Tips for Passing the California State Board Esthetician Written Exam

September 22, 2023

Estheticians sitting for the written exam in California are on the on-ramp for a career offering unlimited possibilities. Passing the California State Board Esthetician written exam and earning licensure opens the door to careers in a wide variety of settings including healthcare and med spas, sports and fitness facilities and resort destinations. But first things first, let’s consider the test that aspiring estheticians seeking licensure in California must pass.

The Esthetician exam contains 75 scored questions and takes 90 minutes to complete. Starting in July 2022, the Board began offering the national examination developed by PSI services for esthetician licenses, as well as cosmetology, barbering, manicure and electrologist. Whereas a practice exam was previously required, that is no longer the case and applicants must pass only a written exam. The processes used to develop these examinations have been reviewed by the Department of Consumer Affairs, Office of Professional Examination Services and the examinations have been deemed valid for use in California. More information about the California written exam is located here.

California State written esthetics exam

Below we look at what is covered in the California State written esthetics exam. We also suggest some resources to help prepare for the exam, and some general tips on conquering exam jitters.

The California State Board written exam covers a wide range of topics related to esthetics, the field of skincare and beauty. Below we provide a general overview of content that is generally covered on the exam. It is important to keep in mind that a basic esthetics program will prepare students with the foundational knowledge to prepare for the exam, blending curriculum with practice.

But that’s only the start and passing the state exam is merely the entry point for a licensed professional. With that in mind, elite esthetic schools, such as Bellus Academy, ensure students are trained on emerging non-invasive treatments and therapies so that they can confidently work in a range of spa settings – from med spa to day spa to resort environment – upon completing the exam. But getting back to the exam, here are some general categories you can expect to see covered on the California State Board’s esthetics exam.

Anatomy and Physiology

Knowledge of anatomy and physiology is essential for estheticians.  Questions may cover the structure and function of the skin, muscles, and other relevant body systems. Again, an elite school, like Bellus Academy, will include curriculum that goes beyond the basics. For example, spa and wellness authorities in the oncology sector have teamed up with the school to provide training on facials for people with cancer.

Skin Disorders and Conditions: The exam may include testing on common skin disorders and conditions – rosacea for example – and appropriate esthetic treatments for these conditions.

Sanitation, Hygiene and Safety: The post-COVID era has only heightened requirements for serving clients in a clean and pristine  setting. Expect questions on the written exam to cover proper sanitation procedures, safety protocols and infection control.

Esthetic Treatments

The written exam will include questions that assess knowledge of esthetic treatments such as facials, chemical peels and waxing.

Product Knowledge: Technique and products work together to address clients’ skincare concerns, so the exam includes questions about skincare products, their ingredients, and the appropriate use of various products.

Client Consultation and Communication: A big part of the esthetician’s job is listening to the client. While an intake form at a spa may provide valuable information, most clients will have specific concerns that go well beyond the form. As such, questions on the exam may assess a tests taker’s ability to effectively conduct client consultations.

Professional Ethics

Like other professionals authorized to touch the human body, estheticians must abide by ethical standards. The exam will assess both standards and knowledge of professional conduct.

Business Practices: Test takers may be asked questions related to business functions such as record-keeping and client relations. Selecting a school that provides a solid overview of non-technical skills can help in passing the exam and succeeding in business. For example, students at Bellus Academy learn about building a business, networking and basic financial literacy.

Prepping to take the test, and manage test day anxiety

One of the most effective ways to prepare for an exam is to speak with a school’s education team. Educators are continually working with students going through the exam process and will be happy to offer feedback from other students they have mentored.

The esthetician state board exam in California – and in other locations – may be rigorous, but if you’ve successfully completed your curriculum, you’ve mastered essential core content covered in the exam. Of course, along with the excitement, you may experience test-day jitters. Don’t worry because the team at Bellus Academy has some strategies to help calm your test taking anxiety and proceed with confidence as you prepare to take the esthetician state board exam in California. In fact, some of these calming strategies come from experts in the professional spa industry.

