This article is part of a larger series on How to Become a Real Estate Agent.
If you want to upgrade your license and become a real estate broker, you have to pass the broker’s exam. Start by reviewing licensing requirements for your state, then complete prelicensing courses, take prep courses, maintain a strict study schedule that includes practice exams, and finally, register and take the actual exam.
Here are the eight steps to passing the real estate broker exam.
1. Familiarize Yourself With State Licensing Requirements
The real estate broker exam is extremely state-specific, so check with your state’s real estate board to determine how to qualify for the licensing exam, what the exam will cover, how to register for the exam, and other important information. In general, you will need to demonstrate that you have one to two years of experience as a licensed agent, meet prelicensing education requirements, and complete the necessary paperwork to register for the exam.
For more information on the process of becoming a real estate broker—from agent experience to passing the licensing exam—check out our step-by-step guide on how to become a real estate broker.
2. Take Real Estate Prelicensing Courses
Before registering for and taking the real estate broker exam, your state real estate board will require you to take certain prelicensing courses. The exact courses required differ by state, but these classes typically include between 75 and 150 credit hours on subjects like real estate practice, financing, and business law. In general, prelicensing courses cost between $100 and $1,000, depending on state requirements and the course provider.
Prelicensing courses aren’t designed to be used as real estate broker exam prep because they don’t focus on practice questions and exams. Instead, these classes ensure that soon-to-be brokers have the knowledge required to oversee other agents. Visit your state real estate board’s website to learn more about local requirements.
Note: When choosing a prelicensing course, keep in mind that many states will only accept certifications from a list of approved course providers. Therefore, make sure you select one that works in your state.
3. Take a Real Estate Broker Exam Prep Course
Real estate rules can change from year to year. Therefore, a real estate broker exam prep course is the best way to learn all of the most up-to-date information needed to pass the current estate broker’s exam. Exam prep providers offer valuable tools like lectures, flashcards, outlines, and videos to help agents with different learning styles.
If you’re ready to start exam prep broker coursework, consider using an online course provider like Real Estate Express. They offer highly rated courses and study materials for several states, and, best of all, you can study from the comfort of your home office at a pace that works for your schedule.
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4. Study on Your Own for the Exam
The real estate broker exam covers a large volume of national and state-specific material, so whether you take a prep course or not, it’s important to continue to study the content on your own and then register for the exam when you feel you have mastered the exam topics. Specific subject areas vary by state, but common ones include real estate management, real estate-specific law, and brokerage financing.
Review Exam Subjects
The volume of content covered on the real estate broker exam is vast, so you should familiarize yourself with the list of subject areas before you start to study. These vary by state, though there are certain topics, like contract law, agency law, fiduciary relationships, and real estate finance, that appear on all exams.
Subjects on the real estate broker exam often include, but are not limited to:
- Contracts: Common contracts like listing agreements, offer and purchase contracts, promissory notes, and purchase and lease options are commonly included on the exam.
- Transfer of property: Property transfers are the basis of the real estate industry, so concepts like title insurance, deeds, escrow, and tax implications and requirements are an important part of the broker exam.
- Property ownership and land use controls: Test takers should be prepared to answer questions about classes and characteristics of a property, how to describe property, encumbrances, and government rights in land ownership (e.g., eminent domain).
- Laws of agency and fiduciary duties: Agency portions of the exam will focus on topics like how to create and terminate agency relationships, agent duties, and necessary disclosures for home buyers hiring an agent.
- Property valuation and financial analysis: The real estate broker exam covers financial and property valuation questions, some of which require a simple calculator.
- Financing: Test takers should understand types of loans, financing, credit laws, and financial documents like mortgages and promissory notes.
- Practice of real estate and disclosures: Aspiring brokers should understand elements of real estate practice such as truth in advertising, fair housing, ethics, property management, and disclosure statements.
Create & Follow a Study Plan
You should also develop a study plan with ample time to learn and review each subject area. If you’re unsure of what to focus on, take a practice exam to evaluate your strengths and determine where to direct the most energy. Then, based on how long you have before the exam, create a study schedule prioritizing difficult subjects.
It’s generally advised that you set aside time two or three times per week for at least one hour to review real estate broker exam subjects. You can study different subjects on different days—depending on your priorities—but dedicate at least one day a week to an overarching review. It’s best to utilize the prep materials that come with your exam prep coursework for these study sessions.
5. Master Practice Questions & Exams
In addition to learning the material covered on the exam and taking prep courses, spend additional time answering practice questions and taking full-length practice exams. This will help you memorize important information, learn how content will be tested on the exam, and identify areas where you’re struggling.
You are more likely to pass the exam on the first try if you do the following:
Understand the Exam Structure
On average, a broker exam lasts between two and five hours and includes between 100 and 200 questions covering a variety of topics. Most states only allow test takers to use a simple calculator, so don’t use a graphing calculator or mortgage calculator when answering practice questions.
Test Yourself Using Free & Paid Practice Questions
Limited sample questions and practice exams are available for free online. However, the highest quality, state-specific questions are typically included in paid real estate broker exam prep services. In addition to giving you an idea of the questions that might appear on your exam, these questions can help build confidence or alert you to areas where you need additional study.
6. Register for the Real Estate Broker Exam
Generally, prospective brokers must register for the licensing exam as part of the larger license application process. The registration process varies by state, but many states allow prospective test takers to prepare and submit all of the exam registration materials online. Some states require you to complete your broker license application before you register for the exam, so check with your state to determine when in the license application process you should register.
States have different registration processes, but common requirements include:
- Fingerprinting: As with the real estate salesperson licensing process, some states require broker license applicants to provide fingerprints as part of a background check. Check with your state’s real estate commission on acceptable vendors for getting fingerprinted.
