This article is part of a larger series on How to Become a Real Estate Agent.
Before becoming a real estate salesperson, you must take and pass the real estate exam, which covers state and national real estate topics. It can feel overwhelming, but reading materials out loud and using mnemonic devices as you study ahead can help you prepare for the real estate exam and feel confident on test day. Read along for more actionable tips, resources, and suggested course providers with tools to help to ace your real estate exam on the first try.
For many aspiring agents, the most efficient way to study is with an all-in-one real estate exam prep program like PrepAgent. There are multiple exam prep packages from PrepAgent, including national and state-specific practice questions, exam prep videos, interactive flashcards, vocabulary sheets, and live webinars. PrepAgent is one of the best investments you can make in your future real estate career.
For those who prefer to prepare on their own, here are the top 10 study tips for passing the real estate exam:
1. Take Notes on Paper
It’s somewhat uncommon to see people taking notes with pen and paper during this digital age. However, studies found that students who took notes on laptops did significantly worse on tests than students who wrote their notes longhand. In fact, it was found that 77% of students who used handwritten notes scored better than those who took notes electronically.
When people type their notes, they have a tendency to write down what the lecturer says verbatim, which doesn’t require as much thought. In contrast, people who handwrite notes from their real estate education courses must think about the content, note what’s most important, and rewrite it in their own words.
If you strongly prefer to review notes on a computer, consider re-typing your notes in outline form or writing them on paper after the lecture or online lesson is completed. Then, study your notes and create flashcards to further solidify the concepts.
2. Schedule Short Periods of Focused Study
Most students and aspiring real estate agents struggle with procrastination. One way to trick yourself and prevent procrastination is by using the Pomodoro technique. Set a timer, study for 25 minutes, then take a five-minute break. Use the free Pomodoro tracker below to start timing yourself and tracking your tasks.
During the study time, cut out all possible distractions and focus entirely on studying. During the five-minute break, reward yourself with ice cream, a YouTube video, or a short walk. You should also take one long break after working for more than a few hours.
3. Study a Little Bit Everyday
The reality is that most students of all ages and industries “cram” for tests, but there are many studies done over hundreds of years that prove the ineffectiveness of cramming. In fact, “the spacing effect” is the scientific term used to describe the opposite of cramming, which is studying something over time.
The spacing effect has been studied in different ways since 1885. Interestingly, a study by UCLA found that 90% of participants in multiple experiments scored better when they studied over time. However, during the experiment, 72% of participants mistakenly believed that cramming was more effective.
If you are truly seeking the best way to study for the real estate exam, take it from the research and make a goal to study a little bit every day. Even short study periods after each real estate class will ultimately be more impactful for your memory than an all-nighter before the exam. It’s even better to set aside an hour or so each day to read materials or practice with your study tools.
4. Make Real Estate Exam Flashcards
Another scientifically proven way to prepare for the real estate exam is by using flashcards. Part of the reason flashcards work so well is because they force you to remember information outside the context of a multiple-choice question without the ability to eliminate answers that are obviously incorrect. What’s more, real estate flashcards can be portable or digital, so you can study anywhere and at any time.
Another benefit of including flashcards while studying for the real estate exam is that they’re already included in some of the top exam prep courses. For example, PrepAgent includes interactive online flashcards, in addition to the real estate prep videos, audio lessons, vocabulary sheets, and thousands of practice questions. Plus, the online flashcards allow you to easily customize questions for even better understanding.
5. Read Out Loud to Improve Memory
Another physical activity that will help your memory is reading information aloud. It’s called the “production effect,” and science has shown that speaking aloud and simultaneously hearing yourself helps your brain store the information in long-term memory. In fact, students in studies recognized and remembered between 54% and 85% more terms when they were read aloud.
Use this real estate test tip on the terms or concepts you’re having a particularly hard time remembering, like encumbrance, liens, or easement. If you’re having difficulty remembering concepts for your real estate exam, recruit a friend or family member to listen to you review and explain terms and concepts aloud.
