus in this area, most prep courses spend a decent amount of time on this.

Not only will this get you closer to a passing grade on your real estate exam, but this is important information that all new agents should know well.

5. Take Lots of Practice Tests

Reviewing and internalizing the information you need to know is important, but you also need to prepare for the testing format itself. Even if you don’t suffer from test anxiety, it may have been many years since you had to prove your understanding of complex subjects in this way. 

Familiarize yourself with the computerized, multiple-choice format (the testing format most states in the U.S. use); get used to working with a time limit; and most importantly, learn how to answer questions, skip them, and come back and review your answers before submitting.

  • Resource: Be sure to utilize your real estate school’s exam prep package or purchase standalone Colibri Exam Prep and take practice tests on your own.
Related Article
Free Real Estate Practice Exam + 7 Hacks to Help You Ace Your Licensing Test

6. Use Flashcards

We know this sounds old-school but trust us: It works. There are basic knowledge questions on the real estate license exam that will require you to define scenarios, keywords, and formulas. This means you need a system for quizzing yourself regularly on these standard content areas.

  • Resource: Start by taking the vocabulary words we talked about earlier and getting those onto cards. If you’re not in the mood to make your own, see what your real estate school offers, or Barron’s makes a solid set that is well worth the $15-$20 price tag.

7. Choose a Distraction-free Environment

You’ve likely got friends, family, an existing job, and the rigors of the rest of your life vying for your focus—all things that are going to ultimately take away from effective studying.

The best way to start yourself down the path of creating a distraction-free zone is to pick a physical space that you can control to be your study HQ. Clear away any physical distractions that might prevent you from focusing, put your phone in another room, and focus on creating an environment that will advance your goals.

8. Use the Pomodoro Technique

If you’re not familiar with the Pomodoro Technique, it’s pretty simple: Set a timer for 25 minutes and focus deeply on your task at hand. At the end of that 25 minutes, take a five-minute break and do not work. Rest your mind, check your phone, do whatever you need to do so that when you come back to studying, you can set yourself up for another solid 25-minute, hyperfocused session.

The idea here is 25 minutes is a length of time that won’t fatigue your mind. By taking breaks before you get tired, you avoid the burnout that comes with marathon study sessions.

9. Study With Someone

Having a study partner is a great way to keep motivated since you’ve got someone else to lean on when inspiration runs thin. It’s also someone to hold you accountable to putting the hours in.

  • Resource: People doing real estate exam prep at home can often find it difficult to connect with other people in the same position. If that’s you, make sure to check out the communities on Reddit all about real estate and real estate education. The r/RealEstateExam community has around 3,000 people in it, and there’s activity just about every day. It’s a great place to connect with other students.

10. Create a Day-of-Test Cheat Sheet

Though you’re not allowed to bring notes with you into the testing area, you can still study all the way up until it’s time to walk in the room. We suggest a one-page document with the most important information from your test prep process so that you can have something to look at even while you’re waiting to be let into the testing area.

When I took my test, I made a sheet like this and ceremoniously threw it in the trash right before I went in for my test—a symbolic “I don’t need this anymore” gesture that really boosted my confidence!

  • Resource: This is probably something you need to make for yourself based on areas where you need that last minute review, but we like the look of this one on Etsy.

11. Ask a Broker for Help

If you’re already committed to a broker for employment, make sure to tap into that resource for advice prior to taking your exam. Your brokerage has a financial stake in you passing your test; the sooner you get licensed, the sooner you can start contributing to the company.

  • Resource: Most brokers have a designated trainer and mentor, so providing help here is a natural extension of their job. If you’re still deciding on which broker is right for you, check out our article on the best real estate companies to work for.
Related Article
Free Real Estate Practice Exam + 7 Hacks to Help You Ace Your Licensing Test

Tips for Actually Taking the Real Estate Exam

In addition to being a real estate professional and a senior writer for The Close, I’m also a former test prep professional. With many years of experience at Kaplan Test Prep and Sylvan Learning Center, I’ve been around the block when it comes to preparing students for success on standardized tests.

