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Exam Hacks Report

Exam Hacks


Welcome to the iPass NMLS UST Study Guide on Exam Hacks! We’ll get right to the point.

Studying for your exam

The exam consists of 125 questions of which 115 will be graded. There are 10 “pre-test” (un-scored) questions in each exam that are being used to determine if they will be considered in the future to appear as exam questions You will not know which of the questions in your exam are pre-test and which ones are scored.

As a result, in order to ensure you achieve the required 75% to pass the exam you will need to answer 97 of the 125 questions correctly. This will ensure that you get 87 of the 115 scored questions correct. Murphy’s Law being what it is, anything that can go wrong will, you will probably get the 10 pre-test questions that are un-scored correct! Let’s move forward and learn the Exam Hacks that will help you gain those crucial extra points to Crush the Exam!

The exam is broken down into five areas:

  1. Federal Laws & Regulations: 25% = 31 to 32 questions
  2. Ethics: 15% = 18 to 19 questions
  3. UST: (Uniform State Test) 18% = 22 to 23 questions
  4. Mortgage Origination Techniques: 21% = 26 to 27 questions
  5. General Mortgage Knowledge: 21% = 26 to 27 questions

You will not be allowed to bring a “Cheat Sheet” into the exam, but you can create a “Mental Cheat Sheet” in advance while studying for the exam. This will be what computer techs call a ‘Data Dump’. Think of all the formulas and important items you would like to have handy while taking the exam. Write them down on a piece of paper; i.e. LTV (Loan to Value), CLTV (Combined Loan to Value), DTI (Debt to Income) Ratios, Income Calculation Formulas, Regulations that implemented Federal Laws (RESPA-REG X, TILA-REG Z, ECOA-REG B, HMDA-REG C), etc. Also examples of Class A, B, C, D crimes and their exclusion periods. Anything you believe will be good to check on during the exam. You’re going to write the items on the scratch paper or pad they give you when your take your seat at the testing cubicle. You’ll need to practice this at home while studying so it becomes second nature to you on the day of your exam.

The night before

1. Print out a MapQuest of the route to the Testing Facility, look at the approximate travel time and add 20 minutes to it. Why? Because you don’t know who is going to cause an accident or if there is road construction on your route. The best thing that happens is that there are no delays and you arrive 20 minutes early and can look through your notes, flash cards and other study aids you may have and do a final review. Put the MapQuest with your Exam Scheduling Email.

2. Eat a healthy, nutritious meal. If you have a drink, limit it to one if that will help you relax. Study until ½ and hour before you normally go to sleep. Don’t stay up late to get ‘Extra Studying’ in. Sleep studies have shown that every hour of sleep you get before midnight is equal to 2 hours of sleep after midnight. Spend the time before you turn out the light meditating or praying, centering yourself. Believe you are going to pass the exam, in fact, believe You’re Going to CRUSH IT!

How Many Math Questions Will You Get?

The answer to the infamous number of math questions will I get inquiry is this: You will have somewhere between 2 and 4 math questions. In the Karma of the NMLS UST Exam Universe you will get a number inversely related to how much you like math. This is a Good News/Bad News scenario. If you are the kind of person who eats math for breakfast you’ll get 2. You will want more because to you, these are free points. If you have a fear of math or a math phobia you’ll get 4. If math is a neutral subject for you you’ll probably get between 2 and 4. How can this be?  While unscientific in nature, as I have polled students over the years it just seems to work out this way.

So what is the good news, you ask? All the math you need to know to pass the exam you learned by the time you finished 4th grade. If you can add, subtract, multiply and divide you can do any math question they throw at you. There is no rocket science, quantum physics or calculus involved. Now, since there is no free lunch there is a catch. You have to learn and memorize the formulas and then know when to apply them. Not very difficult, just memorization. We go over many examples of each type of question in the Practice Exams at MortgageCommander.com so you will be prepared to Crush the Math!

Day of the Exam

Scheduling your Exam – Choose the time that you are fresh and at your mental best. The choices are 10:00 am, 1:00 pm, 4:00 pm and possibly 7:00 pm. Most people wake up fresh and sharp in the morning. As such, I suggest taking the exam at 10:00 am.

If at all possible, take the day off from work. If you go into the office you will get caught up in everything going on, your manager will find a new ‘Emergency’ you need to resolve. This will distract you and take your mind off your primary goal of this day which is:  Crush the NMLS Exam! Start your day with your normal morning routine, do not do anything out of the ordinary. After you’ve gotten dressed, had your breakfast and morning beverage of choice, taken care of your responsibilities, get your study materials out and do any last minute reviewing you want to finalize your preparation.  If not possible, go in to the office, do what is important, but leave by 10:00 am for the 1:00 pm exam and by 1:00 pm for the 4:00 pm exam.

Arriving at the Testing Facility

When you arrive and check in the first thing you’ll be asked to do is put everything not necessary for taking the exam in a locker near the front desk. This means you will put your purse or wallet, watch, cell phone, all study materials you brought in; anything in your pockets. Next you will check in at the front desk. You will need to provide a hand print, a biometric form of identification, they will take your picture.  Next, you will be escorted to the exam area, provide your biometric scan, even though you’ve only travelled 30 feet or so. Next, if you’re wearing slacks or trousers, you will be asked to raise the pant legs to expose your ankles to make sure you don’t have notes attached to your ankles (Like Sean Penn’s character Jeff Spicoli in the movie ‘Fast Times at Ridgemont High’). Then you will be told to turn your pockets inside out so the exam proctor can see that they are empty. Next, you’ll be asked to spread your arms and legs and the proctor will use a metal detection wand, similar to the ones used by the TSA at the airport, to ensure you don’t have anything on your body. Once you’ve passed all these security measures, only then will you be allowed to enter the hallowed ‘Testing Room’.

