How to Prepare for the Contractors License Exam

Building contractors are responsible for overseeing all aspects of a building project, including the coordination of sub-contractors, the day-to-day supervision of on-site laborers and the overall financial management of the work. In many states, to operate as a building contractor you must obtain a license from the appropriate state authority. Though specific requirements vary, licensure often depends on the successful completion of a licensing examination. A contractor licensing examination will test your knowledge of building methods as they are practiced under local building codes and regulations. Generally, to obtain authorization to sit for the exam you must have significant, verifiable experience working in construction. Thus, to prepare for the contractor exam, you will need to find employment in the local construction industry.

Identify your state’s contractor licensing authority. To do so, visit your city’s building department or seek advice from licensed contractors in your area. Visit the licensing authority and inquire about contractor licensing. Determine whether your state administers a licensing examination, and if it does, make careful note of the pre-exam requirements. How much on-the-job experience is required before you can sit for the exam? Must you complete specific training courses? Can you reference a copy of the state’s building code while in the exam room? Before you leave, obtain a contractor license application and examination guide, if available. Read through these documents to further familiarize yourself with licensing procedures and exam requirements.

Obtain on-the-job experience in the local construction industry. Many contractors begin in the industry as general laborers or building trainees. Working your way up through the industry will provide you with thorough training in all aspects of the building trade. Such experience is excellent preparation for the contractor license exam. Apply for licensing exam authorization once you have met the pre-exam experience requirements.

Complete the contractor licensing exam application and submit it, along with proof of experience and any other required documents and fees, to the licensing authority. Generally, after acceptance, you will receive an exam authorization notice and instructions for scheduling an exam at your convenience.

Enroll in an exam preparation course. Such courses may not be available in all locations. However, if you have the opportunity, a preparation course is an excellent way to engage in a final review of building methods and regulations. Note that such courses are often tailored specifically to the exam’s content, allowing you to spend your review time focusing on what is most important. Generally, the licensing authority in your state can recommend appropriate courses.

Schedule your examination as instructed in your authorization notice. If the notice indicates that you can bring references books into the exam room, purchase those books well in advance. Spend time reviewing the table of contents and the index in each book so that you don’t waste valuable time during the exam.

Take and pass your exam. Soon thereafter, a contractor license will be issued to you according to local procedure.


  • Note that many states provide online access to contractor licensing applications and examination guides. Visit your state’s website and access the “Professional/Business Licensing” page. You should then be able to find a section for contractors.