Licensing: Best Test-Taking Strategies

Read these test-taking strategies before you take a state licensing exam.

  • Don’t be a careless reader. Ensure that you understand what each question says, and not what you think it says.
  • Be particularly careful of negative questions. Read the stem of the question before considering each answer to ensure accuracy.
  • Do not base your answers solely on common sense. Use your real estate knowledge to answer the questions.
  • Look out for qualifying or limiting words that could affect your answer. They include “may,” “must,” “all,” “always,” “except,” and others.
  • Look out for name or title substitutions of equal meaning. One example: calling “a lender” as “an investor.”
  • Look out for words with similar spellings. One example: is “demise” vs. “devise.”
  • Always choose the best of the available answers, and make sure the whole answer is true. If most of an answer is true, but a small portion is not true, the whole answer is not true.
  • Read the stem of a question at least two times before reading the offered answers. Be sure you fully understand the stem before choosing an answer.
  • Write important words or phrases on the paper provided by the test center. This adds mental emphasis to important points … and slows you down.
  • Do not speed read. Read and analyze individual words in the same way a lawyer would read and analyze a contract.
  • Make sure you have clarified and defined, in your own mind, any real estate terms used in the stem before going to the answers.
  • For any terms that end in “ee” and “or” – for example, a “lessee” and a “lessor,” or an “obligee” and “obligor” – substitute conversational English meanings. Remember that the “or” gives documents or paperwork to the “ee” during the course of a transaction.
  • If possible, formulate your own answer before reading the answers provided. Don’t allow the answers to help you interpret the stem of the question.
  • Write a note for each possible answer to help you make your final decision. Your note may only say “T” for “true” or “NT” for “not true.”
  • Eliminate obviously incorrect answers. If an unfamiliar term or concept is used in a remaining answer, eliminate that answer too.
  • If the correct answer still is not apparent, answer the question with your first impression. Then mark the question for later review.
  • Avoid changing answers on a whim. Change answers only if you have a valid reason. If you are unsure of an answer, indicating your first impression will generally result in more correct answers.
  • If you don’t have a clue about the correct answer … guess! There is no penalty for guessing, and your odds of guessing an answer that’s correct are significantly better than leaving the question unanswered.
  • Don’t allow a few isolated questions to rattle or upset you. Every exam has several “clinkers.” Remember, you don’t need a score of 100 to pass.
  • If you are particularly nervous, complete the easy questions first. They usually will take less time, and help eliminate anxiety due to time pressures.
  • Schedule occasional breaks for yourself to “recharge your batteries.” You will return more refreshed and reduce the number of “dumb mistakes” due to fatigue.
  • Ignore others in the room. Some will leave early because they are ill-prepared. Some will shuffle about or moan about what they don’t know. Leave their problems to them. Concentrate on YOUR success.

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