Choosing a contractor school for your exam preparation can be a daunting task. Prices start in the low-$100 range for a simple, bare-bones program. Or you can pay thousands of dollars for elaborate overpriced combinations of classroom time and guided self-study.

What Makes a Good Contractor Course?

A  quality contractor course curriculum is created by knowing the way specific state’s tests are written and structured. Also, a deep understanding of effective exam creation techniques and years of practical experience is essential. The best courses incorporate the manuals currently employed by the state to create the exam. This knowledge coupled with previous student feedback on whether study questions are relevant lead to the most successful courses. Programs that lack any of these factors are usually a colossal waste of your time and money.

Being offered a live classroom for study does not always mean you are being offered a better program. In-house classes take up a lot of extra time and most schools at best focus on the law exam but barely spend any time instructing you on the trade exam. Believe it or not, some schools offer “instructor-led self-study” for the trade exam.

If an instructor is not actively instructing you on the details of your specific trade exam, then you are primarily studying by yourself, with an instructor available to tell you to keep reading if you have a question. Think, commuting to detention hall in high school to do your homework. No thanks!

This article goes over what you need to look for in a curriculum as well as what to look out for when selecting a contractor license school. By following the advice in this article, you will be able to choose a school that teaches the information that you need to know, in a way that you will remember, to successfully pass your state exam. A good school should also help you with your application, without taking you to the cleaners.

Choose a Multimedia Learning System

First look at the curriculum. The most effective programs consist of a combination of reading materials (textbooks), audio reviews of the textbooks (CDs), video Instruction covering critical concepts in the textbook (DVDs), and online interactive practice questions and virtual exams (Online Classroom).

This format is called “multimedia learning,” and there is a reason why this works. It’s all about how the human brain learns and retains information.Flow chart showing how sounds and images are processed and stored in memory

The more different types of media you use when learning, the better you will remember the information.

Choose a contractor school that offers study material in a full multi-media spectrum. Do NOT choose a school that breaks their program up into a tiered price structure. Avoid anyone willing to provide a lesser, stripped down version of their program at a slightly lower price, merely to reel you in.

There are two sections to the California contractor’s exam you need to master. The Law & Business exam and the Trade exam. Both are given consecutively at the CSLB testing center on the day of your licensing examination.

Law & Business Exam

This test covers the law portion of your contractor’s license. The exam is the same no matter what your trade. The law exam has the most student feedback of any trade. All of this feedback results in very accurate exam prep materials.

“In 12 years we have never had a student fail to pass the Law & Business exam on their first attempt. Our Law program is bulletproof. If you study you will pass.”

CJ Thompson

Trade Exam

The strength of any given trade program depends on the number of students that have taken the exam. The more people tested in a specific trade, the better that study program tends to be. Thus, the core trades are rock solid. Since there is less feedback on the least common trades, there is less data to develop study programs. This limitation impacts all test prep programs and cannot be solved by more expensive programs.

A contractor school may try to increase their profit margins by convincing students they need to study in their facilities. Classroom study is always considerably more expensive than home study. Most in-class students later report that they sat in a room in front of a desk or computer and were merely going over the same materials they would have been studying at home. In fact, many of our students who previously went to live instruction report that their specific trade was rarely, if ever, discussed. When they had trade-related questions, they were told to look it up in the book.

If an instructor is not going to cover your specific trade in detail, then why waste your time commuting to a classroom?

Our advice is to study at home, Read texts and listen to CDs. Watch videos and hit rewind if you need to review something in detail. Take practice tests and review questions online. You can become thoroughly prepared to pass your exam in the comfort and convenience of your own home. Save your money and protect your valuable time.

Contractor School Red Flags

Avoiding these red flags can save you hundreds of dollars and many hours of wasted effort.

THE COST OF THE PROGRAM: A more expensive program is not necessarily a better program. Just because a school charges $1,000 or more on a licensing course does not mean they are offering you a superior curriculum, or that you will have a better outcome.

Avoid schools that do not disclose the total cost of their curriculum without first contacting them. You will undoubtedly be speaking with a salesperson, usually commissioned. Our suggestion is that you avoid commissioned salespeople when humanly possible.

Don’t spend a fortune on your study program. Save your money and instead use the extra to pay for your License Fees, Live-Scan fees & for your $15,000 Bond. A school that charges considerably more money may not be offering a significantly better program.

THE UPSELL: Program prices START at X dollars to get you on their site. Then they offer additional services or study material, which you will need, for an additional fee.

A study program should offer everything required to pass the exam and at one reasonable fee. It is never your best interest to purchase a course stripped of critical features, removed merely to lure you in with a low-cost option.

A contractor school’s goal should be about you, successfully passing your contractor’s license. NOT about continually trying to extract more money from you for extra features or extended online access.

THE “YOU CAN’T FAIL” MONEY BACK GUARANTEE: No program can guarantee that you will pass your exam. If you don’t believe me, read the fine print, when you can find it.

Be leery of grossly overpriced schools offering “too good to be true” guarantees. They may make up the refund costs with drastically increased pricing for their programs.

SCHOOL SIZE: Is a contractor school charging a higher price because they have a better program?

Or is it because the school has huge overhead, pays hefty commissions to its salesforce, and is using your business to pay for it all?

AGE OF THE CURRICULUM: Is the course you purchase written for last year’s exam or is it written for the current exam?

Make sure the program you purchase is entirely up to date for the current exam.

THE COMMISSIONED SALESPERSON: Are you talking to someone who is there to help you become a licensed contractor? Or are you talking to a commissioned salesperson who is trying to pad his paycheck for the week?

When you are speaking to the later person, buyer beware. Giving them any of your real information can be like providing information to a stalker.

Look around on the internet, look at different schools, see how you feel about them and what they are offering. Do they tell you about their program in detail? Or are they just trying to get you to speak to a salesperson while providing minimal information? Compare pricing and compare programs.

Do your homework, then look us up. Let us show you what we bring to the table.