Cosmetology exams consist of written and practical portions, and passing them requires quite a bit of studying, real-life practice and even arriving for the exam with all the appropriate tools and materials. Cosmetology exams are offered by all states, and follow the same general formats. All exams consist of a written portion, to allow students the opportunity to demonstrate mastery of the academic components of cosmetology, and consist of a practical section, to allow students to physically apply skills in real-life settings.

In preparation for the practical section, students should arrive on test day with all the required materials, which might include mannequin heads, disinfectant, scissors, clippers, soap and even a bucket for hot water. Requirements for students vary among testing centers, so students should check with their testing facilities for specific requirements beforehand. As with most other standardized tests, cosmetology exams contain a set number of written questions, typically around 100, that must be answered within a certain period of time; time limits vary among states as do question formats. Students should answer questions they are confident about first, then return to questions of uncertainty afterwards if time permits. Students should arrive with proper identification for the test, and should be aware of any age or educational restrictions that might prevent them from sitting for the exam.