If you’ve been installing electrical systems as an apprentice, helper or unlicensed electrician you can usually make a lot more money as a licensed electrician. Passing the electrician’s exam is usually your ticket to advancement up from the apprenticeship level to master electrician.
Most communities now require that any electrician working without supervision must be licensed. For larger electrical construction projects, many states require the certification of journeyman electricians as well as specialty electricians, such as splicers of high-voltage cable. This licensing trend is increasing as more states recognize the need to protect homeowners from incompetent electricians.
The Electrical Exam
Just about all states now require that electricians pass a demanding exam. These exams are a good test of the examinee’s electrical knowledge. The exams usually center on, and make reference to the National Electrical Code and questions in the exam often include many obscure code references that require genuine Code knowledge, not just common sense. These are hard tests to pass, but there are secrets to studying that can offer you an edge.
Once you’ve set your exam date you’ll probably want to prepare for the test. There are probably plenty of schools in your state that will be happy to take your money and spoon-feed you electrical knowledge to help you pass the exam. But you may be able to save your money, study on your own and pass the exam with flying colors. Most electricians who fail the exam, know the material, but don’t know how to study properly.
Essential Study Guides
The two essential books for passing the electrician’s exam are the National Electrical Code, and the Electrician’s Exam Preparation Guide. Find out from your exam board which year of the National Electrical Code you’ll need to study for the exam. Carefully study the layout of the NEC, especially Articles 100 and 110. These two articles have the basic information that will make the rest of the NEC easier to understand. After these articles go on to:
Wiring Design and Protection -- Wire sizing, use and identification of grounded conductors, branch circuits, feeders, calculations, services, over-current protection, grounding and surge protection.
Wiring Methods and Materials -- Chapter 3 of the NEC has the rules on wiring methods and materials. The materials used on a particular system depend on the type of building.
Equipment and General use -- Chapter 4 covers installation of flexible cords and cables, number of conductors, switches, panel boards, electric motors, HVAC, and battery storage systems.
Special Occupancies -- Chapter 5 cover the areas where sparks generated by electrical equipment may cause an explosion.
Special Equipment -- Electric signs and installation of elevators, dumbwaiters, escalators, welding equipment sound recording equipment and X-ray equipment.
Special Conditions -- public lighting and illuminated exit signs, etc.
The Electrician’s Exam Preparation Guide 2008 works in tandem with the National Electrical Code 2008. It provides you with the type of questions asked in the actual electrician’s exam. It gives you a feel for the exam, and gives you confidence to score better on the actual state exam. The book is made up of multiple-choice questions, just like most state tests. Each chapter covers a single subject following the style of the actual exams. This helps you discover your strengths and weaknesses. When you take the final exam in the back of the book, or from the interactive study CD-ROM, you’ll quickly discover your strengths and weaknesses. Then you can concentrate your efforts on improving your score by studying the National Electrical Code and practicing the questions in the Electrician’s Exam Preparation Guide until you understand how the Code requirements affect the answers to the questions on the sample exam.
If you want to save money, you can download the Interactive Study Center for the Electrician’s Exam Preparation Guide 2008 and begin studying without the book. The interactive study center asks questions, then lists the possible answers for you to choose from. After you make your selection, it provides the correct answer and cites its code reference. The CD makes studying for the exam almost fun. There is even a timed exam you can take on your computer.
By spending a few nights a week studying for the exam you’ll quickly find yourself growing more familiar with the statutes of the National Electrical Code. Getting a license should be a goal that you set for yourself; it’s a key to your future -- a satisfying, steady, well-paying career in the electrical industry.
As you study the NEC and the other references, highlight important points with a marker. You may want to buy tabs that mark the important sections of the NEC so that you can find them quickly during the open book exam. Speed is important; as you may be able to spend only have two to four minutes for each test question, so you’ll want to stay focused.