What To Expect From the CSLB Exam: The Essential Facts

If you’re looking to get a California contractor license from the Contractors State License Board (CSLB), you know one of the most difficult parts of the process is passing the notoriously difficult CSLB exam.

This behemoth of a test is designed to be difficult in order to weed out shoddy contractors, so if you go in without preparing, you’re in for a world of hurt.

In this essential but comprehensive guide, we’ll look at only the most crucial elements of the CSLB exam, so you can know what to expect when you sit down and take the test.

The CSLB Exam: A True Test Of A Contractor’s Knowledge

The CSLB exam is designed to evaluate your competency and expertise in your chosen trade, and it is designed to make you fail if you don’t know what you’re doing. 

It is divided into two main parts. 

The first part of the CSLB exam is the Law and Business section, which is taken by applicants. 

The second part of the CSLB exam is the Trade section, which tests the knowledge of your specific trade. If you’re studying for a C-36 Plumbing License, for example, you can expect plumbing-specific questions on your trade exam.

Law and Business Section

This section focuses on contracting business management and includes topics such as contract law, financial management, and employment laws. 

  • 115 Questions Long
  • Multiple-choice format
  • 2.5 hours allotted time
  • Minimum passing score of 72%
  • Divided into the following sections (percentage of the test in parentheses):
    • Licensing (~15%)
    • Bookkeeping (~15%)
    • Safety (~12%)
    • Contracts~(~10%)
    • Bid Procedures (~12%)
    • Insurance (~3%)

Trade Section

The Trade section targets the technical aspects of your chosen specialty. The number of questions and the required passing score depends on your trade classification. However, most trade exams share the following characteristics:

  • 80 to 125 questions
  • Multiple-choice format
  • 2 to 4 hours allotted time
  • Minimum passing score of 72% for most trades
  • Information contained within depends on your trade

Total Questions and Duration

Overall, you can expect to answer between 195 to 240 questions, depending on your trade. The total exam duration ranges from 4.5 to 6.5 hours, with breaks between sections.

How Do I Physically Take The Test?

You can take the test in person at various testing centers around California. There are currently eight testing centers in California. You can take the CSLB exam in the following cities:

  • Berkeley
  • Fresno
  • Norwalk
  • Oxnard
  • Sacramento
  • San Bernardino
  • San Diego
  • San Jose

The exam itself is administered on a touch-screen computer that immediately gives you the results on completion of your test. 

You can find more information about the test itself in this CSLB pamphlet,

Preparing for the CSLB Exam: Effective Strategies and Resources

To achieve success in the CSLB exam, thorough preparation is key. Here are some valuable resources and strategies to aid in your exam preparation

  1. Study Guides. The CSLB offers study guides for each trade classification, which cover key exam topics and provide useful tips.
  1. Sample Questions. Familiarize yourself with the exam format and question types by reviewing sample questions provided by the CSLB.
  2. Practice Tests. The CSLB provides practice tests to make sure you’re not only familiar with the topics covered but also the software to take the test itself.
  3. Take A Course. There are quite a few schools out there – like industry veterans CSLS – that have proven methods and courses to help you pass the test the first time. 

After the Exam: Moving Forward in the Licensing Process

Once you have successfully passed the CSLB exam, what’s next?

Well, you should receive your exam results right after taking the exam, so you’ll know if you passed the exam and need to take the next steps to get your license.

If you scored less than 72%, you will have to retake the exam. If you passed, congratulations! You are close to getting your CSLB license! Here are the next steps to take!

  1. Submit all the relevant documents to the CSLB (Like Contractor’s Bond, Workers’ Compensation Insurance, Licensing Fees, etc.)
  2. Check your exam status
  3. Receive your license!
  4. Begin working as a licensed California contractor!

The CSLB exam is a notoriously difficult proposition for many contractors – and rightfully so – it’s a test of a contractor’s ability to safely and securely deliver a quality product that protects the public from any issues.

That doesn’t mean it’s impossible to pass – far from it. Preparation is the most important part, so study up and get a guide if you need help getting your license today and becoming a contractor tomorrow.

This entry was posted in Contractor Business, CSLB News, Tips on by .

About CSLS

Contractors State License Service (CSLS) is the largest school in California devoted to the Construction professional. For over 23 years, CSLS has helped its students pass the exam to become licensed contractors in the State of California, licensing more students than any other school. From our main offices in Southern California, CSLS operates over 25 locations with full-service support and classrooms. We have grown to this extent by providing quality, professional services. In comparison, this provides 7 times the number of convenient locations than the second largest contractor school. Contractors State License Services is one of the only contractor schools in the state that is run by educators, not lawyers or people mostly interested in the bonding and insurance business. Contractors State License Services formerly operated under the oversight of the State of California's Bureau for Private Post Secondary and Vocational Education. As of January 1 2010, the new Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education (BPPE) came into existence replacing the BPPVE. CSLS now operates under the provisions of the California Private Postsecondary Education Act of 2009 (CPPEA), Article 4 Section 94874(f). Our Mission is simple; We can help you pass your California Contractors License Exam. Celebrating our 25th year, CSLS has helped over 120,000 students pass the California contractor licensing exam to become licensed contractors in the State of California. Additionally, we offer complete home study and online contractor’s license programs to help you pass your California contractors license exam. CSLS offers licensing classes for all types of contractor licenses, including General Engineering Contractor, General Building Contractor, Specialty Contractor, Insulation and Acoustical Contractor, Framing and Rough Carpentry Contractor, Cabinet, Millwork and Finish Carpentry Contractor, Concrete Contractor, Drywall Contractor, Electrical Contractor, Elevator Contractor, Landscaping Contractor, Warm-Air Heating, Ventilating and Air-Conditioning Contractor, and many others. For a complete list of contractor licenses, visit www.MakeMeAContractor.com and tuned for more informative posts.