a home inspector, appearing disappointed, stares at a laptop screen

What to Do If You Fail the National Home Inspector Exam

By Published On: April 20th, 2023Categories: Home Inspection Career Guide0 Comments

The National Home Inspector Examination®, or NHIE, is the standard knowledge-based competency exam for home inspectors in the U.S. Like the real estate and mortgage broker licensing exams, the NHIE is high-stakes and, often, hard to pass the first time. Failing happens. But it’s a learning opportunity.  

All you need is an updated approach – that includes a new study strategy, finetuned test-taking skills, and a deeper knowledge of the exam content. Do these five things and you’ll have every reason to pass the NHIE next time. Good luck! 

Become a Home Inspector

#1: Don’t Panic. Understand Why You Didn’t Pass

First, don’t panic. The NHIE is a tough exam to pass. While the creator of the exam – the Examination Board of Professional Home Inspectors (EBPHI) – doesn’t publish an official pass rate, some home inspector insiders estimate it to be a mere 55% nationally. Failing the NHIE doesn’t define you as a person or even as a skilled inspector. It simply means you need to spend more time reviewing the concepts you’ll be tested on.  

Before you do anything else, pause and take time to reflect on your experience. Ask yourself these questions. 

  • What went well?  
  • What didn’t go well?  
  • What subject areas did I feel a little rusty on?  
  • What subject areas did I find easy?  
  • How well do I think my study strategy helped?  
  • What would I do differently the next time around? 

Reflect on your test-taking experience while it’s fresh. This will help you adjust your preparation strategy for next time. You can retake the NHIE when at least 30 days have passed. And you can take it as many times as needed to pass. Keep in mind, though, you’ll need to pay the $225 exam fee with each attempt. 

#2: Adjust Your Study Strategy and Consider an NHIE Exam Prep Program

Once you’ve reflected on your exam experience, devise a new study plan before hitting the books again. Taking the NHIE might be the first exam you’ve had to take since high school or college. Your personal learning style might have changed a lot since then. So, it’s a good idea to update your study approach and use the strategies that work for you right now.  

Read Up on the Content of the Exam and How It’s Scored 

It’s important to familiarize yourself with the content of the NHIE exam and how it’s scored. The EBPHI has an NHIE content outline available for review on its site. The exam is a four-hour-long, 200-question, multiple choice test covering three domains with different weighted values. These include: 

  • Domain 1: Property and Building Inspection/Site Review (63%) 
  • Domain 2: Analysis of Findings and Reporting (25%) 
  • Domain 3: Professional Responsibilities (12%) 

The inspection exam is “scale scored” from 200 to 800 points. Your score is determined by taking your raw score – the number of questions you answer correctly – and converting it into a score between 200 and 800. A score of 500 or more is a passing score. 

Invest in an NHIE Exam Prep Program 

Sometimes you need reinforcements. With the challenging NHIE, it’s more than justified! A specialized NHIE exam prep program – like Home Inspector Exam Prep by AHIT – takes your study strategy to the next level. 

AHIT’s program dissects the NHIE and helps you master each content area in a way that fits your learning style. You can study using unlimited practice exams, an 800-question test bank with real-time feedback and hints, a timed exam mode, progress saving, font size adjustment, and a personal progress report. See a demo here. 

Home Inspector Exam Prep by AHIT also includes the gold standard NHIE prep eBooks:  

  • Mechanical Systems and NHIE Content Manual 
  • Structural Systems and Business Manual  

The EBPHI recommends using both study materials when prepping for the NHIE. Of course, both textbooks are also great technical reference for every home inspector’s library. You can also purchase these eBooks separately here 

Hone Your Test-Taking Skills 

There are reliable, proven success strategies you can use when taking any multiple-choice exam, the NHIE included. These tips from the EBPHI are rooted, in part, in psychology. Test them out with each practice exam you take. 

  1. Read the entire question before you look for the answer. 
  2. Answer the question in your head before looking at the answer choices. This helps ensure the choices given on the test don’t throw you off or trick you. 
  3. Read all the choices before choosing your answer. 
  4. Eliminate the answers you know are not correct. 
  5. If there is no guessing penalty, always take an educated guess and select an answer. 
  6. Do not go back and change your answer. Usually, your first choice is the right one, unless you misread the question. 
  7. A positive choice is more likely to be true than a negative one. 

#3: Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help

Don’t be afraid to ask for help as you study. It can be a lonely process preparing for the home inspection exam. Having a little study help not only helps you prepare more effectively, but it also relieves the stress of preparing.  

Consider forming a study group with a friend or acquaintance who is also studying to take the NHIE. You can also join AHIT’s All-Star Home Inspectors Facebook Group and connect with fellow inspectors preparing for the exam.  

If you took part in a home inspection training program, ask your former instructor to share the strategies that helped them pass the NHIE. Home inspection trade organizations – like the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) and the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI®) – offer free and paid NHIE resources to help you prepare. You can even ask a family member or friend to quiz you by reviewing flash cards and asking you questions on a practice exam.  

#4: Review What You Learned in Home Inspection Training

Maybe it’s been a while since your home inspection training or maybe you haven’t completed home inspection training since some states don’t require it for licensure. Reviewing what you learned during home inspection training – or enrolling – prepares you to pass the NHIE.  

Comprehensive home inspection training programs – including AHIT’s industry-leading live and online home inspector training – teach you the fundamentals of home inspection. You’ll master the Standards of Practice, learn from home inspector instructor pros, and gain confidence in your skillset.  

#5: Stay Positive and Take the Exam Again

Above all, stay positive. Many successful and skilled home inspectors take the NHIE multiple times before passing. This parallels the high-stakes exam experiences of many other licensed professions. Passing the licensing exam is the final climb, and it may take a few attempts to scale. There’s no shame in this.  

Licensing exams are challenging for a reason. Passing the NHIE – whether you do it the first time or the third – earns you a credential that tells the world that you’re an expert home inspector. As you begin working on your business, no one’s going to ask you, “How many times did it take you to pass the NHIE?” Your clients just want you to know they’re working with a trusted, licensed expert who knows how to inspect a home and can give them peace of mind knowing their home is safe. 

Stay determined, keep practicing, and maintain your confidence. You’ll pass the exam in no time. 

Pass the NHIE the First Time With AHIT Training and Exam Prep!

Give yourself a professional edge and pass the NHIE the first time with industry-leading home inspection training and Home Inspector Exam Prep by AHIT! Find your state course and enroll today or sign up to learn more about how to become a home inspector in our next FREE webinar. 

About the Author: Ashley Roe

Ashley Roe is a Content Specialist with AHIT and The CE Shop. She writes regularly about home inspection and appraisal. With a reporter's eye and a passion for learning, Ashley stays current on what's happening within each industry. Her goal is to create engaging, relevant, and useful content that both informs and inspires readers.

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