Thursday, February 4, 2010

Customs Broker Exam Study Tip 4: Organization

Now that you have made the decision to take the April 2010 Customs Broker Exam, it’s important to develop a study plan that guarantees your chances of success.

Some people are naturally good at organization; everything has a neat orderly place. Have you ever noticed your colleague’s desk or your neighbor’s garage? All of the books are stacked on bookshelves. Papers are filed away or neatly stacked. The tools are hung on a pegboard and two cars actually fit into the garage. On the other hand, you wonder how another colleague can find anything since his or her desk is covered with so many papers, books and other junk that you can’t even see a desk. The neighbor’s two-car garage won’t even hold a bicycle, let alone one car! Organization is another step on your journey to pass the CBE.

What is organization, why is it important and what can you do to become organized for the exam?

What is organization?

Organization is the systematic arrangement or assembly of objects in an orderly manner.

Why is organization important?

For the purposes of the studying for the exam, organizing your materials helps improve time management and increases your comprehension and memory. If your materials are organized, you will not waste time looking for a book or document that you need later on. Obtaining and organizing all of your materials will allow you to easily access information as you need it. This organization will save time on the day of the test.

What can you do to become organized for the exam?
1. Organize Required Materials - You will want to be able to access your materials quickly during the exam. Organizing the CBP Regulations and the HTSUS is easy, because they can be placed in binders so that you have two rather large books instead of a huge pile of loose paper. What remains are the stack of directives and the other supplementary documents required for the exam. If you haven’t purchased these materials already bound, then you may consider placing them together in a separate binder. You can include additional materials to that third binder later. It will be much easier to find information relating to the supplemental materials if they are placed together in one binder instead of having to shuffle through all of those documents stacked in a pile. In addition, placing those documents in a binder reduces the risk of one of them getting lost.

2. Label Required MaterialsConsider using tabs to identify the chapters of the HTSUS. If you are looking for Chapter 61 and know that it's in the middle of the book, having a tab with the chapter number listed may help you to locate the exact chapter faster. Time is very important on the exam. We also suggest that you use tabs to mark each part of the regulations. Colored tabs can be used to indicate more important or frequently tested parts. Tabbing also makes certain parts easier to find and will save you time. Finally, you should consider using tabs on the supplemental materials you placed in the binder. As you add notes and other materials to the third binder, you will want to organize your notes so that you can easily locate them. Organizing your materials not only saves time, but it can also increase your comprehension and memory of large amounts of information.

Note: Even though you may use electronic versions of the HTSUS and CFR in your business, you must use the paper versions for the exam. It is a good idea to study using the paper versions to get used to looking up the information the same way you will on exam day.

3. Arrange Your Study AreaRemember the example of the colleague with the desk that looked like a disaster area? If that example sounds like your desk or study area, now is the time to clean it up. Don’t waste valuable study time digging through piles of paper. Get rid of the clutter in your study area and your office. If you have a desk or designated study area at home, create a special place for your study materials. If you study at the office, create a special place for your materials there also. If possible, create a study area that is comfortable and attractive. A bright cheery comfortable atmosphere will be more inviting for study than the dreaded cold gray metal desk with the uncomfortable wooden chair. Don’t get too comfortable; studying in the bed may result in sleep instead of productive study time.

4. Create a Study Schedule - Your schedule will depend on your experience and learning style. Someone who is new to importing may need to devote more time than someone who has more experience. Some students may need study that is more individual while others may prefer some group or interactive activities. Regardless of your preferences, you will be required to do a great deal of reading. Some people require more structure so reading, tests and other assignments are provided on a regular basis. Others may prefer to create schedules that suit their schedules. Just remember that it is important to allow plenty of time for reading and taking practice tests. If you work full time and wait until two weeks before the exam to start reading the regulations, you may find yourself burned out and struggling on exam day. We’ve provided a few examples that may help you when creating your schedule:

• Consider how many weeks you plan to devote to study. If you have 16 weeks to study, then you will not need to read as much each week; however, if you only have eight weeks to study, you will need to read a little more each week.

• Divide the reading into manageable sections. You may consider reading similar sections together. For example, you might want to read and study the requirements for brokers and entry in one week. This would include Parts 111, 141 and 142. You may want to devote another week to the various types of entries and alternatives to entries.

• Determine how many practice tests you want to take and designate dates and times to take them. Students should take at least one complete 4-hour test and are encouraged to take more than one.

Now that you have placed the required exam materials in binders with tabs, arranged your study space and created a schedule, you are ready to begin your studies.

We welcome your comments on each of these articles. Share what has worked for you or what hasn’t worked so that others will benefit from your experiences.

Check the Boskage Trade News regularly for more helpful hints on studying for the Customs Broker Exam and other useful news for international trade professionals! We will explore “Time Management” in the next study tip.

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