Could You Pass a Cosmetology Certification Exam?

By: Ariana
Estimated Completion Time
5 min
Could You Pass a Cosmetology Certification Exam?
Image: Stefano Oppo/Cultura/Getty Images

About This Quiz

Are you on your way to your dream cosmetology career? It takes more than you think. Not only do you need hours and hours of hands-on experience and some practice to become an expert in what you do, but you also need the background knowledge to get your foot in the door.

When looking to break into the cosmetology world, you have to have experience, contacts (not necessary, but ideally) and certifications, of course. The cosmetology certification exam covers a wide array of specialty areas: scientific concepts, hair care and services, skin care and nail care, to name a few. You need to know the basics and how to maneuver your way around different types of clients. You can, of course, specialize in any of these areas, but for the certification exam, you’ll have to be prepared to be able to answer all sorts of questions related to those topics.

All cosmetology professionals require a license. As a cosmetologist, customers are dependent on you for enhancing their appearance by providing a wide range of beauty services. You’re in charge! And as a result, you’ll want to make sure you’re also ready.

Do you think you could pass a cosmetology certification exam? Take this quiz to test your knowledge and find out!

Everyone loves a good foot rub. How often should you clean a foot spa?
Once a day
When dirty
Once a week
After each client
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Well, for very obvious reasons, you would most definitely clean a foot spa right after every client. Think about all the bacteria and residue left from the other person. OK, maybe don’t think about it, but still, clean it!

While doing a manicure on a client, Sally cuts herself and starts to bleed. What should she do?
Continue with the service
Terminate the service and go to a doctor
Wrap a tissue around her cut
Stop the manicure and begin blood spill procedures
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

If Sally — or any technician out there — gets cut while attending to a customer, the service must be stopped then and there. The next step is for the technician to start blood spill procedures to avoid any health issues (or even legal issues). Once this is complete, you’re good to continue with the service.

Why is liquid hand soap recommended over bar soaps for hand washing?
Liquid soap is better for the environment
Liquid soap only needs to be changed every 14 days
Bar soaps can grow bacteria
It is more cost effective
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Liquid soap doesn’t need to be touched. Bar soaps, when touched, can grow bacteria while washing your hands with it. Plus, it’s just easier to squeeze some soap out of a dispenser and wash your hands without having to use a bar soap that others have used before you. Yucky.


A client comes in for a facial and you notice that the face is flaky on the sides while the center around the nose is oily. What’s the skin type of this client?
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

If they have a side that’s flaky and another one that’s oily, then the client is likely to have a combination skin type. This is typical for this type of skin, which has dry and flaky parts while the center of the face (including nose, chin and forehead) is oily.

If you need to lower the pH level of the chemical relaxer you just washed off your client’s hair, what kind of shampoo should you utilize?
Conditioning shampoo
Volumizing shampoo
Conditioning shampoo
Neutralizing shampoo
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

You would definitely want to use a neutralizing shampoo to lower the pH of the hair after a relaxer service. This also reforms disulfide bonds and makes the hair permanently straighter.

Which of the following traits or skills allows people to listen, understand and connect with others as well as clearly express their own needs?
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

If you can exchange information with your client and cater to their needs you're off to a good start. Clients love it when you pay attention, especially when they can’t express what they want but you just get it. That will set you apart from others and very likely gain you more clients very quickly. Values, diplomacy and sensitivity are important too, but communication is critical when working with others who are coming to you with a specific need.


When it comes to infection control, what is the highest level of decontamination?
Using bleach
Using new tools
Washing your hands
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Sterilization is a process used in which all germs and other contaminants are completely destroyed. This process uses some form of heat and is designed to destroy everything on the tool that's being sterilized.

Should you use an overlapping relaxer when performing a retouch relaxer service?
Yes, it’ll make it shinier
No, it may damage the hair
Yes, if it’s curly again
Yes, to give it texture
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Nope, this is not recommended to do at all. Stay away from overlapping relaxer. Try another method and communicate to your client that if you overlap, you might cause damage to the previously relaxed hair.

Ana wants a perm but she has a low-grade fever. As the stylist what do you do?
Proceed with caution
Do not continue with the service
Continue as usual
Take breaks more often
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Do not do it. If Ana has a low-grade fever, their body temperature is already high as it is. If your body temperature is elevated, this will only speed up the processing time of the perm, which will in turn overprocess the hair and possibly cause damage.


