a steel beam with several large bolts. step by step guide breaks down everything you need to know to pass the C-51 license test

Passing the C-51 license test on your first try can actually be harder than you think, but if you follow these steps it can be easy.

In California, thousands of steel journeyman apply for the C-51 Contractor License. 

A crane hoisting a large steel beam through the air

Structural Steel Contractors engage in a wide range of specialized duties

The Contractor State License Board offers 73 different classifications.

Read this to see if you qualify to get an exam date.

I have worked with steel contractors from all over the country, helping them prepare for their state exams.

These 5 Quick tips are based on the information I have gathered over the years that I know works.

1. Know What Is Going To Be On The C-51 License Test

Preparation is everything, many journeyman apply for the exam without actually knowing what will be on the test.

Taking the time to look at some basic information about the exam is very helpful.

The exam for steel contractors includes:

  • 115 Questions LAW
  • 115 Questions Structural Steel
  • Multiple Choice Exam
  • Close Book
  • 3 Hours To Complete Each Section
  • Taken On A Computer at A State Testing Center

Law & Business

  • Business Organization
  • Business Finances
  • Employment Requirements
  • Contract Requirements and Execution
  • Licensing Requirements
  • Safety 
  • Public Works

Trade

  • Planning and Estimation (27%)
  • Job Preparation (12%)
  • Shop Fabrication (18%)
  • Field Erection (19%)
  • Safety (24%)

Click the link, For a complete guide to the Contractor License LAW concepts you must know to pass the C-51 license test!

2. Take Practice Tests based On The C-51 License 

While running a contractor license school, I learned that the biggest difficulty my students faced was that most of them had not taken an exam in years.

  • Some of my students did not finish high school or had immigrated to the United States recently, and were still learning English. 
  • One of the best study tools for them was to use Online Practice Tests. Simulated online tests are based on the state exam. 
  • Unless you went to a welding school or achieved some level of certification, it is possible that taking tests may be new to you.
Two construction workers on top of steel beams as the sun is setting

C-51 Structural Steel Contractors License

Sample Structural Steel Practice Test Questions

If a crane company charges $250 per hour of operation, how much will a crane cost for four days of 8 hours each day and one day of 4hours, in addition to 4 hours of travel time?


a. $32,000

b. $10,000

c. $8,000

d. $4,000

Which of the following would be the MOST commonly found in a moment connection?



a. Base plate

b. Cap plate

c. Lintel brace

d. Continuity plate

3. How helpful are exam prep study guides for the contractor license test?

Test questions are great, but relying on them as your only study source is a big mistake. If you are not into reading, you can find C-51 license exam study books in audio or video format.

Since practice test questions for the welding license exam do not give you the theory behind what the questions are asking you. 

Using a book or study guide as a reference can be a big help.

Exam prep books for the welding license cover a wide range of topics. They can also be incredibly helpful to refresh your memory on core topics you may have forgotten.

Free contractor license study guides often cover just a snapshot of what you need to know. 

Invest in yourself and look for study guides that cover topics like:

  • Shop preparation
  • Field preparation
  • Finishing
  • Mobilization
  • Plans and specifications
  • Bidding and job cost estimating
  • Placing
  • Connecting

4. Contractor Schools

When you see the term "Contractor Classes" you should understand that they are only LAW & BUSINESS classes for construction contractors.

Contractor license schools offer state specific exam prep classes that cover the basics of construction LAW.

It is essential to understand the distinction between a contractor license and a trade school.

The C-51 license test is for journeyman. A journeyman is someone who has mastery of their trade.

Contractor classes are not meant to teach you the fundamentals of steel fabrication.

They highly beneficial for those of us who haven't been in school for a while.

  • Taught by Contractors or construction veterans
  • Live Instruction format with questions and answers
  • Bilingual (depending on the school you chose)
  • In depth classes that cover important exam concepts
A steel beam with screws in it. Appears to be part of a bridge

Structural steel contractors typically work with General Engineering Contractors, architects or developers

Contractor License schools offer several services that can help you get everything taken care of quickly and easily.

Check out this article for a more in depth look at how to choose the right school!

How to study for the C-51 License Test!

You are trying to get the C-51 structural steel contractor license to make more money, achieve a goal or move up in some way.

It is totally understandable if the idea of taking an exam is intimidating.

  • Remember that most of the people there on test day are in the exact same position as you. 
  • The key is to get some accurate material and be consistent about studying them.
  • Professional athletes, artists, and other top-level tradesmen will all tell you the same thing. Developing mastery is about doing a bunch of little things over and over again.

5. Prepare Daily for Test Daily!

If you commute, invest in an audio program, you can listen while you drive. 

If you are a native Spanish speaker and prefer to watch a recorded class, invest in a bilingual program.

There are a lot of options out there to get you the information you need to know so you can get where you want to be FAST!

blog post covers the essential information you need to get the C51 license for structural steel contractors

If you have found this article helpful, feel free to check out some of our other free content.

For a complete guide on how to become a licensed contractor as well as filling out the application check out our complete guide to the C-51 Structural Steel Contractor License!

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