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Contractors License Exams: Here’s What to Expect

Mar 21, 2022

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After your contractor license application is approved by the California Contractors State License Board (CSLB), the organization will reach out to schedule an examination date. If your date is soon approaching, here’s what you can expect from test day.

You’ll first register with an onsite attendant who will check you in and take you to your testing station. Each station includes a touchscreen computer and headphones, both of which are cleaned after every use. You’ll also be provided a test booklet, scaled ruler, calculator, dry erase board, marker, and eraser. The attendant will show you how to use the computer and headphones and make sure you’re settled with everything you need. Once you’re ready, you’ll tap the screen to begin.

You’ll then have three hours to complete the exam. Exams are multiple-choice, and trade exams will often refer to images or diagrams in the test booklet. If you’re taking two exams in one day, you’ll be given a break in between.

When you finish, you’ll get your results immediately. You must get a minimum score to pass, which varies by trade type. If you don’t pass, the attendant will explain your results, and you can schedule a second exam. From the time of receiving your results, you may take the exam as many times as you would like within an 18-month period. After that window, you will have to resubmit your application and start the process again.

If you do pass, you’ll then need to submit all other fees and paperwork, as well as your background check requirements. Once everything is approved, the CSLB will issue you your California contractors license and you can get to work.

Contractors License Exam Day Dos

To ensure you have the smoothest experience on exam day, here are some things to make sure you do.

  • Let the CSLB know in advance if you need assistance from a translator or an American With Disabilities Act accommodation.
  • Arrive at the test center at least 15 minutes before your scheduled exam time. Bring a mask. These requirements are changing, but you want to be prepared in case your facility insists. Have a government-issued form of ID, such as a valid driver’s license, resident alien card, California ID card, U.S. Employment Authorization card, U.S. passport, or U.S. military ID.
  • Handle all personal matters before the exam. While you will be allowed one brief restroom break if necessary, you will not be permitted to leave your test station for any other reason except for a valid emergency.

Contractors License Exam Day Don’ts

Now let’s cover the don’ts. There are a few things that can derail your exam day, so keep these in mind.

  • Don’t come to the testing station if you’re ill. The attendant will likely have you reschedule.
  • Don’t bring a lot with you. There are strict requirements about what can enter the testing station. If you have a weapon on you, you’ll be asked to leave. All electronic devices, including phones, are not permitted, and neither are purses, bags, backpacks, calculators, watches, lanyards, writing utensils, food, beverages, hats, jackets, sunglasses, or paperwork. The attendant will store these items for you if necessary.
  • Don’t wait until test day to clear up questions. It’s likely the attendant will not be the person who can help you, so contact the CSLB in advance with any questions or concerns.
  • Don’t be hostile with test station workers or other exam takers. You’ll likely be asked to leave.

Contractors License Exam Prep Best Practices

With those things in mind, let’s now talk about preparing for your exam itself. Here are some tried-and-true best practices when it comes to taking a big test.

  • Enlist the help of reliable study materials for the exam you’re taking, and carefully read the information until you have it down. You may want to use memory techniques, such as imagery or pneumonic devices.
  • Get good sleep the night before so you can focus during the test.
  • Eat before test time. You may be at the test center for nearly four hours.
  • Give yourself plenty of time to arrive and get settled.
  • Make sure you know exactly where the test station is so you’re not late.
  • Read all test instructions carefully and check your answers before submitting them.
  • Never leave a question unanswered. If you don’t know it, make an educated guess.
  • Once you see the exam, figure out how you’ll need to pace yourself to finish in the time allotted.
  • Keep a positive mindset. Testing can be overwhelming, but maintain positive self-talk and don’t give up.

Feeling better about exam day? By following these instructions and arriving prepared, you should have no problem passing your exam. If you haven’t already checked out our exam study guides, we recommend looking at the guide that relates to your trade exam to help you prepare. The more you understand what types of questions you’ll be asked and in what format, the more confident and comfortable you’ll be when exam day arrives.

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