How to Do Well on the Multiple-Choice Section of Your Barbering or Cosmetology Exam

barbering cosmetology exam

Tick, tock, tick, tock. As the 1,600 hours of your cosmetology or barbering program pass by, the licensing exam looms closer and closer. You know that you know your stuff—but will you remember it all on the big day?

If you’re nervous about the exam, take a deep breath, relax, and read through our tips to help you ace the multiple-choice portion of the exam.

Question: What is the Cosmetology Licensing Exam?

Answer: A comprehensive exam that will test your knowledge on everything you learned in your barbering or cosmetology program.

The National-Interstate Council of State Boards of Cosmetology oversees the exams for all cosmetology related professions. The exams for both barbering and cosmetology include two parts: a practical test and a written exam. The practical test allows you to demonstrate your cutting, styling, cleanliness and safety skills. It lasts three hours on the barbering side and four hours on the cosmetology side, with a break built in half-way through.

The written portion, regardless of which exam you take, is 90 minutes long and includes multiple choice questions. Here is the breakdown of that section for each exam:

  • Cosmetology
    • Scientific concepts—30%
    • Hair care and services—40%
    • Skin care and services—15%
    • Nail care and services—15%
  • Barbering
    • Scientific concepts—26%
    • Hair care services—40%
    • Facial hair services—18%
    • Skin care and facial services—16%

Tips for Studying

The practical part of the exam seems like a breeze, right? It’s a chance to prove your knowledge through a hands-on demonstration. But the written part…that’s a different story. To ease your nerves and prep for the homestretch of the exam, follow these tips:

Take the practice exam.

The NIC offers a practice exam with questions similar to those that will be included on your test, for a fee of $39. Don’t want to spend the cash? Check out the free practice questions on NIC’s barbering exam bulletin and cosmetology exam bulletin. You can also search for free practice quizzes online.

Study now.

Don’t hit the books the night before and expect an all-night cram session to help you ace the test. Study now, study often, and focus on the topics that you have the most trouble with.

Time Yourself.

One of the hardest parts to overcome for any exam is the time limit. The written portion of the exam lasts 90 minutes, so time yourself with flash cards or a practice exam. Keep doing it until you feel comfortable with the time limit and can answer all questions in that timeframe.

Tips for Taking the Exam

If multiple-choice tests are tricky for you, here are some tips to help your strategy:

  • Read through the entire question before answering. If you skip ahead to the answers, you may choose the wrong one because you didn’t know what the question was asking.
  • Answer the questions you know first. Get the easy ones done and then go back and spend more time on the tougher questions.
  • Eliminate wrong answers. Through the process of elimination, discard the answers you know are wrong or could not be right.
  • Make educated guesses. Don’t resort to the Christmas tree method and start bubbling in random answers. Read through the questions and answers multiple times if needed and choose the answer that makes the most sense.

The instructors and staff at Salon Success Academy are dedicated to helping you pass the state board exam. After 1,400 hours of time toward your license, you will be given a mock exam to identify the areas where you may need improvement. Your instructors will then work with you to strengthen your knowledge in those areas.

If you’re ready to kickstart your career in barbering or cosmetology, call Salon Success Academy at 887-977-HAIR (4247) today.