The big question on every 4th year electrical apprentice's mind is, "what is the test going to be like" to become an electrician? In this episode I talk about how the exam is laid out and what tips you should know going in on test day.
The state electrical exam is very similar in most states. Not all, but most. Most states offer an open-book test, based on the current National Electrical Code. You're only allowed to bring a standard printed NEC in, not a hard-cover handbook. You won't be allowed to have small printed items tucked in the book, nothing stapled to pages, nor can you have large paragraphs of information or calculations written somewhere hidden in the pages.
You are allowed to write small notes in the book (in most places, not all), and you are allowed to tab your book as long as you use official NEC tabs, not tabs made at home.
The exam for Residential Wireman in Texas is a 4 hour, 83 question exam on primarily residential knowledge. You're given a standard calculator, and told to leave all other possessions other than a code-book in your car. You sit at a computer and answer 83 multiple choice questions, and are allowed to write on a scratch piece of paper (that must be turned in at the end) with a #2 pencil. After the 4 hours you're done.
The Unrestricted Journeyman exam is similar to the Residential Wireman exam however it is much more difficult. It is 100 questions, but still only 4 hours. All of the rules are the same, you just have more work cut out for you in the same amount of time.
Finally, the Master exam is 5 hours, 100 questions. These questions are much more involved and far more obscure/difficult.
How To Take The Test
I recommend taking 3 passes through the test. The first go-round is going to be just a simple pass through to see everything that is on the test. In this pass-through you need to try to answer every question that you EASILY know. I’m talking only home-runs here. If you’re questionable about the answer, just skip it for now.
The next pass-through you’re going to dig into the code book a little. This is where you spend 3 minutes max per question and only answer the ones that you can find within that time limit. This also means skip the math, unless you’re extremely certain in your math abilities and the formulas for ohm’s law, electrical theory, and the power wheel. But just so you know, the math questions and calculations are meant to be time wasters. They will be addressed on the 3rd time through the test. During this second time through, you’re looking to answer 70 percent of the questions on the test. Only answer the ones you know are exactly right. If you hit 70 percent of the questions on this second pass and you know you’ve gotten them all right, then you’re very close to passing the exam already.
Now it’s time for the 3rd pass-through. This time you’re going to spend 3-5 minutes finding the really difficult hidden stuff that you’ve been struggling to find in the other two passes, In Texas we have the ability to “mark” questions, so as you’ve been going through the test each time you should be marking the questions that are really difficult or that are time wasters. So this 3rd go around is specifically for those marked questions. This will make up the remainder of the test. I still say leave the LONG time wasters that are multiple articles worth of flipping back and forth (such as service load calculations) until the VERY VERY end.
You should probably finish the test 30-60 minutes early. If you don’t, its ok but that means that you have some educated guesses to make if you’re down to the second at the end of the test. If you don’t know, eliminate the BS answers, and take your best guess. WHATEVER YOU DO, DO NOT LEAVE ANY QUESTIONS UNANSWERED. Answer them all, this increases your probability of getting a higher score.
Last thing to do…IF YOU FINISHED EARLY AND HAVE TIME…is to go back through the struggle questions, or questions that you think may be incorrect and address them one last time. Go through every one and don’t stop until you’re 100% sure you’ve found the answer. This could be the difference between a pass and a fail. I failed my Journeyman exam by ONE question, and I also left 3 questions unanswered so I probably wouldn’t have failed if I’d have used my own advice. But, I ran out of time and didn’t use my time wisely. I only learned this method once I took this test a second time.
You will do great, I have faith in you. I’m not the sharpest tool in the tool-shed so if I can do it, so can you. GOOD LUCK! If you need any help, join the electrical wizardry group on facebook (make sure you answer all of the prompted pre-entry questions or you won’t be approved), and we’ll help you out as a community.