How Much Studying Does it Take to Pass the NMLS Exam?

As a popular NMLS Exam Prep Instructor and Mortgage Trainer, NMLS test candidates frequently approach me to ask how much study and preparation time they will need to dedicate in order to be ready to pass the NMLS exam. Unfortunately, there is no “black and white” answer.

Everybody learns at different paces. Everybody learns at different capacities. And different people have different degrees of Mortgage Industry experience and aptitude.

I have had many occasions to tutor NMLS test candidates who achieve readiness in a matter of weeks. At the same time, I have worked with many test candidates who took months to adequately master the material and necessary skills in order to pass this exam. The bottom line is that there is no “cookie-cutter” duration of time over which a test candidate is guaranteed to be ready for and likely to pass the NMLS exam.

One thing that I must, with absolute certainty, emphasize is that, in order to pass the NMLS exam, the test candidate must commit to studying. Plainly and simply, there is no way to pass this exam without doing so. And, if the test candidate’s idea of studying consists of reading a few pages of his or her 20-hour course material at night before bed, in the morning before work, or on their lunch break, yeah, that’s not going to cut it! Appropriate studying means dedicating specific time, day in and day out, to studying like it’s your job. Studying like a boss!

A few years ago, I found myself in Doral, Florida teaching a live, 20-hour course. Since the 20-hour course requires the effective delivery of over 150 hours’ worth of material in a 20-hour timeframe, I consistently and repeatedly had to emphasize, “You need to study! You need to study! You need to study!” The students in that class became so exasperated with hearing me say this that, upon returning from breaks and walking back into the classroom, I would regularly hear students muttering, “We know already! We need to study! Stop telling us!”

Half of that class ultimately failed the NMLS exam. And, when their employer polled all of the people who failed to ask them what contributed the most to their shortcomings, every one of them responded by confessing that they did not study enough. Take that or leave it. But there is a definite reason, per the NMLS itself, as to why 48% of those who take this exam are never able to pass it. The bottom line is that, if you want to pass this exam, you have to dedicate significant and appropriate time and effort to studying.

So let’s now revisit that original question, “How much studying is enough studying?” Although there is no way to generically answer this question, there is a definitive litmus test of NMLS exam readiness. And successful NMLS exam candidates prepare for however long it takes until they are proficient in all four of these areas.

The NMLS Test Content Outline

Hopefully you received access to the NMLS Test Content Outline through your 20-hour course provider. The first litmus test of exam readiness is when the test candidate becomes thoroughly familiar with everything appearing on this outline, plus the four regulations and rules on which the test taker could be assessed that do not appear on it (the Housing and Economic Recovery Act, the Community Reinvestment Act, the Fair Housing Act, and the Mortgage Assistance Relief Services Rule). There is undoubtedly a lot of material covered on that content outline. But, plainly and simply, there is no way around that. There is a lot of material that successful test candidates must master in order to pass this exam.


Successful NMLS exam takers must also be able to demonstrate test readiness through understanding the material appearing on the NMLS Test Content Outline. Simply “knowing” it all is not enough. To demonstrate understanding, the test candidate should be able to conduct articulate conversations about everything appearing on the outline.

Practice Exam Proficiency

The third litmus test for NMLS exam readiness is met when the NMLS exam candidate is able to consistently score in the mid-to-high 90’s on quality practice exams. Practice exams, however, should never be used as one’s sole and primary means for preparing for this exam. No practice exam may ever replicate an actual exam question. Therefore, people who only prepare for this exam by taking practice exams, ultimately end up memorizing the questions and answers without understanding their meanings. And these are questions that they will never encounter on the actual exam. As a result, they develop a high degree of confidence going into the actual exam, only to fail it miserably when they’re unprepared for the actual questions with which they’re presented.


It is no secret that the NMLS exam is tricky. It is intentionally written this way to ensure that those breaking into the mortgage industry actually earned their way into it. Even once a test candidate masters the other three areas, to ensure exam success, he or she should be also equipped to successfully navigate this exam’s tricky nature. The serious NMLS exam candidate will make it a point and a part of their test preparation activities to secure the appropriate skills necessary to successfully navigate the NMLS exam’s tricky nature.

It would be wonderful to be able to declare a definitive and finite amount of time and effort on which every NMLS test candidate could count to ensure readiness for the NMLS exam. Although, unfortunately, that is impossible to do, by following the guidelines presented in this article, you are well on your way to passing the NMLS exam.

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