Secrets to Passing the California Insurance License Exam

Like most states, California requires you to pass a government-administered licensing exam before you can hang your clapboard to sell insurance. In addition, you must complete up to 52 hours of pre-license training, which thankfully can now be done online. Separate licensing exams and training are required to sell property and casualty insurance versus life and health policies. And each two-year renewal period requires mandatory continuing education, as well as additional, specialty training classes needed to sell specific insurance products, such as flood insurance, long-term care insurance, and/or annuity investment policies.

If your plan is to thoroughly study the state handbooks, read and re-read all of your licensing course material, and take a full-fledged exam-taking course, I can almost guarantee that you will still fail the California Insurance Exam. These exams can be difficult as they are full of confusing and complicated questions. . . the trademark of most government or quasi-government licensing exams. So what does it take to succeed? Well, that’s what we’ll cover in this article. And there is a method to the madness.

First, be wary of advice and crazy tips

Here’s just some of the “buzz” around taking the state exam. Ignore these tirades and tips for the most part:

“Taking a block course is all you need to succeed” (Not true. See block courses below)

“I was told to skip every question on the state exam. That way the same questions are stuck and the computer doesn’t spit out more difficult ones.” (A crazy conspiracy theory).

“A living teacher is the only way to succeed. They point out the ‘buzz’ words you need to pass. They tell you things that can’t be put in writing” (Bunk…classes are controlled by the state. And, you need more than buzzwords to succeed).

“Use common sense to answer the exam questions.” (It will not work).

“Through a process of elimination you can get the right answer.” (Works sometimes, but you should know the topic to eliminate the wrong answers).

“I earned 90% on my online practice exams…I’m ready”. (Many of these 90 percent 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 pass rate…it’s what you do with the material that counts).

“Study the course material…you will succeed” (There is a lot more to it. It may be a variation of the material you have learned that is requested).

“Just look for certain ‘buzz’ words for the answer.” (The state knows all the buzzwords… you won’t beat them this way).

California Specifically

It may seem obvious to many, but make sure the courses and exam preparation materials you study are specific to California. There are many generic practice exams and courses available online that do not prepare you for the state exam or even allow you to take the exam. Sign up with a licensed California provider and make sure you’re taking the right course for the license you want.

The State Exam

The state requires you to complete specific pre-license training BEFORE you can sit for the state exam. The certificates you earn from these courses are your “ticket” to the state exam currently being conducted at state office locations in San Diego, Los Angeles, and Sacramento.

On the day of the exam, you must bring valid ID, 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 and health and 150 for fire and accident.

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. There is a waiting period of 30 days for your 4th attempt. Of course, if you follow the advice of this article, you don’t have 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-licensure training required for the license you want BEFORE taking the exam. And you need extra time to tackle the remaining procedures we recommend to prepare yourself. It boils down? Wait at least three weeks before scheduling an exam date.

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Test administration

There are some universal rules for taking a licensing exam. In short, you need to get familiar with the test mentality.

· Make sure you read every word in both the questions themselves and the answers provided! There are people who fail simply because they didn’t read the question properly!

· Make sure you understand the essence of the question itself… what do they mean by the question? To properly answer a question, you need to understand the idea behind the question!

· Be familiar with the format of the exam. The state exam is taken on the computer. See an example 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 a maximum of 3 hours for the Casualty or Life/Health exam. Answer all the questions you know. Mark questions you are not sure about or skip them for later. Note words like except or not.

Study books, course content, and state publications

The State Examination has a very broad coverage. There will be many questions about codes, ethics and other insurance topics that you may never need during your insurance career. Nevertheless, you need to know them to succeed.

Then there are hundreds of pages of pre-licensed course materials (your 20, 40, and 52 hour workouts). In fact, the state dictates what should be covered in all pre-licensing courses and they publish “Educational Objectives” for each. Now you would think that if you studied these courses and the “objectives” really well, you would be prepared for the exam. . .Turn right? NOT. Don’t spend much time here. Sure, you’ll need to read the materials to get your Pre-License Certificate(s) and there are basics you can learn from these courses, but it’s very doubtful they’ll play a big role in helping you pass the state exam.

Cram courses

There are also dozens of generic guides and courses that say they are specifically designed to help you pass the state exam. Save your money and time. Sure, some can offer some guidance, mostly on testing techniques I discussed above, but you still need to know specific learning points to succeed. That cannot be summarized in a small book or even in an 8-hour course. I know, I took these classes and wish I had spent the time studying instead.

An exam preparation workbook is KEY!

OK, we’re ready for the key to passing the state exam. Find a proven exam preparation workbook. We cannot stress enough how important this is to succeed. It’s almost too simple, but licensure candidates tend to dismiss the effectiveness of practice exams. DO NOT.

A typical exam preparation workbook is packed with up to 1000 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 TWO WEEKS TO FULLY UNDERSTAND AND RECOVER THE QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS IN THEIR WORKBOOK. Simply reading the workbook once or twice is NOT ENOUGH. Study and recall EACH QUESTION at least 10 times or more. If you get the same questions wrong, mark them and study them some more.

Do not schedule the exam early

Do not schedule the state exam until you have time to study your exam preparation workbook practice exams. Your boss and others may be pressuring you to take the state exam as soon as possible after your online training, but until you can remember the questions and answers, your chances of passing are slim

Well, that’s it then. . you now know how to pass the Insurance License Exam. But I have a caveat: if your mental focus is just to pass the exam, you need to refocus. Many people pass their exams only to lose their driver’s license or get sued for making stupid mistakes. It is not enough to know the answers to a bunch of exam questions. . . you need to know what you’re doing with that license and you need to develop a sense of responsibility and ethics to win customers and stay out of trouble. While not the topic covered here, you should know that they are just as much a part of your career as getting your driver’s license. So refer to your pre-licensed course material for basic knowledge and use it often for reference. Always expand your knowledge and stay abreast of current events in the industry.

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I wish you the best of luck in a very rewarding field.