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Real estate agents are a vital part of the buying and selling processes for residential properties and becoming a successful real estate agent can prove to be a lucrative and rewarding career.  In order to become a real estate agent, you’ll need to be licensed in the state(s) in which you practice. “Every state is a little bit different,” says Abby Joiner, a Broker Associate licensed in Indiana. 

While the exam requirements may vary by state, there are a few areas that remain the same across the board.

The basics

“Generally you’re going to need at least a high school diploma or a GED. You’re going to need to take pre-licensing classes and then study for the exam. There’s a national section and a state section of the test, and assuming you pass both, you then apply for your state license with your state board,” says Joiner.

The exam time limit can range between 90 minutes and four hours. Typically the exam consists of 150 multiple choice questions. Test-takers will need to verify the following information with their individual state’s testing centers prior to the exam:

  • How often is the exam given?
  • How much does it cost?
  • How do you register for it?
  • Will it be paper-and-pencil or computer-based?
  • Can you use a calculator?

Exam topics

“The content can be a bit dense. I encountered questions about deeds, titles, contracts, and land descriptions. A lot of what I was tested on focused on property law and ethics.”

We’re not saying you don’t need to know the difference between a craftsman and a colonial, but we strongly recommend learning about the topics below:

  • Law of Agency
  • Interests, Estates, and Ownership
  • Fair Housing Laws
  • Public Land Use Laws
  • Environmental Laws
  • Contracts and Deeds
  • Leasing
  • Describing Property and Appraising It
  • Mortgages
  • Taxes and Assessments
  • Closings
  • Review of Real Estate Math

“For me, memorizing legal terms was the most challenging. You don’t need the same knowledge base as a lawyer, but you still need a basic understanding of legal terms. There’s also a bit of math on the test. Most of it is pretty straightforward. For example, you’ll need to know how to figure out taxes and mortgage amortization.”

Need to brush up your real estate knowledge? Check out Peterson’s Master the Real Estate License Examinations.

How to study for the exam

Peterson’s Real Estate Practice Tests Plus+ can assist you in creating a personalized study plan, in addition to providing six full-length real estate practice tests to help you review the material. 

Also, make sure to carve out time each week for study sessions. To keep you feeling calm and confident on test day, Peterson’s recommends test-takers begin studying at least six weeks in advance. 

What happens after the test?

This step will vary state to state, but generally after you pass the exam you will apply for your license.

“In Indiana, you have to be affiliated with a broker in order to get your license and have it become active in status. I think it’s important to interview with brokerages before you take your exam. As soon as I passed, they sent my paperwork in for me, and a week later I received my license and I was able to work.”

And your real estate training won’t end after the test is over. 

“It may be different in other states, but in Indiana, you have to complete a 30-hour post-licensing continuing education course within the first two years of being licensed. Then, every year after that you will be required to complete 12 hours of continuing education per licensing year.”

Becoming a real estate agent will require a lot of work. It’s a big decision that will require an investment of your time and yes, some money too. Think you’re ready to take the exam? Check your state’s government website and register today!