The Toughest Questions on the NJ Real Estate Exam


February 13, 2019The Toughest Questions on the NJ Real Estate Exam

As I write this, my Cherry Hill real estate pre-licensing class is taking the final exam in our 75-hour real estate salesperson pre-licensing class. As we went through our final course review this morning, the questions began coming:

“How many math questions will there be?”

“I confuse the different types of estates, will there be many questions on that?”

“What are the toughest questions we’ll encounter in the state exam?”

Here we go again!

I was hardly surprised; the same questions are asked by most of our real estate licensing students. The true answer, of course, is that we have absolutely no idea what questions the state will randomly assign to each exam. They are selected from thousands of questions that are in the system.

Yet when I review the wrong answers we most-frequently see in our own final exam in the prelicensing course, I can see a trend towards the areas where many students have problems in the same areas of questioning.

Oh Goody: Math!

I would be a wealthy man if I had a dollar from every student who had said, “I’m terrible at math!” So let’s address the math questions right up front.

First, only about 10% of the questions involved pure math. By that, I mean there may be additional questions on topics such as mortgages or property taxes which still involve some calculating.

Second, several of those are likely to be questions a third-grader could answer, such as calculating the square footage of a room 10 feet wide and 20 feet long.

Third, the great thing about math questions, unlike any other type of problem you’ll find in the exam, is that you can test your answer by beginning with any of the four answers given and back up to see if that answer matches the question. For example, take a very simplistic question: “A house having 1,456 square feet sells for $64,005. What was the sale price per square foot?” The exam gives you four possible answers:

  1. $39.40
  2. $51.16
  3. $43.96
  4. $28.61

Let’s imagine you have no clue how to calculate this. So just take the first answer: $39.40 and you know the house has 1,456 square feet, so $39.40 x 1456 = $57,366—so we know that’s not the right answer, because the question told us the house sold for $64,005. We try to second answer: 51.16 x 1456 and come to $74,489. So B is wrong. Try C. OMG! We come up with $64,005! So even if we didn’t know how to solve the problem, we can still prove the correct response by backing into it using the answers provided to get back to the question.

Enough about math already!

The day of our school’s final exam recently, a student told me, “I spent the entire evening last night studying 1031 Exchanges and depreciation on investment properties and I know it all by heart. I wanted to ask him, “Why? Why would you invest an entire evening cramming on subjects that only have two out of the 110 questions on the state exam?

If you only had one evening to study…or let’s say you’re sitting in your car doing a last-minute review of content before walking into the test center, devote those precious minutes to the subjects that will have the greatest number of questions. For example, the New Jersey Real Estate Licensing exam has:

  • 12 of the 110 questions on “The practice of real estate”
  • 11 of the 110 questions on “Contracts”
  • 10 of the 110 questions on “Agency,” and
  • 22 of the 110 questions—20% of the entire exam!—on “Statutes and Rules Governing Licensee Activities.”

The “tough” topics

What one student finds a difficult concept to grasp, the one sitting right next to her often grasps immediately. It is impossible to define the most difficult subjects on the state exam exactly because different people learn differently. But I find students often need extra time as we teach:

  • Contract law
  • New Jersey landlord/tenant laws, including types of leases and tenancies
  • Calculating pro-rations at closing
  • Valuation of real property and adjustments in appraisals
  • Agency law, including fiduciary duties, agency responsibilities and types of agency
  • Easements, liens and encumbrances
  • Differences in types of deed, leaseholds and ownership
  • Legal descriptions
  • Types of property financing, primary and secondary mortgage markets, and truth in lending laws.

Stop the Negative Self-Talk!

It amazes me how many students say over and again how they are “Terrible” at math or memorizing things, or taking tests, etc. Zig Ziglar used to say such nay-sayers should have a “Check-up from the neck up,” and I truly believe in that wise advice. Put together a study plan and stick to it. Use our 135-question random “Potpourri Quiz” as a last-minute study guide, and then read some motivational quotes to get you in the right mindset just before you go into the test center.

And if you don’t pass the first time, remember, four out of every ten people do not pass the NJ state real estate exam on the first try. Nobody will ever know if you passed on the first—or the fifth try.

Good luck!

David C. Forward is a licensed real estate broker and instructor and was first licensed as a Realtor® 30 years ago. He is School Director of Garden Real Estate Academy, has won numerous awards for real estate sales, is a much-requested public speaker who has addressed audiences on six continents and is the author of 14 books. David can be reached at

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