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California Contractors License Practice Test Taking Tips

The State contractor's exam is almost exclusively multiple-choice. Some of the older questions are true/false, but none are fill-in or essay questions.

  • ANSWER EVERY QUESTION; always answer every question. Any unanswered question will be scored as a miss. Almost every multiple-choice question will have four possible answers. So the minimum probable score you can get, unless you are deliberately trying to flunk the exam, is 25% (i.e., one out of four).
  • ELIMINATE WRONG ANSWERS; much of the time, two of the four answers will be clearly wrong, and you can eliminate them relatively easily, this leaves two answers to choose from that are relatively close. If you can eliminate the choices to two, which means you are now working on a score probability of at least 50%, which is not all that far from the minimum passing score. If you rely on what you've learned from the course plus your own experience plus a little bit of luck, you are over the hump
  • GO WITH YOUR FIRST HUNCH; if, however, none of the answers make any sense at all, and you are unable to narrow the answers down to two, then your strategy is a bit different. First, if you have even the slightest hunch or intuition when you first read the question, go for the answer you pick first AND DON'T CHANGE YOUR MIND (unless another question absolutely establishes the correct answer). In a high proportion of cases, changing your mind will result in an incorrect answer.
  • SELECT MOST ACCURATE ANSWERS; Ok it is time to guess, but guess wisely. It is said that, all things being equal, the longest answer may be correct more often than shorter answers. (That is because a correct answer often has to be qualified or explained to make it the correct one.) Also, the most conservative or prudent or safety conscious answer may be more often correct.
  • SELECT MOST SEVERE PENALTIES; A State exam is not as likely to ask you questions about what you do not have to do or what you can get away with. Likewise, if it asks what sort of penalty is likely to be levied in the case of an infraction of laws, rules, or regulations, the answer is not usually the mildest of the penalties.
  • ELIMINATE ASSUMPTIONS; it has been said that Answers "B" and "C" occur more often than "A" and "D." (That's because test writers have an unconscious tendency to bury the correct answer in the middle of the choices.) However, that was truer of tests in the pre-computer age. The Board's tests are administered via a sophisticated computer program that would eliminate a simple bias like the position of answers.
  • CAREFULLY READ EACH QUESTION; don't be too quick to answer a question that you are very confident about. A change of only a word or two can completely change a question around. Read each question deliberately. Each question is asking about one single fact. Try not to "read into" a question with exceptions and qualifications, especially on the trade exam.
  • SELECT BEST CHOICE OFFERED; you are being asked to choose the BEST of the answers offered. That does not mean that the correct answer is absolutely the best answer in every single case: It only means that it is the best of the choices offered. For example, a question might ask: "Which of the following is the most expensive type of material?" You'll have four answers to choose from. You may know that another type of material is, in fact, more expensive than any of the four offered, but your job is to pick the best of the choice that is offered to the question.
  • CALCULATE MATH & ESTIMATING QUESTIONS LAST; it is also a good idea to save all the estimating (if applicable) or math questions for the end of the exam. Similar calculations should be done together so you'll have an easier time of it.
  • ANSWER DIFFICULT QUESTIONS LAST; every question counts for one point, whether it is a difficult or easy question. So don't spend too much time on a difficult one. You can skip any number of questions and come back to them later after you've answered the rest of the exam. Sometimes information in a different question can trigger a recollection of the correct answer to the question you are working on. Also, having an unanswered question in "the back of your mind" as you work on the rest of the questions means that sometimes you are unconsciously dredging coming up another correct answer.
  • YOU MAY CHALLENGE QUESTIONS; you are allowed to challenge, in writing, any question that you believe is incorrect, unfair, unclear, or otherwise unanswerable. (Ask the proctor for a challenge form at the exam site.) The State will not reveal your score if you pass. They will if you fail, and they will give you a percentage breakdown of your score according to the type of question (e.g., materials, trade practices, health, and safety, etc.). The percentage can be difficult to interpret, however if there were only a few questions in that area. For example, a 50% on health/safety questions can mean that you missed 1 of 2 questions!
  • ANSWER CHALLENGED QUESTIONS; if you challenge a question, GO AHEAD AND ANSWER IT ANYWAY. The State will read your challenge carefully. If they agree with you, they will exclude the question from your exam score. If they do not agree, they will hold you responsible for the question. So give your best guess at an answer even if you believe the question is unanswerable. Whether or not the State agrees with you, you will not be penalized for challenging a question!

State Exam Tips

  • CONTACT US WHEN YOU RECEIVE YOUR "NOTICE TO APPEAR" - When you've received a test date from the State, make sure you send us the enclosed postcard letting us know! When we receive your card, we can check to make sure the course has not undergone any recent changes or additions. If it has, we'll send you the revisions ASAP.
  • COMPUTERIZED TESTING - All examination(s) will be administered using the latest state-of-the-art technology. You will be taking your examination on a computer. Do not worry if you have never worked with a computer. To take the examination, only the space bar, and the four arrow keys are used. Your test monitor will take you through a sample test to help you feel at ease with the computer.
  • TIME FOR EXAMINATIONS - The starting time for your examination(s) is located in the upper right comer of your Notice to Appear. The amount of time allowed for completion of each examination will be announced at the test site.
  • ARRIVE AT EXAM SITE EARLY - You should arrive 15 minutes early. If you are late, you will only be allowed the amount of time remaining to complete your examination.
  • IDENTIFICATION REQUIRED - YOU MUST SHOW TWO FORMS OF SIGNED IDENTIFICATION before taking your examination(s). There are no exceptions!
    • A current Driver's License,
    • Department of Motor Vehicles I.D.
    • Military I.D. card
    • Passport (with picture)
    • Credit card
    • Library card
    • Social Security card
  • BRING YOUR "NOTICE TO APPEAR" - you will need your notice to appear to be admitted to the examination room.
  • NO EXTRA PEOPLE AT TEST SITE - Unfortunately, we do not have a waiting room at the test site. Please have your friends and relatives wait for you at another location.
  • NO USE OF TELEPHONES - Use of the telephone before, during and after your examination is not be permitted at the test site.
  • MATERIALS FOR EXAMINATION - The only materials allowed at your seat during your examination are a scale ruler and a non-printing calculator. Calculators must be battery operated or solar powered. ALPHA-PROGRAMMABLE CALCULATORS ARE NOT PERMITTED UNDER ANY CONDITIONS. Pencils and scratch paper will be provided.
  • EXTRA MATERIALS MUST BE STORED - You must place any other items brought to the examination site, at your risk, in a common storage area. No food, drinks or dictionaries are permitted at your seating area. You are advised to leave articles of value locked in your vehicle. The examination site staff does not watch the storage area.
  • SECURITY VIOLATIONS - Conduct that violates the security of the examination includes: removing examination materials from the examination site (includes copying examination questions for future use); communicating with other examinees during an examination; copying or permitting your answers to be copied; conveying information about test questions to persons other than CSLB examination staff or taking the examination on behalf of another applicant.
  • PENALTIES FOR POOR CONDUCT - Penalties for conduct that violates the security of the examination include: automatic test failure; any fee(s) paid to the State of California may not be refunded; you would not be allowed to apply for any license classification for a period of one year from your examination date; and you could be prosecuted on misdemeanor charges that carry a fine and possibly a sentence in the county jail.
  • LICENSE ISSUANCE - A passing score on your examination(s) does not guarantee the issuance of a contractor's license. All applicants are subject to investigation to verify claims of sufficient qualifying experience.