The Power of Mindfulness and Meditation

Gen Z is no stranger when it comes to the world of technology and schedules that seem to get busier by the day. All of this can leave you feeling overwhelmed, but mindfulness and meditation can be secret weapons to combat stress and anxiety before your esthetician state board exam. Here are some tools to help put your mind at rest as you prepare for the exam.

Tech-Savvy Meditation Apps. Both free meditation apps and subscription-based apps   that can help you center yourself and stay calm under pressure.

Breathe-in and Breathe Out. This low-tech approach is widely known to work wonders when it comes to lowering stress. Try the 4-7-8 technique. Inhale for 4 seconds, hold for 7 seconds, and exhale for 8 seconds. It’s like hitting the reset button for your mind.

Moving Mindfulness: Start your day with a mindfulness ritual such as a few minutes of stretching, deep breathing or journaling. These activities can help establish a positive vibe for the big exam day.

Study Smart

Gen Z is known for its resourcefulness and adaptability. And these strategies can be used by other demographics as well. Put these traits to work when preparing for the esthetician state board exam in California.

Digitize your study notes: Organize your preparation notes in an app like Evernote or Notion for easy access and efficient study sessions.

Study Groups: Collaborate with your peers in an online study group using video conferencing apps like Zoom or Discord. You can connect with friends who are also prepping for the exam.

Visualization and Positive Affirmations

Your mind is a powerful tool when it comes to imagining your future as an esthetician who has successfully passed the esthetician state board exam in California. Spend a few minutes each day visualizing yourself acing the esthetics state board exam. Imagine the confidence you’ll exude as you address each question.

Don’t forget about affirmations. Create a list of positive affirmations tailored to your goals. For example,  “I’m crushing it as an esthetician, while helping me and my clients achieve life-work balance.”

Night Before Test Prep

The night before your California state board esthetician written exam, wind down with some calming strategies noted below:

Digital Detox: Power down your devices at least an hour before bed, as blue light from screens can disrupt your sleep and leave you feeling tired on exam day.

Netflix anyone? Watch a program that is light-hearted and funny. Laughter isn’t just great medicine; it’s a great stress reliever too!

Prep your essentials: Layou out your ID, admission ticket, and any required materials the night before to avoid panic on the morning of your exam.

Test Day Confidence and Self-Care

On the big day, channel your inner test warrior superstar. Here are some tips:

Dress the part. Select an outfit that makes you feel confident and look professional. When you look good, you’ll be in a better mindset to perform well. Of course, that prep applies to your skincare routine as well. Show up to take your esthetician state board exam with glowing skin.

Power up with breakfast: Fuel your body with a nutritious breakfast. Foods rich in protein and complex carbs can help keep your energy sustained throughout the exam.

During the Exam – Stay Calm and in Control

Mindfulness tactics can support you during the exam process. Here are a few to try:

Box Breathing: Inhale for 4 seconds, hold for 4, exhale for 4, hold for 4. Repeat. This can help calm your nerves during the test.

Positive Anchors: Visualize a calming place or memory when you start to feel anxious. Take a big breath, close your eyes and go to a mental “happy place” when you start to feel stressed.


An awesome way to celebrate completing the esthetician state board exam is to reward yourself with a spa ay. Or treat yourself to a favorite meal or a fun outing with friends. And don’t forget to reflect. Think about what worked in your study routine and what didn’t. Use this reflection time to refine your study habits for future exams. Lifelong learning is an integral part of the successful esthetician’s career journey.

Finally, don’t neglect to pay your achievement forward as you help the next generation pursue their goals. And keep looking for opportunities to take your career to new levels through lifelong learning. Beauty Changes Lives provides scholarships for aspiring estheticians and licensed pros.

Every journey toward passing the esthetician state board exam begins with education. Contact Bellus Academy and a friendly carer advisor can help you take the first step toward licensure.

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