Illinois Nail Technician Exam: Free practice Test, and Everything You Need to Know

Do you need to take the IDFPR Nail Tech 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 Nail Technician exam

If you are just about ready to graduate from a Nail Technology school – or just did – then congratulations! You’re only a few steps away from starting your career as a nail technician.

The only thing left to do now is to pass the IDFPR Nail Technician exam and get your official Illinois Nail Tech license!

But if you’re like a lot of people we talk to, the process of scheduling and taking your exams seems confusing and daunting. But don’t worry: we’ll walk you through the entire process step-by-step. Starting with…

Step 1: Check you’re eligible to take the IDFPR Nail Technician Exam

In order to be eligible to take the exam set by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, you must:

  • Complete 350 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

It also must take you at least eight weeks to complete the required schooling hours – you cannot complete them faster than that. But at the same time, you have to complete the schooling hours in less than two years.

Illinois does offer something called the Pre-Graduate Licensed Nail Technology Exam, which is essentially the early testing. In order to qualify for that, you must complete 280 hours of instruction in your nail technology course/program.

If you do decide to take the early exam, you’ll have to have your school send in an Official Preliminary Transcript to the testing company, Continental Testing.

And you’ll still need to complete the full number of hours required, even if you pass the exam, in order to become licensed.

Step 2: Apply for the Illinois Nail Tech examination

To apply for the nail technician exam in Illinois, you have to submit an online application through their testing company, Continental Testing, which can be done 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.

You’ll also be required to pay the $185 nonrefundable exam fee along with all the necessary information and documentation. You can pay it online with a debit or credit card when you apply, or you can mail it in.

If you decide to send it in the mail, you’ll need to send your payment along with a copy of your application, which you must sign and date.

It’s important not to put off paying it, either, because your application won’t be processed until they receive payment.

If you’re approved to test, you’ll get an email from with instructions on how to move forward. They recommend putting that email in your contacts so it doesn’t get lost in your spam folder.

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. You only have 60 days from the time you receive that email to take your test, so you’ll want to schedule your exam as soon as possible!

You can schedule your test either online or by phone. Just remember that you have to schedule it at least two business days in advance. So, you really don’t want to put it off until the last minute.

If you want to schedule your exam by phone, you can either talk to a real person or use their automated scheduling service. Either way, all you have to do is call 1-800-733-9267 and follow the instructions.

Some things to note if you choose to use their automated service:

  • 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.

It’s important to remember that you have to enter in your email, name, and password exactly as they were written on your application (which is why it’s a good idea to have them written down!).

If you need additional help, you can use this guide which has detailed, step-by-step instructions and 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 you chose/were assigned.

Step 4: Arrive at the exam center on exam day

To make sure you have enough time to complete all the required check-in procedures, you should arrive at the testing facility 30 minutes early (at least).

You want to make sure you 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 U.S. Passport
  • Valid Military Active Duty I.D.
  • Valid Consular I.D.

If you don’t, you will not be admitted into the exam and will have to forfeit your fee.

You also won’t be allowed to have any of the following items with you in the testing room:

  • Cell phones
  • Pagers
  • Other electronic devices
  • Purses
  • Coats
  • Other personal items

Some facilities may offer lockers for you to keep your belongings in while you take your test. If not, you might have to leave them in your car or at home.

Step 5: Take the exam

The exam is written only – there is no practical, hands-on portion of the exam.

Instead, it is a computer-based, multiple-choice test that covers both theory and practical skills topics.

There will be a brief tutorial before your test actually begins that will help to get you acquainted with the computer software. You can go through the tutorial as many times as you need. Your time does not start until after your tutorial is complete.

You will have 90 minutes to complete your exam. That time begins after you complete the tutorial, and it does not stop, even if you take breaks.

These are the topics that you’ll be asked about during your test:

  • Health and Safety (30-35%)
  • Nail Care (15-20%)
  • Nail technology services (48-52%)

If you want a more in-depth breakdown of what each section will entail, take a look at the IDFPR nail tech study guide.

Step 6: Get your results

After you’ve completed your test, you’ll get a preliminary score report that same day (I know, nerve-racking, right?).

To pass, you must have a score of 75 or higher. Anything less than 75 counts as failing.

You’ll receive an official CTS letter one to two weeks from your test date that confirms your test results. It will also provide you with information on how to apply for your license or reschedule your exam.

Step 7: Get your IDFPR Nail Technician license!

If you passed the exam, congratulations!

