Like most States, California requires that you pass a government administered license exam before you can hang your shingle to sell insurance. In addition, you must take up to 52 hours of pre-license training, which thankfully, can now be done online. Separate license exams and training courses are required to sell property and casualty insurance versus life and health policies. And, there is mandatory continuing education required every two year renewal period as well as additional, special training classes needed to sell specific insurance products like flood insurance, long term care insurance and/or annuity investment policies.
If your plan is to thoroughly study the State handbooks, read and read again all the materials from your license course and take a cram course on test-taking, I can almost guarantee you still won’t pass the California Insurance Exam. These exams can be tough, since they are riddled with confusing and convoluted questions . . . the trademark of most government or quasi-government license exams. So what does it take to pass? Well, that’s what we cover in this article. And, there is a method to the madness.
First Off, Be Wary of Advice and Crazy Tips
Here is just some of the “buzz” around taking the State Exam. For the most part, ignore these rants and tips:
“Taking a cram class is all you need to pass” (Not true. See cram courses below)
“I was told to skip every question on the state exam. That way, these same questions are locked in and the computer will not spit out more difficult ones.” (A crazy conspiracy theory).
“A live teacher is the only way to pass. They pinpoint the “buzz” words you need to pass. They tell you things that can’t be put in writing” (Bunk . . . classes are monitored by the State. And, you need more than buzz words to pass).
“Use common sense to answer the exam questions.” (It won’t work).
“By process of elimination, you can get to the right answer.” (Works sometimes, but you would have to know the subject to eliminate the wrong answers).
“I earned 90% on my online practice exams . . . I’m ready”. (A lot of these 90 percenters still fail. There are practice exams and there are practice exams. See below).
“People who take online courses always fail”. (Bunk . . . our online school has a very high passing ratio . . . it’s what you do with the material that counts).
“Study the course materials . . . you will pass” (There is a lot more to it. It may be a variation the material you learned that is being asked).
“Just look for certain “buzz” words for the answer.” (The State knows all the buzz words . . . you’ won’t beat them this way).
It may seem obvious to many, but be sure that the courses and exam prep materials you are studying are California specific. There are a lot of generic practice exams and courses available online that won’t prepare you for the State Exam or won’t allow you to even sit for the exam. Sign up with an approved California provider and make sure you are taking the right course for the license you want.
The State Exam
The State requires that you complete specific pre-license training BEFORE you can sit for the State Exam. The Certificates you earn from these courses are your “ticket” into the State Exam which are currently given at state office locations in San Diego, Los Angeles and Sacramento.
On the day of the exam, you need to bring proper identification including a current valid driver’s License, passport, military ID, etc. The State Exam is computer-based. There are 75 questions for the Life Only License; 75 for Accident & Health and 150 for Fire & Casualty.
You must score 70% or better to pass. If you fail, you can retake the exam 3 consecutive times for a fee of $41 each. Your 4th try requires a 30 day waiting period. Of course, if you follow the advice of this article you won’t need to worry about failing.
You can schedule the State Exam online at any time . . . just fill out the required license application. But, you must complete the required pre-license training courses needed for the license you want BEFORE taking the exam. And, you need additional time to tackle the remaining procedures we recommend to prepare yourself. Bottom line? Leave at least three weeks before scheduling an exam date.
There are some universal rules to taking any license exam. Basically, you need to become familiar with the testing mentality.
· Make sure to read every single word in both the questions themselves and the provided answers! There are people who fail simply because they didn’t read the question properly!
· Make sure that you understand the gist of the question itself…what are they getting at in the question? In order to answer a question properly, you must understand the idea behind the question!
· Be familiar with the format of the exam. The State Exam is taken on computer. See a sample of how it works on the State’s website here . . . http://www.insurance.ca.gov/sample-test/Sample_Questions-General.htm
· Don’t rush the exam. You have up to 3 hours for the Casualty or Life/Health Exam. Answer all the questions you know. Flag questions you are unsure of or skip them until later. Watch for words like except or not.
Studying Books, Course Content & State Publications
The State Exam is very broad in coverage. There will be many questions on codes, ethics and other insurance topics that you may never need or experience throughout your insurance career. Nonetheless, you have to know them to pass.
Then there are hundreds of pages of pre-license course materials (your 20, 40 and 52-hour training courses). In fact, the State dictates what needs to be covered in all pre-license courses and they publish “Educational Objectives” for each. Now, you would think that if you studied these courses and the “objectives” real hard you would be prepared for the exam. . .right? NOT. Don’t spend a lot of time here.. Sure, you need to read the materials to earn your Pre-License Certificate(s) and there are basics you can learn from these courses, but it is highly doubtful they will play a major role in helping you pass the State Exam.
There are also dozens of generic guides and cram courses which say they are designed specifically to help you pass the State Exam. Save your money and time. Sure, some may provide some guidance, mostly on test-taking techniques I discussed above, but you still have to know specific learning points to pass. That cannot be condensed into a small book or even an 8 hour cram course. I know, I have taken these classes and wish I had spent the time studying instead.
An Exam Prep Workbook Is KEY!
OK, we’re down to the key to passing the State Exam. Find a proven Exam Prep Workbook. We cannot emphasize how important this is to passing. It’s almost too simple, yet license candidates tend to dismiss the effectiveness of practices exams. DON’T.
A typical exam prep workbook is jammed with up to 1,000 questions and answers, i.e.practice exams. Of course, there are practice exams, and there are practice exams. As I said, find a proven system and ALLOW UP TO TWO WEEKS TO FULLY COMPREHEND AND RECALL THE QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS IN THEIR WORBOOK. Simply reading the workbook one or two times is NOT ENOUGH. Study and recall EVERY QUESTION at least 10 times or more. If you are getting the same questions wrong, highlight them and study them even more.
Don’t Schedule The Exam Early
Don’t schedule the State Exam until you have time to study your Exam Prep Workbook Practice Exams. Your boss and others may be pressuring you to take the State Exam ASAP after your online training, but until you can recall the questions and answers, your chances of passing are slim
Well, that’s it . . you now know how to pass the Insurance License Exam. But, I have a warning: If your mental focus is just to pass the exam, you need to re-focus. Plenty of people pass their exam only to lose their license or get sued making stupid mistakes. Knowing the answers to a bunch of exam questions is not enough . . . you have to know what you are doing with that license and you need to acquire a sense of responsibility and ethics to win customers and stay out of trouble. While these are not the subject covered here, know that they are as much a part of your career as getting your license. So, refer to your pre-license course materials for basic knowledge and use them for reference often. Always expand your knowledge and keep up on current events in the industry.
I wish you the best of luck in a very rewarding field.