Becoming a Mortgage Broker: The Exam

An excerpt from Volume 1 of ‘Be The Better Broker

The first step in becoming a Broker is, of course, passing your licensing exam.

In British Columbia you currently have one year to write the exam from the day you finish the final assignment in the preparatory course. It is a correspondence course, with 20 assignments from a textbook. After finishing the assignments, you have to wait at least 30 days to write the exam. The reality is that it will be about six months from the day you decide to register until the day you are truly licensed and ready to go to work.

The licence is just your ante though. Possession of it grants you legitimacy on paper, but leaves you with very limited knowledge of how the game is played.  Just ask one of the 36 percent who leave the business within two years. Ask them what they wish they had been told up front.

The $1,000+ ante is significant, but the time and commitment you devote to self-education is far more significant for your eventual success in this new career.

Straight up: Brokering is difficult. The speed at which you proceed through the licensing course will be a strong indicator of your likelihood of success. If you enrol in the preparatory course and don’t open a book for the first six months, that’s a strong sign you’re probably going to struggle to pass the exam, which in turn is a sign that you will struggle to find success in the business itself.

Some prospective Brokers pay for supplemental preparatory classes that ‘guarantee’ a passing grade. (The actual guarantee is that you can take their prep course over and over for free until you pass). You’re basically not learning anything other than how to score at least 65 on the exam.

I don’t want to come across the wrong way here, and I don’t want to belittle anyone who chooses this path. But for me — and this is a theme in my life — I like to work harder than may be necessary. It was not about the course content being relevant; it was about finding my own way to harness the arcane data the regulator wants absorbed and regurgitated.

The majority of top performers in the industry did not take shortcuts with the course either; rather, they applied themselves. Many of the Brokers who have taken the ‘guaranteed pass’ path have not lasted in the business. They have found the business too difficult. The reality is, there are no shortcuts to getting a client’s file complete.

And the preparatory course and the exam don’t actually prepare you to work as a Broker on a client’s file. The course offers little in the way of navigating relations with clients and referral sources or understanding lender guidelines and policies — not just for qualification but post-funding implications as well. There is little discussion around the key systems, process, and steps to process a client’s application smoothly from start to finish. Nor on how to select the best lender for the client’s circumstances. There is little content regarding how to address any of the dozens of unique situations that pop up in a file, from self-employed clients, divorcing clients without a separation agreement or credit-challenged clients. There’s nothing about learning language to clearly explain down-payment documentation requirements.
Neither the preparatory nor the licensing course itself addresses these issues. The content in most provinces is basically the lowest possible bar of Broker education. However, this course, full of data you don’t need, and missing critical data you do need, remains the first step and you have to get through it.

Why do I say you are better to fight through this process on your own, and avoid the ‘guaranteed pass’ programs? Because brokering is difficult. I repeat this for good reason.

So fight through the course, because if you can battle your way through the law sections and the math sections and nail down 65% or better, you have a mind that is capable of absorbing dry difficult data. Guess what. There is a lot more to come — all different, all new, and ever changing — but more. And you will be on your own when it comes to learning it all.

Mortgage Broker exam tips

If you register for this course, I urge you to maintain momentum and complete the assignments quickly, book the exam immediately and get it done. Don’t quit your day job… yet. Keep your current income if you can, right up to and through the day you write the exam. You want to be certain you have passed — not everybody does — and you do not want to turn off the flow of income prematurely.

Here’s an approach that worked for me: in the evenings after work I focused on knocking out one assignment every second night. Weekdays only. When they were offered, I attended the Saturday and Sunday supplementary classroom sessions from the date I enrolled up to the week before I wrote the exam (this meant I attended a few of the same sessions twice, and why not?). There was a 500-question study guide we could use to prepare for the 100-question multiple-choice exam. Breaking that study guide into five separate 100-question mock exams I then sat down at 10 o’clock every morning for ten straight days leading up to the exam itself, which was scheduled for 10am as well. Day one of the mock exam series I answered about 60 percent of the questions correctly. Good thing I practised — 65 percent is the minimum passing grade.

I cycled through the five mock exams twice each over the ten-day period leading up to the examination date. On the tenth day, less than 24 hours before I was going to write the actual exam, I scored 93…on the mock exam.

This method worked for me; perhaps it will for you as well. The key really is simply to have a method, a system, a process of some sort. You are entering a business that is all about systems and processes. The firmer the grasp you maintain on the flow of information, the better Broker you will be.

When it finally came time to write the real exam, I scored 82, a big drop from the 93 the day before in the comforts of my own quiet home, but all was A-OK. And so began the trumpeting to any who would listen: “Hey, I’m now a licensed Broker.”

Be true to yourself and realize that if you cannot buckle down and absorb the basic data yourself, if you cannot find your own path to doing this much, then you are likely to have significant trouble once licensed and working on a client’s application.

Contrary to what most Brokerages will tell you, you are on your own in this business. There is no support crew who, for $1,000, will guarantee you an approval for your client.

So what use is spending $1,000 to get into a business where the learning is all placed on your shoulders, where each client’s file is a final exam and 65% will not cut it.

Do you know how to learn? This is perhaps the most important question to ask yourself as you enter any new career or business.

Thank you

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Dustan Woodhouse