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What Happens If You Fail the Real Estate Exam?

What Happens If You Fail the Real Estate Exam?

If you’re wondering, “What happens if you fail the real estate exam?” don’t worry; it’s not the end of the world.

Read on to learn what your next steps should be and why we think it’s not as big of a deal as you’d think.

What Happens If You Fail the Real Estate Exam?

Have you recently failed your real estate exam? Are you feeling lost and wondering how to move forward? You aren’t alone.

Failing the real estate exam can be discouraging, but there are ways to ensure you pass the next time you take the exam.

Most importantly, don’t worry. It’s a hard test, and would-be agents fail the exam every day.

Next, read on to find out what happens if you fail the real estate exam and what your next steps may be. I was a previously licensed agent in Nebraska, so I’ve been through the process.

While I passed both sections on my first try, I also prepared more than most and will share what worked for me to help you learn how you can do the same.

What’s Next?

In short, that’s up to you. There are several directions you can take after failing your real estate exam.  You may decide that real estate is not for you and go in a different direction entirely.

Or, if you know you want to become a realtor, you can retake the exam. With more thorough preparation, time management skills, and confidence, you can ace your next test.

What Should I Do If I Failed the Real Estate Exam?

For a piece on what happens if you fail the real estate exam, a young Asian woman reading a book and studying to pass the next time in a highrise building


There are no concrete steps you can take after failing the exam, but there are many things you can do to improve your score the next time you take it. Below are a few skills you should focus on before your exam retake.

1. Preparation

The first thing you need to note before you start preparing to take the exam is that, well, this exam is difficult.

In North Carolina in 2020, only 59% of public school test-takers passed, while 61% of private school testers passed. The questions on the exam aren’t things you’d know unless you studied them; you can’t rely strictly on intuition or context clues.

So, if you fail the first time, don’t beat yourself up; preparation is imperative.

The real estate exam is in two parts:

  • State real estate
  • National real estate

The most important thing when you’re preparing for the exam? Make a study schedule and follow it!

Some study scheduling tips are:

  • Have a friend taking the exam? Study as a group with allotted times throughout the week.
  • Try to get at least a six-week head start. That way, you aren’t overwhelmed by information and have time to study it.
  • Have someone hold you accountable. It could be a friend, family member, or roommate, but have someone keep tabs on you.

You should also research what’s on the test in your particular state if you have not already. Most state agencies can provide you with a study guide with outlines, descriptions, and timelines to help you be as prepared as possible.

Having a test prep book on hand is also quite helpful. If you went by your own accord the last time you took the exam and subsequently failed, you want to consider buying a few exam books.

The national part of the test is available for purchase, and you can take practice exams as many times as you want online.

2. Study Your Legal Terms

Legalese is a real thing, and it trips a ton of people up on the real estate exam. One of the most beneficial things you can do is to memorize legal terms and what they mean.

The easiest way to do this is:

  • Google your state’s legislature (here are South Carolina’s, for example)
  • Find the segment with statutes and laws on real estate
  • Note which ones you’ve seen on previous exams

Even with some research, the legality of real estate can be tedious and confusing. If you need additional help with legal terms, see if you have any attorneys in your life that may be able to clear things up. 

If you panicked when you saw legal terms on the exam, memorization is your best bet. You need to know these laws extensively, so this part of the process is crucial to your future success.

Real estate laws are dynamic and constantly updated or changed, so be diligent about staying up-to-date on your real estate law knowledge. 

3. Confidence and Emotional Strategies

It may sound arbitrary, but getting the proper mindset for your real estate exam retake is essential. It’s simple. If you aren’t confident in your preparedness or yourself, you won’t do well on the exam.

Find out where you get your motivation. Why do you want to be a realtor? What about it do you love? Is there something keeping you from giving it your all, or are you just a procrastinator by nature?

Some tips to help you with the mental aspects of taking the test are:

  • Don’t focus on the fact that you did not pass. Instead, focus on moving forward.
  • Be aware of the timing. Don’t take your test during a stressful period of your life if you know you’re going to be busy and unable to study.

