How long has it been since you had to pass a rigorous test? For me, it had been 14 years since passing the National Association of Mortgage Brokers Certified Residential Mortgage Specialist (CRMS) exam. That obsession to cram, that difficulty sleeping the night before, that vague feeling you've forgotten something, that nervous unsettled stomach in the morning, the dreaded start of the timer … here it comes! All non-depository Mortgage Loan Originators (MLOs) will face the challenge of the Nationwide Mortgage Licensing System (NMLS) National Test some time this year. Also, you may have to pass a state test! If your state’s deadline is March or June, dust off your calculator and bring it to class NOW! That's right, I suggest you make sure the class you take contributes significantly to you passing the NMLS National Test. If you’ve been renewed (and therefore don’t “need” the 20-hour course), I suggest you take a Test-Oriented NMLS CE course or purchase a Test Prep product. SAFE education requirements At a minimum each state-licensed MLO shall before issuance of license complete 20 hours of education approved through the NMLS, which must include at least: ►Three hours of federal law and regulations; ►Three hours of ethics including fraud, fair lending and consumer protections; ►Two hours of non-traditional mortgage product training; and ►Twelve hours of elective course work. Pre-licensing education (PE) formats: 1. Live classroom: Instructor in a live setting in a traditional classroom setup. 2. Live equivalent: A live broadcast of an instructor streamed to a remote group (in an office or conference room) or to an individual one-on-one at a computer. 3. Instructor-led online: An instructor interacts with a class of students over the Internet on material, quizzes and exercises over a defined start and end date. Some states also require state-specific law curriculum for pre-licensing education, either inside the 20 hours or in addition to the 20 hours. For example: North Carolina requires 24 hours of PE, including four hours of North Carolina law. Pennsylvania only requires 20 hours. However, inside the 20 hours, you must take three hours of PA state law. State requirements link: www.StateRegulatoryRegistry.org/NMLS. Be careful In a few states, instructor-led online is disallowed for the state portion of PE. Self-paced online courses (typical old-school CE format) are never permitted for PE. A “SAFE Smart” start Most states will require completion of your pre-licensing education in 2010. Then, there are those nerve-wracking tests. Word on the street is that they are no joke. Choose your education provider wisely. Take your studies seriously. Prepare yourself diligently and get started early. The new standards for mortgage professionals have been set high, the tests are challenging and it will take work to be successful. We are all going back to school. Paul Donohue, CRMS is a 23-year industry professional and founder of Abacus Mortgage Training and Education. Paul served on two NMLS working groups, establishing the new national education protocols. Go to AbacusMortgageTraining.com to find out more about your obligations for testing, education and licensure, or call (888) 341-7767.