What to Expect from the State Board Exam and How Cosmetology School Prepares Students

graphic of stylists doing hair

Microgen – stock.adobe.com

So you want to be a cosmetologist? Can you define beveling? Which colors do you mix to achieve secondary colors? Do you know what vitamin is the formulation of retinol? Or what happens in stratum granulosum? The answers to these questions are all covered in cosmetology and esthetic courses and will likely be on your state board examination. If you’re passionate about your craft, becoming knowledgeable and confident in your career will start with your coursework and solidify in passing the state board examination.

While a cosmetologist has extensive training in hair as well as training in skin care, an esthetician exclusively focuses on skin treatment. Each state has different requirements you must qualify for before taking the exam.

In Washington, you must complete 1,600 hours in cosmetology to be eligible for the Cosmetology State Board Exam.

If you decide to take your state board exam in your home state and eventually plan on moving, check the requirements of your desired destination. There may be a process. However, you can usually transfer your license.

For candidates who are unsure of what the exam will consist of, consider this a helpful guide on what to expect from Washington’s cosmetology state board examination.

First, Washington state requires you to take two examinations:

  • Practical examination
    • Time Allotment: approximately four to five hours
  • Written examination
    • Time allotment: 90 minutes

Each test will have different time allotments and count toward your passing grade. You must have a minimum score of 75% to pass the exam.

Examination: What To Bring

The National Institute Council (NIC) recommends having different packing kits for each section. Bring one mannequin head for the practical examination along with a table clamp.

A checklist of items to bring for the examination:

  • Valid form of identification
  • Admissions letter
  • Packing kits for the practical examination
  • Approved mannequin head and table clamp
  • Supplied for disinfecting and disposal
    • Container labeled “Items to be disinfected”
    • Container labeled “Soiled linens”
    • Container labeled “Trash”
    • Gloves for disinfection procedures
blow drying hair and styling

Microgen – stock.adobe.com

The Scope of the Washington Practical Exam

Each category of the test will have a time allotment. The best plan of attack for acing the practical exam is to study and apply what you have learned on the mannequin, allotting time constraints on each section accordingly. Organization is critical and will help you work efficiently throughout the exam. Candidates are observed for immediate cleanup if any product should drip on the floor. Ensure that you are properly disinfecting and have separate bags for soiled linens, trash and items to be disinfected. For a comprehensive list of requirements for all NIC examinations, review the FAQ.

The Cosmetology Practical Exam Consists of the Following Sections:

  • Preparation––Station and Supplies
  • Thermal Curling
  • Haircutting
  • New Client Preparation
  • Chemical Waving
  • Strand Test
  • Highlighting With Foil
  • Virgin Application
  • Hair Coloring Retouch
  • Hair Removal of Eyebrows
  • Manicure and Nail Polish Application

There are online materials that will help prepare you for the written part of the exam. Understand the material and practice each section.

At Evergreen Beauty College, State Board Prep is part of the Cosmetology coursework. If you’re interested in learning more about the curriculum for cosmetology at Evergreen Beauty College, and would like to learn more about the courses, visit our Cosmetology Course Program for detailed information.

Frank Trieu
Vice President of Business Development & Industry Relations

Frank Trieu is a cosmetology industry leader, and despite his accomplishments and accolades, he still prioritizes students on the Evergreen campus. Through building relationships within the community and local salons, retail stores, and spas, he helps facilitate job placements for aspiring beauty professionals using his expansive network.

Happy Evergreen Beauty College Students


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