5 Techniques for Passing the Iowa Real Estate Exam

By Amy Schafer, Director of Education

Before I get into my list, I think I should start with a little inside nugget.  I have been officially licensed since February 2002 and since then, I have had ZERO clients ask me how many times I took the real estate exam and I certainly have never had anyone ask about my score.  Focus on passing:  you need a 56 on the national exam and 28 on the state exam.  You don’t need to be a hero, you just need to pass.  I know agents who got very high scores and have barely sold any houses and I know agents who are in the top 20% of all sales and they took multiple times to pass.  Of course, passing the real estate exam right out of the gate just gets your career going that much faster, so here are my top tips for the exam.

Young beautiful woman sitting at a desk in an office and working on blueprint
  1. Don’t Be In A Rush.  You will get a total of 3 hours to take both exams: 120 minutes for 80 national exam questions and 60 minutes for 40 state exam questions. Time block to be there early to check in and the entire time to take the test.  Don’t rush yourself to take in less so you can be somewhere else.  It will create un-needed pressure.  Most don’t need the entire time, yet it gives plenty of time to review your work and make sure you have answered ALL of the questions.  Also, as my mother would say: “go fed and watered” which means use the restroom and have a snack.  Don’t have your blood sugar dropping because you skipped lunch or breakfast as an excuse to blow the exam!
  2. Use the Process of Elimination.  This is a very strong strategy for taking the exam.  Read the questions carefully and if the answer is a struggle, use the power of elimination.  That will help you focus in the right direction to find the answer.  Typically, you can narrow the questions down to two possible correct answers right away and then you’ve got yourself a 50/50 shot.
  3. Read Very Carefully.  There are negatives and questions that use NOT or EXCEPT in them.  They are trying to trick you so don’t fall for it.  Slow down and read the entire question.  Don’t assume you know the answer without reading and re-reading.  I love it when a student asked me a question like “Amy, why is “D” the answer to question #23?” and when I ask them to read the question out loud, about half way through, they get the ah-ha look.  Which means, they just needed to re-read the question.  And while reading out loud at the test center is a no-no, I do find it helpful, silly, but helpful to read in my head the dramatic version of the question.  It helps the words stand out to me. 
  4. Keep It Simple.  The questions can be tricky, so just use the information provided in the question.  Don’t create an extra scenario and make it more confusing.  Focus on what information is in the question and what you need to answer.  Another tactic the test will use to surprise you is give you TOO much information.  Focus on what the question wants to know, they may give you more story than you need.  Plus, as adults we often tend to learn by our past experiences so I caution students not to tie yourself to those past experiences and have the over-ride what scenario is in the test question.  Stay focused on the question at hand.
  5. Take the test ASAP.  As soon as you finish the 60-hour pre-license…. schedule the exam.  Waiting too long and thinking you will out study yourself usually means information will start to fade.  The exam centers can start to fill up since several students will want to test once the class is over, so most students start thinking about the test schedules early.  Plan ahead to get ahead.  I am not proposing you take it the next day, you can have study/review time but get it done!  If anything, get it over with so you can either apply for your license or know where you need to study based on your exam results. 

Amy Schafer, Education Director: Pre-license and Continuing Education Trainer Licensed since 2001, Amy is a REALTOR with Keller Williams Realty Greater Des Moines and serves as the Director of Education for the Center for Real Estate Excellence.  “My passion for teaching comes from the confidence I see students get as they prepare for a new career in real estate.” Originally from SE Iowa, Amy attended Iowa State University and then began her career in retail sales management.  Amy enjoys traveling with friends, tickets to almost any event and many creative outlets such as pottery, china painting and upcycling projects.

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