What is the Cosmetology Test?

The cosmetology test is a written and practical timed test required by each state. You have to pass this cosmetology test with a 70 or 80 percent, depending on your state, in order to get a cosmetology license and officially practice cosmetology in that state.

Many students fail the cosmetology test, even though they have successfully completed all the requirements for cosmetology school.

Don’t let that happen to you! Learn more about the cosmetology state board test. It’s an important first step in your success as a hairstylist.

Here are some commonly asked questions and answers about the cosmetology test.

But first, did you know that the cosmetology test has lots of names?

  • Cosmetology state board exam
  • State boards
  • Cosmetology exam
  • Cosmetology licensing exam

Yes, there are lots of names for just ONE really important test that determines if you can become a licensed cosmetologist.

Now, on to the cosmetology test FAQ.

Is the written cosmetology test harder than the practical cosmetology test?

Yes. Many cosmetology students have more trouble with the written cosmetology test than the practical cosmetology test. And the statistics support this.

That’s because the written cosmetology test is designed to be hard: it’s multiple-choice questions, it’s timed, and it expects you to know a lot of cosmetology theory—like four corners of the head, round vs. square layers, finger angle and position, elevation, overdirection, guidelines, and base placement for perms.

How do I pass the written cosmetology test?

First, don’t make a common mistake. Don’t think that because you’re artistic and can cut and color hair, you will pass. Unfortunately, it’s trickier than that.

In some states, the failure rates for the written cosmetology test are 40 to 50 percent. Most states, like Texas, publish their cosmetology state board passing rates. And the results are a bit depressing.

Look at the numbers for your state. Know what you’re up against. And get prepared to pass, now.

You can do this.

How many questions are on the written cosmetology test?

Here’s how the test looks in most states: Multiple choice, closed-book and timed. (Minus 10 practice questions you won’t be timed on.)

There are an average of 100 questions, with four choices per question.

How long you have to take the test depends on your state, but you’ll typically get a little less than 1 minute per question. You’ll probably take the test on a computer, but you could also take it on paper.  Again, this is for most states. Some details may vary.

Do I have to know cosmetology theory for the cosmetology test?

Yes. You may be tested on any or all of the following cosmetology theory: four corners of the head, round vs. square layers, finger angle and position, elevation, overdirection, guidelines, and base placement for perms.

The Filmbook® State Board app explains cosmetology theory to you—in films and in a step-by-step built-in cosmetology exam book. It can help you understand cosmetology theory no matter what cosmetology school you attend.

What are examples of written cosmetology test questions?

  • How does the surfactant in shampoo work?
  • Where are you most likely to find infection or inflammation during a foot analysis?
  • Why should you analyze your guest’s growth pattern before beginning a roller set?
  • Which of the following is another name for galvanic current?
  • Starting at neutral, what is the difference in each point on the pH scale?
  • What water temperature should you use when rinsing lightener from your guest’s hair?
  • What is an adductor?
  • Which of the following statements about ammonium thioglycolate is true?

Do you know the answers? Depending on your state, you need 70 to 80 percent to pass the cosmetology state board.

Here are more sample cosmetology quiz questions, as shown on the Filmbook State Board app.


Cosmetology test sample multiple-choice question on decolorization shown on iPhone from the Filmbook State Board app
Can you answer this question about decolorization? You’ll need to know this—and much more—to pass the cosmetology state board test


Sample cosmetology test question on vomer bone shown on iPhone from the Filmbook State Board app
Are you ready for the cosmetology state board test? Being able to answer multiple-choice questions like this is the key to your success. Start practicing early, and you will be more prepared to pass.


Your written cosmetology test will cover the tough, brainy cosmetology topics. Did you get the correct answers? Check below:

Cosmetology test multiple choice question with correct answer shown on iPhone from Filmbook State Board app
Here’s the answer to the state board practice question about decolorization. Did you get it correct? You can also see that there’s some really good need-to-know info about the question, right there. That’s how the Filmbook State Board app can help you pass.


Filmbook State Board app multiple-choice cosmetology question on vomer bone with correct answer shown on iPhone
Vomer bone. Here’s the correct answer. Did you get it? If you take lots of practice tests like this on the Filmbook State Board app, you’ll be more prepared to pass your cosmetology test.


