Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Customs Broker Examination, CH 3, Part 3: Taking Sample Tests

The following is an excerpt of The Customs Broker Examination, by Scott Warren Taylor and Andrew Moxon. This book is a part of the Customs Broker Exam Preparation Course from Boskage Commerce Publications. We'll be posting a large excerpt here, with new posts every Tuesday morning. Click here if you want to read the whole book right away.

Chapter 3: Methods of Study

Part 3: Taking Sample Tests

This book includes appropriate questions from past examinations. Some of the regulations, HTS numbers and duty rates may have changed since these examinations were given, but the changes are actually very few and will not interfere with your study.

The changes are actually very easy to identify. Students fear changes in the regulations more than they should (though it is still best to have the edition of the regulations listed in the Notice of Examination on the CBP website). The intent of the regulations has changed very little in recent years. The most noticeable changes usually occur when a tariff number or duty rates changes. Much is made of changes by those who work in the industry. Because they have developed a successful sequence for solving particular importation cases, change is much more disruptive for the working broker (or the student with extensive experience in the industry) than it is for a student newly encountering importation law and regulation.

The tests included with this book are reproductions of actual tests given by CBP. The date the test was given is shown at the beginning of the test. Answers are also provided at the end of the CBE so you can check your answer against the answers approved by CBP. Next to the answers are the regulation citations, that is, the sections of law, regulation, tariff, or bulletin where the answer can be found.

Why Take Sample Tests?
Sample tests give the student a goal. The student can actually schedule, study and check progress by establishing test score benchmarks. A student might establish a goal of 60% correct ten or eleven weeks before the actual test, then increase the percentage weekly until test day. Failure to meet pre-designated test targets would be motivation for intensified study or for study in a particular area of difficulty.

Sample tests also provide a starting point for group discussions, or for discussions with a tutor, import specialist, or other expert in the field. Since many students find it helpful to study with other students, or to obtain the advice of a licensed broker or import specialist (an import specialist is someone employed by CBP who has an expertise in general import procedure and concentrates on a particular class or division of importations), the solving of a test problem can focus the explanation and uncover the source of the student’s confusion about the correct answer. Few explanations are more illuminating than those that come from actual test cases.

But perhaps most important, these sample tests represent the best indicator of your study progress. By taking these examinations in simulated conditions, and then re-taking them as your study progresses, you will build your confidence, you will steel your self against examination anxiety, and you will ascertain – by the results you repeatedly achieve – which areas you must concentrate on in the course of your study to prepare yourself sufficiently for the real examination.

Sample tests bear a unique authority. For the student, the sample tests before them were the actual tests taken by hundreds of broker aspirants across the country; they were the very tests others prepared for – just as the practicing student is preparing – for their CBE. These were the very tests they wondered about, worried about, and conquered, just as the practicing student will wonder and worry about the actual test that he or she will conquer. Success on these sample tests gives the student the confidence needed to pass the actual examination.

When to Take Sample Tests
Having obtained, marked, and re-organized your source materials, the first step in your study – as unbelievable as it may sound – is to test yourself by taking the sample examinations included with this book or by using the exams in your study plan computer program.

Note: If you are using the Boskage Commerce Study Plan, it is best to complete the Introduction section of the program before attempting a test.

Whether you are a 2-month novice or a 12-year veteran, taking a test early in your course of study is a must. Follow the rules for test-taking as they are explained in the front of the tests. Try to recreate the actual test-taking environment and conditions as accurately as possible. That means you should have only copies of the HTSUS, the CBP Regulations, required commercial directives, and your notes available while you are taking the practice examination. Be sure to adhere to the proper time allocation, and, of course, don’t have the answer sheet in the room with you when you are taking the test, or you will find yourself referring to it after every difficult question.

Find a secluded, quiet spot in which you can take the test without distraction and without threat of interruption. If you can’t spare 4 hours to take the complete test, you might consider answering 40 questions in 2 hours or 60 questions in 3 hours. However, you should take several complete 4-hour exams, to simulate the real situation.

The ultimate purpose of practice tests – beyond simulating the CBE itself – is to highlight areas of the Regulations and the HTSUS in which you are particularly weak. Wait too long to begin taking the practice tests and you will not have sufficient time to remedy this situation. Taking the test first should not discourage or encourage, but rather be viewed simply as a study technique to improve your final score.

How Often to Take Sample Tests
It is highly recommended that you take at least one of the enclosed tests at the end of every other week of study. It should not be the same test each time, but rotated to present different questions. In this regard, you would significantly benefit from the Boskage study plan, because it contains six prior tests – 480 practice questions. This broader range of questions not only keeps testing practice from becoming monotonous, it will give you a deeper understanding of the CBP Regulations and classification techniques. The study plan also provides commentary on why each answer option is correct or incorrect. It also makes charting your progress easier and more accurate.

What the Sample Test Results Reveal
Even in the event that you are a gifted test-taker and are able to achieve a high score each time, continue to retake practice examinations in an effort to keep your memory sharp in the final weeks going into the CBE. There is no clearer path to understanding both the type of questions asked on the CBE and the areas of concentration in the HTSUS and the Regulations than taking and re-taking the past examinations.

As you take them, compare your answers with the answers included in the answer sheets. Keep a tally of the questions you answer incorrectly and note which section of the Regulations or the HTSUS the true answer comes from. By keeping a tally, you will be able to make more accurate conclusions about which sections you need to study more intensively. You may find, for example, that 30 percent of your incorrect answers come from 19 CFR, Part 113, the Part on Surety bonds. In your next study section, concentrate your study on this Part until it is as readily understood as the other sections or Parts you have mastered.

Remember that as you take these sample tests, you are sharpening not only your memory (questions that recur on subsequent tests are remarkably similar), you are also sharpening your test-taking skills and your facility with the research materials, the Regulations and the HTSUS. For this reason it is absolutely necessary that you adhere to the restrictions noted at the beginnings of the tests

This concludes today's excerpt from The Customs Broker Examination.

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