Top 5 Reasons People Fail the Real Estate Exam

Success or Failure? You have an option

“Nothing worth doing is easy” – anonymous

In my more than 15 years preparing folks for the real estate licensing exam, I have pretty much seen it all. One of the wonderful things about what we get to do every day is meet people from all walks of life, all educational levels, with varying backgrounds and understanding of the real estate business as a whole. Due to this wide swath demographically, you also see many different “styles” of test preparation and study planning. For instance, you’ll see students who want to pass the exam and get their license so bad they will literally do whatever it takes (you should see my email inbox!). For many of these, effort and planning is not necessarily a problem. And then you have the habitual test taker, the time waster, the individual that I cannot for the life of me figure out what exactly it is they are trying to accomplish.

If you don’t know, a real estate license exam is usually regulated by your state and has some sort of fee associated with application. In my home state of Louisiana, for instance, the license exam costs $85 per attempt. Therefore, that habitual test taker I mentioned earlier will go take the exam 4,5,…I have seen upwards of 10 or more times before finally passing the exam. That’s basically $1000 in testing expenses alone!!

At my company Donaldson Educational Services, we devise a plan and system for students to pass the exam the first time – every time. However, just as with most things in life it only works if you follow it exactly. Our school gets no kickback from the testing service, not one dime, therefore it is only in mutual interest to see students succeed and pass that exam the first time. Therefore, to help keep YOU from being the one that takes that exam multiple times…let me show you the top 5 reasons that people fail the real estate exam:

1. Procrastination
If only I had a nickel…
Here is the most deadly phrase in test preparation “I am going to wait to take the state exam so that I will have more time to study.” LIAR!

Top 5 Reasons People Fail the Real Estate Exam 1
Don’t delay – take your real estate exam while the content is fresh on your mind.

You are either lying to yourself or to me – or both! What is going to actually happen is that your study materials are going to gather dust until you finally get around to scheduling the real estate exam. Once you do, you will cram just like anyone preparing for a short-term memory type examination. In other words, you will spend the same amount of time and effort then as you could now. It is in your best interest to take the exam while the material is fresh in your brain, you are ready. You passed real estate school. Go take the exam, and do it soon. I wouldn’t want one of my college professors to come bring me an exam that I passed while a college student now, I may be quite embarrassed at all of the things that I cannot remember! So, time is your enemy, attack it with a plan and go take the test.

You passed real estate school. Go take the exam, and do it soon.

2. Failing to Follow a Study Plan 
Yeah yeah, I know you don’t like to study. In fact, you probably came to real estate school because your friends told you that they heard from their cousin who heard it from their dog that it was really easy. Well, here is a news flash – it isn’t that easy. You have probably heard the phrase “nothing worth doing in life is easy,” well that’s because generally it is true. Real estate is an excellent career, sustainable, and the industry has done a lot for a lot of people. It is also true that the barriers to entry are relatively low compared to most other industries as well. However, if you think getting through the real estate exam is just like passing high school P.E. class you may have another thing coming! Create a plan, follow the plan, and don’t deviate from what works. Or better yet, follow a plan from test preparation experts who know exactly what it takes to pass your real estate exam and pass it the first time. Don’t reinvent or even break the wheel, follow a proven system with confidence.

Don’t reinvent or even break the wheel, follow a proven system with confidence.

3. Bad Prep Materials or a Bad Exam Prep Program
Look, just like an athlete who prepares for an important game you need to fuel yourself properly. Unfortunately, if you have a bad study manual or took a poor study course then you just might be doomed. Right or not, I know that much of my company’s reputation is absolutely dependent on how students perform on the real estate exam when they leave their class or online program. In fact, I took that years ago and ran with it by creating the “Donaldson Guarantee” which provides the $85 fee to retake the exam to any student who follows our system and fails. We give very few of these retake refunds each quarter, and the reason is simple: good materials, good programs, and a good plan. We offer the guarantee, because THE PROGRAM WORKS. We have 40 years of experience in preparing students for the real estate license exam; we have the process down to a science. Nothing done in our programs is on accident; every portion of our programs have all been carefully crafted and tested over time. You can imagine this must be true, otherwise this would be the worst advertising campaign of all time! You need high quality materials and a high quality program; otherwise you are feeding yourself with poor quality fuel. In other words, consider the source!

You need high quality materials and a high quality program; otherwise you are feeding yourself with poor quality fuel. In other words, consider the source!