Want to see even more cosmetology state board test practice questions? It’s important to practice every day in the months before you take your state board exam. 

One more thing you should know about the cosmetology test: In most states, the written cosmetology test will also include questions about your state’s laws and rules. 

What are cosmetology laws and rules?

Every state has cosmetology laws and rules that cover safety and sanitation. Laws and rules exist to keep you, your guests, and your salon safe. Laws and rules questions generally fall into five buckets:

  • Definitions
  • Infection control
  • Licensure
  • Salon operations
  • Violations and penalties

While you won’t be tested on every one of your state’s laws and rules, you do need to know all of them. (Anything is fair game.) Make sure to find your state’s laws and rules in your state’s CIB. (CIB stands for Candidate Information Bulletin.)

Illustration of cosmetology laws and rules with the word memorize
Want to pass the cosmetology state board? Memorize the laws and rules for your state! And get an app that has state-specific laws and rules questions built right in.

Can I get a cosmetology practice test with state-specific laws and rules questions?

Yes! And it makes sense to do that. Your cosmetology test will have specific questions about your state’s laws and rules. So should your practice test.

You don’t want a one-size-fits-all cosmetology test. You want a cosmetology practice test that will drill you on the details you need to know, based on the state where you want to practice cosmetology.

The Filmbook State Board app is the only state board study app that has state-specific laws and rules questions built right in.  You can unlock state-specific when you subscribe for $4.99/month—and specify the state where you will take the exam.

Where do I take the written cosmetology test?

In most cases, you’ll take your written cosmetology test off-site at a testing center. There will be other people in the room with you, but how many depends on the size of the testing center.
To take the test, you’ll need to present a valid driver’s license or state ID card. Some states also require that you bring your cosmetology school admission letter.

What is the practical cosmetology test?

The practical section of the cosmetology test is completely hands-on. It’s where you show off your technical know-how and demonstrate that you understand important safety and sanitation procedures. You’ll demonstrate the skills and techniques you learned in school.

And, you’ll have to perform a state board haircut in a set amount of time using shears or a razor.

Yes, you’ll be judged—and the judges won’t let you off easy.

It’s important to be totally prepared for your exam day.

The Filmbook State Board app show you exactly how to perform the state board haircut—in a step-by-step narrated film. Here’s a clip:

Video Transcription

Got your sound off? Here’s a transcription:

“The state board haircut is a way for exam proctors to evaluate your haircutting techniques. Be precise, follow directions and use your skills to ace this task.

“Divide the hair into four quad sections. For the state board haircut, you must start your guideline at the nape, using shears.

“Create a horizontal parting at the nape. Take a half-inch vertical subsection from the center of the nape. Use your shears to establish your perimeter guideline.

“Know your state’s CIB and cut off only as much hair as it says—usually between five and seven inches.”

The Filmbook State Board app also shows you the other important—and sometimes difficult—components of the practical cosmetology exam: virgin relaxer, foiling, round brush, curling iron, blow dry brush, and flat iron. All this is right in the app, in a film. And underneath that film is an easy-to-read cosmetology exam book filled with need-to-know info.

Best of all, it’s all right on your phone.

Where do I take the practical cosmetology test?

You’ll take your practical test either at your school or off-site at a testing center. If you’re at your school, there’ll be other students and your teacher in the room with you.

If you’re at a testing center, there’ll be students possibly from other schools and the proctor test administrator in the room with you.

In order to take the practical test, you’ll need to have your cosmetology state board kit with you. It contains everything you need to complete the practical test.

How long is the practical cosmetology test?

You have to perform a series of timed tasks that you earn points for. How long you get to do them depends on your state. Most commonly it’s 4 hours, but it can range anywhere from 3 hours to two whole days. Your CIB (Candidate Information Bulletin) will tell you exactly how long you’ll get for each task.

Blue timer
The practical portion of your cosmetology state board requires you to perform cosmetology skills hands on. It’s a timed test.

Is the cosmetology test different for every state?

Yes. Each state has specific questions about cosmetology laws and rules.

The questions cover definitions, infection control, licensure, salon operations, violations and penalties. You need to know your state’s laws and rules to pass. You can find them in your state’s CIB or Candidate Information Bulletin.

