The Fall 2011 date for the NABCEP PV Installer Certification Exam is just around the corner. September 24th will be here before you know it.
ONTILITY is launching our semi-annual NABCEP PV Installer Certification Exam Prep Course in six cities nationwide, starting August 25, 26 in Milwaukee. If you are working in the solar industry (and you certainly must be if you’ve been approved to take the NABCEP test), you’ve probably heard from those who have taken the exam how rigorous it is. Brian Cunningham, ONTILITY Solar Instructor, Design Engineer and NABCEP Certified PV Installer, puts it this way, “I took the Solar PV Installer test this past March. I have to say that it was probably one of the harder open-book tests that I’ve taken. Now I’m not trying to scare anyone, but you need to be very well prepared if you want to pass. NABCEP certification has become the de facto standard for installing solar (thermal and PV) in the US. If it’s already not required to install solar in your area, it soon will be. You need to be certified.” Brian continues, “When I walked out of the exam room, I realized that I was not as ready as I had thought. I had studied every resource and practice exam that I could find to prepare, but in the end the actual exam looked like none of what I had studied. Yet I managed to pass. Why? I think because I had spent so much time trying to solve the problem of passing the test that I practiced the very skill that is the key to passing the test – Problem Solving. And that seems to be the crux of what NABCEP is looking for.
When you look at the NABCEP Certified PV Installer Job Task Analysis, you’ll see six major content domains covered and that everything in that document involves finding the best solution to a problem. Whether it’s identifying the correct way to deal with potential hazards, finding the best location for equipment or even selecting the best tools for a job, problem solving is required. That’s why the itemization of tasks is so extensive and comprehensive, covering every aspect of PV system design, project management and installation, electrical components, commissioning, operation, maintenance and troubleshooting.
So how can you better prepare for the test?
Five key things will greatly increase your chances of passing the exam:
Read everything on NABCEP’s reading list. Spend some extra time with the NEC, 2008 edition. Even if you are an experienced electrician, review the sections which pertain to solar and memorize where things are. Other than a calculator, the code book is the only resource available to you during the 4-hour test. And you do not want to spend extra time trying to figure out what part of the code applies to the problems. Review the details of every PV project you’ve ever worked on, no matter how minor those details may seem. Think about issues you had to solve both during design and on-site. The kinds of problems you’ve solved before may show up on a 60 question test in September.
Attend the ONTILITY NABCEP Exam Prep Class. If you are a licensed electrician or hold certification in any trade, you probably didn’t take that exam without a test prep session. Don’t try it with the NABCEP exam. ONTILITY is offering its two-day prep class in seven cities in August and early September: Boston, Houston, New Orleans, Philadelphia, St. Louis and Muskegon, Michigan. Classes are held on Thursday and Friday in most locations and on Friday and Saturday in a couple of places.
Improve you problem solving ability, as Brian said, “…it is the key.” Being able to think through complex problems quickly, find the information you need efficiently and draw sound conclusions. This is precisely the reason that ONTILITY designed its AS210 - NABCEP PV Installer Certification Exam Prep class the way it did. Two days of design challenges, installation problems and code issues. Two days of intense problem solving, lively discussion and instruction from one of ONTILITY’s Solar Instructors, all NABCEP Certified PV Installers, so they know what they’re talking about, that’s how you can prepare for the test.