Green roof

May/June 2019, Volume 7 Issue 09

Tips for Passing the Certification Exam on the First Try

Since 1994, Catholic Charities of Chemung/Schuyler, based in Elmira, New York, has provided quality housing counseling services in the rural Southern Tier Region of New York State. Read on to learn how two of this agency’s housing counselors, Jane Sokolowski and Amy Bell, passed the HUD Housing Counselor Certification exam on November 1, 2018 and lived to tell about it!

Keys to Passing the Exam

Preparing, studying, and taking lots of pre-tests were key to passing the exam on the first try. All the studying came together when five days were spent with peers completing two NeighborWorks courses: HO200 Ready, Set, Prep and HO210 Practice, Study, Success. These two courses simplified the information so counselors could navigate through the 90 exam questions and confidently use their knowledge and expertise to come up with the best answers.

The examination allows up to two hours to complete the 90 questions. One helpful strategy is to “know what you know.” Go through the exam, answering all the questions you can without worrying about the ones you cannot answer immediately. If you are unable to answer a question within one to two minutes, mark it “save for later” and move on. Don’t get hung up on a single question – sometimes later in the exam that answer might be evident in another question.

Is it challenging to be tested on areas that you don’t typically counsel in? Yes, it is. But studying, taking practice tests, and reviewing the material really broaden your knowledge so you can demonstrate competency in all counseling areas: financial management; property management; responsibilities of homeownership and tenancy; fair housing laws and requirements; housing affordability; and avoidance of, and responses to, rental and mortgage delinquency and avoidance of eviction and mortgage default.

One final valuable tip learned at the NeighborWorks training is to go into the exam with the mindset that you are going to take it twice, and the first time is a trial run. This takes a tremendous amount of pressure off and allows you to relax and think. Does it cost another registration fee if you don’t pass the first time? Yes, it does. It’s worth it to have the mindset that it’s okay to take it twice, especially since HUD will reimburse the fee as an eligible expense if the agency is a grantee and budgets its grant funds for this purpose. You may be surprised and thrilled to pass it on the first try, but having that mindset really helps.

After passing the certification exam, a counselor transfers the results to FHA Connection, which alerts their agency’s Application Coordinator to validate their employment through FHA Connection.

A housing counselor will not be officially placed in the certified counselor database until their agency’s FHA Connection Application Coordinator successfully validates counselor employment in the system. Finally, once your counselors, pass the exam, spread the word! Use social media, the press, newsletters – educate your community of the valuable resource they have.

Improving Service Through Certification

The HUD certification examination unites housing counselors and their agencies in a commitment to provide quality, informative, effective housing counseling.

For over 25 years, housing counselors at Catholic Charities of Chemung/Schuyler have provided high quality, up-to-date counseling by sharpening skills and knowledge through continuing education and certification offered by National Training Institutes such as NeighborWorks, UnidosUS, HUD Exchange, and others. In complying with the HUD Final Rule to certify housing counselors, the agency and its staff are raising the bar on professional competency and agency credibility and inspiring confidence in local consumers.

As a HUD-certified housing counseling agency with professionally certified housing counselors, Catholic Charities of Chemung/Schuyler is more prepared than ever to help consumers beat the odds by achieving better credit, more savings, fewer foreclosures, and sustainable, stable homeownership – and you and your agency can be, too.

Don’t wait until August 2020! Visit HUD Exchange for more information on the exam, and prepare and register at Good luck and remember we are in this together.

HUD-certified Housing Counselors Amy Bell and Jane Solokowski of Catholic Charities of Chemung/Schuyler

Pictured from left: HUD-certified Housing Counselors Amy Bell and Jane Solokowski of Catholic Charities of Chemung/Schuyler