Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Customs Broker Examination, CH 3, Part 4: Fact Sheets

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 4: Fact Sheets

Taking the sample tests will reveal sections of the regulations you need to study further. It is not necessary or advisable to study the regulations by beginning with the first Part and progressing sequentially to the end, because the regulations were not progressively constructed. There is no progressive relationship between one Part and each succeeding Part. It is not necessary to master Part 132 (Quotas) before attempting to understand Part 134 (Country of Origin Marking).

Deciding which Parts you study first – provided that you have a basic foundation of knowledge – should be dictated by the tabulated results of your sample test results. Start with the Part in which the greatest frequency of error occurs. Taking these early tests and creating written notes as you study and re-study troublesome sections in the HTSUS and CBP Regulations will help you compile an important learning tool: fact sheets.

How to Compile Fact Sheets
Beginning with your first study session, have by your side a blank legal pad, on which you will begin to compose a “fact sheet.”

“Fact sheets” are simple, easy-to-read summaries of regulatory or procedural facts (dates, penalty amounts, deadlines, dollar amounts; brief, one-sentence summations of certain key regulations, and so on.) Fact sheets are compiled in the course of study, but they must be created early in your study procedure and maintained throughout. Typing the fact sheets can reinforce your learning, and make them easier to read and edit.

You should compile your fact sheets in an organized fashion, keeping together all the facts you gather by topic – General Order Regulations, for example – so that as you review these fact sheets, you can review all the facts concerning General Order in one session.

The CBP Regulations and the HTSUS are by nature full of facts, samples of which appear below. For students who work in a brokerage office, many of the facts will be familiar to you immediately, because they are the type of facts you probably already recall each day during the course of classification and entry filing. You remember these facts because they are simple, and because your memory has been repeatedly reinforced as you encounter and re-encounter them.

When compiling these fact sheets, there is a common pitfall to avoid. Frequently, students will fail to write down a fact that they are certain they already remember and could not possibly forget. Who could forget, for example, that an entry summary must be filed within 10 working days following entry of the merchandise? But do not indulge in this discriminatory registry of facts. Because you are entering into an intense period of study in which you will confront volumes of new information, new concepts and many, many new details, the information which was so clearly affixed in your mind prior to your preparation for the CBE is likely to become clouded, confused, or lost altogether. Record everything on your fact sheets.

Fact sheets should contain the fact itself, the reference in the Regulations (or other source), and the general topic or category.

How to Use Fact Sheets
From the beginning, as you prepare your fact sheets, carry them with you everywhere. Make a bulleted list of various opportunities to study... train, bus, plane, doctor’s office, dentist, traffic jam, lunch, any time or any place you may have to wait. By using fact sheets, you can increase the amount of time you have available for study by 30% or more. You learn to study in increments of 15-30 minutes at a time. Fact sheets can be reviewed while you are waiting for a bus, for the water to boil, or for a phone call.

Begin reviewing your fact sheets the moment you begin to compile them. Waiting until you have prepared all your fact sheets before reviewing them is a mistake. They should be reviewed and even memorized during every available moment, up until the very last minutes before you take the CBE.

Repetition is one sure way to create an encyclopedic memory of common but applicable knowledge that will be readily retrievable in the examination room. Memory is created not only by the quality of an encounter, but by the frequency of the encounter with a particular fact. Even a brief glance over your fact sheets during breakfast or while waiting for a street light to change will increase the number of encounters with the fact and sharpen your recall.

But in order to keep these fact sheets memorable, your facts must be concisely and clearly written. Keep your statements brief, accurate, and in the simplest of language. Because you will be repeating your review of these simple fact sheets daily, you will begin to remember them in a way very similar to the way most of us remembered our multiplication tables as children, by being repeatedly shown multiplication combinations on flash cards. Remember, the secret of fact sheets is this: by repeating your encounter with a fact, you increase your recall.

Using Fact Sheets to Memorize the HTSUS and Regulations
Certainly one of the first types of fact sheets you can prepare should be a list of all the Parts of the CBP Regulations and a brief sentence describing what each Part covers. As previously noted, there are only 52 Parts to 19 CFR, Chapter I, not 192. Remembering what is covered in each of the 52 Parts is really not hard (you remember the names of all 50 states, for example).

To illustrate how you might compose this fact sheet, one entry on your CBP Regulations Part descriptions would be: “Part 114 – Carnets.” A similar fact sheet should be comprised of the various sections of the HTSUS (there are only 22) and the general category of products each section covers. Within two weeks after beginning your studies, you should be able to recount all of the HTSUS sections, generally what each section contains, and you should also be able to recount all of the Regulations’ Parts and what particular Regulations those Parts delineate.

What students who have never taken the CBE don’t know is that familiarity with the structure of the CBP Regulations and the HTSUS is as important as knowledge of what these texts contain. If you have never taken the CBE, do not underestimate the effectiveness of instant recall of what each of these Parts and sections contain. It will not only help you master your resource materials during the preparation process, but also give you the kind of drilled-in recall that will save you a good deal of crucial time during the examination itself.

It is obvious that not all the HTSUS or Regulations can be covered in these simple fact sheets and this is not the purpose of creating them. By creating fact sheets, you are simply attempting to identify common, relevant bits of information that can easily be committed to memory for the purpose of reducing the amount of research time required in the examination room.

Repeat, Repeat, Repeat
Again, repetition is the key to the method of study used in this course. Five one-hour sessions with the HTSUS and Regulations and fact sheets are far more productive than one five-hour session. Place one fact sheet near your bed. Review it right before you nod off. Pick it up first thing in the morning and review it again. Take it out during your lunch break, while you are waiting for a taxi or riding a bus. Alternate fact sheets frequently and keep the topics distinct.

Even ten minutes can be a fruitful time if you employ it by reviewing these easy-to-follow fact sheets.

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

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