Passing the National Cosmetology Exam (NIC) on the First Try!

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National Cosmetology Exam

As soon as you complete your cosmetology training program, you need to pass the National-Interstate Council of State Boards of Cosmetology’s (NIC) written and/or practical cosmetology exams so you can get your license and start your career.

These exams are required for obtaining a license in 38 states of the country.

You need to remember that it is an important aspect of your training.

You need to focus on getting ready for the exams so you can pass them successfully and obtain your license.

Just keep in mind that preparation is the most effective way to succeed during the exam.

First of all, you should learn about the knowledge and skills you need to have so you can pass the exam from your first try.

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In some states such as Washington, Ohio, Maine, and South Carolina, you need to complete written and practical NIC exams.

At the same time, in Louisiana, Illinois, and Alaska, you can pass only one of two types of the exam.

To get more info about this national exam and its requirements, you should address your local Board of Cosmetology/regulatory agency or the NIC.

If your state requires you to pass the NIC exam, you need to learn properly all the requirements as well as the exam structure and specification.

You can find some useful tips and facts in the article below.

NIC Practical Cosmetology Exam Core Content

A practical part of the exam aims to check, evaluate, and prove your competence in cosmetology.

The list of the core content included in the NIC cosmetology practical exam contains such aspects as:

  • Chemical waving;
  • Chemical relaxing;
  • Hair-shaping;
  • Hair lightening and hair coloring;
  • Thermal curling.

Depending on your state, you may also expect some additional topics such as:

  • Blow-drying styling;
  • Facials;
  • Manicuring;
  • Roller placement;
  • Shaping and pin curl placement;
  • Sculptured nails.

Preparing for the Cosmetology Practical Exam

Sitting for the NIC exam, you need to take your supplies with you.

Of course, each state has its own requirements when it comes to the list of supplies you need to have with you.

Below, you can find some essential supplies that will be required during the NIC cosmetology practical exam:

  • A towel placed between the clamp and the table;
  • Container/bag for soiled/trash items;
  • Container/bag for items to be disinfected;
  • Cloth and paper towels;
  • Combs/hair brushes;
  • Dry storage kit/container;
  • EPA registered disinfectant;
  • First aid supply kit;
  • Hair clamps;
  • Hand sanitizer;
  • Mannequin head and a table clamp;
  • Neck strips;
  • Protective cream;
  • Protective cotton;
  • Protective gloves;
  • Shampoo cape;
  • Spray bottle;
  • Spatula;
  • Tape.

You can address your school representatives to buy pre-assembled and labeled exam kits.

Also, check various vendors and choose those that offer kits that meed the exam requirements.

Getting ready for the NIC cosmetology practical exam, you should consider buying the NIC Examination Overview DVD.

Using it, you can get a bunch of useful info about the NIC testing procedures for your exam.

Sitting for the NIC exam, you need to know well and constantly follow certain rules and instructions such as:

  • Do not leave the exam area without permission.
  • Bring your own exam kit that is in a perfect sanitary condition.
  • Bring a container of water or a thermos of hot water.
  • Use 10 minutes for client protection and for setting up your supplies.
  • Use 2 minutes in between each section of the exam for setting up the required supplies.
  • Follow verbal instructions that are provided twice before beginning each section of the exam.
  • After completing the tasks of a specific section, step back from your work station to indicate that you have finished.
  • Constantly follow all appropriate public protection and infection control procedures.
  • Do not bring your cell phone or any other electronic device, handwritten notes, or any other printed materials.
  • Do not talk with any other candidates during the testing period.

You can use a live model or a mannequin during the exam and your choice depends on your state requirements.

Using a live model, you are obliged to follow some specific guidelines such as:

  • Your model must be at least 15 years old and cannot be a licensed cosmetologist or cosmetology student.
  • Your model must present ID to gain admittance into the exam.
  • Your model must agree to submit to all services during the exam and may not participate in any way during the exam.
  • Your model cannot talk to you at any time during the exam.

If you are going to use a mannequin, make sure to bring one with you.

If you need to use mannequin hands, you need to apply a set of nails to it before bringing it to the exam.

The Evaluation Process

Each section of the cosmetology practical exam includes a bunch of tasks that are evaluated during the exam.

Set-Up and Client Protection

  • Disinfecting your work area using protective covering;
  • Disposing of soiled materials using infection control procedures;
  • Maintaining a clean work area throughout the setup process;
  • Practicing infection control procedures throughout the setup process;
  • Sanitizing your hands;
  • Setting up your work area and ensuring all supplies are clearly labeled;
  • Setting up implements, ensuring they are visibly clean and sanitary;
  • Using neck strips/towel and applying a drape.

