Cosmetology written exam preparation FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions about the Cosmetology Written Exam

What’s the passing score for the cosmetology written exam?

There’s no universal passing score: each state chooses its own pass rate. In California, for example, cosmetologists, estheticians, manicurists and barbers all need to score at least 75% to pass both the written and practical exams.

How many questions are on the cosmetology state board written exam?

The written examination in all states is a computer-based, multiple-choice examination. There are usually 100 questions – but the precise number of questions varies from state to state.

Here’s the information for some of the most popular cosmetology states:

  • The California State Board of Cosmetology has 100 written questions for cosmetologists, estheticians and manicurists (and 120 minutes in which to complete them). For barbers, there are 50 questions and 90 minutes.
  • The Alabama Board of Cosmetology has 100 written questions for cosmetologists, barbers, estheticians and manicurists (and 90 minutes to complete them).
  • The Louisiana Board of Cosmetology has 100 written questions for cosmetologists, barbers, estheticians and manicurists (and 90 minutes to complete them).

Note: the written examinations may contain 10 additional questions, which are placed randomly throughout the examination. These questions are being assessed for inclusion on future versions of the exam, and they won’t count towards or against your score.

The specific questions will vary from day to day: no set of questions will be identical to previous days.

How long does the state board cosmetology test take?

The time allocated for the cosmetology written test varies from state to state, so you’ll need to check with your local state board. Here’s some information for some of the most popular cosmetology states:

  • The California State Board of Cosmetology has 100 written questions for cosmetologists, estheticians and manicurists (and 120 minutes in which to complete them). For barbers, there are 50 questions and 90 minutes.
  • The Alabama Board of Cosmetology has 100 written questions for cosmetologists, barbers, estheticians and manicurists (and 90 minutes to complete them).
  • The Louisiana Board of Cosmetology has 100 written questions for cosmetologists, barbers, estheticians and manicurists (and 90 minutes to complete them).

Is the cosmetology state board written test multiple choice?

Yes: in all states, the written examination is a computer-based, multiple-choice examination. There are usually 100 questions – but the precise number of questions varies from state to state.

Can I get a cosmetology license without going to school?

Every state requires that you attend an accredited school to get your cosmetology license.

If you don’t want to (or can’t) be in class every day, there are now plenty of online cosmetology schools available – which you can “attend” instead of a physical school. But be aware that you’ll still need to have a specific number of hands-on training hours to qualify – which means you’ll be expected to attend in person for the practical portions of the program. (Alternatively, you might be able to find a local salon that will allow you to intern there in order to acquire your necessary training hours. It depends what your state allows.)

Can I use my cosmetology license in any state?

If you’re moving to a new state, you’ll usually be able to transfer your license – but you MUST transfer your license before you can work there legally.

Many states have reciprocity agreements with each other, in which one state allows you to work under the license of your home state.

Other states will license you by endorsement. To qualify, your new state must agree that your home state has similar training requirements and board exams. If you meet their criteria, the new state will endorse your license – which will allow you to work legally there.

Both these methods usually allow you to avoid taking any more examinations – and the method you use will depend on the state you’re moving to.

To get started, call the new state’s licensing board to ask whether you qualify for reciprocity/endorsement and what the conditions are. (Some states will require that you’ve worked for a minimum numbers of years to qualify.) There may be a service fee to transfer your license.

What’s included in the CPT Guru Cosmetology Exam Preparation Package?

CPT Guru helps you prepare for your state board written exam in Cosmetology, Barbering, Nail Technology and Esthetics.

When you buy our Cosmetology Exam Preparation Package (or the packages for Barbers, Nail Technicians or Estheticians), you’ll get immediate access to the following:

An easy-to-digest study guide with practice questions:

  • Our study guide teaches you only the things you really need to know (thereby cutting your revision time in half – possibly more).
  • The practice questions will help you cement your knowledge as you progress through the study guide.
  • We’re the ONLY company that provides you with a study guide (in addition to the simulated exams), and all our customers say it was invaluable in helping them pass.

A large collection of simulated exams:

  • These simulated exams LOOK and FEEL like the real thing – so you know what to expect for the real written exam.
  • We time and grade each of our simulated exams the exact same way as the state board exams do.
  • Our simulated exams are completely up-to-date – so you won’t be learning something that’s no longer relevant.