- Character requirements: In addition to fingerprints, states often require applicants to undergo a character evaluation. For example, most states require applicants to share information about criminal offenses, professional licensure disciplinary actions, and liens or unpaid judgments as part of both a moral and financial character determination.
- Documentation of experience: Depending on your state, you must have one or more years of experience as a licensed real estate agent in order to become a broker. Contact your state to determine whether you must demonstrate this experience prior to taking the exam or after taking the exam, but before receiving your license.
- Proof of education: Once you complete the required prelicensing courses, broker license applicants must typically provide a certificate of completion to the state real estate commission.
7. Take & Pass the Real Estate Broker Exam
On the test date, be sure you have all of the necessary materials and documents (e.g., photo ID, a simple calculator, and your registration confirmation), and arrive at the test center at least 30 minutes prior to the exam. Once there, mentally review the testing strategies you have been practicing and remember to relax.
The passing score for the real estate broker exam differs by state, but it is generally between 70% and 80%. In addition, states have different ways of notifying you of your test results; some notify you immediately and others require you to log in to an online platform to check scores. This information should be supplied on the day of the exam.
Once you pass the exam, follow your state’s instructions for preparing and completing your real estate broker license application.
8. Complete Your License Application
In addition to registering for the real estate broker exam, you will have to prepare and submit a license application before becoming a broker. Some states require you to pass the licensing exam before submitting your application for a broker’s license. Others let you apply and then finalize your application after passing the exam. This process can generally be completed online, but some states require you to submit your completed application via mail.
Be sure to submit all required documentation, fees, and proof of education with your application to avoid any delays. Application review times vary by state, but expect to wait several weeks before receiving an approval.
5 Tips for Passing the Real Estate Broker Exam
The best test takers know exactly what to expect once they arrive at the testing location—and how to make the most of their test-taking experience. To ensure you pass the exam, take plenty of practice tests and utilize vetted strategies for success.
Here are the top five tips for passing the real estate broker exam:
1. Take Timed Practice Tests
For many, the most difficult part of the real estate broker exam is working within the time constraints. Learn how to pace yourself by taking timed practice exams. This will help you manage stress, keep you from lingering too long on difficult questions, and ensure you finish on time.
2. Apply Test-taking Strategies
The testing strategy you use on exam day can help you save time and energy—while keeping you confident. Develop good test-taking strategies while you study so you’re ready to apply them the day of the exam.
Test-taking strategies for the real estate broker’s exam include:
- Skip difficult questions: If you don’t immediately know the answer to a question, temporarily skip it and come back to it later. Spending too much time on a single question takes valuable time from other questions that you may be able to answer more quickly.
- Work backwards to the correct answer: Use the process of elimination and cross out answers that you know are incorrect. If you are unsure of the answer, this method will give you a greater chance of selecting the correct one from the answers that remain.
- Take your time: The real estate broker exam is timed, but it’s important to focus on your process for answering questions carefully and correctly. Take your time answering complex questions and don’t worry about other test takers who finish before you.
- Don’t change your answers: Once you review a question and choose an answer, don’t change it. Studies have shown that you’re far more likely to change a right answer to a wrong answer than vice versa.
3. Simulate the Test-taking Experience During Study
When you’re working through practice questions and taking practice exams, only give yourself access to the tools you’ll have on exam day. For example, in most states, you will only have a simple calculator to assist with math questions. You won’t have access to a mortgage calculator, study guides, or other resources.
4. Pay Attention to Your Health
Taking the broker licensing exam and transitioning from a real estate salesperson to a broker can be extremely stressful. Take time to focus on your mental and emotional health as you study for the exam and in the days prior to test day. For example, incorporate breaks into your study schedule, make time for activities you enjoy, maintain an exercise routine, spend time outdoors, and prioritize a healthy sleep schedule.
Prior to the exam, get a restful night’s sleep, arrive at the testing center 30 minutes early, and take a walk to get your blood flowing. Then, when you sit down for the exam, take steps to relax and walk through your exam strategy. For example, if you start to feel anxious when you arrive at the test center or during the exam, take a deep breath or a sip of water to calm your nerves. Then implement the test-taking strategies you previously developed.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is the difference between a real estate broker & agent?
A real estate broker can represent clients in the purchase or sale of real estate without the oversight of another licensed broker. By contrast, a real estate agent cannot work independently; he or she must work under the supervision of a licensed real estate broker. Check out our guide for a more in-depth look at real estate broker versus agent.
What does it take to become a real estate broker?
To become a real estate broker, you must have at least one to two years of experience as a licensed real estate agent. You must also take prelicensing courses, pass a real estate broker exam, and complete the necessary administrative requirements. However, the process for becoming a real estate broker is extremely state-specific, so contact your state’s real estate board to learn about the exact licensing requirements.
Do brokers make more than real estate agents?
The National Association of Realtors (NAR) reported in 2019 that the average real estate broker salary in 2018 was $70,400, while real estate agents earned an average of $31,900 during the same time period. However, salaries for both are highly dependent on location and market activity.
Why do real estate agents have to work under a broker?
Generally, real estate agents have to work under a broker to meet state law requirements. This means that an agent must hang his or her license in the office of a broker and share commissions with a broker, but can also utilize the brokerage’s resources. However, states have different licensing requirements for agents and brokers and define each license differently, so check with your real estate board for state-specific information.
Real estate broker exams differ from state to state, but if you learn the material, create a study plan, and take advantage of resources like practice questions and exams, it’s highly likely you’ll pass. Be sure you review state requirements before registering for the exam to ensure you are eligible, however. Depending on where you live, you may have to pass the real estate broker exam before you apply for your license or after your application is approved.