August 2018, Volume 7 Issue 02

HomeSource East Tennessee: Tips for Preparing for the Housing Counseling Certification Exam

HomeSource East Tennessee has been preparing its staff to take the HUD Housing Counseling Certification Exam ever since it was announced a few years ago. Early preparation included two of their counselors attending a training class offered by NeighborWorks called “HO200: Ready, Set, Prep: Tackling the HUD Counselor Exam” in 2016. This gave their housing counselors an overview of what might be included in the future exam. When the Final Rule was published at the end of 2016, the preparation continued.

While not a large organization, HomeSource East Tennessee identified five members of their housing counseling staff who needed to earn their HUD certification. Their CEO, Jackie Mayo, led the charge in getting them prepared. She was the leader who leaped into the process and helped the rest of the housing counselors navigate.

To prepare for the exam, the housing counselors began by reviewing the study guide on and taking the practice exam to get a feel for how the exam might be set up and how the questions are worded. They realized that the practice exam was a great tool but taking it more than three to four times was overkill. The actual exam consists of 90 questions pulled from a larger question pool.

HomeSource East Tennessee also scheduled training sessions with the housing counselors to go over each section of the exam. In addition to the group training sessions, counselors were tasked with studying on their own. The combined approaches allowed those with different learning styles to prepare in different environments.

Through their preparation and subsequent taking of the exam, the counselors realized the most useful resource for the exam was the study guide. More than one of them fell into the trap of “knowing what we know.” HUD has very specific things they are looking for that may not line up with how you conduct business on a day-to-day basis. Do not assume you definitely “know” an answer until you cross-check it with what HUD wants.

HomeSource East Tennessee decided their counselors would take the exam in their own office. This required the purchase of some equipment specific to the exam and proctoring guielines. However, they still use this new equipment and consider it to have been a good investment. There were several technical difficulties when the first housing counselors took the exam, so allowing adequate time to work through such issues is recommended.

The exam currently consists of 90 questions, with an average completion time of one to 1.5 hours. During the exam, you are permitted to mark questions for further review. Most of the questions focused on only one study guide topic. Some were multi-topic questions, with approximately five to 10 percent involving multiple-step math. You are required to use an on-screen calculator, which uses symbols that some may not be familiar with. Multiply is signified using “ * ” while division is signified using “ / ”. The agency recommends ensuring that test-takers are aware of this.

After counselors passed the exam, the agency accessed FHA Connection to register Application Coordinators.

When applying as an Application Coordinator, HUD mails the User ID to the CEO of the organization. Once the information is received, the agency can go back into the system and finalize the registration. The agency needs two Application Coordinators because an individual is unable to self-certify within the system.

While there are a few steps that must be taken in preparation for the HUD Housing Counseling Certification Exam, none are overwhelming. The exam is not easy, but with the right preparation it is certainly manageable.

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