The (C-33) Painting and Decorating Exam, Sample Questions and Source Documents


CSLB exam centers are located in:

  • Fresno
  • Norwalk
  • Oakland
  • Oxnard
  • Sacramento
  • San Bernardino
  • San Diego
  • San Jose.

Exams are given Monday through Friday, excluding holidays.

You will be required to present picture the test center. (Drivers License, California I.D., Military I.D or Passport)

Each exam is a closed book four choice (A, B, C, or D) multiple-choice test. There is no writing required. Each exam is taken on a computer however no computer experiance is required.

The Law exam consists of 115 questions and The Trade exams range between 100 and 120 questions each. If you are taking both the trade and the law exams they will be administered to you back to back on the same day. You are allowed approximately 2.5 hours for each exam, but typically the State gives you ample time to complete the tests. You need approximately 70% correct answers to pass. You can retake the exam multiple times if you are unsuccessful.

Exam Content – The (C-33) Painting and Decorating Exam has six major sections, these are.

Section 1. Planning and Estimating (32% of Exam)

  • Assessment of job site conditions
  • Material selection and calculation
  • Estimating painting projects

Section 2. Substrate Repair and Replace (9% of Exam)

  • Removal of wall coverings
  • Repairing and replacing substrate
  • Patching and caulking

Section 3. Surface Preparation and Priming (26% of Exam)

  • Masking techniques
  • Removal of paint
  • Cleaning surfaces and pressure washing
  • Preparation of contaminated surfaces
  • Primer application
  • Filling and texturing

Section 4. Application of Paints and Finishes (8% of Exam)

  • Application of finish coat
  • Application of specialty coatings

Section 5. Wood Staining and Finishing (5% of Exam)

  • Preparation of wood
  • Staining wood
  • Sealing and refinishing
  • Finishing wood (interior/exterior)

Section 6. Job Site Safety (20% of Exam)

  • Personal Protection
  • Waste Disposal
  • Elevated work
  • Hazard identification and prevention

*Percentages are approximate*

Exam Sample Questions  – The following questions are typical of the types of items that are on the examination.

1. How should loose paint be efficiently removed from wood?

a. Apply paint remover.
b. Soak with a pressure washer.
c. Use a blow torch and a putty knife.
d. Scrape in the direction of the grain.

2. What is the square footage of a gable 12 ft. wide by 6 ft. high?

a. 24 sq. ft.
b. 36 sq. ft.
c. 42 sq. ft.
d. 72 sq. ft.

3. When bidding a job from a blueprint, from what section would the painting contractor identify the paints to be used?

a. The general notes
b. The elevations
c. The finish schedule
d. The table of contents.

*All questions are written and reviewed by licensed contractors*

Exam References – The following publications were utilized in the creation of the (C-33) trade exam. Additional sources for purchasing materials may be available online.

LEAD Safety for Renovation, Repair, and Painting. Certified Renovator Manual. Joint EPA-HUD Curriculum. Department of Health Services, Occupational Health Branch.
PHONE: (800) 530-1161

PDCA Architectural Specifications Manual. Painting and Decorating Contractors of America.
PHONE: (800) 332-7322

PDCA Estimating Guide Vol. II. Painting and Decorating Contractors of America.
PHONE: (800) 332-7322

PDCA Maintenance Repainting Manual. Painting and Decorating Contractors of America.
PHONE: (800) 332-7322

PDCA Painting and Decorating Craftsman’s Manual & Textbook. Painting and Decorating Contractors of America.
PHONE: (800) 332-7322

State of California General Industry & Electrical Safety Orders (Cal/OSHA) and State of California Construction & Electrical Safety Orders (Cal/OSHA). 2015. California Code of Regulations, Title 8. Mancomm.
PHONE: (877) 626-2666

Various information on lead safety for the construction industry. Department of Public Health, Occupational Lead Poisoning Prevention Program.

*Publisher information current as of 6/16*

Test Site Policy –  The contractor licensing exam is a closed-book examination. No reference materials are allowed during the exam. you will not be permitted entry with any reference materials.

Test Strategy – The contractor licensing exam is a four choice multiple-choice exam. You will have four choices per question. Some questions may require mathematical computation. All exam questions are written to provide only one BEST answer and are NOT written as trick questions.

All correct answers have the same point value. It is better to try to answer a question with the chance to possibly get it correct (and earn points) than it is to leave that question blank and definitely get it wrong (and lose points).

Ample time is provided to answer all exam questions, so be sure to read all questions and answers completely and carefully before selecting the BEST possible answer to the question.

(Apply this strategy to any questions when you do not know the answer to the question)

Look at the surrounding answers to any question you do not know  Research has found that correct answer choices are hardly repeated for consecutive questions, so looking at the answers of the questions you know will help you figure out the questions you are stuck on. For example, if you’re stuck on (question 5), but know that the answer to (question 4) is (B) and the answer to (question 6) is (A), then the answer to (question 5) is most likely (C) or (D). HOWEVER, “knowing is always better then guessing,” Cross out any answers you know are wrong based on facts first.

Research has also found that the answer “ALL OF THE ABOVE” or “NONE OF THE ABOVE” is correct approximately 52% of the time. Choosing this answer will statistically give you a 90% improvement over simply guessing the answer when either of these choices are available.

Choose the longest answer –  Research also indicates that the longest answer on multiple-choice exams is usually correct. “Test makers must ensure that correct answers are indisputably correct,”. “This can often demand some qualifying language. Test makers may not try so hard with the incorrect answers.” If one choice is noticeably longer than its counterparts, it’s likely the correct answer.

Eliminate the bad answers first – Most exam questions always feature one or more answers which are obviously wrong: for example let’s look at this question:

What is the relationship between a prime contractor and a subcontractor?

A. Employer-Employee
B. contractor to subcontractor
C. contractual
D. no relationship

Now we are going to look for bad answers first by looking at the question and comparing it to the various answers,

First we know that on a specific project a subcontractor is not an employee of the prime contractor. They are a subcontractor so we can quickly discount answer (A). Personally I like answer (B) because it looks like it might be correct so I am going to consider it for now. I also like answer (C) because they are both contractors and hired by contract. One holds the contract for the primary project and one holds a contract with the prime contractor. (D) No relationship, This answer makes no logical sense. A subcontractor is always employed by a prime contractor. We have now eliminated both (A) and (D) so guessing the correct answer is 50/50 instead of having only a 25% chance of getting it right.

Let’s look at (B) and (C), to see if we can’t improve our choice to 100% correct.  The contractor to subcontractor (B) relationship is contractual (C) because the subcontractor is not an employee of prime contractor. I would choose (C) Contractual as it is the most complete answer.

The Correct Answer is C