One reason some test-takers are hesitant to take the exam? Finances. Taking multiple tests can get expensive, and if you’re worried about money, take a few months to save up enough for more than one test.

4. Time Management

This sort of ties into the preparation suggestion, but it deserves its own segment due to its importance. If you want to succeed, you need to manage your time wisely.

Don’t waste time studying every single term or law in the book; instead, concentrate on the ones you know are on the test.

Don’t wait too long after you finish pre-licensing; take the exam as soon as you can. Schedule your retake a few weeks after your first exam, unless you are unable to do so due to financial or personal reasons.

Something that works great for me is this: I go through and answer the questions I am sure I know. Then, I take any extra time and re-read the ones I’m unsure about. I also use all available time.

It frustrates me when I see would-be agents only use some of the allotted time. Yes, you might take a little longer in the testing center, but there’s literally no downside to double- and triple-checking your answers.

If I have any time left over after this, I will re-check my answers. I’ll bet that you’ll find at least a couple answers that you misread, and a single wrong question could be the difference between passing and failing. That’s why it’s so important to use all the available time.

Things to Consider

In addition to the points above, there are a few other considerations:

  • Fees: each state has different pricing for each test
  • Be sure to know if you have to retake both parts or just the failed one
  • The length of time you have to finish testing to get your license
  • The number of times you can take the test

After you pass your exam, you also need to be sure you’re aware of your state’s continuing education requirements. Most states require several hours of continuing education per year.

These courses typically include the following:

  • Risk management
  • Real estate law
  • Fair housing
  • Ethics

Be sure to keep up with these credits, or you can lose your license and have to go through the entire licensure process again—exam included.

Frequently Asked Questions

Man with a clipboard smiling for a piece on what happens if you fail the real estate exam

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If you’re still wondering what you should do after failing the real estate exam, below are some common questions I hear regularly from students sitting for the real estate exam.

What State Has the Most Challenging Real Estate Exam?

Colorado has the trickiest exam. Candidates have to have at least 160 hours of education, pass two exams, and get fingerprinted. Most other states require less than 100 hours of real estate education.

Texas is also a candidate for exam difficulty. If you fail one part of the exam three times, you have to take 30 more hours of instruction. If you fail both parts three times, that amount goes up to 60 additional education hours.

Is Real Estate a Stable Career in 2021?

Yes and no. The market is booming right now, so in that case, yes. However, the market fluctuates frequently, so you shouldn’t base your decision to be a realtor just on the current market.

Is It Better to Be a Broker or Real Estate Agent?

That depends on your needs and wants. Brokers tend to have to go through more extensive training, but they also make more - $78,940 is the average broker’s salary, while an agent’s average is $61,720.

Are There Limits on How Long I Have After Pre-Licensure to Take the Test?

In some states, yes. For instance, in Alabama, you only have six months after completing pre-licensure to pass the exam. Otherwise, you have to take the pre-licensing course (including fees and tests) again. 

In West Virginia, that time frame is even shorter. You have two months to complete your exam before you must restart the process.

In What States Is It Best to Be a Real Estate Agent?

New York is at the top of the list, with Massachusetts and Connecticut following second and third positions. No southern states are in the top 10. 

Does a Real Estate License Expire?

Yes. However, the length of time you have before expiration varies by state. The average is about two years. 

Arkansas requires renewal every year, while California only requires you to renew your license every four years. 

Where Can I Find Information on Real Estate Law?

If you’re looking for more information on ethical concerns in real estate, the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development has all the current regulations on its website.

Takeaways from Failing Your Real Estate Exam

Failing your real estate exam isn’t the end of your career. It can be discouraging, but it’s also a chance for you to flourish on your second (or third, or fourth) attempt.

Remember that you now have experience with the exam; even though each test is different, you’ll have a better idea of what you’re going into the second time around.

If you focus on proper time management, confidence, and preparedness, you’ll succeed in your dream of becoming an agent.