The Filmbook State Board app quizzes you on the laws and rules questions for the state where you live. All you have to do is select your state when you subscribe.

Then, the state-specific laws and rules questions will automatically pop up as you take state board practice quizzes.

What happens if I fail the cosmetology test?

You can take it again. Of course, you’ll have to pay a test fee again. But lift your head up and get back to work. Taking practice tests over and over is the best way to be get prepared, really learn cosmetology theory, shore up your weak spots, and build your confidence.

In some states, like Texas, you have to pass the written examination before you can take the practical examination. This can be challenging, because most people find the written examination much harder.

Most likely you know how to cut and color hair, but you’re probably not an expert at taking timed, multiple choice tests. Practice at test taking is the answer.

The Filmbook State Board app is helping thousands of cosmetology students get prepared for the cosmetology exam, with confidence. You can get a free preview of the app with a 100-question state board quiz. If you want more practice—unlimited quizzes—just $4.99/month unlocks all content!

That’s the best price you’ll find for the most content. And it’s all right on your phone. Plus, you can cancel your monthly subscription once you don’t need it anymore.

Do people get scared about the cosmetology test?

Yes, many do. But one way to manage your fear and get prepared is to start practicing, as soon as you are in cosmetology school.  You can start taking cosmetology state board practice tests right away. This helps you build testing muscle. 

The Filmbook State Board app gives you 100 free state board practice questions, and it will help you manage your fear and build confidence—no matter what cosmetology school you attend.

If you want more practice, you can subscribe to the Filmbook State Board app for $4.99/month, which will unlock unlimited state board practice questions. You can keep your subscription only as long as you need it to get prepared.

What is the Filmbook State Board app?

The Filmbook State Board app is the only cosmetology study aid that gives you unlimited, timed, multiple-choice state board quizzes for one low fixed price: $4.99/month.

Created with guidance from cosmetology teachers nationwide, the Filmbook State Board app is designed for the way cosmetology artists learn: visually. It helps you pass your cosmetology state board exam by providing detailed practical cosmetology films, plus a built-in cosmetology exam book that explains what you need to know.

When you specify the state where you will take the cosmetology exam, the Filmbook State Board app will include laws and rules quiz questions specific to your state in the timed, multiple choice quizzes.

Filmbook State Board app also offers a read-out-loud option, a complete cosmetology glossary, and built-in flashcards. You can find Filmbook State Board on the App store.

Here’s a film clip from the Filmbook State Board app that explains four corners of the head:

Video transcription

Got that sound muted? Here’s a transcript of what’s in the video:

“Find the four corners of the head to guide sectioning for overdirecting, creating asymmetry, or disconnecting.

“Place one comb flat against the forehead, and another comb flat against the side of the head.

“The point where they connect forms a corner. That’s where the parting goes.

And here’s a sample page of the underlying cosmetology exam book:

iPad and iPhone showing Filmbook State Board app information on four corners of the head.
Getting ready for the cosmetology state board exam? Here’s the best way to learn: See cosmetology theory in a film, read about it in a built-in book, and take unlimited quizzes. It’s all in the Filmbook State Board app. You can prep on an iPad or an iPhone, as shown here.

The Filmbook State Board app gives you all this:

  • Unlimited, randomized state board quizzes
  • Cosmetology theory in easy-to-understand films
  • Glossary of cosmetology terms
  • Flashcards of cosmetology terms
  • Practical information on state board haircut, virgin relaxer, foiling, and more!
  • Laws and rules quiz questions for your state

And it’s affordable. Just $4.99/month unlocks all content. That’s the best price you’ll find for the most content. Keep it only as long as you need it to succeed!

Ready to get serious about your cosmetology career and the cosmetology test?

We thought so. That means you need to understand everything about the state board haircut. And that’s just the beginning. It also means you should be taking state board practice tests over and over—an unlimited number of times.

Cosmetology school is expensive. And the state board test is stressful. The Filmbook State Board app is here to help!

Download Filmbook Cosmetology on the App Store

For $4.99/month, you can unlock how-to and theory films, over 1,600 questions, an easy-to-read step-by-step book, timed quizzes, a glossary with over 1,200 cosmetology terms, digital flashcards to test you on all that cosmetology terminology, and even a read-out-loud option.

Score big on the state board. First time! Don’t get scared. Get prepared.™