Pennsylvania State Board of Barber Examiners Exam: Free Practice Test, and Everything You Need to Know

Do you need to take the State Board of Barber Examiners exam in Pennsylvania? 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 Pennsylvania state board Barber exam

If you’ve just completed your apprenticeship or schooling hours, CONGRATS! You’re just one step away from your dream career as a barber!

All you need to do now is pass your State Board exams in order to get your Pennsylvania barber’s license. But the process of applying, scheduling, and actually taking your exam is both confusing and daunting. 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 Pennsylvania State Board barber exams

To be eligible to take the exams set by the Pennsylvania State Board of Barber Examiners, you must:

  • Meet specific age and education requirements
  • Complete a certain number of schooling or apprenticeship hours
  • Meet certain reciprocity requirements

Age and Education Requirements

In Pennsylvania, in order to be able to take the barber exams, you have to be at least 16 years old with an 8th grade education level or higher.

Schooling/Apprenticeship Requirements

In Pennsylvania, you must complete 1,250 hours of instruction in barbering at a licensed school before you are eligible to take the exams.

However, instead of in-school training, you can be eligible to take the exams by completing 1,250 apprenticeship hours under the supervision of a licensed barber manager or teacher.

Either way, the state requires that your hours (whether apprenticeship or in school) must take at least nine months to complete.

Pennsylvania does offer a crossover program if you’re already a licensed cosmetologist looking to get your barber’s license as well. The state credits you with 555 hours of schooling, so you only have to complete 695 hours in a barber shop or barber school to be eligible to take the exams instead of the full 1,250.

Reciprocity Requirements

If you have a barber’s license in another state and it is either:

  • Inactive
  • Not current (expired)

Then you’ll be required to take the full examination.

If you have a license in another state that is active and current, but your state does not have an understanding of reciprocity with Pennsylvania, then you are required to take only part of the exams, known as getting your barber’s license by endorsement.

If that’s you, then you would have to take a theory-only portion consisting of 50 state-specific law questions.

As long as your license is active and not expired, and your state does have an understanding of reciprocity with Pennsylvania, then you would not be required to take the exams at all.

Step 2: Apply for the Pennsylvania State Board of Barber Examiners examinations

To apply for the Pennsylvania State Board of Barber Examiners exams, you have to complete an Application of Licensure.

This is done completely online. Pennsylvania has replaced their paper-based application forms with an online application portal called PALS.

To start, simply create an account on the PALS platform (which you can do here). There will be a non-refundable $10 application fee at the beginning of your application.

After that, you’ll be given a series of instructions and prompts to follow.

During the application, you’ll need to upload a variety of different documents. You’ll also be required to answer questions concerning any criminal history.

After you’ve finished filling out all the information and uploading the required documents online, you’ll still need to pay the $63 theory exam fee and $77 practical exam fee to Pearson Vue C/O Dasher Inc. via Money Order, School Check, or Business Check. Send it and your PALS application number to:

Pearson Vue C/O Dasher Inc
PO Box 1652
Harrisburg, PA 17105

It’s worth noting that the testing institution needs your funds before they start processing your application. So it’s important not to put off this step, in order to speed up the application process.

Once you’ve paid the fees and uploaded all the necessary documents, your application is complete! If you missed any information, you will be contacted via email and prompted to provide the things you’ve missed.

Required Documentation

For an Application of Licensure in Pennsylvania, you’ll need to provide the following documents:

  • Affidavit: Either a Barber School or Barber Shop Affidavit with a notary signature and seal from the school/shop where you completed your hours
  • Proof of Education: a GED diploma, high school diploma, GED certificate indicating grade equivalency, letter from the high school attended (signed by the principal) stating the highest level of grade completed, or an official transcript of high school record
  • Identification: Driver’s license (not expired), State-issued I.D., Passport, Birth Certificate, or Department of State issued VISA
  • Criminal History Record Check: You must obtain a CHRC from the police department within 90 days of the date you submit your application. You must provide one for every state you have lived, worked, and/or trained in over the past 5 years.

