The Best Ways to Study for the Iowa Real Estate Exam

by | Jun 1, 2021 | Getting Licensed

You completed your 60-hour pre-licensing course and now it’s time to take the Iowa real estate exam. So many of us graduate from school and leave all of our studying methods and techniques behind- which is normal! Don’t panic about taking the exam. If you paid attention at all during the pre-licensing course- and you must have in order to pass- you will do just fine on the exam. 

However, it never hurts to brush up on your studying techniques. This guide will walk you through some of the best ways to study for the Iowa real estate licensing exam. 

What is the Iowa real estate exam like? 

The good news is the Iowa real estate exam is all multiple-choice questions. No essay writing required! Some questions do require math, so you can bring a simple calculator with you. 

So what does the Iowa real estate licensing exam look like? The test is broken into two parts: the national section and state section. The state section is comprised of 80 questions and you are given two hours to complete it. The national section is shorter- only 40 questions and you are given one hour to complete it. Each section requires a score of 70 percent or higher to pass. 

PSI Examination Services is the company that administers the licensing exam. You can find their exam bulletin here for a complete overview of the exam. Read through it to find out more about what topics will be covered, tips for studying, how to schedule your test, what is and is not allowed and what to bring with you. 

PSI currently offers testing locations in three cities in Iowa: Cedar Rapids, Des Moines and Council Bluffs. You can also take the licensing exam online using the PSI system. If you choose to take the exam online, it will be monitored live by a remote proctor. To learn more about taking the exam online, click here

It costs $95 every time you take the exam and you must have your certificate of completion from the 60-hour pre-licensing course to either submit online or present when you arrive at the testing center. 

Luckily, the PSI Exam Bulletin offers a breakdown of the exam content so you know exactly which topics are covered and how many questions there will be on each subject. Use this guide to direct your studying so you are prepared for everything on the test:

What does the Iowa real estate exam cover?

National Portion:

  1. Property ownership- 8% of the section
    1. Real vs. personal property; conveyances
    2. Land characteristics and legal descriptions
    3. Encumbrances and effects on property ownership
    4. Types of ownership
  2. Land use controls and regulations- 5% of the section
    1. Government rights 
    2. Government controls
    3. Private controls
  3. Valuation and market analysis- 7% of the section
    1. Appraisals
    2. Estimating value
    3. Competitive/comparative market analysis
  4. Financing- 10% of the section
    1. Basic concepts and terminology
    2. Types of loans
    3. Financing and lending
  5. General principles of agency- 13% of the section
    1. Agency and non-agency relationships
    2. Agent’s duties to clients
    3. Creation of agency and non-agency agreements; disclosure of conflict of interest
    4. Responsibilities of the agent to customers and third parties
    5. Termination of agency
  6. Property disclosures- 6% of the section
    1. Property condition
    2. Environmental issues 
    3. Government disclosure requirements
    4. Material facts and defect disclosure
  7. Contracts- 17% of the section
    1. General knowledge of contract law
    2. Contract clauses
    3. Offers and purchase agreements
    4. Counteroffers/multiple offers
  8. Leasing and property management- 3% of the section
    1. Basic concepts/duties of property management 
    2. Lease agreements
    3. Landlord and tenant rights and obligations
    4. Property manager’s fiduciary responsibilities
    5. ADA and Fair Housing compliance
  9. Transfer of title- 8% of the section
    1. Title insurance
    2. Deeds
    3. Escrow or closing; tax aspects of transferring title to real property
    4. Special processes
    5. Warranties 
  10. Practice of real estate- 13% of the section
    1. Trust/escrow accounts
    2. Federal fair housing laws and the ADA
    3. Advertising and technology
    4. Licensee and responsibilities
    5. Antitrust laws
  11. Real estate calculations- 10% of section
    1. Basic math concepts
    2. Calculations for transactions

State Portion:

All questions cover knowledge of state legislation and state real estate laws and commission rules.

  1. Licensing requirements- 5% of portion
  2. License maintenance- 7% of portion
  3. Disciplinary actions- 10% of portion
  4. Real estate education- 7% of portion
  5. Trust accounts- 7% of portion
  6. Contracts- 18% of portion
  7. Agency- 15% of portion
  8. Property disclosure requirements- 13% of portion
  9. Iowa Civil Rights Act of 1965- 3% of portion
  10. Unlicensed assistants- 5% of portion
  11. Broker responsibilities- 5% of portion
  12. Property management- 5% of portion

Now you know exactly which topics to study for the exam! You can always refer to the PSI bulletin for a comprehensive breakdown of each topic. Read the PSI Exam Bulletin.

