Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation cosmetology exam: Free practice test, and everything you need to know
Do you need to take the IDFPR cosmetology exam in Illinois? On this page you’ll find everything you need to know about scheduling and preparing for your exam, answers to all the most common questions, and a free practice test to check you’re prepared!
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The process of registering for (and passing!) your Illinois cosmetology exam
If you’ve graduated from cosmetology school, let us be the first to say CONGRATS! All your hard work is about to pay off as you look forward to starting your dream career in cosmetology!
All that’s standing in your way of becoming a full-blown beautician is passing your IDFPR cosmetology exam in order to get your official Illinois cosmetology license.
If you’re like a lot of people we talk to, the process of scheduling and taking your exams is daunting, confusing and worrying. But don’t worry: we’ll walk you through the process step by step. Starting with…
Step 1: Check you’re eligible to take the IDFPR Cosmetology Exam
To be eligible to take the cosmetology exams set by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, you must:
- Complete 1,500 hours of study at an accredited cosmetology school AND
- Be 17 years or older or be 16 years old with a high school diploma or equivalent
Your schooling hours must take longer than 8 months to complete, but less than seven years.
If you’ve completed 1,200 or more hours of study, you can take the Pre-Graduate Licensed Cosmetology Exam. Your school will just have to provide a Preliminary Transcript to the testing institution showing the number of completed hours.
And if you’ve completed barber school, you can get up to 1,000 hours credit in a cosmetology course. However, the amount of hours you actually get credited with is at the discretion of the cosmetology school you’d be studying at.
Regardless, when transferring from being a barber you would need to complete a minimum of 500 hours in cosmetology instruction in no less than three months, but no more than one year to be eligible for licensure as a cosmetologist.
Step 2: Apply for the Illinois Cosmetology examination
To apply for the cosmetology exam in Illinois, you must submit an application online through the testing company Continental Testing, which you can do here.
During the process, you’ll be asked to enter your name and email and create a password. You’ll want to write these down, because you’ll need them later when you schedule your exam.
After you provide the necessary information and documents online, you’ll be required to pay the (non-refundable) $185 exam fee.
You can pay the fee by debit or credit card at the time of your application. Or, if you want, you can opt to pay it by mail. To do that, you’ll need to send in your payment along with a copy of your application, which you must sign and date.
You’re also required to mail in your official transcript of your completed schooling hours to the Continental Testing Inc. office. Your transcript should contain:
- The name and address of the school you graduated
- The dates of attendance (first and last day)
- A breakdown of subjects covered
- The number of hours completed in the cosmetology course
- The percentage grade on the written and practical exam administered by the school (must be higher than 75%)
It’s important to note that your application will not be considered complete until you’ve paid all the required fees as well as provided a valid email address.
When your approval to test has been determined, you’ll get an email with instructions on how to move forward. They recommend putting email@example.com in your contacts to make sure you get your email.
Step 3: Schedule your exam
Once your application is finished and you’ve been approved to test, you’ll get an email from PSI letting you know you can schedule your exam, which can be done online or by phone.
It’s important to note that you only have 60 days from when you receive your approval to test email to actually take your exam, and all exams need to be scheduled at least two business days in advance. So, you want to be sure to schedule it as soon as possible!
If you want to schedule your exam by phone, they have an automated scheduling service. All you have to do is call 1-800-733-9267 and follow the instructions. Some things to note if you choose this option:
- Your ID number is your social security number
- You will automatically be scheduled at the location closest to your ZIP Code (you don’t get to pick which test center you want)
And if you want to speak to a real person, just call the same number, press 5, and then press star (*). Their hours are Monday through Friday from 6:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., and Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
You can also schedule your test online by clicking here, creating an account, and following the prompts. Here are a few tips that might help you out during the process:
- You have to enter in your email, password, and your name exactly as they were on your application
- When asked to “Select Organization,” choose “Government/State Licensing Agencies”
- When asked to “Select Jurisdiction,” choose “Illinois”
- When asked to “Select Account,” choose “IL – Cosmetology”
And if you get stuck or confused, you can check out this guide which has detailed, step-by-step instructions with pictures.