If you’ve lived, worked, and/or trained in Pennsylvania alone for the past 5 years (at the time you apply), your Criminal History Records Check request will automatically be sent to the police department.

You’ll have to pay the (non-refundable) PATCH fee for the CHRC at the time of checkout, and the records will be automatically sent to the Board/Commission. If any additional information is required, you’ll be contacted via email.

But if you have worked, lived, and/or trained in another state within the past 5 years, things can get confusing. Basically, you’d be required to get a Criminal History Records Check from each state’s police department OR other state agency that is the official repository for criminal history record information.

If you don’t know where to go to get your CHRC from your state, this list gives the websites to the state agency you’ll need to go to in order to get your CHRC.

If you’ve lived/worked/trained in multiple states within the past five years, you might want to get a CHRC for your current state and an FBI Identity History Summary Check instead of individual CHRCs for every other state you’ve lived in.

And one last thing – Pennsylvania will not accept a CHRC from you if you currently live, work, or complete training in the following states:

  • California
  • Ohio
  • Arizona

Instead, you will be required to complete an FBI Identity History Summary Check.

Step 3: Schedule your exam

Once you’ve completed the application, provided the necessary documents, and paid all the fees, you’ll receive an Approval to Test notification via email within 10 business days. 

If you don’t receive it within that time, you should call Pearson Vue/Dasher to get an update on its status.

Your Approval to Test email will have the information on how to schedule your exam, which can be done online or by contacting Pearson Vue’s customer service (you can either call or chat with them online during business hours).

You have to schedule your theory exam two calendar days in advance, and you have to schedule your practical exam 5 days in advance.

It does not matter which exam you schedule and complete first (practical or theory), but you must complete both exams within one year.

Step 4: Arrive at the exam center on exam day

You should arrive at the test center at least 30 minutes before your scheduled appointment time. If you arrive late or don’t bring your necessary documentation/equipment, you will not be let in and you’ll forfeit your exam fee.

In order to be admitted to either of the exams, you must have two forms of signature-bearing identification, and one must have a photo.

Acceptable primary identification (the one with the photograph) is stated to be:

  • Government issued Driver’s License (not expired)
  • Department of State issued Driver’s License (not expired)
  • U.S. learner’s permit (with photo and signature)
  • National/State/Country ID card
  • Passport
  • Passport card
  • Military ID
  • Military ID for spouses and dependents
  • Alien Registration Card

Acceptable secondary identification is stated to be:

  • U.S. Social Security card
  • Debit (ATM) card
  • Photo-bearing School ID
  • Any form of ID on the primary ID list

Along with the proper identification, for the practical exam, you must also bring:

  • A plain-colored smock or apron (if it has a school name on it, you’ll be required to cover it before entering and keep it covered for the entire exam)
  • First Aid Kit
  • Conventional razor
  • Mannequin (not pre-sectioned/pre-parted) and stand/extender
  • Live model
  • Scissors
  • Clippers
  • Everything detailed in this Supply List

They also recommend bringing in a copy of your Approval to Test notice.

Your live model must be at least 16 years old and not be a licensed barber or in school to become one. Their hair must be at least 1” long on top and at least ¼” long at the nape of the neck and the sideburn area. They also must have enough visible stubble to perform a 14 stroke shave.

And they do have a dress code. You must be dressed appropriately, which means no hats, ripped jeans, tank tops, halter tops, shorts, or skirts that are above the knees. They recommend dressing business casual.

One last thing to note is that they do not allow you to bring cell phones, smart watches, or any other electronic devices, so you should leave those in your car or at home.

Step 5: Take the exam(s)

To become licensed as a barber in Pennsylvania, you must pass both a theory and a practical exam. Let’s take a look at what each one entails.

Practical Exam

The testing sites for the practical exams are meant to look like a real spa or hair salon, so it’ll look similar to your work setting. The exam itself will be administered by an evaluator.