How to Study for the Iowa Real Estate Exam

Everyone has different learning styles and different methods of studying. The key is to figure out what works best for you so that your studying is actually effective. If you’re wondering how to start tackling the studying process, there are a few key tips to help guide you through test prep.

Iowa real estate exam

  • Take practice tests. Almost every pre-licensing course provider offers a practice test. In-person providers usually include this in the cost of the course and online providers may offer it at additional cost to you. Take advantage of this resource! Take as many practice exams as you can to familiarize yourself with the test content, the way questions are asked and to familiarize yourself with math-based and scenario questions. 
  • Study the vocabulary. Don’t miss questions just because the lingo used is confusing to you. You learned a lot of new terms and phrases during your pre-licensing course- now it’s time to put them to the test! Flashcards are the best way to study vocabulary. Write down every important, new or difficult word/phrase you encountered in class and memorize them. 
  • Make sure you understand concepts- not just definitions. Think of your real estate knowledge like a house (pun intended). If vocabulary definitions are the foundation, concepts make up the house you build on top of the foundation. Exams can test your understanding of a concept beyond just definition. Make sure you understand the exam topics inside and out so if you encounter scenario questions you know how to apply practical knowledge.
  • Know the laws. Now that you know what the exam covers, you know that 13 percent of the national portion covers federal housing laws, like the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The state portion also covers Iowa-specific regulations and laws. Needless to say, you should know your laws inside and out!
  • Take the test right away. Schedule your exam as soon as you complete the 60-hour pre-licensing course. This ensures everything you learned in class is still fresh in your mind. The exam covers a wide range of content and taking it right after class will ensure you remember more information. Use the time between completing the course and taking the exam to cram! 
  • Start studying right away. You should have some time between completing your pre-licensing course and the exam. Use the time wisely to study as much as you possibly can. You will have to be able to answer questions about a breadth of topics so start reviewing what you learned right away.

How to Take a Multiple Choice Exam

The Iowa real estate licensing exam is all multiple choice, which is the best format for testing a wide range of knowledge. The licensing exam covers a lot of topics and you should be prepared to be tested on everything you learned in the course. These are some helpful tricks that will make the exam easier for you:

  • Read each question carefully. This seems like a no-brainer, but too often we speed-read through exams because we’re worried about answering everything in the allotted time. Don’t rush! Read each question carefully and re-read it if the answer isn’t apparent. The test is not trying to trick you but you should still be clear on what the question is asking. 
  • Use the process of elimination. The advantage of multiple-choice exams is you are presented with the correct answer- you just have to determine which one it is! Use the process of elimination to cross out the answers you know are definitely wrong. Ideally, this only leaves you with 1-2 answers left. This strategy will save you time on questions you have to think in-depth about. The good news is the licensing exam is administered on a computer. You can mark questions “unsure” when you are stuck, move on with the next question and return to every question you marked “unsure” at the end. 
  • Your first answer is usually correct. Mulling over a question and second-guessing yourself is counterproductive. It can lead to you spending too much time on one question and then convincing yourself to change your answer to a wrong one. If you are truly not certain if you picked the right answer, mark it “unsure” and return to it at the end once you’ve answered everything else. There could be another question on the test that triggers your memory!

At the end of the day, the best piece of advice you’ll ever get is don’t sweat it! Your pre-licensing course covers everything on the exam and you had to have been paying attention to earn your certificate of completion. Don’t psych yourself out by stressing out about the exam. 

How did current agents study for the real estate exam?

Current real estate agents shared their insights into the licensing process and had some advice to offer about preparing for the licensing exam. You’ll notice that quite a few mention that the notes they took during the 60-hour course and taking practice exams were the most helpful study resources. 

Iowa real estate exam

Where do I find practice materials to study?

You may be wondering where to find the study materials that this guide references. There are tons of resources available to you. One of the best sources of study materials is your course provider. 

If you take the course in-person: Your course provider will include study guides, chapter reviews and practice tests in the cost of your course. You have the added benefits of an in-person instructor to ask questions of and classmates to study with if you like to study with a group. 

If you take the course online: Some online course providers will include study resources and practice exams, but most will charge you extra for these. If it’s in your budget to purchase them, do so! The practice exams and study guides can make a huge difference if taking notes alone is not enough for you. 

