From Overwhelmed to Confident: Navigating the NMLS Exam Journey

Having been an NMLS exam preparation and 20-hour course instructor for well over fifteen years, I’ve helped tens of thousands of mortgage loan originator wannabes prepare for the NMLS National Mortgage Licensing Examination. Out of the 25,000 plus prospective mortgage professionals with whom I’ve worked, I can count on two hands the number of those who began their journey to conquer the NMLS exam not feeling overwhelmed and exasperated. Fear not if you’re feeling overwhelmed at this moment! That’s the norm. If you weren’t, that’s when I’d be concerned!

What is the NMLS National Mortgage Licensing Examination?

In order to secure a license to originate residential mortgage loans securing one-to-four unit residential properties located throughout the United States and its possessions, mortgage licensing candidates must take and pass a 120-question national licensing examination, the NMLS exam. Each test taker has 190 minutes to complete the test by scoring a grade of 75% or higher in order to pass. Failure to pass this exam prevents the prospective mortgage professional from receiving his or her MLO license.

Why is the NMLS Exam so Difficult?

The NMLS reports an overall NMLS exam pass rate of approximately 50%. There are several factors contributing to this disappointingly-low overall success rate. For starters, most test candidates fail to adequately prepare. The 20-hour, pre-licensing course is the required curriculum that is supposed to prepare test candidates for the NMLS exam. It’s inherent flaw, however, is that it requires the effective delivery of over 150 hours’ worth of material through a 20-hour format. Although there are some phenomenal 20-hour course providers offering this training, (the number one course, in my opinion, is offered through OnlineEd (NMLS # 1400327)),no 20-hour course provider, regardless of its aptitude and competence, can effectively deliver 150 hours’ worth of material in a 20-hour timeframe; it’s simply not possible. As such, and in order to pass the NMLS exam, significant study is required beyond the 20-hour course. Unfortunately, most test candidates neglect to exert much effort beyond completing their 20-hour course.

How to Overcome Test Anxiety

How do you eat an elephant? The answer’s quite simple: one bite at a time! Staring down the vast list of concepts, laws, regulations, processes, and definitions constituting the NMLS exam can be, and often is, highly intimidating. It’s easy to understand, therefore, why so many prospective mortgage professionals panic on the front lines of NMLS exam preparation.

The best advice that I can offer to help overcome this unnecessary anxiety is to take a deep breath, reclaim the leverage that fear holds, and begin the process of exam preparation one simple step at a time. You can drive one hundred miles at night in the dark, right? Of course! Your headlights illuminate your way 50 yards at a time. Don’t focus on, or even look at, step C until you’ve completed steps A and B. By adopting and applying this simple, regimented, and step-by-step approach to your exam preparation activities, you’ll soon find the anxiety dissipating as the fog evaporates. Before you know it, things will start making sense. Concepts will clarify, processes will become clear. And that once-consuming, overwhelming, and suffocating feeling will vanish into the abyss.

What is the Best Study Process?

The most effective process for preparing to take the NMLS National Mortgage Licensing Exam is to use the NMLS Test Content Outline that you should have received from your 20-hour course provider. Start at the top and work your way down, item by item, until you reach the bottom. Use the material that you should have received from your 20-hour course provider to study the various topics and concepts appearing on the Test Content Outline. Additionally, the Test Content Outline itself references numerous sources from which you can also learn what you need to master.

Be cautioned! If you choose to research topics on your own through the Internet, my advice would be to thoroughly vet the source of what you’re studying. There is a significant amount of incorrect and obsolete information out there so use discretion before defining what your Internet search has revealed as timely and accurate.

And Now it’s Your Turn!

Preparing for and taking the NMLS exam is certainly a significant milestone in the mortgage professional’s life and career. It need not, however, be intimidating and overwhelming. With careful and systematic preparation, the NMLS exam candidate can thoroughly master what he or she needs to know in order to knock the NMLS exam out of the park on his or her first attempt.

At AxSellerated Development, our goal is your success. Please visit us at to peruse the exciting and helpful NMLS exam preparation products and services available to assist you in achieving the success you deserve. AxSellerated Development … imagination, visualization, actualization, manifestation. Consider us, our products, and our services to be an investment in yourself and your career.

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