Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Customs Broker Exam Study Tip 4: How to Read the CFR

From the time we were children most of us were taught to read a book from the beginning to the end or cover-to-cover, starting with the first page. When reading Title 19 of the Code of Federal Regulations for the Customs Brokers Exam, you should break that rule. Yes, we really did suggest that you should not read the regulations from the beginning to the end, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t read the entire book. The material contained in the regulations is very technical and often quite boring; therefore, it is not the kind of book you can read from cover to cover in a short time.

If you think this idea sounds crazy, pick up the book and read Part 4, containing approximately 45 pages. Only one question from Part 4 has appeared on the last ten exams; that’s one question in a total of 800 questions, which is less than 1% of the questions. This means you’ve just spent valuable time reading material that won’t likely be tested. On the other hand, Part 111 is one of the most frequently tested sections and it contains 15 pages. There have been 59 questions from Part 111 on the last ten exams which means approximately 7.4% of the questions on each exam come from Part 111. Not only will you be reading information that is important for the test, but Part 111 provides requirements for customs brokers. Understanding the requirements for customs brokers is important for passing the exam and for persons who want to be brokers.

The book is lengthy and often difficult to read and understand; however, it is important for importers, brokers, and other parties involved in international trade to have a good understanding of the CBP Regulations. There are numerous reasons for reading, understanding and applying the regulations. For purposes of the exam, knowledge of the regulations reduces time spent looking for answers on exam day. CBP employees and other members of the trade community might tell you that all of the sections are equally important. This is true, but for the purposes of the exam, some sections are not as significant because they are not as heavily tested.

The key to reading the regulations is to match your reading schedule with your study plan. In most situations, this means reading the sections that are most heavily tested first and saving the sections that are rarely tested for later. For example, Week 1 of your plan may require you to read Part 111- Brokers, Part 141 – Entry of Merchandise and Part 142 - Entry Process. These three parts are included in the top five sections that have been tested on the last ten exams and make up about 16% of the total questions on each exam.

Another strategy might be to read sections that are related to each other by a common theme. For example, Parts 18, 114, 127, 132, 143, 144 and 146 contain information about types of entries and alternatives to entry. There are various strategies for reading the regulations. Use what works best for your study plan, but use your time wisely and avoid reading the book from cover-to-cover.

We would like to offer some other suggestions related to reading the regulations. First, use "tabs" to mark each part of the regulations. Colored tabs can be used to indicate more important or frequently used parts. Using tabs also makes certain parts easier to find which can be a time saver during the exam. Second, highlight important facts, which can be used later for making outlines, flash cards or other study tools. Third, make notes in the margins to help you remember certain fact or provide examples that might not be included. Fourth, memorize the titles of each part and/or associate that title with something that will remind you of the information contained in that part.

As always, we welcome your comments on these suggestions and encourage you to add your own ideas to this forum so that other students studying for the exam can benefit from your experiences.

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