6. Take a Walk Before Your Real Estate Exam
Many scientific studies have proven a clear relationship between physical exercise and improving memory. In fact, research from a professor of psychology at Northeastern University found that just 20 minutes of moderate exercise can boost memory and brain function.
While you study and prepare for the real estate exam, make it a priority to take exercise breaks by taking a walk or going to the gym. In addition, plan ahead for test day. Before sitting down for the exam, take a quick stroll to clear your mind, increase focus, and improve your performance.
7. Use Mnemonic Devices to Make Memorizing Easier
A mnemonic device is a memory technique that uses shortcuts to recall complex information, like “ROY G BIV” for the colors of the rainbow. In scientific studies, mnemonic devices have helped students remember information with up to 39% more accuracy. There are already a few popular mnemonic devices for real estate exam topics, like H.E.A.R.S., which covers the area of implied covenants. However, creating your own mnemonic devices can make it easier for you to remember study materials.
Here are a few clever mnemonics teaching you how to pass a real estate exam:
Mnemonic device: Even if a lease is silent on the topic, the landlord H.E.A.R.S. these five implied covenants:
- H: Habitability
- E: Quiet enjoyment
- A: Assignability of the lease
- R: Good repair (this covenant is made by commercial landlords)
- S: Minimal security precautions
Extinguishing an Easement
Mnemonic device: To remember the necessary steps to extinguishing an easement, use A.C.R.A.M.:
- A: Abandonment
- C: Condemnation by state’s exercise of eminent domain
- R: Signed writing, releasing the easement
- A: Adverse possession of a servient estate in a hostile manner, preventing use of the easement
- M: Merger by common ownership of all (100%) dominant and servient estates, because one can’t possess an easement, covenant, or profit on their own property
Mnemonic device: Remember L.A.W.S. to memorize four types of negative easements:
- L: Light easements
- A: Easements of air
- W: Easements regarding water use
- S: Easements of support
8. Remove Distractions
According to the American Psychological Association, “multitasking” is not the process of performing two or more tasks simultaneously. Instead, it’s actually “switching costs,” which means it takes longer to complete both tasks and is less effective. In fact, only 2% of the population is proficient at multitasking. Thus, when you’re studying for the real estate exam, you shouldn’t try to focus on anything else.
For example, some people study with distractions like cell phones, TVs, and other electronics, but this actually leads to poor retention, greater frustration, and brain drain. Instead, it’s much more efficient to focus on the real estate material for a short time without any devices or distractions, then reward yourself with the electronics afterward.
9. Study With Friends
If you have friends or colleagues taking the exam at the same time, form a study group so you can share notes, trade mnemonic devices, and help each other work through complex concepts. If you don’t already know of others studying for the same exam, consider joining online forums or study groups where you can collaborate and get real estate test help. For example, PrepAgent has a free Real Estate Exam Study Facebook Group that you can join.
10. Master Exam Day Best Practices
If you’ve spent a few weeks or months studying regularly, using study tools and actively improving your memory and understanding, you should be confident about your ability to pass the real estate exam. However, taking an important exam can be stressful no matter how well you’ve studied, so there are a few test day practices to remember.
To stay calm and focused during the test, follow these suggestions:
- Relax: If you start feeling anxious during the test, pause to take a deep breath or a sip of water. Calm your nerves by reminding yourself that it will be over soon, and you will be a licensed real estate agent.
- Skip difficult questions: If you don’t know the answer to a question, temporarily skip it and come back to it later. Lingering over difficult questions eats up valuable test-taking time and mental energy, so save the hardest questions for last.
- Work backward to choose the correct answer: Pick out answers you know are wrong and cross them out. If you have to guess, 50/50 odds are better than picking one answer out of four.
- Don’t change your answers: Once you’ve answered a question, don’t go back to change your answer. Studies have shown that you’re far more likely to change a right answer to a wrong answer than vice versa.
What You Need to Know to Pass the Real Estate Exam
Every state’s real estate exam includes questions that cover both national and state-specific real estate law. The subject areas for the national portion are the same in every state, but content areas in the state portion are unique from state to state. In general, the state portion of the exam will include questions about state-specific laws, regulations, and the practice of real estate within the state.