4. Too Much Study Time on What’s Not Important
I have a very simple phrase that I employ each and every day in my life and in my business. This phrase is “the easy way is the right way.” In addition, “be efficient and be purposeful” is something you’ll hear me saying quite often around the halls of our organization. Now, some of this is management technique for our company but it absolutely applies to the individual taking their real estate exam. For instance, as a part of their state contract to issue the license exam the testing service must post the test outline and number of questions per section. Therefore, if you are taking the exam you know exactly how much is on the exam from every content section. This is valuable information, and should absolutely factor into your study plan. For instance, on the fundamentals section of the exam the first section covers property ownership and property law. This chapter in our textbook is huge, over 30 pages of material. Heck, you could spend half your time studying this section and leave little time for much else. HOWEVER, studying the content outline from the testing service shows that this section only has 5 questions on the test. That is 5 out of 80 total questions! I wouldn’t spend near as much time studying that material as I would say real estate contracts or real estate agency which each contains 10 questions on the exam. So study smart, be efficient, and know best what you’ll be asked the most about.

In order to succeed, you must channel your emotions and put them to good use.


5. Test Anxiety
As mentioned in the opening of this post, people come to real estate school from all walks of life and all sorts of educational backgrounds. In addition, it is important that some people just are not great test takers. For instance, there is at least one agent in our market area that I know personally took the real estate exam 5 times before she passed it. Guess what? Top agent for many years, hands down! She is a poor test taker, but an absolute juggernaut of an agent. In order to succeed, you must channel your emotions and put them to good use. Professional athletes discuss this all the time, how nerves are GOOD as they display that this matters and this is what you want. So, if you are incredibly nervous about taking the exam that is good if it is for the right reasons. These reasons should include excitement about your new career, adrenaline about how you are going to dominate this test, and just normal chemical nerve reactions which occur when you do something meaningful. However, you should never enter the exam room with a poor emotional mindset or with the feeling that you are going to fail. I have told students that if you walk into the test room thinking that you are going to fail, you might as well walk right out and not waste your time. In exam preparation as in athletic competition, anxiety and nerves most often are a result of the lack of preparation. Therefore, if you studied hard following a plan and chose a highly rated program of study you should have nothing to worry about. At the end of the day let’s remember, the worst thing that will happen to you if you fail is that you’ll have to pay and take it again. THAT is annoying, but not the end of the world.

10 thoughts on “Top 5 Reasons People Fail the Real Estate Exam”

    1. Thank you sir! Appreciate the read AND the comment you are a gentleman and a scholar

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  2. Thank you for providing this great opportunity I am starting the online course as we communicate. I plan to take the three month course,while I am healing from a serious accident . After around two months I will transfer to the six week classroom course. I am old school and feel I can learn more and easier when I am instructed with hands on experience . Plus I look forward to being with and around people and situations that are positive all hopefully sharing the same goal. Does is sound like a good plan. I am also purchasing the book right away. Is the any other sources you would recommend that would help my dive into the real estate world? I plan on working in Nola. Thanks again!! Thomas J, Himel

    1. Hi Thomas,

      I am sorry to hear about your accident, but certainly I applaud your initiative and interest in a career in real estate! I think your plan is fairly sound, we would be happy to have you as an online or a classroom student. Personally my start in this business and my heart are always in the classroom, so I think you would find the experience a good one. If I can help in any way, just let me know. Cheers sir!

      1. Thanks. Chris. I am enrolled in the online course and I also purchased the book. Wow, what a lot of material. I do feel a little ahead of the game, for I have been in the const/home improvement business for many years. I just purchased my first piece of property to remodel and flip at some point. Anyway, should I spend more time on the computer studying online or the book,until I enroll in the six week morning classes. Tom Himel

  3. I need help in passing the national part of the real estate exam, and I took it twice. I passed the state but not the national. Please let me know what I should do or extra books would be helpful in passing the national. Would extra books help or should I just read etc. with the Donaldson books. I bought the book – How to pass the psi exam – by Dearborn – the practice exam questions. I this a good book?. I would like to remain anonymous. Thank you in advance. I will schedule to take the test again in 2 – 3 weeks. Also how may hours a day do you suggest I need to study. Thanks again!

    1. Hi Elaine,

      I am happy to offer some advice. Typically, I would not suggest buying too many books and other materials as students will sometimes get bogged down in thinking more “stuff” is going to help them pass when actually they need to learn the “stuff” they have now better! Shoot me a direct email and I would like to work with you.


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