How To Prepare For The Illinois Real Estate License Exam

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Passing the real estate licensing exam is the first step on the road to your successful career in real estate. But passing the exam itself can seem like a big hurdle. Are you ready? The good news is that a lot of the techniques you apply to the real estate license exam — great study habits, a systematic approach to the exam, and a thorough understanding of the subject matter — will serve you well in your career as a broker or agent. Learn more about the Illinois Real Estate Exam and how to prepare yourself for success.

1. Know What’s Going To Be On The Exam

No matter how much you may know about Illinois real estate, nothing prepares you to pass the exam like understanding it inside and out before you start test preparation. 

The exam itself is governed by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, or IDFPR, which is responsible for the licensing of real estate brokers in the State of Illinois. The exam is administered by Applied Measurement Professionals, Inc. at various sites throughout Illinois.

The examination itself comprises 100 nationwide questions and 40 Illinois-specific questions. To pass the exam, you must score at least 70% on the national portion and 75% on the Illinois section. 

Before you take the examination, you must complete and provide evidence of 75 hours of Real Estate courses at a real estate school approved by the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, broken down as follows:

  • Broker Pre-License Topics (60 hours)
  • Broker Pre-License Applied Real Estate Principles-Interactive (15 hours)

You are allotted 4 hours to complete the examination.

2. Take Excellent Notes

Your test preparation will depend heavily on the quality of your initial notes, so taking great notes is the next step on the road to success. Although it can be tempting to take your notes on a laptop or tablet, science tells us that taking notes by hand can improve your retention and recall, so consider handwriting your notes during your 75 required hours of coursework. 

If you do take your notes on a laptop or tablet, creating a handwritten outline of your notes or writing up a set of flashcards designed to test your knowledge can help you to reinforce your recall of key concepts. Repetition is your friend! Repeating or re-writing critical concepts can help to ensure that they stick for you on test day. 

3. Learn Your Vocabulary And “Real Estate Math”

For new real estate brokers, the most unfamiliar concepts often revolve around the unique vernacular used in the real estate business. Familiarizing yourself with common real estate terms can give you a leg up when it comes to the examination itself. This glossary, assembled by Illinois Wesleyan University, can help you to understand the terminology you’ll need to know for the exam. 

You’re also likely to encounter “real estate math” questions on the exam itself, so understanding some commonly-used formulas can help you prepare for the exam. The following formulas are commonly used on the exam:

  • The size of an acre: 43,560 square feet
  • Square footage: the length x width of the lot, room, or other area
  • Loan to value ratio: the value of the loan / the assessed value of the property
  • Property tax rate: assessed value x mill rate 
  • Mill rate: One mill is one one-thousandth of a dollar, and in property tax terms is equal to $1.00 of tax for each $1,000 of assessment.
  • Commission formula: selling price x commission percentage
  • Simple interest: principal amount x rate of interest 

Learning these terms and formulas can help you to move through the real estate exam’s math questions quickly, leaving more time for other questions.

4. Focus On Fair Housing

The national section of the real estate exam is likely to have anywhere from 5 to 15 questions that deal with fair housing issues. Understanding this topic well can make or break whether you pass, as well as making you a better broker when you enter practice. Focus on understanding your course material on fair housing practices as you prepare, and these questions will be a breeze.

5. Practice, Practice, Practice

There’s no substitute for repetition. Once you feel you have the fundamentals down, it’s time to dig into practice questions. Taking as many practice questions as you can will help you get a feel for the kinds of questions that commonly appear, and give you a sense of what to look for on the examination itself. 

When you’re taking practice exams, focus on reading every word of the question and each of the answers. In some cases, a word like “many,” “most,” or “all” in the form of the question can change the most appropriate answer, so careful reading is critical! 

Once you’ve carefully read the question, if the answer isn’t immediately obvious, work by process of elimination. If you’ve prepared for the exam, you can trust that if an answer looks unfamiliar or obviously out of place, it’s likely incorrect. Eliminate obvious wrong answers immediately, and work backward logically to try to narrow down your choices as much as possible. There’s no penalty for wrong answers, so it’s better to guess than to leave a question blank.

As you complete your exams, be sure to review the right answers to the questions you missed and focus on those areas as you continue your test preparation. Adding these questions to your regular study notes or flashcards will help you to strengthen your performance, even in areas that may not be your strong suit as you begin your prep.

6. Form A Study Group

A study group can be a great asset when you’re preparing for the Illinois Real Estate Exam. Other group members can help you to stay focused, and can help you to understand areas that may be a bit more challenging on first blush. Studying with a group can also be the start as you look to build your network — after all, your study partners will soon be your colleagues as you pursue your career.

Want to Talk About Building Your Chicago Real Estate Business?

As you prepare for the Illinois Real Estate Exam, it’s important to remember that there is no right way to start building a successful career. It’s all about finding what works for you, from the day of your exam all the way through your career.

As the Designated Managing Broker of Baird & Warner’s Lincoln Park office, I aim to spend as much time as necessary with brokers to make sure their business plans and goals are ambitious yet achievable. Along with the management team, I schedule regular check-ins throughout the year to closely monitor how agents are making progress. 

I believe in an individualized approach, encouraging every broker to maximize his or her own natural style, strengths, and opportunities with my support and the support of the office as a whole. It is important that we formulate a custom business plan for each broker, and provide support that is ongoing and constantly evolving as the broker’s career and goals grow.We strive to create a collaborative environment where our brokers use the innovative tools and support we provide to build thriving, sustainable businesses. Have any more questions? Want to keep the conversation going, or learn more about Baird & Warner — Lincoln Park? I always welcome the opportunity to discuss your real estate career. Whether you are considering a career change or looking for a new partner in your existing business, I truly look forward to connecting.

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