Thermal Curling

This section includes such tasks as:

  • Distributing hair evenly around the iron;
  • Ensuring the subsections of hair are the same width as the barrel of the iron;
  • Ensuring the length of the subsection is no longer than three inches;
  • Establishing a base;
  • Forming a complete curl;
  • Following all safety and infection control procedures;
  • Protecting the scalp from the iron using a comb;
  • Testing the temperature of the iron before applying it to the hair;
  • Your demonstration of curling.

Haircutting

This section includes such tasks as:

  • Blending the haircut evenly;
  • Cutting the nape with elevation using the razor;
  • Cutting the nape line to a uniform length;
  • Cutting the sides to a uniform length;
  • Cutting at least one inch of hair throughout the haircut;
  • Following all safety and infection control procedures;
  • Handling the razor and shears safely at all times;
  • Using a razor to establish a nape guide;
  • Using consistent subsections/partings while cutting hair.

Chemical Waving

This section includes such tasks as:

  • Applying the simulated product across the entire rod safely;
  • Applying cotton and/or protective cream at the nape;
  • Demonstrating chemical waving;
  • Distributing hair evenly across the endpaper;
  • Demonstrating a test curl;
  • Demonstrating saturation;
  • Ensuring subsections of hair are straight and even;
  • Ensuring subsections of hair is no longer than the length of the rod;
  • Ensuring subsections of hair are the same width as the diameter of the rod;
  • Extending the endpapers beyond the hair ends;
  • Following all safety and infection control procedures;
  • Placing bands correctly;
  • Using the same rod base placement through the section;
  • Wrapping the hair at least 1 ½ times;
  • Wearing gloves during the application of the simulated product;
  • Wrapping hair evenly and smoothly around the rod.

Virgin Hair Lightening Application and Hair Color Retouch

This section includes such tasks as:

  • Performing a patch test with simulated product behind the ear or in the fold of the arm;
  • Dividing the hair into four, equal sections;
  • Applying protective cream around the hairline;
  • Wearing gloves during the application of simulated lightener and hair color products;
  • Following all safety and infection control procedures;
  • Virgin Hair Coloring:
    • Making subsections of hair 1/8 inch wide or less;
    • Applying simulated produce ½ inch from the scalp;
    • Applying simulated product up to but not including the last one inch of hair;
    • Completely covering the subsections with the simulated product;
  • Hair Color Retouch:
    • Outlining hair color retouch quadrant with the simulated product;
    • Making subsections of hair ½ inch wide or less;
    • Applying simulated product into the scalp out to two inches;
    • Completing covering the subsections with the simulated product;
    • Keeping the perimeter skin free of product.

Virgin Relaxer Application and Relaxer Retouch

This section includes such tasks as:

  • Applying protective cream around the hairline
  • Wearing gloves during application of simulated hair relaxer product
  • Following all safety and infection control procedures
  • Virgin relaxer application
    • Creating subsections of hair ¼ inch wide or less
    • Applying simulated relaxer product ½ inch from the scalp
    • Applying simulated product up to but not including last one inch of hair
    • Completely covering the subsections with the simulated product
  • Relaxer retouch
    • Creating subsections of hair ¼ inch wide or less
    • Applying simulated product starting slightly off the scalp, up to ¼ inch from the scalp and out to 2 inches
    • Completely covering subsections with simulated product

Additional Services

Some states and regulatory agencies require applicants to pass some extra tasks during the cosmetology practical exam.

To get more info about these tasks, you need to contact your local regulatory agency.

The list may include such tasks as:

