SAFE MLO Exam: What to Expect on Test Day

Passing the SAFE MLO Exam is mandatory if you want to become a licensed mortgage loan officer. It’s goal is to determine if the licensing candidate has what it takes to become an MLO. Appropriate preparation is necessary to ensure a passing grade and this is where AxSellerated Development becomes the exam candidate’s best friend. The exam is not only challenging, but it requires a lot of attention to detail and focus.

Why do you have to take the SAFE MLO Exam?

Up until 2008, neither prelicensing education nor passing a licensing exam was necessary to obtain an MLO license. With the 2008 implementation of the SAFE Act, however, all that changed.  MLO licensing candidates must now prove their competence and qualification while demonstrating solid understanding of mortgage industry laws, ethics, and best practices.

Where can you take the SAFE MLO Exam?

Test candidates may take their exam in one of two ways – online or in person. The online test is a proctored test that takes place via the Prometric system. You can learn more about Prometric at If you elect to take the exam through the online modality, the following conditions apply:

  • You are not permitted to possess pen, pencils, or electronic devices in your immediate area;
  • You may have up to two tissues;
  • The testing location must be indoors, free from any disruptions, and well-lit;
  • No one is permitted to enter your room during the exam. If another person enters the room, the exam will be terminated, and your results will be invalidated;
  • To “check-in,” you will need to show a valid, government-issued photo ID bearing a photo that resembles what you look like;
  • You will be asked to show your workstation and the surrounding area as well as turning all of your pockets inside out (emptying the pockets prior to joining your session is mandatory);
  • In the event that your hair covers your ears, you will be asked to pull it back to prove that you are not wearing earpieces;
  • Your web cam needs to be focused on you at all times; and
  • System requirements include a laptop or a PC with a minimum display resolution of 1024×768. The minimum OS would be Windows 8.1 or Mac OS 10.13. A consistent internet connection (Ethernet or Wi-Fi), along with audio hardware and a webcam.

In the event that you prefer to take the exam in-person, you will be required to schedule your exam at a specific Prometric testing facility (locations all throughout the United States) and arrive at your exam center approximately one hour prior to your exam’s scheduled start time. Upon arrival, you will check in and be asked to present your valid, government-issued photo ID, and follow the directives issued by the center managers. To schedule your live testing center exam, you may visit

What happens during the SAFE MLO Exam?

This NMLS exam consists of 120 multiple choice questions which must be answered within a 190-minute time frame. Every test question contains four answer options.  Of the 120 questions presented,  only 115 counts towards your score. To pass, the test taker must score a grade of 75% or higher. In the event of a failing grade, the licensing candidate may attempt to take the test a second time after waiting 30 days. If the exam candidate fails the exam a second time, he or she may attempt it a third time after waiting another 30 days.  If he or she fails it a third time, the test candidate must wait 180 days before being allowed to attempt it again.  All retakes require payment of the testing fee in full.

Can you take breaks during the NMLS exam?

Once your exam begins, breaks are not permitted.  Test takers are prohibited from leaving their work stations unless a bathroom visit is needed.  If a test taker requests a bathroom break, a testing center supervisor will be required to accompany that individual to the rest room to prevent cheating. The exam clock continues all the while the test taker is on their bathroom break.

Are you allowed more than 190 minutes for the exam?

The national MLO exam allows each test candidate 190 minutes to answer all 120 questions. This allotment may not be extended for any reason.

When will you receive your exam results?

Test results are provided within minutes of submitting your exam.  Be certain to save your test results report because, once issued, it cannot be reissued.

What if a test taker needs special accommodations?

As publicized through the NMLS’ MLO Testing Handbook, “reasonable testing accommodations with modifications and aids will be provided to candidates with documented disabilities. Testing accommodations are currently only available for appointments delivered at a test center.”  Testing candidates in need of special accommodations should refer to Chapter Five of the MLO Testing Handbook available here.

It’s important to thoroughly understand the NMLS exam’s requirements, processes, and nuances prior to registering to take it.  Additionally, appropriate test preparation, significantly beyond the 20-hour course, is required for an individual to become a part of the NMLS exam’s overall 50% pass rate. There’s no questioning the exam’s  demanding nature.  But, with proper preparation and focus, you will have no problem passing it.  And, once you do, your next step will be to apply for your MLO license(s).

AxSellerated Development offers a multitude of resources and study tools that will set you up for success. Begin your journey to success here!

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