How Do I Pass The SAFE Mortgage Loan Originator Test?

This question comes up a lot and there’s no shortcut, but most people can pass the test with proper preparation. Let’s take a look at some key facts along with the tips and best practices.

Not everyone passes.
The most recently published NMLS pass rates show that 59% of the people that take the test pass it on the first attempt. Subsequent test takers are seeing a pass rate of 42%. This means that the overall pass rate is 54%. While these tend to go up and down each quarter, they do so with a fairly narrow range of 3-4%. The numbers do include a variety of different experience levels, from folks new to the industry to experienced MLOs with over 20 years in business. While not everyone passes, the numbers indicate that over half of the folks taking the test pass on the first attempt. In our experience, proper preparation can result in a passing score the majority of the time. In rare instances, there are valid reasons that people are unable to pass the test, which in some rare cases, may include undiagnosed learning disabilities.

The second time pass rate is much lower. We attribute that to the fact that when someone takes the test, they receive their scores from each of the five sections. When someone does not pass, they must wait 30 days (between the first 3 attempts, and 6 months after that) and they may dedicate much of their focus to the section(s) they did poorly on, neglecting the other sections. Many may not fully understand that the questions are pulled from a large pool. That means they could get all new questions on the sections they did well on during the prior test. The best way to approach this is to take the time necessary to pass it on the first attempt.

It is not easy.
Since the test began, the number of regulations and the complexity of complying with these regulations has increased greatly. That being said, the amount of time allotted to the Pre-Licensing course is statutory and it has not increased past the initial 20-hour requirement. There are 53 references to the testable content, which tie back to hundreds of pages of material. While you may appreciate not spending additional time as you sit through a class, you can do the math and realize that full preparation extends beyond the class itself. Realizing that proper preparation is a significant task is half the battle. Committing to spend the time necessary to learn the information is the other half. Top that off with lots of experience with difficult and challenging questions and you have a formula for success.

Many things in life are doable.
As with many challenges that we might face throughout our personal and professional careers, preparing for and passing the test may not be easy but for most people is doable. After you’ve made the commitment to accomplish the goal from there, it’s just a matter of diligent execution. Let’s talk about what some of the keys, best practices, and tips are to navigating this successfully.

1.  Prepare to take the time necessary.
Let’s face it. Nobody will walk into a testing center, sit down, and blow through this type of test in 30 or 40 minutes, pass it, and sprint out the door.

It’s important to know that even if you worked in the industry for many years, the rules and facets of the rules that we must understand aren’t necessarily things that we use everyday in the industry.

2. Choose your provider.
Don’t assume that every provider is automatically excellent at preparing folks for the test, either with what they develop as their content or how they deliver it. Either you or your company is going to make an investment in you, and you need to look into who you are ordering your course from and exactly what you’re getting for your money. 

3. Choose a format that works for you.
Live classroom Pre-Licensing courses are extremely rare, but a Live Webinar or Live Stream is another delivery option, and there are online courses that include instructor interaction. With Diehl, there are Live Stream options taught by a mortgage industry expert, and he does a great job of making the webinars seem like they’re going by quicker, while making sure that you are taught the content so you can take the test with confidence. Look at what fits with your preferences and your schedule.

4. Use test prep tools.
Using good quality test preparation tools can help you identify areas that you may not fully understand yet. This can help you determine where you need to spend more time in your preparation. With Prep2Pass, the algorithms built-in help you determine what areas you are struggling in. When you start scoring 95% and higher, you’re ready to take the test. Uncovering those is not only essential for making sure that you understand all of the material, but can also be a great time-saver to identify those areas.

5. Get ready for “Game Day”.
Make plans and prepare in advance for the day that you’re taking the test.

“Gut check” yourself on test readiness. If you are not ready to take the test, it is a good idea to reschedule the testing time rather than experience failure and have to wait 30 days (with added stress) if you do not need to. Make sure you’re at the testing facility at least 30 minutes before your test appointment starts. This can lower your stress level and give you time to do a final chance to prepare in your car before you enter the facility.

When you log into the computer from the testing facility, use the tutorial. Doing this will not only familiarize you with how the test works, but also gives you a little time to get relaxed before you start the test. This can be your time to chill out, relax, and get ready for the task ahead. 

6. Take your time.
Keep in mind, every question equals the same amount of points. In other words, easy questions are just as important as difficult ones. Do not let the tough questions sidetrack you. Take your time, and do not rush.

7. Good luck.
If you are coming into the industry, you will soon find out that this is a great industry, and the role of an MLO is a great position. If you’ve worked in it before and you’re working hard to get your license, you already know this, but do not lose sight of it. Sometimes, with all of what we are doing to get prepared to achieve challenges, we can lose sight of what it is really all about. Make sure you do not lose sight and keep the end in mind.

Best of luck with your results and your future in the industry, along with the many successful professionals who enjoy giving quality advice and guidance to borrowers making key decisions in their financial lives. As other successful Mortgage Loan Originators will tell you: It’s well worth it!

Scott Weghorst is President and CEO of Diehl Mortgage Training and Compliance, a National NMLS, Compliance, and FHA/VA/USDA Mortgage Skills Training Firm serving over 75,000.

Copyright © 2019 Financial Education Services, LLC. \ dba Diehl Mortgage Training

*NMLS statistics are based on the released NMLS National Test Pass Rates, which measures the pass rate from July 1, 2017 to June 30, 2019. 

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