  • Blow-dry styling
    • Demonstrating blow drying
    • Directing hair flow to protect the scalp
    • Controlling hair with a brush
  • Shaping and Pin Curl Placement
    • Shaping
      • Demonstrating ridge curl
      • Forming a ridge shaping
      • Carving pin curls from ridge shaping
      • Forming pin curl shaping protecting the ridge
      • Forming pin curls without disturbing ridge
      • Clipping pin curls securely
    • Pin Curl Placement
      • Demonstrating C shaping
      • Forming a C shaping
      • Carving pin curls from C shaping
      • Forming pin curls without disturbing C shaping
      • Clipping pin curls securely
    • Roller Placement
      • Demonstrating roller placement
      • Sub-sectioning hair straight and evenly
      • Sub-sectioning hair same length as roller
      • Sub-sectioning hair same width as roller
      • Wrapping hair evenly and smoothly around a roller
      • Placing roller #1 on base
      • Placing roller #2 half off base
      • Placing roller #3 off base
      • Clipping roller securely
    • Basic Facial
      • Demonstrating facial
      • Removing cleanser from a container using infection control procedures and applying to the entire face safely
      • Removing cleanser from the face without dragging or pulling the skin
      • Removing massage product from a container using infection control procedures and applying to entire face safely
      • Demonstrating massage; maintaining continuous contact
      • Removing massage product from the face without dragging or pulling the skin
      • Removing all residual massage product safely
      • Applying toner/astringent safely
    • Hair Removal of the Eyebrows
      • Tweezing
        • Demonstrating tweezing procedure
        • Applying antiseptic to the eyebrow area safely
        • Holding skin taut
        • Tweezing in direction of hair growth
      • Simulated waxing
        • Removing the simulated wax product from a container using infection control procedures
        • The testing temperature of a simulated wax product on wrist safely
        • Applying simulated wax product in direction of hair growth
        • Applying simulated wax produce along the entire area under eyebrow safely
        • Applying an even, thin layer of wax product safely
        • Smoothing fabric over a simulated wax product in direction of hair growth
        • Holding skin taut
        • Pulling fabric in the opposite direction of hair growth
        • Applying post-epilation product to the treated area safely
        • Applying antiseptic to the treated area safely

You need to visit the NIC website to download the latest exam bulletin that contains all the information you need.

How to Pass the NIC Written Cosmetology Exam on Your First Try

To get ready for your written exam, you can order some online practice exams.

To sit for the exam, you need to pay a fee that is about $39.

After paying a fee, you’ll get your test that is delivered by a computer-based partner, ISO Quality Testing (IQT).

If you have any questions, call IQT (1-866-773-1114) or send them an email (registrations@isoqualitytesting.com).

The NIC written exam covers a bunch of significant cosmetology topics.

You need to complete your exam within 90 minutes.

The exam contains such topics as:

Scientific Concepts – 30 percent

  • Infection control
    • Microbiology
    • Methods of infection control
    • Federal regulations
    • First Aid
  • Human Anatomy
    • Cells
    • Tissues
    • Organs
  • Basic Physiology
    • Skeletal system
    • Muscular system
    • Types of joints
    • Circulatory system
    • Endocrine system
    • Respiratory system
    • Integumentary system
    • Nervous system
    • Excretory system
  • Ergonomics/Body Positioning
  • Basic Principles of Chemistry
  • Basic Principles of Electricity

Hair Care and Services – 40 percent

  • Trichology
    • Properties and structure of the hair and scalp
    • Hair analysis and hair quality
    • Stages of hair growth
    • Hair loss
    • Conditions of the scalp and hair
  • Draping procedures
    • Shampooing
    • Haircutting
    • Chemical services
    • Thermal
  • Shampooing, Conditioning, Massaging, and Brushing Procedures
    • Hair analysis
    • Scalp analysis
    • Shampooing
    • Conditioning
    • Scalp treatments
    • Scalp massage
  • Principles of Hair Design
    • Elements of hair design
    • Principles of balance and design
    • Facial shapes
  • Haircutting Procedures
    • Client consultation
    • Principles of haircutting
    • Tools and safety
    • Basic haircuts
  • Hairstyling Procedures
    • Client consultation
    • Wet styling
    • Thermal styling
    • Braiding
  • Wigs, Hair Enhancements, and Extensions
  • Chemical Services Consultation
  • Chemical Services
    • Chemical waving
    • Chemical hair relaxers
  • Hair Coloring Procedures
    • Law of color
    • Types of hair color
    • Hair color applications

Skin Care and Services – 15 percent

  • Skin Histology
    • Composition of the skin
    • Conditions of the skin
    • Functions of the skin
  • Skincare Services Consultation
  • Draping Procedures for Facial Services
  • Temporary Hair Removal
    • Shaving
    • Tweezing
    • Waxing
    • Depilatories
    • Threading
    • Sugaring
  • Facial Procedures
    • Skincare tools
    • Facial treatments
  • Facial Makeup Application
    • Makeup color theory
    • Cosmetic application procedures
    • Artificial eyelashes
    • Eyelash and eyebrow coloring

Nail Care and Services – 15 percent

  • Nail Care Service Consultation
  • Nail Structure
    • Nail composition
    • Nail growth
    • Nail conditions
  • Manicure and Pedicure Procedures
  • Advanced Nail Care
    • Preservice and post-service procedures
    • Nail tips
    • Nail wraps and overlays
    • Nail art

To get more information about the exam, you can visit the NIC website where the latest data and exam bulletins are posted.

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