In my last installment, I discussed the process of studying for the California real estate salesperson exam. In this installment, I'll tackle the actual taking of the test. As I discussed in that last post, the test is computerized, consists of 150 multiple choice questions, and has a three and a half hour time limit. A score of 70% (105 questions) or better is required to pass. Since it is a qualifying test, you don't get rewarded for scoring higher than 70%. Hell, they won't even tell you your score if you pass.
With that in mind, I'll propose a 24 hour plan that, once executed, will dramatically increase your chances of passing the test the first time. I'm working off the assumption that you've a) successfully passed all the required coursework and managed o retain or study enough to actually be able to answer 70% of the questions correctly, and b) read the 'Understand the Psychology of Test Writing' section in the previous post.
Before I jump into the actual plan, there are a few prerequisites:
- Know progressive relaxation. This is a cool trick that completely relaxes your body in a matter of minutes. Relaxation is important because anxiety reduces your ability to recall information you've stored in long-term memory. The idea is to lie down, slow your breathing, then systematically clench and relax muscle groups around your body. With only a few trials as practice, you'll get good enough to be bale to go through the progression while sitting in your seat immediately before you start the test. A more detailed guide can be found here.
- Irrational self-confidence. Back when I was a teacher, the power of expectation never ceased to amaze me. Simply telling a kid 'Wow, you're one of the smartest kids I've ever had in class' immediately before taking a test would result in anywhere from a 10 to twenty percent jump in their score over their average, all because it boosted their self-confidence. You can do the same trick by repeatedly telling yourself 'I'm a great test-taker!' The funny thing? You don't even have to believe it.
- Cramming. Cramming for tests gets a bad rap, probably because teachers assume that last-minute cram session is all the studying their students do. But cramming really does work. The trick is knowing exactly what to cram and when to do it, which I'll discuss in a minute.
- Caffeine or no caffeine? Caffeine generally helps increase attention and facilitate memory recall, but it can also increase anxiety. My rule of thumb: Test with the exact same amount you used for studying, no more, no less. That idea is based on the concept of state-dependent learning, which I discussed in the previous post.
- Bootstrapping and retrieval cues. 'Bootstrapping' is a testing term that refers to the process of answering the easiest questions first, then using them as memory retrieval cues for the more difficult questions. The real estate salesperson test lets you jump around, so this is a valuable strategy.
The day before
We'll start our test-taking plan the day before the scheduled test date. This is the most important study day you'll have; take the day off. The goal for this day is to review ALL of the material that'll be on the test and identify the stuff you definitely know, stuff you kinda know, and the stuff you do not know. I accomplish this with two legal pads, one labeled 'KINDA' and the other labeled 'CLUELESS.' There's no need to make a note of the stuff you already need to know.
Start in the morning and work in blocks of 15 minutes with 15 minute breaks. During the study blocks, either review the summaries of each chapter in the 'real estate principles' book OR go over practice questions. When you encounter a question you can't immediately answer, add it to one of the two legal pads depending on your familiarity with the definition or concept.
The purpose of the blocks (versus one huge study session) is to prevent the serial position effect, which happens when we remember things at the beginning and end but not in the middle. By breaking up the sessions with breaks, we can dramatically increase our capacity to encode (memorize) all the material.
Once you get through all the material, review your 'KINDA' legal pad. Just by virtue of studying all of the material, some of it will be committed to memory. Place a check next to the stuff you definitely know, then review the remaining material.
Next, go to the 'CLUELESS' legal pad and do the same thing. Check the things you definitely know, then add the stuff you kinda know to the 'KINDA' legal pad. Now review the stuff you do not know.
Repeat this process until you know everything OR run out of time. At the very end of the test session, review the 'Understand the Psychology of Test Writing' section of the last post. Ideally, go to bed early enough to allow for seven to nine hours of .
As far as other logistical considerations, make sure you drink plenty of water and eat several healthy meals. Avoid extremely greasy foods, food with a lot of fiber, excessive alcohol or other drugs, and rigorous exercise. I also like to know exactly where the testing will take place, so I map the route via Google Maps and estimate the travel time with traffic. I also gather all required documents and other materials the night before, like forms, identification, an approved calculator, etc.
The day of the test
Wake up several hours before the test. Go through your normal morning routine (breakfast, showering, ping a deuce... whatever.) Skim both legal pads. By now, you should have far more than the minimum required 70% of the material committed to memory... this review is just icing on the cake. Just like the previous night, review the 'Understanding the Psychology...' section.
Once you finish reviewing, I found a short, relaxed walk provides just enough distraction and light exercise to put me in the right state of mind before leaving for the test site. Dress in comfortable, quiet clothing.
Gather all the required documents and other materials, your two legal pads, and anything else you might need. Drive to the site. Since most testing sites have strict rules on what you can and cannot bring into the testing site, I prefer to arrive about 30-45 minutes before the report time, then do a last-minute cram session in the parking lot. Weird, but it works.
Once you enter the test site, do all the required logistical stuff like filling out forms, signing in, turning off your phone, etc. When you're in your seat and ready to take the test, go through the progressive relaxation routine one last time, then repeat to yourself 'I am going to ace this test!' repeatedly until it's time to begin.
Once the test starts, use the bootstrapping technique to answer all the questions you definitely know, then complete the questions you're pretty sure you know. If you studied correctly, you should already have more than 70% correct... but don't give up just yet. Hopefully the questions you did know provided enough information to allow you to answer the tough questions. If not, apply the multiple choice principles from the last post.
If time allows, review all of your answers. I like to do this on the off chance I made a mistake and marked the wrong answer. I almost always leave my first choice instead of second-guessing myself unless I have overwhelming evidence my initial answer was wrong, but your mileage may vary. I've found I tend to get answers wrong when I change them, but, according to our best research, this isn't always the case.
Once you're confident you've done the best you can do, submit. Of course you'll have passed because, well, my advice is awesome! Save the dancing until you leave the testing facility.
Once you've passed the test, next up is completing the application process, then you're well on your way to becoming a real estate tycoon!