Are your study guides and simulated exams relevant for every US state?

Yes! Most states use the written exams provided by the National-Interstate Council of State Boards of Cosmetology (NIC). But if you come from a state that doesn’t use NIC, don’t worry: we have all the relevant exam questions for you too!

How do I know I’ll be getting the right practice exam questions for my state?

On the order page, you’ll be asked which state you’ll be testing in. We’ll then send you access to the relevant study guide and simulated exams for your state.

Are your simulated exams completely up-to-date?

Yes: we update our simulated exams as often as the state boards update their exam questions – and we do so immediately.

Do your study guides and simulated exams cover material from the Milady textbook and the Salon Fundamentals textbook?

Yes, of course. The written exams contain questions based on the content of these textbooks (as well as other textbooks), so they’re included in all our study materials too.

It’s very important that you’re aware, however, that the wording on the official exams is very different from the wording in your textbooks. Our simulated exams contain the same phrases and terminology that you’ll find on the official written exam, which will help you prepare.

If you rely on the textbooks alone, you’ll struggle because you won’t be familiar with the different wording and phrasing on the written exam itself.

I only studied one of these textbooks at beauty school, so how am I meant to know what’s in the other textbooks?

It’s assumed that your professors will have taught you everything you need to know – including information that’s not in your “official” beauty school textbook.

This isn’t true, of course: plenty of professors don’t teach you everything you need to know for the written exam. That’s why it’s so important to read the study guide that comes with your Exam Preparation Package: it teaches you everything you need to know (and skips everything you DON’T need to know, to save you time).

And once you’ve read the study guide, you need to practice practice practice with our simulated exams!

I’m attending beauty school while working full-time. Will I really have time to use the Exam Preparation Package?

Yes! In fact, you don’t have time NOT to use it.

Our study guide cuts your revision time in half (at least), by teaching you only the things you really need to know. And our simulated exams will quickly get you familiar and confident with the terminology and time constraints of the official written exam.

There are plenty of free practice exams online. Why should I pay for yours?

The free practice questions you see online are almost always outdated. What’s more, they usually don’t use the same wording/terminology that you get on the real exam – so they don’t prepare you very well for what to expect.

What makes your material different from others who sell practice questions online?

Quite a few things!

  • Other online providers sell questions that are often out of date (just like the websites that give them away for free).
  • Unlike our competitors, we don’t just give you practice questions: we give you questions in the style and format of a real-life written exam. These simulated exams LOOK and FEEL exactly like the real thing – so you can prepare yourself for what to expect.
  • We’re the ONLY company that also provides you with a study guide included in the price – something all our customers say was invaluable in helping them pass. Our study guide teaches you just the things you really need to know (thereby cutting your revision time in half – possibly more).
  • We’re SO confident in our Exam Preparation Package that we even offer a 100% money-back guarantee for people who haven’t attended beauty school or even bought a cosmetology textbook. We know you can still pass the official written exam with our study guide and simulated exams alone!

Another website says their practice questions are updated weekly. Why aren’t yours?

That website isn’t being honest with you. Their questions definitely aren’t updated weekly – no way!

And bear in mind that NONE of the state board exam providers update their own questions weekly – so there’d be no point in any website updating its own practice questions weekly either!

Our simulated exams contain questions that are completely up-to-date, and we continue to update them whenever the state boards update their exam questions.

What’s your pass rate?

98.5% of our customers pass their cosmetology written exam first time. The national pass rate for cosmetology is 51%.

(National pass rates for barbers, estheticians and manicurists are unavailable.)

If I buy the Exam Preparation Package, will it ever expire?

No, it will never expire.

Whenever the state board makes any changes, we update our study guide and simulated exams accordingly. (And as our entire program is online, you’ll have immediate access to all the changes.)

Can I use my phone to access the simulated exams and study guide?

Yup! You can use any device of your choice: desktop, laptop, cellphone or tablet. Anytime, anywhere.

How do I access the Exam Preparation Package for the first time?

Your confirmation link will arrive in your email inbox immediately after purchase. Use the link any time you want to use the study guide or simulated exams.

Prepare to pass your exam now!