You need to know the material for the real estate exam, but you can up your chances for success by using some test-taking strategies too.

Want my top strategies in video format? Watch my Secret Strategies to Ace Your Real Estate Exam below:

12. Answer the Easy Questions First

Remember, the easiest question on the test is worth the same as the hardest question on the test, so focus your initial energy on answering the questions you are confident about. That way, you lock in points upfront so that, in the event you get tight on time, you’re not guessing on easy questions that you would have gotten correct otherwise.

13. Answer Every Question

In this same vein, make sure you’re answering every question. There’s no penalty for wrong answers on the real estate license exam, so it’s in every student’s best interest to complete every question, even if it’s a guess. Questions left blank are automatically marked as incorrect; don’t you at least want a shot at getting it right?

14. Eliminate Wrong Answers

Guessing on the real estate exam isn’t going to yield you a high percentage of points, but if you have to guess, give yourself the best shot at getting the right answer by first eliminating the answer choices you know to be wrong.

Even by eliminating a single answer choice, you up your overall expected points pretty significantly—an increase that could mean the difference between passing and failing.

15. Don’t Forget to Come Back to Questions You Skipped

Like we mentioned earlier, it’s in your best interest to answer the easy questions first, skipping over the questions you don’t know. But, you’ve got to make sure you’ve got a system in place so that you come back and attempt the harder questions too.

Some states give test takers a notepad function on the computer screen for jotting items down as they take the exam; others offer scratch paper and a pencil. Either way, make a note of which questions you need to return to before hitting submit.

16. When You Find ‘Opposite’ Answer Choices, the Correct Answer Is Usually One of Them

If you’re struggling with a particular question, take a look at the answer choices to see if there are any opposites. More often than not, the correct answer will be represented in the opposing pair, but make sure to read the answer choices carefully.

17. The More Detailed Answer Is Often Correct

For an answer choice to be considered “wrong,” only a single part of the answer has to be incorrect. However, for an answer choice to be “right,” every component of the response has to be correct.

This means that correct answers can skew a little bit longer and more detailed than incorrect answers, so if you have to guess on a question, choose the longer explanation.

18. Be Suspicious of ‘Always’ & ‘Never’

Answer choices with positive or negative absolutes should be scrutinized very carefully. It is not uncommon for one of these absolutes to be the trigger for an answer choice being wrong (like we discussed above), so before you invest too much time into determining whether an answer choice is the right one, zero in on any absolutes in the language.

19. The Word ‘Except’ Can Be a Good Clue

On the flip side, exceptions are often a positive signal because they indicate that an answer choice isn’t absolute. Also, answer choices with the word “except” in them tend to be a little more detailed, another characteristic we’ve identified as being common in correct answers.

20. Read Each Question Stem Carefully

Questions on multiple choice tests can be deliberately complicated and confusing, putting test-takers who aren’t slowing down and reading carefully in jeopardy of missing a question simply by virtue of not understanding what the question is looking for.

Take your time and read each question carefully. Before you move on to the answer choices, take a moment to rephrase complicated questions in your head, identifying exactly what you’re being asked to find before selecting an answer.

21. Don’t Choose an Answer Choice You’ve Never Seen Before

If you put the time in to properly prepare yourself for the real estate license exam, chances are there won’t be many questions that you’ve never seen before. If you’ve never heard of answer choice before and have absolutely no context for what it is, chances are this isn’t the correct answer and should be eliminated from your options.

The only time you’d want to actually select an answer choice like this is in the event that you’ve eliminated all the other answer choices as incorrect—then selecting the only remaining option makes sense.

Take Your Exam Prep to the Next Level

If you want to level up your real estate exam prep, consider a course from a reputable real estate education company. Here are some of our favorites.

The Close Top Real Estate Exam Prep Providers for 2023

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Bringing It All Together

Studying for the real estate exam isn’t easy, but neither is being a successful real estate agent. However, with the right preparation, tools, and strategies, you can crush your licensing exam and kick off your career as a real estate professional.

The Close is here to help along the way. Subscribe to our email list to get our best real estate advice.