The Testing Room

You will be escorted to your testing station – a cubicle with a computer, monitor, keyboard and mouse. Once signed in you will go through a Tutorial on how to use the testing software. By the way, no matter how many times you have taken a Computer Based Test before you’ll have to do the entire Tutorial before you can begin your exam.

Taking Your Exam

After completing the exam taking tutorial it is time to begin your test. No, not yet. Now is the time to perform your ‘Data Dump’ on the scratch paper or pad they’ve given you. It should only take a minute or two since you’ve practiced at home. Also, remember that the timer doesn’t begin until you click on the button to start the test, this is free time for you. After you complete your ‘Legal Cheat Sheet’ it’s time to practice Zen & the Art of Passing Your Exam: Lean back in your chair, relax, inhale deeply, hold your breath for a moment and exhale. Do it a second time if you wish. You have just performed a very simple exercise to Gain Your Composure prior to starting the exam. If at any time during the exam you feel flustered or start to stress out, repeat the breathing exercise and re-gain your composure. It’s important to keep a positive attitude throughout the test and to be relaxed. Oh, one more thing. On your scratch paper or pad set up two headings near each other: Know and Not Sure, like this:

Know Not Sure


As you answer the questions, the ones you know you got right, put a mark in the Know column, every answer you’re not sure of, or if you have no clue what the answer is, it should be noted as Mark for Review for the question you’re looking at on the monitor if front of you, put a mark in the Not Sure column on your scratch paper. This way you can keep track of your progress as you work through the exam. You have 190 minutes, that’s over 3 hours to complete the exam, so make sure to pace yourself.


Don’t make any assumptions about what the question might be. If you don’t understand what they’re asking, read it again. You have to determine what it is they are asking before you can select an answer.


Come up with answer in your head before looking at the potential answers. Once you’ve done that review your other choices to ensure you’re selecting the best answer, even if you know ‘A’ is correct, When you’ve gone through all the questions you will be asked “Do you want to review your answers?” You select Yes and then only look at the questions you marked for review. As you look at these questions and the answer you selected, keep in mind that every standardized exam has questions later in the exam covering similar topics. Most of the time those other questions will help you select the Best Answer. Keep in mind, do not change an answer unless you’re 110% sure the new answer is the correct one or if you just selected an answer so you could proceed to the next question.

Test Taking Techniques

Many of the questions you will have on the exam you will be able to narrow your choices down to 2 answers. The other two have nothing to do with the concept they’re asking about. If you know the answer cold, pick the correct answer. If you’re undecided and none of the other questions you’ve already answered are helping you out there are a few time tested techniques you can use.

1. Think like a Bureaucrat – When you have a choice between 2 answers and you’re not sure which one to pick, the first thing you do is ask yourself “Which answer would the career government employee chose?” That is usually the correct / best answer.

2. Law of the Longest Answer – The theory is that the question writer would not have taken so much time to create a long answer that is wrong or incorrect. Is usually a good choice as the correct answer, but not always.

Last Resort Techniques

1. Christmas Tree the Exam – I learned this one my freshman year in college. This is one of the last resort techniques. Sing the Christmas Carol ‘Jingle Bells’ and select an answer, A, B, C or D.

2. SWG Method – The acronym is for ‘Scientific Wild Guess’ Method. Here you have no idea what the answer is so you pull it out of thin air.

3. All We Are Is Dust In The Wind Method – My apologies to the group Kansas. This technique is used by sailors to determine what direction the wind is coming from so they can point the bow of their sailboat just off the wind to gain speed. Moisten your index finger, then raise it above your head and determine which direction the air conditioning is blowing. Based on this select A, B, C or D> *Politicians do this by polling and floating trial balloons to determine their positions by the way.

By this time you should have answered all 125 questions on your NMLS UST Exam. Once you click the button that you’re done a second dialog box will pop up and ask “Are you sure?”  This is your last chance to hit Cancel and change any answers. If you’re ready to rock, click on the button that says button that says ‘Yes’ or ‘Submit’.  Now the longest 45 seconds to a minute and a half of your life transpires while you watch the little hourglass spin around on the monitor.

If all went well you have Crushed the Exam!  It doesn’t matter if your score is 75% or 98%, you passed! What do you call the last graduate with the lowest grade point average from medical school? Doctor, of course.

If your results show a grade less than 75%, do not despair. You can retake the exam in 30 days. Keep positive, know that Rome wasn’t built in a day and continue your preparations to Crush the Exam. Mortgage companies that are hiring MLO’s don’t care what score you got, they care that you have a license. Those who face adversity and respond positively by passing the next time they take the exam show determination and perseverance. I would always rather have an MLO working for me that had to overcome a setback than one who scored 98 and doesn’t necessarily have the fire in their belly to succeed.

Keep Calm and Crush the Exam! the Mortgage Commander