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With a passing rate that hovers around 50% on the 1st attempt and 40% for the 2nd, the NMLS SAFE MLO Exam is obviously not easy.  There are a few ways to set yourself up for success and certain things to avoid when preparing to take the exam.


To help you in your journey, we have listed the top reason people PASS, or FAIL the national MLO SAFE Exam.


Top Reasons People FAIL The MLO SAFE Exam


Not Enough Study Time

They may study, but not enough.  An individual should plan on spending a couple of hours a day for 3 to 8 weeks to be truly prepared. There are people that study for a week and pass, but they are the outliers, not the norm, and typically have some real estate or finance background. If you are not able to study a few hours a day, then plan on spending longer than 8 weeks studying. 



Studying The Wrong Information

There is a huge amount of subject matter that is covered on the test and you must know what to study and what not to.  For example, just the Truth-in-Lending Act is about 124 pages long, and you may only get a few questions about it on the test. However, if you know what to study it can be condense down to just a few pages allowing you to move on to other subjects.  This is where our test prep course saves you a huge amount of time and frustration by giving you the information actually needed, rather than information you don't. 


Memorizing Only Facts & Figures 

The test is not just about learning facts and figures, it's more about understanding the reasons (the why) behind the questions. Many of the questions are scenarios and the answers can be very subjective based on your point of view. In fact there are sometimes 2 correct answers listed, but it's your job to pick "the best" answer based on the facts presented. This is accomplished by choosing the answer that is just a little more accurate and detailed than the other, and that's the one you go with. The NMLS regulators want to see if the test taker can apply their knowledge to real life scenarios and truly understands the concepts presented. Don't just memorizing facts and figures, it never works out well. 


Looking Up "FREE" Information Online

Everyone is always looking for free NMLS test information, but that does not mean it's good information.  Many of the free online videos, documents or group chats are either outdated, trying to sell you something, or just plain incorrect. This goes back to studying the wrong information and not being focused in your preparation habits, which is why so many people fail.  Don't waste your time looking at multiple different resources with conflicting information, it will just confuse you. That being said, not all free NMLS information is wrong, but you're taking a huge gamble if you're relying on unverified resources. The last thing you want to do is spend hours studying misinformation, and then left wondering why you failed.


Second Guessing & Changing Answers

It is extremely common for an individual to fail the exam by just 1 to 5 questions and receive a 70% to 74%. (super frustrating right!) This is because typically most people who review their answers will second guess their selection, and then change a few (maybe 3 to 10).  Statistics have proven that a persons first answer is almost always the correct one.  The only time you should change your first answer is when you are 100% sure the answer is wrong because you misread the question. Other than that, don't change the answer!



Taking the exam can be a nerve-racking experience and people can tend to rush through the exam.  Not reading the question at least 2 or 3 times and not reviewing your answers is a surefire way to lower your chances of passing.


Top Reasons People PASS The MLO SAFE Exam


Study, Study, Then Study More

You will almost never meet anyone who says they passed the test and did not study endlessly.  Study time can be different for everyone, some study for weeks, and others everyday for months. The primary factor in passing the test is to study until you feel overprepared. You must not only know all the facts and terminology, you must know how to apply the information to the questions. If you don't feel 100% sure about the test or are still a little confused on any of the main subject matter points, then you need to study more.


Practices Tests

Taking a lot of NMLS practice tests is a crucial part of preparing.  Individuals that pass will tend to consistently receive 85% to 90+% on their practice tests. The NMLS exam is designed to be very tricky and you must be able to decipher what the questions are really asking. Practices tests train your brain on how to understand the questions and not be fooled by the writing style. Many people say they are not good test takers, but being a good test taker is a skill that can be learned and must be practiced. The more practices tests you take the higher the likelihood you have of passing. 

Try our free NMLS practice quiz


Knowing The NMLS Vocabulary

Individuals that pass the test know the NMLS vocabulary associated with mortgages very well. No matter how much you study if you don't know the terminology written in the questions, you will get it wrong.  NMLS test questions are very tricky and it's almost impossible to understand a question if you can't understand exactly what it's asking.  We have a heavy focus on vocabulary because this is one of the main ways to increase your chances of passing. 


Lots, & Lots of Handwritten Notes

Taking handwritten notes can be a huge part of why people pass.  With so much information to remember using handwritten notes helps you remember the information with more detail.  When you physically write something down it makes a stronger impression on your memory, therefore a better information retention rate.


A Study Partner

Teaming up with a study partner will make a big impact on your success rate.  Ideally it will be with someone who is taking the test as well, but it can also be someone that just quizzes you on the subject matter.  Having a study partner helps you build a better overall understanding of the subjects.  


Re-reading Questions

The questions are designed to confuse you and leave you with doubt if you're not 100% prepared.  Individuals who pass often read the question 2 to 4 times (the 1st time they see it) so they can truly understand what it's asking.  Misreading or not understanding the question is a common occurrence on the exam. Don't be fooled and take your time to understand the questions.  Always read a question at least two times or more. 


Churning The Test

Successful test takers don't dwell on a questions they don't immediately know, they move on, give their brain time to think and come back to it. (This a process we call "churning". ) More often than not, going back to tough questions 2, 3, or even 4 times can help make the correct answer clear. Always review tricky questions several times because it allows you to understand the questions better, thus increasing your odds of choosing the correct answer. 


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