The next step is to receive your official CTS letter in the mail, which should arrive within one to two weeks of your exam.

The letter will have not only your official score report, but it will also contain an application for licensure and instructions on how to fill it out.

There will be a $30 fee you’ll have to pay, and you might also be required to send in more documentation to the office. All of that will be covered in more detail in the letter they send out to you.

After all that is done, then congrats! You’re officially a licensed nail technician who can start primping and pampering people’s nails.

And in the case that you didn’t pass your exam, your score report will also have instructions on how you can retake the test, as well as what areas you should focus on.

Failing the written exam is heartbreaking, but it is more common than you would think: the pass rate nationally is only 50%! However, students who use our Nail Tech Exam Preparation Package have a pass rate of 98.5%!

Frequently asked questions about the Illinois Nail Technician exam

How do I apply for the Illinois Nail Tech examination?

To apply for the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation Nail Tech exam, all you have to do is fill out an exam application online through Continental Testing Services.

You’ll have to pay the fees, fill out all the necessary information, and send in the required documents to their office (or upload them online).

After you’ve completed all that, you’ll receive an Approval to Test email from PSI (their testing company) prompting you to schedule your exam.

You’ll only have 60 days from when you received your Approval to Test email to actually take your test, and exams have to be scheduled 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 directly.

You can call 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, just 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 nail technology exam. The questions on the exam are ultimately created by CTS (Continental Testing).

How much does it cost to take the Illinois Nail Technician exam?

To take the Illinois Nail Technician exam, you must pay a $185 fee, which is non-refundable.

Where does the examination take place?

The nail technician exam takes place at any of the PSI testing facilities. For a full list of them and their exact locations, check out this test guide.

Some of those testing facilities are proctored by people on-site, and others are remotely proctored.

Basically, 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.

The test guide we linked to above will indicate which sites are remotely proctored, and which ones aren’t.

How many hours of practical work do I need to qualify for the Illinois Nail Technician examination?

Nail techs in Illinois must complete 350 hours of schooling to qualify for the exam and be eligible for immediate licensure.

You can take the early exam if you’ve completed 280 hours of schooling, but you won’t be able to get your license until the full number of hours is required.

Can I take the Illinois Nail Tech examination before I’ve completed the required hours?

Yes, you can take an early exam, called the Pre-Graduate Licensed Nail Technician exam, after you’ve completed 280 hours of schooling.

How long is the nail technician written examination in Illinois?

The Illinois nail technician exam is 90 minutes 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 Study Guide.

If you want to familiarize yourself with the testing format, try out our practice test here.

How long is the nail tech 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 nail technician exam?

To pass the nail technician exam in Illinois, you must get a score of 75 or higher.

You’ll get the preliminary score report that 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 Nail Technology exam?

Illinois doesn’t publish an individual pass rate, but the national average pass rate for the written portion of the exams is only about 50%.

How many times can I re-take the Illinois nail technician examination if I fail?

In Illinois, you can retake the nail technician exam three times without having to do anything else.

You will, however, need to wait 30 days from the date of your exam to schedule your retake. And unfortunately, 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 60 additional hours of study and provide proof of that before you can take the exam the fourth time.

If you fail the exam the fourth time, you basically have to start over. You’ll need to complete 350 hours of instruction in an accredited school or program (in no less than 8 weeks) before you can take the exam again.

How long does nail technician school take in Illinois?

In Illinois, nail techs must complete their schooling in longer than 8 weeks. So, if you go to school full-time, it can generally take anywhere from 2-3 months 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 2 years to complete your hours.

How do I transfer my nail technician licence to Illinois?

Transferring your nail tech license to Illinois is called Licensure by Endorsement, and it can be a bit tricky.

To start, 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:

  1. Complete an application form on the online portal here.
  2. Pay the $45 non-refundable fee.
  3. 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. If that’s the case, you’ll be informed by the Department.

How do I get my nail tech license in Illinois?

To get your nail technician license in Illinois, you’re required to complete 350 hours of instruction in a licensed nail technology school and pass a written examination at a PSI testing facility.

Once you’ve passed the exam, 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 a few weeks after you pass your test.

How do I renew my nail tech license in Illinois?

Nail Tech licenses expire on October 31st of even-numbered years, and you can renew it at any point in the 30 days leading up to that date.

All you’ll have to do is fill out a renewal application online (which can be done here) and certify that you’ve completed the required 10 hours of continued education within the previous two years.

Renewing a nail technician license in Illinois costs $25 per year.

Illinois Nail Technician state board exam practice test

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