Information Regarding the Written and Practical Examinations

The examination consists of two (2) parts, a written and a practical. All candidates take the National Interstate Council of Board of Cosmetology (NIC) written and practical examination. Candidates are scheduled to take the practical and written examinations on the same day. The Board has two permanent testing sites; one in Northern California (Fairfield) and one in Southern California (Glendale). Once you are scheduled, candidates have the option of rescheduling the written examination to another day at one of PSI’s (computer-based written exam vendor) 15+ testing sites. The practical examination cannot be rescheduled. Information about this is included with the admission letter sent to candidates once they have been scheduled for their examination.

The exams are available in English, Korean, Spanish, and Vietnamese. Please note: the examinations are translated into the most universal or neutral version of each language to be acceptable to the widest possible audience. If a candidate cannot read, speak, or write in English at a 10th grade-level and the examination is not available in their native language, the candidate may request approval to use an interpreter for one or both parts of the examination. Please refer to Interpreter or Interpreter/Model instructions at:

The written examinations, excluding barbers, have 100 questions and candidates are allowed 120 minutes to complete; the barber written examination has 50 questions and candidates are allowed 90 minutes to complete. Note: The written examinations for all license types may contain 10 additional pretest items. These items are placed randomly throughout the examination and will not count towards or against the candidate’s score. The practical examinations vary in length. The cosmetologist exam may take approximately 4 hours, barber 3 hours; manicurist, esthetician and electrologists may take up to 1 ½ hours. Candidates receive a 15-minute break during the barber and cosmetology practical examinations.

California Candidate Information Bulletins (CIB)

Practical Examinations

These bulletins can be used to help you prepare for your examination. They provide you with the list of tasks that you will be graded on, the verbal instructions that will be given during the exam, and the required supplies/implements necessary for the exam. It is up to the candidate to know how to perform these services safely and correctly.

Written Examinations:

These Bulletins include the content outline covered by the written examination, sample questions and answers.

Additional Resources

NIC Webcast