For the entire exam, they allow you 2 hours and 30 minutes. But remember that both set up and take down of your supplies and equipment are included within that time.

During the exam, you’ll be required to complete any of the following tasks, which will be chosen at random:

  • Infection Control and Safety (10 minutes)
  • Chemical Relaxer – Retouch (15 minutes)
  • Chemical Relaxer – Virgin (17 minutes)
  • Male Facial (20 minutes)
  • Hair Color – Retouch (10 minutes)
  • Hair Color – Virgin (15 minutes)
  • Basic Layered Haircut – Shears/Scissors (20 minutes)
  • Tapered Haircut Back of Head – Scissors/Clippers (20 minutes)
  • Permanent Wave (15 minutes)
  • Shaving – Face and Neck (25 minutes)
  • Honing and Stropping (15 minutes)

Also noted under the “Infection Control and Safety” section is a portion titled “Universal Precautions – For Blood Spill.” If you get cut while doing your exam, you must correctly follow all the precautions stated in that section.

For a more detailed look at what each section will include, check out pages 3-5 of their Content Outline. That will also tell you which tasks are performed on the mannequin and which ones are performed on the live model.

And if you’re in the middle of the exam, and you make a mistake, don’t worry! They do give you a chance to correct it by raising your hand, telling the evaluator what you missed, and demonstrating that part of the step.

However, once you move on to a new skill, you will not be able to go back and make a correction on a previous task.

In order to pass your practical exam, you must successfully complete each skill.

Theory Exam

The written exam is a multiple-choice, computer-based test which you’ll complete at a Pearson Vue testing facility.

They give you 2 hours and 15 minutes to answer 130 questions. Of those, 110 are scored and 20 are “pretest” questions, which are questions that don’t affect your score but are used in case of future examinations.

Here’s a breakdown of what they’ll be asking:

  • Rules, regulations, and safety (25-30%)
  • Hair/Scalp Structure and Care (5-10%)
  • Shaving/Beard Design (6-10%)
  • Hair Cutting and Hair Styling (25-30%)
  • Chemical Services (20-25%)
  • Skincare (4-8%)

You can check out pages 1-2 of Pearson Vue’s content outline, which goes into more detail about what each section entails.

Step 6: Get your results

For both the practical and theory exams, you’ll get your results immediately after you finish taking the test.

For the practical exam, you must successfully pass each skill.

If you don’t pass, you’ll receive an official Failing Score Report, which will list the skills you were asked to complete and either a Satisfactory or Unsatisfactory mark. Directly under an Unsatisfactory mark, there will be numbers that indicate which steps were performed incorrectly.

Even though it is disappointing to fail, you can use that report to help study and better prepare for your retake!

For the written exam, you must pass with a score of 75 or higher.

If you don’t pass, you’ll receive a score report with a numeric value. However, it’s important to note that the numeric value does not represent the number of questions you answered correctly nor the percentage of questions answered correctly.

Step 7: Get your Pennsylvania State Board barber’s license!

If you pass both the theory and practical exams, you’ll receive your license in the mail within 10-15 business days. However, if you haven’t received it within 10 business days, you should call Pearson Vue at 866-638-7502 to get an update on its status.

If you didn’t pass either of your exams, your score report will have instructions on how to reapply. You’ll have to reschedule the exams online or over the phone at least 24 hours after the failed exam. And, you will be required to resubmit the exam fee when you reapply.

While both exams are difficult, the written exam is what most people struggle with: the pass rate nationally is only 50%! However, students who use our Barber Exam Preparation Package have a pass rate of 98.5%!

Frequently asked questions about the Pennsylvania barber exams

How do I apply for the Pennsylvania State Board barber examination?

You can apply for the Pennsylvania State Board of Barber Examiners exams by creating an account online on the PALS platform and following all the instructions, including uploading the necessary documents and paying all the necessary fees.

