The National Association of State Contractors Licensing Agencies (NASCLA) is an organization that helps contractors get licensed in multiple states by passing one exam. Contractors in Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, North Carolina, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, U.S. Virgin Islands, Virginia, and West Virginia can fulfill their licensing requirements in those states and provinces by passing the exam.
Because contractors also need to pass the Business and Law exam in each state except Arkansas, they can save time and money by taking the single NASCLA exam rather than each state’s trade exam.
We reviewed nearly a dozen exam prep providers and chose the best based on reputation, accessibility, support, price, and more. Here are our top choices.
The 6 Best NASCLA Exam Prep Courses of 2020
Best Overall: Contractor Training Center
Established in 2001, Contractor Training Center provides exam prep, licensing application assistance, and coaching for contractors. The company is accredited with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and enjoys an A+ rating with the organization. We chose it as the best overall because it offers both pre-recorded and live online exam prep for a reasonable price.
All of Contractor Training Center’s exam prep courses are taught by instructors with extensive backgrounds in the construction industry and a wealth of teaching experience. The company’s live course is a one-day intensive prep class, held one day a week for nine hours and streamed via GoToMeeting. Students can interact with the instructors as if they are in actual classrooms.
Contractor Training Center’s pre-recorded courses can be viewed online anytime and on any computer or mobile device. Students also get access to online materials, including class presentations, book highlighting instructions, and practice exam questions. Once enrolled, students can access the online material at their convenience so they can practice as often as they like.
- Live Webinar: $349 (one-time purchase)
- Online Pre-Recorded: $249 (one-time purchase)
Contractor Training Center offers a no-fail guarantee with all of its exam prep courses. Students who follow the course guides but don’t pass the first time will get a personalized study plan to help prepare them for their next examination attempt. Students who still can’t pass the exam after multiple attempts after following the curriculum and study plan will get a full refund.
Runner-Up, Best Overall: Builders License Training Institute
Since 2004, Builders License Training Institute has been providing online education and training for professionals in the general construction industries including continuing education and exam preparation. The company is accredited with the BBB and enjoys an A+ rating with the organization. We chose it as our runner-up because it offers exceptional online exam prep but at more than twice the price as Contractor Training Center.
All of Builders License Training Institute’s contractor licensing courses are created by real builders with decades of experience and can be accessed 24/7 from any computer or mobile device. The company’s in-house licensing experts also help contractors get and stay licensed, including filling out paperwork and providing reminders and updates for upcoming deadlines.
Builders License Training Institute’s NASCLA Exam Prep is an online prep course provided in HD video with on-screen instructors. It can be accessed 24/7 from any internet-capable device including mobile phones and tablets. The course comes with a step-by-step review of all 21 NASCLA books, tips and tricks to help students pass the exam, a construction math course, and practice tests. Each video also comes with printable transcripts for further review.
- NASCLA Exam Prep: $750 (one-time purchase)
Builders License Training Institute offers a seven-day refund so students can make sure the course is right for them. The company will also offer a full refund if a student fails the exam provided they complete all of the materials and take the exam within six months of purchasing the course.
Best for Accessibility: Zack Academy
Founded in 2009, Zack Academy offers live in-person and online vocational training courses from over 500 training companies nationwide. Although the company is not accredited with the BBB, it does enjoy an A+ rating with that organization. We chose it as the best for accessibility since it offers a complete online course optimized for use on any computer or mobile device.
Zack Academy’s NASCLA Commercial General Contractor Exam Prep Online Course is an on-demand, online course designed to help students pass their NASCLA exam on the first try. The course covers every angle of the NASCLA exam, including planning, estimation, project management, and safety, as well as concrete, masonry, foundations, and more.
Students get access to course content for six months from the date of purchase, which includes hundreds of practice questions, online reference sheets, and course manuals. The course takes approximately 16 hours to complete, but Zack Academy recommends students review the material and practice questions at least twice before taking the exam.
- NASCLA Commercial General Contractor Exam Prep Online Course: $750 (one-time purchase)
Although Zack Academy claims to offer a 100% guarantee on all certifications, its website doesn’t offer any additional details.
Best Value: @HomePrep
Established in 2014, @HomePrep offers over 1,000 courses and 115 state board accreditations in more than 25 different industries. All of the company’s courses are written and developed by well-credentialed subject matter experts and instructional designers. We chose it as the best value since it offers a comprehensive, self-paced NASCLA exam prep course for an affordable price.
@HomePrep’s NASCLA General Building Exam Prep Only is a narrated and animated online course that takes students through each of the reference books the exam is based on. It’s entirely online and can be accessed 24/7 from any computer or mobile device.
In addition to learning exactly what to highlight, students also get access to online practice tests at the end of each book, an extensive math and plans analysis portion, licensing information, and instructor support.
- NASCLA General Building Exam Prep Only: $199 (one-time purchase)
The NASCLA General Building Exam Prep Only course from @HomePrep also offers a price match policy, which means it will match or beat any competitor’s price under certain conditions. The course can be accessed for a full year after purchase with a free, one-time, 30-day extension available if needed.
Best for First-Time Licensing: 1 Exam Prep
1 Exam Prep offers online courses, exam prep, books, and practice test questions to students and professionals preparing for their state contracting exams. Although the company is not listed with the BBB, it receives generally positive customer reviews online. We chose it as the best for first-time licensing because it offers an easy-to-use online prep course with books and additional test prep packages.
1 Exam Prep uses a proven, three-point learning system for its Commercial (General) Building Contractor (NASCLA) Examination Online Course. It includes comprehensive, up-to-date tabbing and highlighting instructions, video guides with successful test-taking techniques, and thousands of practice questions with answers updated on a regular basis.