You will get an email from PSI regardless of which method you choose to schedule your exam. It will confirm the date and time of your test, as well as directions to the testing facility.
Step 4: Arrive at the exam center on exam day
You should arrive to the testing facility at least 30 minutes early to make sure you have enough time to complete all the check-in procedures.
In order to be admitted into the examination, you must have one of the following forms of identification:
- Valid U.S. Driver’s License
- Valid State I.D. issued by any of the 50 states or territories
- Valid Military Active Duty I.D.
- Valid Consular I.D.
It’s also worth noting that you won’t be allowed to have any of the following with you in the testing room:
- Cell phones
- Other electronic devices
- Other personal items
Some facilities may offer lockers for you to keep your belongings in while you take your test, but if not, you might have to leave them in your car or at home.
Step 5: Take the exam
The exam is done entirely on the computer and is multiple-choice. There is no practical, hands-on examination. Instead, the exam covers both theory and practical skill topics.
Before your test actually begins, you’ll be given a brief tutorial to help you get acquainted with the program.
Once that’s complete, you will have two hours to complete your exam. And that time does not stop, even if you take breaks.
These are the topics that you’ll be asked about during your test:
- Salon Safety and Sanitation (32%)
- Analyzing and Treating Scalp, Hair, Skin, and Nails (11%)
- Cutting and Styling Hair (13%)
- Waxing and Relaxing (13%)
- Hair Coloring and Lightening (13%)
- Nail Services (9%)
- Skin Services (9%)
And if you want a more in-depth look at what each section entails, check out IDFPR’s Cosmetology Guide.
Step 6: Get your results
Once you finish your test, you’ll get a preliminary score report that same day.
To pass, you must have a score of 75 or higher. Anything less than 75 is a failing score.
You’ll receive an official CTS letter one to two weeks from your test date confirming your test results and providing you with information on how to apply for your license or reschedule your exam.
Step 7: Get your IDFPR cosmetology license!
If you passed your exam – congrats! – you’ll receive an official CTS letter in the mail within two weeks of your exam.
Along with your score report, it will also contain an application for licensure and instructions on how to complete it. You’ll need to fill it out, pay the $30 required fee, and send any necessary documentation to the office.
Once that’s complete, then congrats, you’re officially licensed and can start your career as a cosmetologist!
And if you didn’t pass your exam, your score report will also have instructions on how you can retake the test and what areas you should focus on.
Failing your written exam is devastating, but not as uncommon as you might think: the pass rate nationally is only 50%! However, students who use our Cosmetology Exam Preparation Package have a pass rate of 98.5%!
Frequently asked questions about the Illinois cosmetology exam
How do I apply for the Illinois cosmetology examination?
You can apply for the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation cosmetology exam by filling out an exam application online through Continental Testing Services.
You’ll need to pay the fees, fill out all the necessary information, and send in the required documents.
After that’s all complete, you’ll receive an approval to test email from their testing service, PSI, prompting you to schedule your exam (which has to be made at least two business days in advance).
I can’t make the date/time of my examination. What should I do?
To reschedule your exam, you have to contact PSI by calling them at 1-800-733-9267. Their business hours are Monday through Friday from 6:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., or Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
To get through to speak to a real person, call the number above, then press 5, and then press the star (*) key.
All exams must be rescheduled at least 48 hours prior to the original exam date.
Which examination program does the IDFPR use?
Illinois uses the PSI Exam testing program for its cosmetology exam. The questions on the exam are created by CTS in consultation with a committee of cosmetology teachers.
How much does it cost to take the Illinois cosmetology exam?
Entry to the Illinois cosmetology exam costs $185, and the fee is non-refundable.
Where does the examination take place?
The exam takes place at one of the many PSI testing facilities. Those locations can be found on pages 3-5 of this testing guide.
It’s important to note that some of those testing facilities are proctored by people on-site, and others are remotely proctored.
What that means is that, at some locations, the proctor will be monitoring you with video cameras, microphones, and a chat window from a remote location, instead of being there in person.
How many hours of practical work do I need to qualify for the Illinois cosmetology examination?
Cosmetologists in Illinois need 1,500 hours of schooling to qualify for the exam and be eligible for immediate licensure.