After completing all the paperwork and fees, you’ll get an Approval to Test email within 10 business days. The letter will include information on how to schedule your exams.

Your practical exam has to be made 5 days in advance, and your theory exam has to be made 2 days in advance.

You can download the Pennsylvania Barber Candidate Handbook here, which will go over (in detail) all the steps you need to take!

I can’t make the date/time of my examination. What should I do?

If you need to reschedule your exam, you must contact Pearson Vue at least 2 calendar days in advance for the theory exam, and 5 calendar days in advance for the practical exam.

If you don’t contact them within that amount of time and you don’t show up to the exam, you’ll have to forfeit your exam fee.

You can contact them via telephone at 866-638-7502 or chat with them online here.

If you’re late, you will not be allowed to take your exam and you will forfeit your exam fee.

If you are absent, you will have to forfeit your exam fee except in the following cases:

  • Illness of yourself or immediate family member
  • Death in the family
  • Disabling traffic accident
  • Court appearance or jury duty
  • Military duty
  • Weather emergency

Which examination program does the Pennsylvania State Board of Barber Examiners use?

Pennsylvania uses the testing company Pearson Vue, who sets the questions for the test. Questions for the barber theory exam are written by a committee of Subject Matter Experts.

How much does it cost to take the Pennsylvania State Board of Barber Examiners exam?

There is a non-refundable $10 application fee due at the time you apply.

Entrance to the practical exam costs $77, and entrance to the theory exam costs $66. Both fees are nonrefundable.

Where do the examinations take place?

The theory exam takes place at one of the Pearson Vue testing facilities. Those locations are:

  • Harrisburg
  • Philadelphia
  • Pittsburg (West)
  • Pittsburg (East)
  • Allentown
  • Erie
  • Plymouth Meeting
  • Scranton
  • Washington
  • Newark, DE
  • Morgantown, WV

They also offer testing at four state correctional facilities.

The practical exam takes place in the following cities:

  • Philadelphia
  • Harrisburg
  • Pittsburg
  • Luzerne County

Here is a current list of practical examination dates and locations for the 2020 year.

How many hours of practical work do I need to qualify for the Pennsylvania State Board Barber examinations?

Barbers in Pennsylvania need 1,250 hours of schooling or apprenticeship training to qualify for the exams.

If you’re a licensed cosmetologist looking to get your barber’s license as well, you can participate in their crossover program. You would be credited with 555 hours of instruction, meaning you would only have to complete 695 more hours to be eligible to take the exams.

Can I take the State Board examinations before I’ve completed the required hours?

No, Pennsylvania’s State Board of Barber Examiners does not offer early testing for barber’s licensing exams.

How long is the barber’s written examination?

The Pennsylvania State Board allows 2 hours and 15 minutes to complete the barber written exam.

What’s the format of the written examination?

The written examination is a computer-based, multiple-choice examination. There are 130 questions in total for barbers, and you have 2 hours and 15 minutes to complete them.

Of those, 110 are scored, and 20 are “pretest” questions, meaning they don’t count towards your score, but will be used in the case of future exams. However, those questions are not identified, so you  won’t be able to know which ones count towards your score and which ones don’t.

There are multiple different forms they use, so questions vary from test to test.

For more information about the topics you’ll be examined on, read their Content Outline.

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

How long is the barbers practical examination?

The Pennsylvania State Board of Barber Examiners practical examination is 2 hours and 30 minutes long.

What’s the format of the practical examination?

The practical exam is set up to resemble a standard salon or spa, so it will look like your work setting.

You will be required to complete a variety of tasks, either on a mannequin head or a live model, while being evaluated by an evaluator. Those tasks are referred to as “skills,” and are chosen at random by the evaluator from a complete list that can be found here.

You will be required to actually complete the tasks given, not just explain or simulate them. For example, if you are given a task that involves using water, you must actually use water when demonstrating the skill.

What scores do I need to pass the barber exam in Pennsylvania?

