All opinions expressed on this site are my own.
After many months of being on the fence about real estate school, I finally committed in April of 2022 and started a course in May. The education appealed to me because I had been working on a social impact commercial real estate concept for four years and the credibility of licensure seemed like it was going to be valuable, as well as serving as a means to remain relevant in my technology consulting work, with limitless opportunities for industry disruption.
I chose Armbrust Real Estate Institute because they consistently had the highest pass rates (based on the number of students cycling through) on the Associate Broker licensing exam. I would not recommend or choose them again for online-only delivery. I explain more below.
From start to license exam passing last weekend, it took me four months to get through the material on a part-time basis. (Note that their in-person format is much more accelerated. I consumed about as much content as I could tolerate on my own each day.)
In my preliminary research before I picked a school, I asked Armbrust to be able to connect with a student who went exclusively through their virtual program to learn more. I was referred to Google reviews instead. I asked about pass rates specific to virtual attendance and was told they don’t track that. I should have paid closer attention to these as indicators of what was to come, however I wanted to move forward quickly at that point.
As someone who can’t go anywhere without noticing potential improvements in services and products and who is obsessed with user and customer experience, the platform powering Armbrust’s content delivery was painful to endure. They claim they keep it simple by design, but my opinion is that it’s just poor and ineffective design that lacks all of the important and useful features online learners have come to expect from other learning management systems (LMS).
There is a total lack of accessibility with no captions or transcripts available in platform. Students are forced to enter numeric prompts to show they are present for the materials, which didn’t bother me, however, even after completing the videos for the first time, there is subsequently no ability to fast-forward through content that doesn’t need to be reviewed. Given their review recommendations for exam prep are to go back through the content you’ve already seen, this was incredibly inefficient, ineffective, and frustrating.
The content would benefit from a good editor. The incorrect use of possessives and prolific typos throughout the printed and online materials was unprofessional and distracting.
I found the National information videos and course structure to be mostly interesting and consumable. The format for the second binder, Colorado Contracts and Regulations (CCR), was different and didn’t mesh with my learning style. Closings were clearly explained in the third binder.
On the positive side, it’s clear that the instructors have decades of real estate experience to draw from with many anecdotes along the way.
They did not reach out to check on my progress or experience proactively and there are few feedback loops beyond test results. It’s clear they don’t seek and value feedback, and as others have shared in Google reviews, it feels like they are only out to get money from students (at least online) and don’t really care about student experience and success.
I reached out only a handful of times with future of real estate business and network building kinds of questions and when I did, responses were usually incomplete and with an air of condescension.
The frequent use of “you guys” in course videos hints at some underlying bias.
Videos aren’t edited either.
They charged me to mail the binders for the online course (a reasonable amount for shipping given the box’s contents, however, a surprise, nonetheless.) This would be better served as a built-in registration cost. If there was any indication of this in whatever I signed at time of registration, I missed it.
I completed their Exit Strategies, as recommended. When I reached out to ask about clean copies of quizzes as I had marked mine up the first time around, I was told they wouldn’t reprint those for me. After pressing further that there was a solution and offering to pay for reprints, if I had to, I received PDF versions from another staff member.
Reviewing the same content was a struggle since much of it was unenjoyable to sit through the first time. I retook all suggested quizzes with a solid overall average score. I passed the school’s National final with a 90% the first time. Binder Two (CCR) review didn’t translate to the Colorado final. I failed twice before passing a third time, missing the 72% pass rate by two questions the first time, and by one question the second time.
After failing the second time, despite additional hours of review to close my learning gaps, I decided I would look for test prep materials elsewhere.
I found the following to ultimately be much more valuable for license exam prep than Armbrust’s second pass through the same materials.
- Jennifer Bergman’s prep videos on YouTube were straightforward and helpful
- Rocky Mountain Real Estate School’s videos were also useful
- Investing in PSI’s Real Estate Salesperson Premium Practice Test – 500 items was well worth it at $49.99, even though this cost more than exam registration itself. The online test training environment provided immediate feedback on correct and incorrect responses with explanations. In addition, the study guide area suggested topics for improvement with the ability to isolate questions specific to those topics and design and run through custom tests.
- PSI’s Colorado Real Estate License Exam Prep – 1st Edition – PDF was also helpful in seeing what their exam language looked like for the state portion. Note that you are not allowed to print the material, so that makes taking practice tests and reviewing correct answers a bit difficult and cumbersome.
Initially, I planned to take the exam remotely with a proctor. I knew from reviewing registration materials that scratch paper wasn’t allowed, but when I called PSI to inquire about whether there were any in-app digital note-taking abilities to help structure my thinking and analysis for proration questions, they weren’t able to give me an answer and told me to ask the proctor. So I changed my registration to take it in-person instead (a couple of hours away being the closest location with an 8 a.m. start time and requirement to be there 30 minutes early. I left my house just before 5:30 a.m.)
On test day, I completed both portions of the exam in a little over two hours. I felt well-prepared for the National portion while the Colorado portion felt like more of a struggle with some second-guessing on my part. After submitting responses for both test sections and completing a short survey, I got to a screen indicating that I had passed both portions. The proctor let me know I’d have more detailed results waiting in my inbox. I scored 92.5% on the National exam and 89% on the Colorado exam.
Spend more time getting to know the ins and outs of each school before you invest in a program. And be prepared to work harder and longer than you might expect, even if you are a well-practiced, typically successful, learner and test taker. The education itself was definitely worth it, in my opinion, as we are all impacted by real estate and the contracts we sign, whether we buy or rent.
Photo by Lacie Slezak on Unsplash