What do you call the white half-moon shape at the base of the nail?
Free edge
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

It’s your lunula! Technicians can also use the base of the nail as a guiding line when doing the nails of clients. This area can also tell you a lot about the client’s health. Actually, a lot about nails (color, texture, strength, etc.) can tell you about your personal health.

What should you refer to when deciding how long a color should process for?
Salon policy
Salon supervisor
The client
Manufacturer’s directions
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

It would only make sense to look at the manufacturer’s directions as they produced the product and would know the appropriate guidelines. You can ask your supervisor, but they might need to refer to the directions as well. Going straight to this will save you from taking an extra unnecessary step!

What can a dermatologist inject into the skin in order to increase its strength?
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Collagen is a rich fibrous material that increases the strength of the skin (which is why some people take supplements, though they might not work as effectively). This protein is produced naturally by the body but is also manufactured for use as an injectable to promote the strength of skin and reduce wrinkles.


What type of precaution is washing your hands?
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Well, sure, it’s respectful to wash your hands. But it’s also a universal precaution. Universal precautions were developed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to address how to safely handle human blood and bodily fluid spills.

What’s another name for decolorizing and re-colorizing hair to the desired level and tone?
Double process technique
Triple process technique
Double bleach technique
Tint back
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

This is also referred to as the double process technique because, first, you decolorize the hair to then re-colorize it. This process is done when the desired color doesn’t turn out to be what it was meant to be during a single process alone.

Which are the three primary colors according to the color wheel?
Red, yellow and purple
Yellow, orange and green
Red, blue and yellow
Yellow, orange and blue
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

If you look at a color wheel, you can easily see that red, blue and yellow are the primary colors. In case you weren’t aware, these colors are the group that all other colors can be obtained by through simply mixing them together.


What is the process cells go through while growing to reach their full development?
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

This process is referred to as keratinization, in which hair cells begin at the hair follicle and move in an upward direction. The cells contain keratin and a fibrous protein, which is an amino acid chain composed of carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen and sulfur, also referred to as the COHNS elements.

What’s the most common active ingredient in relaxers used today in salons?
Sodium calcide
Sodium hydroxide
Sodium difuldie
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

A chemical relaxer is used to do just that — relax the hair. Basically, for anyone who has curly hair and wants to go straight, this is the way to go. Sodium hydroxide is the most active ingredient used in relaxers today to accomplish this result.

When considering a career in the cosmetology field, what is one way to decide which path to take?
Choose based on school specialty
Pick what you do best
Determine an area of expertise
Take the first job you get offered
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Well, the best thing to do is what many people have probably told you already: focus on one thing and master it. Truly, determine an area of expertise and become the best at it. Like any other job, it’s better to do one thing well than many and not be good at them at all.


Which of the following are the three components of a pin curl?
Circle, stem and curl
Base, circle and stem
Curl, balance and stem
Contour, base and curl
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Who knew a pin curl could be so intricate? The base, circle and stem are the main three components that form a pin curl. These come in handy when making all sorts of hairdos, so count on relying on these for a lot of things.

What do all colors that contain aniline derivative tints require before application to determine if a client is sensitive to the chemicals or not?
Strand test
Patch test
Hair porosity test
Hair elasticity measurement
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Before performing this on any client, make sure you perform a patch test to determine if they’re too sensitive to the chemicals or not. This test involved applying the formula on the client’s skin, letting it sit for some time and looking for signs of a possible allergic reaction.

Which of the following is responsible for protecting the inner layer of the hair shaft?
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

The cuticle is the outer layer of the hair shaft that is made up of shingle-like layers. These layers protect the inner layers of the hair and maintain the hair’s shine. Needless to say, they’re very much necessary.


How many cranial bones do humans have?
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

If you didn’t know, there are eight cranial bones in the skull. The occipital bone is in the lower back of the skull. There are two parietal bones that compose the majority of the skull and form the crown.

If the ends of hair stick out over the top of the Marcel iron, what’s likely to happen?
Fishhook ends
Creased ends
Fish ends
Croquignole ends
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Fishhook ends happen when the hair ends stick out over the top of the iron. Make sure you get those hair ends when straightening your hair and cover your bases. Otherwise, you’ll be dealing with fishhook ends!

