Free cosmetology practice test (updated for 2024)

Are you ready to take your cosmetology state board exam?

Find out if you're prepared: Take our free cosmetology practice test, which includes questions direct from this year’s state board exam.

There’s only one thing standing between you and an exciting career in cosmetology: an examination set by the National-Interstate Council of State Boards of Cosmetology!

It’s a daunting hurdle and many people find the exam process very stressful, but every US state has a licensing requirement for a good reason: to make sure the public is safe, and to uphold high standards in the cosmetology industry.

In most states, you’re required to take both practical and written examinations.

Our cosmetology practice test will help you prepare for the written exam – which most people find the most scary.

We use actual questions that appear on the cosmetology state board exams, so you’ll understand that type of questions you’ll be asked and be able to figure out if you’re ready to take your test for real!

(We also have practice exams available for barbering, esthetics and nail care.)

About the cosmetology practice test

On this page you’ll see 20 practice test questions, all taken from the actual state board test. They cover all the main topics you’ll be tested on in your cosmetology exam:

  • Scientific Concepts
  • Hair Care and Services
  • Skin Care and Services
  • Nail Care and Services

Just choose what you think is the right answer, then enter your email address so we can send you a detailed breakdown of what you got right and wrong on your practice exam.

Then cross your fingers, and click through to see your score!

How to prepare for your cosmetology state board exam

As you’ll know when you’ve taken the practice exam, the written exam isn’t easy! Because the exam covers scientific concepts too, just being able to do the practical side of cosmetology is not enough for you to pass your exam.

Many people go into the exam totally unprepared…which is why the nationwide failure rate is 50%!

We know – that sounds scary. But don’t worry: the exam isn’t impossibly difficult. The problem is that most students aren’t told how to prepare properly, and they’re given giant textbooks that are impossible to memorize.

We were sick of seeing people waste hundreds of dollars on making multiple attempts to pass their cosmetology state board exam, and being unable to start their career as a licensed cosmetologist.

Taking online quizzes is a good start, but it’s an inefficient form of exam practice.

That’s why we put together our Premium Cosmetology Study Guide, which tells you exactly what you need to know and gives you all the tools we need to prepare. It’s so good, our students’ pass rate is 98.5% – and if you don’t pass first time, we’ll give you a full refund!

We’ll tell you more about the study guide after you’ve taken the practice test. Taking free cosmetology practice tests is a great place to start, because the practice questions you get right and wrong will you an idea of which State Board exam areas you need to focus on.

Common questions

What is the passing score for the cosmetology exam?

Although the National Interstate Council of Board of Cosmetology (NIC) sets the exam in almost every state, each state is free to set their own passing grade. The most common pass mark is 75% (such as in the California cosmetology state board), so that’s the one we’ve chosen here.

How long does the state board cosmetology test take?

Again, each state sets their own duration, but the most common is 120 minutes for cosmetologists.

How many questions are on the test?

You guessed it! It varies. But the most common is 100 cosmetology questions.

What is PSI in cosmetology?

PSI is a company that administers the state board exams in 35 states, so it’s likely that you’ll attend one of their test centers to sit your exam.

Why is the written exam even necessary?

This is something many students have asked themselves after failing! What does hairstyling, manicuring, being a barber have to do with a written test? Surely demonstrating your practical skills is enough!

But really, the written portion is the only way you can demonstrate your knowledge of the theory. The state board wants to know that a candidate meets the requirements for safely providing services to the public, which includes scientific concepts that they can’t easily check any other way.

Candidates should be taught this theory in school as part of their education, but often aren’t – so they have to cram from a textbook like Milady at the last minute, without really knowing what the guidelines for the assessment are.

Like it or not, those are the rules of licensure – so passing the exam is the only way to get your permit and start your new career. But like we said: don’t worry! It doesn’t have to be difficult, and we’ll explain why after you’ve taken the test questions and seen the answers.

Get ready…here’s the practice test! Good luck!

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How can split ends be repaired?*
What purpose do humectants serve in conditioners?*
Which of the following is not a type of conditioner?*
Which of the following is not a function of brushing?*
For which techniques should razors be used on curly hair?*
At which two reference points does the comb leave the head?*
What should be done for patients who have been treated with conditioner that must be left in for more than one minute?*
What purpose does silicone serve in conditioners?*
Which type of shear is best for cutting large sections of hair?*
Which type of shampoo should be used to remove build-up?*
Which of the following is not a layered haircut?*
Which of the following is not one of the natural wave patterns of hair?*
Which pair includes the two basic requirements for a healthy scalp?*
What is the difference between treatment massages and relaxation massages?*
How does shampoo draping differ from chemical draping?*
Which elevation angle could be used to add weight to a haircut?*
Moisturizing conditioners allow the _____ to absorb moisture from the air.*
It is safe to perform a service on clients who have…*
What are the two types of asymmetrical balance?*
What is the most appropriate hairstyle for round facial types?*

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