If you have completed 1,200 hours of schooling, you can take the early examination. However, you won’t get your license until after you’ve completed the full number of hours required.
Can I take the Illinois cosmetology examination before I’ve completed the required hours?
Yes, you can take a Pre-Graduate Licensed Cosmetology exam after you’ve completed 1,200 hours of schooling.
How long is the cosmetology written examination in Illinois?
The Illinois cosmetology exam is two hours long.
What’s the format of the written examination?
The written examination is a computer-based, multiple-choice examination.
To know the breakdown of topics you’ll be questioned on, check out page 11 of their Cosmetology Guide.
If you want to familiarize yourself with the testing format, try out our practice test here.
How long is the cosmetology practical examination?
There is no practical examination in Illinois.
What’s the format of the practical examination?
Illinois doesn’t have a practical exam. Instead, it was replaced by a set of procedural skill questions in the written exam.
What scores do I need to pass the cosmetology exam?
In Illinois, to pass your exam, you must get a score of 75 or higher.
You’ll get the (unofficial) results the same day, but you won’t receive your official score report until one to two weeks after the exam.
What’s the pass rate for the Illinois Cosmetology exam?
Illinois doesn’t publish an individual pass rate, but the national average pass rate for the written portion of the cosmetology exam (which is Illinois’ only portion) is only about 50%.
Check if you’re on track to pass your exam by taking our free cosmetology practice test.
How many times can I re-take the Illinois cosmetology examination if I fail?
In Illinois, you can retake the cosmetology exam three times without having to do anything else.
You’ll need to wait 30 days from the date of your exam to reschedule, and you’ll need to reapply (which can be done here) and pay the fee each time you retake the test.
If you fail your exam three times in a row, you’ll be required to take at least 250 additional hours of study in cosmetology school and provide proof of that before you can take the exam the fourth time.
If you fail the exam the fourth time, you have to complete 1,500 hours of instruction in an accredited cosmetology school (in no less than 8 months) before you can take the exam again.
How long does cosmetology school take in Illinois?
In Illinois, cosmetology school must take at least 8 months to complete. If you go to school full-time, it can generally take anywhere from 8 months to one year to complete the required hours.
If you can’t go to school full-time, though, it can take a bit longer. However, Illinois states that it cannot take longer than 7 years to complete your hours.
How do I transfer my cosmetology licence to Illinois?
Transferring your cosmetology license to Illinois is called Licensure by Endorsement.
To do that, you’ll have to fill out an application online. To be eligible, you must hold a valid, not expired license in a U.S. state or territory.
If you’re eligible, follow these steps:
- Complete an application form on the online portal here.
- Pay the $45 non-refundable fee.
- You’ll need to submit an official Certification of Licensure from the State Board where you’re currently licensed and one from the jurisdiction where you were originally licensed.
Once you submit all the required documentation and pay all applicable fees, the Department will review your application and confirm you meet all the criteria.
Depending on your state’s licensing requirements and your amount of work experience, you may need to complete extra schooling hours. You’ll be informed by the Department if that’s the case.
How do I get my cosmetology license in Illinois?
To get your cosmetology license in Illinois, you’ll be required to complete 1,500 hours of instruction in a licensed cosmetology school and pass a written examination at a PSI testing facility.
Once you’ve passed the examination, you’ll need to fill out an application for licensure. The application and instructions on how to complete it will be mailed to you with your exam’s official score report.
How do I renew my cosmetology license in Illinois?
Cosmetologist licenses expire on September 30th of odd-numbered years, and you can renew it at any point in the 30 days leading up to that date.
You’ll just have to fill out a renewal application online (which can be done here) and certify that you’ve completed the required 14 hours of continued education within the previous two years.
Renewing a cosmetology license in Illinois costs $25 per year.
How should I study for the Illinois cosmetology written exam?
Use our Cosmetology Exam Preparation Package to learn everything you need to pass the written exam.
- Our package includes a study guide that’s structured to help you learn the RIGHT information rather than ALL the information, which can help you cut your preparation/revision time in half.
- Then use our simulated exams to practice for the written exam under test conditions. This part is really important: it’s the key to helping you succeed!
Find out more about the Cosmetology Exam Preparation Package here.
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