What’s the average time it takes a new nail to grow?
One to two months
One to two weeks
Four to six weeks
Four to six months
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Oh man, hopefully you’ll never have to completely regrow a new nail from fresh, because it’ll take you a hot second to have a brand new nail. If you lose a nail, it gets infected or for whatever reason you just don’t have a nail, you’re looking at having to wait four to six months to get your new nail.


When performing a permanent wave solution, which bonds need to be broken and rearranged?
Van der Waal’s forces
Hydrogen peroxide
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

I mean, look, not everyone likes their "waves," and some people will go above and beyond to get this fixed. During a permanent wave service, the perm solution breaks the disulfide bonds in the hair to tame it a little better.

What does onychophagy mean in the nail world?
Missing nails
Bitten nails
Nail fungus
Torn nails
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Biting your nails is not good for you or your stomach. That’s why adults always told you to stop biting your nails. In the nail world, the term for this is onychophagy.

You’re attending to your client and have lightened your client's hair. The client says that they feel their hair has brassy, orange tones and wants it differently. You go for a toner to use on your client’s hair to neutralize the unwanted brassiness. Following the color wheel, what color toner should you apply to your client's hair?
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

If you combine red and purple, it will give you blue. If you follow the color wheel, blue and orange are complementary colors. Therefore, you’ll use blue to neutralize the warmth of the orange (brassy) tone the client doesn’t like.


Which of the following is an FDA-approved product that a woman can use to treat her hair loss?
Vitamin D supplements
Vitamin B supplements
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Minoxidil is an over-the-counter product that is FDA-approved and safe to use for both men and women. Research shows that when applied two times a day, this product stimulates hair growth.

Which of the following is the deepest layer of the epidermis?
Stratum germinativum
Stratum spinosum
Stratum granulosum
Stratum lucidum
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

The deepest layer is known as stratum germinativum, also referred to as the basal cell layer. This is a very active layer of skin that produces new skin cells and functions in the overall growth of the epidermis.

What percentage of peroxide can be found in a developer that states it is 20 volume?
Three percent
Five percent
Six percent
Twelve percent
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

If a developer has a 20 volume, then the percentage of peroxide found in it is six percent. If you don’t color your hair often, or at all, you would think that those numbers or percentages printed on the boxes of tints in a pharmacy mean nothing. But in fact, they could mean everything, even whether your hair will come out red, blond or pitch black.


What’s an alternative name for the overlap method of wrapping hair for a permanent wave service?
Spiral technique
Bookend technique
Croquignole technique
Double bookend technique
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

You can also call it the croquignole method. This process involves wrapping the hair from the ends all the way to the scalp during a permanent wave service. It looks fancy, but it takes time and requires a ton of patience.

If your boss tells you that a client’s terminal hair is naturally converting to vellus hair, what is your boss implying?
Postpartum alopecia
Androgenic alopecia
Alopecia areata
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

What your boss is trying to tell you is that your client has androgenic alopecia. It’s a condition of abnormal hair loss and is mainly caused by genetics, age or changing hormones. A client will usually experience this during their 40s, though there have been cases reported as early as teenage years.

Which of the following refers to the standards which must be followed in order to maintain safety and professionalism?
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations
State laws
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Ethics are the professional standards that we must follow in order to maintain safety and professionalism in the workplace. Principles are often more personalized rules to work and live by, but ethics are mandatory and a violation of ethics in the professional field can get you fired, or worse, cause you to lose your professional license. Be ethical!


What happens if water is added to a disinfectant?
It foams
It burns
It loses potency
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

This might sound crazy, but it’ll foam. When mixing disinfectants, you have to follow a certain order. If your mixture foams, this may cause you to incorrectly measure the ratios and can result in a mixture that is too diluted or not diluted enough.

If you’re interested in becoming a salon manager, what’s the best way you can prepare?
Look in the newspaper
Work other salon positions and work your way up
Take a business class
Gain experience first
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

It would be most helpful to take additional business classes because, at the end of the day, a manager job will require you to multitask on several areas, including on the business side of things. Business classes will give you the fundamental information needed to understand the inner workings of a salon. So go and learn something new!

You Got:
Stefano Oppo/Cultura/Getty Images