Regardless of how you take the 60-hour course, there are always supplementary study resources available online. The benefit of online exam prep is you can access it from any device wherever you are. Review key terms on your phone while commuting on the bus or from your couch on a tablet or laptop. Some of these exam prep providers are also IREC-approved pre-licensing course providers. If you do take your 60-hour course with them, you can bundle the 60-hour course and exam prep.

Download your guide to the Iowa Real Estate Licensing Process

The process for becoming a REALTOR® in Iowa can seem long and daunting. You’ll have no problem completing them with this guide to becoming a real estate agent in Iowa.

What you’ll get:

  • Entire licensing process timeline
  • Breakdown of each step and process
  • Helpful tips and tricks
  • Worksheets to make it easy

11 Online Iowa Real Estate Exam Prep Resources

Each exam prep provider listed will tailor content specifically to the Iowa real estate exam. If the exam prep provider specifically states that exam prep covers both national and state prep, it is noted here. Otherwise, you may need to clarify the exam prep content with the provider. 

CompuCram Exam Prep

  • Offers combined national and state guides and state-only guide
  • Includes vocabulary prep, practice tests and simulated exams
  • Pass the exam or money-back guarantee
  • 180-day access
  • Cost is $39-$79
  • Find more information here

Real Estate Prep Guide

  • Offers sample exam questions
  • Free access to real estate vocabulary glossary
  • Free access to real estate blog 
  • Pass the exam or money-back guarantee
  • 90-day access
  • Cost is $50
  • Find more information here

Real Estate Practice Test

  • Offers 1,000 practice exam questions that cover vocabulary, concepts and math
  • Includes vocabulary flashcards, access to a licensed instructor, simulated exams and video prep
  • Access for 1 year
  • Pass the exam or money-back guarantee
  • Cost is $50
  • Find more information here 


  • Offers flashcard building tool to learn vocabulary 
  • Includes access to pre-made flashcards or you can create your own
  • User-created practice exams and study guides available at cost to you
  • Unlimited access
  • Free to use
  • Find more information here

Real Estate Express

Approved pre-licensing course provider

  • Offers practice exams, custom exams, and flashcards
  • Free access to real estate blog
  • Pass or money-back guarantee
  • Cost is $99
  • Find more information here


  • Packages vary and can include practice exams, prep videos, audio lessons, flashcards, webinars and an e-book
  • Free access to real estate blog
  • Money-back guarantee
  • Access time ranges from 7 days to 1 year
  • Cost ranges from $49-89
  • Find more information here


  • Offers question bank with hundreds of practice exam questions for both state and national portions
  • Flashcard mobile app available for an additional $14
  • Access for six months
  • Cost is $99
  • Find more information here

The CE Shop

  • Offers unlimited practice exams, lessons and performance assessment
  • Includes free assessment to determine areas to focus on and free ebook 
  • Pass exam or money-back guarantee
  • Cost is $59
  • Find more information here

PSI Learning Academy

  • Offers one practice exam for the national portion 
  • Includes detailed score report and analysis
  • Offered by the company that administers the Iowa licensing exam
  • Cost is $20
  • More information can be found here

Night Before the Exam

  • Offers simulated exams, a glossary of terms and prep videos
  • Includes adaptive exams that adjust to skill level, custom cheat sheets and learning games
  • 90-day access
  • Pass exam or money-back guarantee
  • Cost is $60
  • More information can be found here

OnCourse Learning - Real Estate

Approved pre-licensing course provider

  • Basic plan offers practice questions, simulated exams and personalized study plan
  • Upgraded package includes extra timed exams, flashcards, course reviews and math prep
  • Cost ranges from $59-129
  • Find more information here

There are so many exam prep resources available to you to help you pass the Iowa real estate exam with flying colors. Take advantage of the study materials offered to you by your course provider- even if that means paying additional fees. There are also many online exam prep courses available to you that make it easy to study on your own time and at your own pace. 

Don’t trip yourself up by stressing out. Review the tips for taking the Iowa real estate exam and you will have no problem during the test. Remember, they aren’t trying to trick you! 

This guide covered a comprehensive approach to studying for and passing the licensing exam. The key takeaways you should remember are:

  • Pay attention during your 60-hour course
  • Take extensive notes
  • Take as many practice exams as you can
  • Take advantage of every exam prep resource available to you
  • Review the tips here for taking multiple choice exams

Everyone has a different learning style and therefore a different studying style. Choose the methods that work best for you, so you can sit for the Iowa licensing exam with the confidence and knowledge to pass with flying colors!

Remember, once you pass the licensing exam, it’s time to take your three 12-hour additional courses


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