In Pennsylvania, candidates must pass their written exam with a score of 75 or greater.

That number does not indicate a percentage of correct answers nor the actual number of questions answered correctly.

That’s because their scoring system is scaled to account for the minor differences in difficulty between the different test forms. There is an algorithm that calculates the number of correct and incorrect questions, and produces a numeric value based on that.

If you pass the exam, you won’t get a number on your score sheet. You’ll only get a numeric value if you fail.

And for the practical exam, you must successfully complete all skills in order to pass.

What’s the pass rate for the Pennsylvania State Board of Barber Examiners exams?

There isn’t a pass rate for Pennsylvania as an individual state, but the national average pass rate for the written exam is about 50%.

Check if you’re on track to pass your exam by taking our free barber practice test.

How many times can I re-take the State Board barber examination if I fail?

In Pennsylvania, there is no limit to the amount of retakes you can do. But you must pay the corresponding exam fee each time you retake the test, and you must wait 24 hours after your failed test to reschedule.

It’s important to remember that, in Pennsylvania, you only have one year to pass both exams, or you’ll have to retake both of them.

How long does barber school take in Pennsylvania?

In Pennsylvania, for barbering school and apprenticeships, you have to take at least 9 months to complete your hours.

It can take longer, depending on whether or not you go to school/train under a barber teacher or manager full time. If you can only study part time, it will take longer.

How do I transfer my barbers licence to Pennsylvania?

If you meet certain requirements, you will be able to transfer your barber’s license to Pennsylvania without needing to retake the exam. The requirements are:

  • Your license is active and not expired AND
  • You are coming from a state which has an understanding of reciprocity with Pennsylvania

Currently, there are only 12 states which do have an understanding of reciprocity with Pennsylvania:

  • California
  • Delaware
  • Idaho
  • Kansas
  • Maine
  • Michigan
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • New York
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota
  • Virginia

Before submitting an application, you might want to call the Board at (717) 783-3402 to double-check that the state you’re coming from is eligible or not, as it is always subject to change.

Once you’ve deemed that you’re eligible to transfer your license, follow these steps:

  1. Complete a “reciprocity” application form on the PALS portal by creating an account here. There is a $55 non-refundable application fee.
  2. Complete a Criminal History Records Check for each state that you’ve lived/worked/trained in over the past 5 years. See this list for information on where to go to get your Criminal History Records Check for each state.
  3. Contact the board(s) of the state(s) where you do or have ever held a license and request a letter of good standing. The letters must be submitted directly to the Board.

Once you submit all the required documents and pay all the applicable fees, the Board will review your application and confirm you meet all the criteria.

If you are approved, you will get an email and/or a letter in the mail with instructions on how to proceed.

And if you have an active, not expired license but you’re coming from a state that does not have an understanding of reciprocity with Pennsylvania, you’ll need to pass a short, written-only exam that consists of only 50 questions regarding state laws.

How do I get my barber license in Pennsylvania?

To get your barbers license in Pennsylvania, you will need to complete the necessary amount of training (1,250 hours) and pass a written examination and a practical exam. Once you’ve passed both examinations, you will be given your license!

How do I renew my barber license in Pennsylvania?

Barbers licenses expire on April 30th of even-numbered years and it costs $109 to renew.

The Board will send out a notification to remind you that your license is nearing its expiration date two to three months in advance to the address it has on file. You’ll also receive an email notification generally 60 days prior to your license’s expiration date.

To renew your license, login online to the PALS system. Renewal applications are typically opened 30-60 days before the expiration date. All you do is fill out the renewal application online and pay the fee!

Once you complete your application and it is reviewed by the Board, you will receive your new license in the mail. Please note that the Postal Service will not forward licenses, so it is important to keep your address updated.

How should I study for the Pennsylvania barber written exam?

Use our Barber 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 Barber Exam Preparation Package here.

Pennsylvania barber state board exam practice test

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