Tips To Passing The NMLS National Pre-Licensing Exam The Fourth in a Four-Part Series

I am pleased to conclude this four-part series by presenting tips thirteen through sixteen.  Over the past four weeks, my goal has been to effectively prepare you for your success in taking the Nationwide Mortgage Licensing System’s MLO National Licensing Examination.  As discussed in my previous three articles, the NMLS exam, for all intents and purposes, is relatively standard.  The exam consists of one hundred and twenty, computer-generated, multiple-choice questions, each offering four answer options.  The test must be completed within a window of slightly longer than three hours.  Each multiple-choice question’s answer options typically consist of:

1) The best possible or, in other words, the correct answer option;
2) An answer option that is “close, but no cigar”;
3) A trick answer option; and
4) An answer option that has nothing to do with the question being asked

The test taker’s goal is to select the correct answer option enough times to score a passing grade of 75% or higher.

The remaining four tips will help swing the odds of passing the NMLS exam in your favor:

1. No Memory Dumping!

Memory dumping occurs when, at the beginning of their exam, the test candidate immediately writes down all sorts of content-related items on which they might be tested.  The purpose of this is so that, if they encounter a test question that touches upon something they’ve written down, they will not have to resort to remembering the content rather they’ll simply be able to read what they wrote.

Memory dumping is strictly prohibited.  If the proctor observes you doing it, he or she will, in all probability, invalidate your exam and direct you to leave the testing center.  Should this happen, you would have to pay for and schedule your exam for a later date once again.

To avoid having to memory dump, I encourage you to concoct stories that are personal to you and incorporate what you need to remember into the easily-recalled story.  For example, to memorize the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act’s (RESPA’s) five applications, you could create a story featuring these applications.  You should then be able to recall RESPA’s applications by replaying the story in your mind when needed.  Voila!  No more need to memory dump!

2. If There’s Too Much Information, Relax!

One of the test administrators’ tactics to make the NMLS exam tricky is to fill test questions full of extraneous details.  It’s not a matter of “if” but rather a matter of “when” you encounter questions that are jam-packed full of and inundated with numerous details, you’ll need to know how to react.  When this happens, do not let these test questions derail you.  Instead:

1) Take a deep breath;
2) Identify what the question is asking;
3) Find only what is needed among all of those details to derive the question’s solution; and
4) Realize that most of what you’re reading in the question is most likely irrelevant smoke and mirrors, intentionally put there to distract you.

A common reason why people fail this exam is because, when they encounter a heavily-worded question, they panic.  This often throws them into a downward spiral from which emerging is difficult or even impossible.  The first goal to answering every question, whether it’s jam-packed full of details or not, is to identify exactly what the question is asking.  Then, if the question is intimidating, neutralize this intimidation by making fun of it.  Why should you do this?  Because doing so typically eliminates the question’s punch while making it less intimidating and more manageable.  Just read the question slowly and methodically and you will see that it’s really not as bad as it initially appeared to be.

Another tactic when a question intimidates is to stop, breathe, and focus on each answer option.  Then, one by one, rule each answer option out until you find the one that applies.

3. The Process of Elimination!

Never leave a question blank.  If you leave a question blank, you have a 100% chance of getting it wrong.  At least if you guess, you have a 25% chance of answering the question correctly!  And if you do encounter a question on which guessing appears to be the only option, turn to the process of elimination.

If you can eliminate one answer option or even two that you know, for a fact, are not correct, even if you still have to guess, you’ve significantly increased your odds of guessing correctly.  And please think about this!  If you are able to eliminate three of the four answer options that you know, without any doubt, are incorrect, even if you have no idea what the remaining answer option means, you’ve found the correct answer through the process of elimination.

Let’s consider an example, shall we?  Your question is about conventional loans.  Answer option “A” is about USDA loans, answer option “B” is about VA loans, answer option “C” is about FHA loans, and you have absolutely no idea what answer option “D” means.  Even though you have no idea what answer option “D” means, you’ve successfully answered this question by eliminating answer options “A,” “B,” and “C” because they refer to government loans and your question pertains to conventional financing.

4. Study, Study, & Study Some More!

I occasionally encounter individuals with notable mortgage industry experience who, for one reason or another, have decided to pursue their MLO license.  Of these individuals, I sporadically encounter professionals of tenure who consider there to be no need to study for this exam.  What I can assure you, however, and with 100% surety, is that anyone who subscribes to this philosophy and, as such, does not effectively prepare for this exam, is absolutely guaranteed to fail it.  Regardless of whether you’ve worked in the mortgage industry for thirty years or thirty days, if you do not appropriately prepare for this exam, there is no way that you will pass it.  

The majority of the material on which you will be tested has absolutely nothing to do with the mortgage loan originator’s day-to-day activities.  Therefore, if the test candidate, regardless of industry tenure, does not exert the appropriate effort needed to prepare for this exam by studying, there is no possible way that he or she will pass it.  And, by the way, if your idea of studying consists of reading a few pages from your 20-hour course material at night when you first get into bed, or in the morning when you first wake up before going to work, or on your lunch break at work, this will not cut it!  Effective studying means dedicating time every single day and studying like it’s your job.  Studying like a boss!

I would like to conclude this tip with a few important words about practice exams.  Completing quality practice exams is an important supplement to standard study practices.  Practice exams, however, should never be used as one’s primary means of preparing for the NMLS exam.  You see, no practice exam may ever replicate an actual NMLS exam question.  Additionally, people who only prepare for the NMLS exam by taking practice exams typically memorize questions and answers without understanding the rationalization behind them.  And these are questions and answers that they will never see on the actual exam.

These individuals often develop a high level of confidence going into the NMLS exam because they’ve mastered the practice exams, only to fail the NMLS exam miserably because they had no idea how to correctly answer the questions with which they were presented.  Therefore, utilizing quality practice exams must occur in conjunction with and never as one’s primary study strategy.

You’re ready for the NMLS exam when, among other things, you’re consistently scoring no less than in the mid-to-high 90’s on quality practice exams.  And if you just happen to need access to high-quality NMLS practice exams at a very reasonable price, please visit  

Regardless of any other efforts, if you want to pass the NMLS exam, you absolutely must study.  Assuming that you can simply show up, sit down, and pass this exam will accomplish nothing other than buying you a return visit 30 days later after having to have paid another exam fee.  

I hope that you have found this four-part series, through which I’ve provided you with proven strategies for NMLS exam success, helpful.  Use them well and I wish you all the best of luck and skill on the NMLS exam and beyond.

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