- Commercial (General) Building Contractor (NASCLA) Examination Online Course: $350 (one-time purchase)
1 Exam Prep’s Commercial (General) Building Contractor (NASCLA) Examination Online Course can be accessed for one full year after the time of purchase. It is available in four interest-free installments of $87.50 if desired. The company’s online interface is clean, intuitive, and easy-to-use. Students can view the course on any computer or mobile device and track their process with ease.
Longest in Business: Contractors-License.com
Starting in 1982, Contractors-License.com began providing adult learners exam preparation for contractor tests and builder exams. Since then it has grown to become one of the nation’s leading providers of quality professional certification training courses. Contractors-License.com is not accredited with the BBB but has an A+ rating with the organization. We chose it as the longest in business since it has been providing exam prep for longer than any of the other top-six providers we reviewed.
Contractors-License.com’s NASCLA General Contractor Exam Prep Course is a computer-based exam prep course that includes a printable study guide with instructions on how to read blueprints, book highlighting presentations, and practice exams. Unlike the other courses we reviewed that are based entirely online, Contractors-License.com’s course is available as a desktop software with audio tracks on CDs.
The course also includes unlimited timed practice exams that look, work, and act exactly like the NASCLA exam. The exams pull questions from the master question list in the online study guide, giving students a different exam every time they take it. Students can also print the questions they missed for an additional study aid after they complete a practice exam.
- NASCLA General Contractor Exam Prep Course: $749 (one-time purchase)
Contractors-License.com offers a “pass or don’t pay” policy similar to that of other exam prep providers. Students can request a refund within 30 days after taking their exam and within six months of purchase.
What Is the NASCLA Exam?
The NASCLA exam satisfies the trade examination requirements for 14 participating state agencies and one U.S. province: Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, North Carolina, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, and U.S. Virgin Islands. Contractors will still need to meet additional licensure requirements within each state to obtain their license.
The NASCLA exam consists of 115 questions in 12 subject areas, including site construction, concrete, masonry, mechanical and plumbing systems, electrical systems, and procurement and contracting requirements. Students have five hours to complete the exam and must have a score of 81 (70%) to pass. Those who fail three times must wait a full year before taking the exam again.
Since the trade exam is one of two exams needed for contractors who want to be licensed, passing the NASCLA exam the first time is essential in helping contractors start their careers. Exam prep courses can help contractors pass their open-book exam the first time by showing what materials in the required books should be highlighted and offering test-taking tips and practice exams.
NASCLA vs. State Licensing
The NASCLA exam satisfies the trade exam requirements for all 14 participating states. Once a contractor passes the required state Business and Law exam, they are considered to be a licensed residential and commercial contractor.
What Do NASCLA Exam Prep Courses Include?
NASCLA exam prep courses put a big emphasis on helping students highlight the correct tabs for the reference books that students are allowed to use during the exam. They also cover the materials in each subject, offer test-taking tips, and ideally provide timed or untimed practice exams with answers and explanations to show students what to expect during the exam.
Most exam prep companies provide access to their online courses for one year after purchase. Many also offer a 100% money-back guarantee for students who fail the exam if they’ve taken it within six months of purchasing the course.
What Is the Cost of a NASCLA Exam Prep Course?
Our reviews showed that online prep courses for the NASCLA exam are as low as $200 and as high as $750 with a one-time payment. Only one provider that we reviewed offered a course as physical, mailable software. All others offered self-paced, online learning courses.
Although there are no continuing education requirements after taking the NASCLA exam, the transcripts that a contractor sends to a state agency must be updated every two years for a fee of $24.99.
How Much Do Licensed Contractors Earn?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average hourly and annual salary of a licensed contractor is $46.88 and $97,510, respectively. These figures are based upon 52 workweeks at 40 hours a week. Location also plays a part in contractor salaries. The two top-paying states are New Jersey and Alaska, with annual mean salaries of $140,00 and $122,250, respectively.
Contractors who have failed the NASCLA exam and do not have a license can still work in states with a “Minor Work” or “Handyman” exemption. These exemptions set the maximum an unlicensed handyman can charge for a job and may specify the kind of work that can be done without a license. In California, for example, a handyman must have a license for any job over $500, while in Arizona it’s $750.
Is Taking a NASCLA Exam Prep Course Worth It?
Because the earning potential of a contractor versus a handyman is so much greater, passing the NASCLA exam is essential in starting one’s career as a professional contractor. Individuals who fail three times must wait a full year before taking the exam again. An exam prep course can help students who have failed once pass their exams, as well as ensure that other students can pass the first time.
How We Chose the Best NASCLA Exam Prep Courses
We looked at close to a dozen exam prep providers for this review. First and foremost, we wanted to look at providers with a strong reputation and good reviews. Next, we wanted to find courses that were easily accessible and provided study tips and book highlighting guides.
Providers that offered a variety of practice exams with answer explanations were also at the top of our list since that aspect of exam prep is the most useful for helping students get a taste of what the exam is like. Finally, when possible, we wanted to include providers that offered a money-back or passing guarantee so students wouldn’t have to pay for another prep course if they fail their exam.
Better Business Bureau. "Contractor Training Center." Accessed July 6, 2020.
Better Business Bureau. "Builders License Training Institute." Accessed July 7, 2020.
Better Business Bureau. "Zack Academy Inc." Accessed July 6, 2020.
Better Business Bureau. "MyContractorsLicense.com." Accessed July 6, 2020.
NASCLA. "FAQs." Accessed July 6, 2020.
Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2019." Accessed July 17, 2020.
BizFilings. "Business License Requirements: Handyman vs Contractor." Accessed July 6, 2020.