The national portion of the exam includes general skill questions and information necessary to practice as a real estate agent, like agency law, the basics of property ownership, real estate math and financing, and contracts.
Common subject areas on the real estate exam include:
- Property ownership and land use controls and regulations: This section typically covers classes and characteristics of property, how to describe property, encumbrances, and government rights in land (e.g., eminent domain).
- Laws of agency and fiduciary duties: The exam touches on subjects like how to create and terminate an agency relationship, responsibilities an agent owes to a buyer or seller, and necessary disclosures.
- Property valuation and financial analysis: Exam centers generally provide a basic calculator to assist with questions on how to estimate home value and conduct financial analyses.
- Financing: Test takers should understand types of loans, financing and credit laws, and financing documents like mortgages and notes.
- Transfer of property: Important property transfer concepts include title insurance, deeds, escrow, and tax implications and requirements.
- Practice of real estate and disclosures: Aspiring agents should understand elements of real estate practice, such as truth in advertising, fair housing, ethics, property management, and disclosure statements.
- Contracts: The contract law covered on the real estate exam generally includes documents like listing agreements, offers and purchase contracts, promissory notes, and purchase and lease options.
Real Estate Exam Prep Courses
There are many different ways to study for the real estate exam on your own, but working with an exam prep program is often more efficient and effective. Many real estate exam prep courses include extensive study tools, groups, instructor access, and even provide a step-by-step strategy to help you study every day. Start by evaluating which of the following top exam prep courses is the best fit for you.
Widest range of study tools, practice questions, and on-demand and live webinars and video lessons
Six months of access to the study tools, exam videos, and practice questions at the most affordable price
Live online courses and in-depth study materials and sessions with an instructor
Aspiring agents wanting self-paced and interactive exam prep for national and state-specific material in every state
Check out the best online real estate schools to find a provider that suits your learning style and requirements.
Free Online Real Estate Practice Exams
When you’re considering how to prepare for the real estate exam, practice tests should be one of the most important considerations. Reading real estate practice exam questions will help you become familiar with the types of questions and how to choose the correct answer. The other suggested study tips and tools are important to help you understand the information, but practice exams help you translate your understanding to the exam.
All of the real estate exam prep courses above include practice exam questions, but you may want to start with a free version. Here are five free online real estate practice exams:
1. Five Online Practice Real Estate Exams
Test-Guide is the only source that provides five different real estate practice exams for free. Each exam includes 20 questions; the exams are recently updated with actual questions from state licensing exams.
2. Simple Real Estate Practice Test
On Real Estate Exam Ninja, you’ll find a practice test with 25 questions. You can start the exam immediately, without signing up or inputting any contact information. When you answer each question, you get immediate feedback about whether your answer was correct or incorrect. If you’re looking for the most convenient real estate practice exam, this is a great place to start.
3. Free PrepAgent Real Estate Practice Test
If you’re considering PrepAgent, start with this free practice test. It doesn’t require any contact information, and you receive feedback and an explanation for both correct and incorrect answers.
4. State-specific Real Estate Practice Test
Real Estate Prep is unique because it provides state-specific questions as well as a difficulty selection. The practice real estate exam includes 50 questions, and you choose your difficulty level before starting the questions. You can also retake this exam with different questions. This is an ideal practice test if you want to work your way up to taking timed exams.
5. Real Estate Practice Questions With Explanations
Union Test Prep offers a wide selection of practice questions divided by topics that are always included on the actual state real estate exam. This is particularly helpful in testing your understanding of each topic. In addition, this practice test provides instant feedback and explanations for correct and incorrect answers.
To prepare for the real estate exam and maximize your chances of passing it on the first try, there are many specific and actionable steps you can take. Make a plan to study over time and use study tools and strategies like flashcards, video tutorials, and online study groups to boost your memory and understanding. With the tools described above, you’ll be confident and fully prepared to pass your real estate exam.