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Which States Have The Toughest Notary Exams?

Prepare for and pass your state’s Notary exam

Updated 1-25-16 with information about the NNA's California Notary Exam Prep Course.

Requirements to receive a Notary commission are becoming stricter and more difficult in many states. Read on to find out which states have the most challenging state Notary tests and find helpful links to resources to help new and renewing Notaries pass these exams.

New York

New York has one of the toughest tests to become a Notary. The Empire State requires Notary applicants to take and pass an exam with a minimum score of 70 percent in order to receive a commission. However, the state does not require any training so applicants are on their own to learn the material covered in the exam. Applicants have one hour to complete the exam, and the tests are closely monitored: No notes, books or reference aids are permitted, and all electronic devices must be turned off during the exam.

Helpful Resources For New York’s Exam: The state Division of Licensing publishes an online schedule of New York Notary exam times and locations. The online New York Notary Public License Law booklet available from the Division of Licensing covers topics appearing on the exam. The NNA offers an online course with material to help you prepare for and pass the New York Notary exam.


California has some of the most stringent application requirements for Notaries in the U.S. — including a required education course and background check — and the mandatory exam is among the most challenging in any state. The test, based on the state’s Notary Public Handbook, is proctored, and applicants must score at least 70 percent in order to receive a California commission.  Renewing Notaries must also take the exam again each time they wish to renew their commission.

Helpful Resources For California’s Exam:  Exam questions are based on California’s Notary Public Handbook, available online through the Secretary of State’s website. The NNA also offers live and online training seminars for California Notaries with the option of taking the exam at the end of the seminar.

California Notary Exam Prep Course Available: The NNA also offers a California Notary Exam Prep Class designed for all new or renewing Notaries who have recently completed their 6-hour or 3-hour California Mandatory Online Training.

The 90-minute refresher course covers the toughest topics included on the California Notary Exam, and offers attendees the opportunity for a live Q&A session with an NNA Certified Instructor. (For more information, call 888-896-6827.)

North Carolina

North Carolina requires new commission applicants to take a mandatory training course and pass an exam with a minimum score of 80 percent — among the highest required passing scores for Notaries in the country. Applicants for recommissioning must pass an examination for each subsequent commission. Attorneys who are licensed members of the North Carolina State Bar are exempt from the mandatory course and examination requirements.

Standards for the recommissioning test are stringent. An applicant has 30 minutes to complete the test. If the applicant fails the first test, two re-takes are allowed within 30 days of the date the first exam was taken. If the applicant fails to pass the exam within 30 days, the application for a commission will be denied.

Helpful Resources For North Carolina’s Exam: Information on registering for North Carolina’s course and exam is available through the North Carolina Secretary of State’s website. You can also learn more on our website about the three easy steps to becoming a North Carolina Notary.

Special Mention: Louisiana

Because of Louisiana’s unique civil law codes, the state’s Notaries have duties and testing requirements different than any other state in the U.S. Applicants must take and pass the statewide Notary examination but are exempted if they are attorneys licensed to practice law in Louisiana.

The examination is given twice a year on the first Saturday in June and December, is in three parts (scenario, research and multiple-choice components, all of which must be passed) and lasts about five hours. It is administered at regional test centers. Nonattorney applicants must also take a pre-assessment test administered by the Secretary of State to determine the probability that the applicant will pass the statewide exam.

Notaries applying for a “provisional” commission are exempted from the performance assessment portion of the statewide exam.

Helpful Resources For Louisiana’s Exam:  The Louisiana Secretary of State’s office has information on becoming a Notary and offers exam study materials for purchase.

David Thun is an Associate Editor at the National Notary Association.


Add your comment


12 Oct 2015

In North Carolina if you have been a notary since 1991, you don't have to take the test. NC General Statutes - Chapter 10B 7 (b) A notary whose commission has not expired must comply with the following requirements to be recommissioned: (1) Submit a new application meeting the requirements of G.S. 10B-6, except for G.S. 10B-6(2). (2) Meet all the requirements of G.S. 10B-5(b), except for G.S. 10B-5(b)(5), (6), and (9). (3) Achieve a passing score on the written examination required under G.S. 10B-8(b). This requirement does not apply if the notary is a licensed member of the North Carolina State Bar, or if the notary has been continuously commissioned in North Carolina since July 10, 1991, and has never been disciplined by the Secretary.

La Tonya Coleman

12 Oct 2015

Update on renewal

Cathy Wong

12 Oct 2015

California renewing notaries also have to take an education course, the 3 hour refresher course.


12 Oct 2015

Once you pass the 5 hour test you will never have to take it again in Louisiana even if you move to a new Parish.


31 Jan 2016

Louisiana is probably one of the hardest exams to pass for any notary than in any other state. But I must say, I can perform as a notary better because the test only allows those who pass this exam to be prepared as a Commissioned Notary in the state of Louisiana. I moved to another Parish and I moved my commission here. Without being a statewide notary, I could not have done this so easily. It was the right thing to do when the Secretary of State took over to give the exam. It is so much more fair of an exam than the individual parish test given by attorneys before 2005. I passed the statewide exam in 2008 on the first try but failed the individual parish test 3 times prior. It did help with experience and the 10 years I worked for a Paralegal in a Title Company.

Virginia covey

27 May 2017

This is very good help


01 Jul 2018

Whoever wrote this article either has an axe to grind or just uninformed. Louisiana is definitely the most difficult since the application procedures, wait time, very hard test etc. make it extremely hard to get a commission. I've taken both the Lousiana and California exams and CA is not difficult at all as long as you paid attention in class.

Sergio Szuster

30 Jul 2018

Is it easy to get a job and get work as a notary republic

becky m

08 Jan 2020

ohio is for sure the hardest. you have to pass with an 80%

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