Studying for the real estate license exam can be nerve-racking. But with the right exam prep strategy you can effectively prepare yourself for your prelicensing exam and kickstart your new career.
Here are 23 real estate exam prep tips, plus an exclusive offer just for our readers to power up your test prep experience and launch your new real estate career.
1. Stick to a Study 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 the test covers so you’re not left wondering if you’re missing important subjects the test will cover. Many prelicense classes offer a test prep option that flows naturally from the material you’ve already learned.
If you think you need a little extra study prep, don’t stress Real Estate Express, our top pick for online real estate schools, offers Real Estate Exam Prep Master package with a pass or don’t pay guarantee.
2. Focus on Vocab
Knowing the terminology the test is going to use is the only way to successfully navigate through most of the real estate license exam material. Some of the major vocabulary categories you’ll need to pay attention to include contract terminology, ownership types, and fiduciary duties.
If you’re looking for a complete list of real estate vocabulary, check out this extensive (seriously, this thing is 44 pages long) PDF glossary of the most important real estate terms, put together by Illinois Wesleyan University for their real estate and business classes.
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 feet x width 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 (including the one Real Estate Express) spend a decent amount of time here.
Not only will extra focus on this get you closer to a passing grade on your real estate exam, but these are important topics that all new agents should be well-versed in prior to starting in this profession.
To see where you stand on your fair housing prep, The National Association of Realtors (NAR) has a great quiz you can take to spot-check your knowledge. The quiz changes periodically, so bookmark this page to come back to it again.
5. Take Lots of Practice Tests
Reviewing and internalizing the information you need to know is important, but it isn’t the only way you should be preparing. For many students, the knowledge necessary to be successful isn’t the problem; it’s the testing format itself. Make sure to take plenty of practice tests using Real Estate Express or any other test prep provider.
Get used to a 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 the functions of your testing platform so you can effectively answer questions, skip questions, and come back and review your answers before submitting.
Free Real Estate Practice Exam + 7 Hacks to Help You Ace Your Real Estate Exam
6. Use Flashcards
We know this sounds old-school but trust us, this works. There are a lot of basic knowledge questions on the real estate license exam that will require your ability to define scenarios, keywords, and formulas. This means that a system that allows you to quiz yourself regularly on these standard content areas is going to be very valuable.
Start by taking the vocabulary words we talked about earlier and getting those onto cards. If you’re not feeling 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 you’ll pay for them.
7. Choose a Distraction-free Environment
There’s a lot competing for your attention, especially if you’re getting your real estate license and making a career change. 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 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.
If you’re looking for inspiration here, this article about creating a distraction-free work environment is one of the best we’ve found about this specific strategy.
8. Use the Pomodoro Technique
If you’re not familiar with the Pomodoro Technique, it’s pretty simple and goes something like this: 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, hyper-focused session.
The idea here is 25 minutes is a length of time that won’t fatigue our minds, and by taking breaks BEFORE we get tired, we also avoid the burnout that comes with marathon study sessions. Todoist has a great spot about this method—check it out.
9. Set Study Goals
Setting goals for yourself is a great way to provide some structure to a process that is fairly amorphous. Think about it; there’s no requirement that you have to study for the real estate exam—you just know it’s a good idea. There’s nobody telling you when you are or aren’t ready to take the test; you determine that for yourself.
So, provide yourself some structure to your plan by setting up goals.
Try setting goals like the complete review of certain topics, or maybe a number of practice tests. Maybe try setting a goal of reaching a particular score on practice quizzes or full-length practice tests.
Make sure to create goals that are a good mix of time-based (“I’m going to study for two hours today”) and merit-based (“I’m going to score 90% on my practice quiz”) to keep yourself moving in the right direction.
10. 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 light and also to be accountable to when it comes to putting the hours in.
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 nearly a thousand people in it, and there’s activity just about every day; it’s a great place to connect with other studiers.
11. Connect With an Agent Who Has Recently Passed Their Real Estate Exam
Since the real estate license exam changes from year to year, there’s no better way to get insight into your future test than to speak to a recently licensed agent. Though they’re told not to speak about the specifics of the individual questions on the test, they’re free to talk about their overall impressions, the testing conditions, and so forth. This sort of information can be really valuable as you’re putting together your final test prep strategies.
If you’re unsure where to connect with agents like this, we suggest chatting with your soon-to-be broker. If your broker is an active recruiter (which most of them are), chances are there are other agents who have recently passed their test and are getting started in the industry just a few months ahead of you.
These are people you’re going to want to get to know and work with anyway after you’re licensed, so why not start now and get the benefit of their recent testing experience?
12. 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!
13. Ask a Broker for Help
If you’re already committed to a broker for after you pass your test, make sure to tap into that resource for help or 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, so they want to see you pass too.
Most brokers also have the role of trainer and mentor, so asking for 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.
Day of Real Estate Exam Strategies
In addition to being a real estate professional and a senior writer/coach 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 strategy too.
Want my top strategies in video format? Watch my Secret Strategies to Ace Your Real Estate Exam below:
14. 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 in. 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.
15. 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; wouldn’t you at least want a shot at getting it correct?
16. 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.
17. Skip Questions You Don’t Know the Answer to, But Don’t Forget to Come Back
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 you a notepad function on the computer screen for figuring as you’re taking the test; others give you scratch paper and pencil to be able to take notes and do formulas by hand. Either way, make sure you’re noting for yourself which questions you need to return to before hitting submit.
18. 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 presented there.
More often than not, the correct answer will be represented in the opposing pair, but make sure to read the answer choices carefully. A common tactic for test designers is to slip in words like NOT to actually reverse the meaning of the answer choice, so make sure you choose the right one.
19. The More Detailed Answer Choice Is More 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.
20. Be Suspicious of Answer Choices With ‘Always’ or ‘Never’ in Them
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 in #19), so before you invest too much time into determining whether an answer choice is the right one, verify its “Always” or “Never” status first.
21. The Word ‘Except’ in an Answer Choice Provides Detail & Depth, Which Can Indicate It’s Correct
The word EXCEPT is a clue that you should look closely at an answer choice because it’s usually an indicator that an answer choice isn’t an absolute (like Always or Never answer choices). 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.
22. Make Sure to Read Each Question Stem Carefully
When it comes to standardized multiple-choice tests, the test-taker usually has the advantage over the test-maker because of all the strategies we’ve identified so far; picking out right (and wrong) answers can be relatively simple if you know what to look for.
The only place where the test-maker has the advantage over the test-taker is in the question stem itself.
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.
23. Don’t Choose an Answer Choice You’ve Never Heard Of
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’re completely unprepared for. It follows that, chances are, there aren’t going to be answer choices that are completely foreign to you.
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 ones you can categorically identify as incorrect—then selecting the only remaining option makes sense.
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 your career as a real estate professional.
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