Saturday, March 14, 2009

Customs Broker Exam Study Tip 6: Taking Previous Exams

Taking past exams is an important part of any study plan. Persons studying for the Customs Broker Exam have an advantage because past exams are available for students to review. The exams provide information about the types of questions and format of the test. So, now that you have discovered this gold mine of information, what should you do with it?

1. Familiarize yourself with the test format.
It is not necessary to sit down and take a complete test of 80 questions the first time you review the exam. Take time to read a few questions and become familiar with the way the questions are constructed. Practice looking up answers in the HTSUS and Regulations. Watch out for questions containing the words “NOT”, “MAXIMUM”, “EXCEPT” and other words that appear in all capital letters and bold text. Pay close attention to the terminology. Some questions may contain answer options that appear to be the same such as 10 working days and 10 calendar days. Don’t get in a hurry and select the first answer that contains “10” in it.

Imported merchandise must be entered within _________ days after landing from the vessel, aircraft or vehicle.

A. 10 calendar days
B. 10 working days
C. 15 calendar days
D. 15 working days

The correct answer is C. Part 142.2(a)

2. Take practice exams in simulated test environment.
Do your best to recreate the actual test-taking environment and conditions. Find a quiet spot location to take the test without distraction and threat of interruption. Use only the written reference materials and notes allowed on the exam. Do not use any electronic device other than a battery-operated calculator. Allocate 4 hours for taking the entire test or 2 hours if taking half of the exam. The exam contains 80 questions and the time allotted is four hours, which averages out to three minutes per question. You may take less time on some questions and more on others, but it will be impossible to finish the test if you spend 10 minutes on each question.

3. Review your results.
In addition to preparing you for the test format and testing conditions, taking practice tests as part of your study plan builds confidence and allows you to find areas that need more concentrated study. Compare your answers with the answer sheet. Review the questions you answered incorrectly and keep track of the sections of the regulations and HTSUS the correct answer comes from. If you find most of your incorrect answers come from the HTSUS, then devote more time to studying the HTSUS lessons and answering classification questions. If you find that you missed more answers from Part 152 on valuation, then spend more time studying valuation and answering valuation questions. Devoting extra time studying the topics related to the questions missed on the practice exam is a great way to improve your score on the next practice exam and the real exam.

4. Highlight all answers in the CBP Regulations.
As you review the exam questions answered, highlight the correct answers in your copy of the regulations. This will reinforce your knowledge of the regulations and the highlighted information tends to stand out on the page when you are looking for it. Even though the questions for each exam may be worded differently, the answers will still be found in the same texts. The last eleven exams contained 33 questions from Part 24. Ten of those 33 questions came from 19 CFR 24.23. Six of the 33 questions came from 24.5 and six came from 24.1. By marking the answers in those three sections, you reinforce the information in your mind and you will be more likely to spot the answer quickly when looking for it on the actual exam.

5. Answer test questions as a regular part of study.
In addition to taking practice tests, set aside some study time once or twice a week to answer questions from other exams that you are not using for the simulated practice. Since each question is allotted an average of 3 minutes, you could plan to spend 30 minutes answering 10 questions from an older exam. You could do this exercise four times a week and have completed half of one exam in a week. Alternatively, you could allot one hour and answer 20 questions at a time. If you did this four times a week, you would have completed an entire exam. This exercise will give you practice managing time. Additionally you will gain familiarity with the question, answer formats, and increase your knowledge of the materials.


When taking old exams, be alert for possible inconsistencies in the answer selections. Tariff numbers and duty rates have changed over the years. A tariff number that was listed as a possible answer on the October 2003 Exam may not be valid in 2009. When calculating the duty rates to determine an answer, you may find a slight variance because of the reduction in duty over the years. With the addition of new free trade agreements, duties have been reduced and eliminated for certain countries.

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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