A lucrative career in the beauty industry starts with passing the cosmetology state board exam. The cosmetology exam consists of a written part and a practical part. Many cosmetology degree students find passing the practical exam relatively easy. After all, you study beauty because it’s your passion. However, getting through the cosmetology state board written exam is tougher.
Passing the state board cosmetology exam first time requires preparation. You need to study hard to learn cosmetology theory. And you must have plenty of practice to showcase your hairstyling, manicure, or skincare skills. As soon as you get your license, your high-paying cosmetology career is ready to take off.
Unfortunately, statistics show as much as 50 percent of cosmetology students fail the written test. But having to retake your cosmetology exam only puts your beauty career on hold. Of course, beauty school gets more expensive if you must retake exams. And the longer it takes you to qualify, the less money you’re earning.
Preparation is the key to passing the cosmetology state exam on the first go. This article helps you to be prepared for both parts of the exam — written and practical.
Related reading: How to save money on cosmetology school.
What is a Cosmetology State Board Exam?
Passing the cosmetology state board exam qualifies you to become a professional in the beauty industry. The National-Interstate Council of State Boards of Cosmetology (NIC) operates the licensing system. To be prepared for exam success, it helps to know what the exam consists of.
Cosmetology state board written exam
The cosmetology written exam tests your knowledge of cosmetology theory. There are around 100 questions in the multiple-choice exam, and you have about 90 minutes to complete it. The cosmetology test has questions relating to chemicals, sanitation, safety, anatomy, and skin diseases.
In most states, you must pass the cosmetology theory exam before progressing to the practical exam.
Cosmetology state board practical exam
The cosmetology practical exam tests your skills in performing various beauty procedures. Depending on your specialty, you have to demonstrate hairstyling, skin care techniques, manicures, or pedicures. Additionally, you should show that you follow proper sanitization, safety, and health practices during the exam.
Related reading: Five essential facts for cosmetology students.
How to Pass the Cosmetology State Board Exam
Benjamin Franklin is quoted as saying: “Fail to prepare, and you prepare to fail.” The more you prepare for the cosmetology exam, the greater your chances of first-time success.
How can you prepare to pass the state board cosmetology exam first time? Read on to find out.
1. Schedule time to study cosmetology theory
From your first day at beauty school, set aside time to study cosmetology theory. You need to know about chemicals, certain skin disorders, sanitation practices, and anatomy. Additionally, you should have a broad knowledge of applying beauty products and styling.
It’s good to remember that working in the beauty industry is more than hairstyling, manicures, and facials. You must know the science behind cosmetology. You learn how certain chemicals react to others. Also, it’s vital to understand how to apply beauty treatments without causing injury.
2. Take cosmetology practice exams
Taking cosmetology practice tests is one of the best ways to prepare to pass the state board exam. Online practice exams or mobile apps contain thousands of questions from cosmetology exams. Even if you find the written exams challenging at first, they will be easier in time.
The best practice exams provide descriptions of unfamiliar terms. Also, mock exams explain the reason why answers are correct. This means that regularly taking practice cosmetology exams are a fantastic study aid.
When taking practice cosmetology exams, remember to time yourself. The exam usually lasts around 90 minutes; however, each state has its own requirements. Most states require a pass mark of at least 70 percent.
Related reading: How to become a successful cosmetologist.
3. Get plenty of rest before the exam
To increase your chances of passing the cosmetology state board exam, rest up the night before. If you have prepared well, you won’t need to spend the evening with last-minute cramming. Try to relax and get to bed early. In the morning, enjoy a good, healthy breakfast that has plenty of protein and fewer carbs.
4. Bring all the necessary supplies
Generally, you need to bring your own equipment and supplies to the cosmetology exam. The supplies to take fall into several categories. There are tools such as scissors, combs, brushes, a blow dryer, and equipment for nails. Then you need sterilization equipment such as disinfectant and hand sanitizer. You’ll also need to bring protective items such as gloves, aprons, cloths, and shampoo capes.
Additionally, you may need to bring a mannequin head and storage box for your items.
5. Follow the cosmetology exam instructions
Preparing to pass the cosmetology exam requires that you read the instructions carefully. For many procedures, there are steps that you must do in the correct order. This starts with equipment sterilization. Then you have to perform the procedure correctly. At the end, you should clean down your workstation.
Remember that evaluators mark each step of the cosmetology practical exam. So, forgetting one or two vital steps in a procedure could lose you valuable points. Part of your cosmetology exam preparation should be memorizing the precise steps for each process.
Other handy tips to get prepared for passing the cosmetology exam
What else should you remember about taking the exam? Here is a checklist of things that can help you prepare well:
- Dress well — Your choice of outfit can affect your chances of passing. Make sure you wear comfortable clothing and have suitable shoes. Remember, you will spend a few hours on your feet during the practical exam.
- Arrive early — Plan to arrive in good time for your exam. You may have to consider traffic conditions around the time of your test. For example, if you’ve got a 9 a.m. start, you may have to deal with the rush hour.
- Bring the necessary documents — Don’t make the mistake of forgetting your ID and any other documents you need.
Preparation for the Cosmetology State Board Exam
From the day you enroll in cosmetology school, you should begin preparing for the exam. Getting ready for taking the exam requires thorough knowledge of cosmetology and well-practiced skills. On the day of the exam, you can arrive knowing that you have prepared well to pass the cosmetology state board exam.