Exam Preparation Guide
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How to Use This Book
I hope you've picked up this book because you're
looking for a good-paying career as a licensed journeyman or master
plumber. That's exactly my goal: to launch your career by helping you get
licensed. This book has the information you need to pass a plumbing exam
based on either of the two popular national codes.
If you've been installing plumbing systems for years
as an unlicensed plumber, this book is for you. There's no need to work
under the handicap of not having a license. The information between the
covers of this book will cover every subject that's likely to be on most
If you're just starting as an apprentice plumber,
this book is also for you. It begins at the beginning. You'll have no
trouble understanding what's explained here. Read carefully and you'll
soon earn the recognition that licensed professionals are entitled to in
In most communities, any plumber working without
supervision must be licensed. Many states now require the certification of
journeyman plumbers as well as specialty plumbers. This trend is sure to
continue as legislatures recognize the need to protect the public from
charlatans and the incompetent.
Let me issue a caution right at the beginning. Don't
let anyone convince you that studying for a plumbing exam is a waste of
time. It isn't. Most licensing authorities prepare demanding exams that
are a good test of the examinee's knowledge. These exams guarantee that
plumbing installed in modern buildings will meet minimum standards for
protecting the lives and health of building occupants for many years.
If you don't believe that slipshod plumbing and
haphazard sanitary systems can be a major health menace, you haven't
traveled in foreign countries where plumbers are neither licensed nor held
to reasonable standards of competence.
Begin your study for the exam with two points in
mind. First, you're going to take the exam seriously. You'll pass, but
only if you study carefully each of the questions and answers in this
book. Second, every minute you spend studying this book is a minute well
spent. What you learn for the exam is the foundation on which your
professional career will be built.
Understand also that the licensing authority isn't:
the enemy. They aren't trying to keep you out of the plumbing profession.
They only want to set some basic standards. The public should be assured
that all licensed plumbers are knowledgeable professionals. That's good
for society in general, and it's good for all professional plumbers who
live and work in your community.
Before I go any farther, let me offer some
information on my background. I've been an apprentice, journeyman and
master plumber. For 15 years I ran my own plumbing contracting company.
For 14 years I was assistant plumbing chief and plans examiner for a
building department. I've helped write, monitor and grade plumber's exams.
I have a pretty good idea of what you need to know to pass the exam.
Unfortunately, I see far too many applicants who are
not well prepared when they sit down to take the test. Let me make this
clear - taking the test without doing a good job of preparation is a
complete waste of time - both yours and that of the licensing authority.
The results are predictable. Don't make that mistake.
The most common reason for failure is that the
applicant didn't study properly because he didn't know how, or studied the
wrong material. This book should forever put an end to that excuse. You
have in your hands the most complete, easiest-to-use, most practical
reference available for preparing to take the tests that are actually
given today. Read this book carefully, examine every question, understand
all the answers. Do this, and there's no way you'll be unprepared on
All the common questions and answers are here, of
course. But just knowing the answer isn't always enough. Sometimes it's
just as important to understand why a particular answer is correct. That's
why many answers include a quotation from the appropriate code reference.
Sometimes the correct answer depends on which code is being used in the
jurisdiction. If that's the case, I've given the correct answer for each
of the two popular national codes. And sometimes you'll find notes or
clarifications under the answer when there's an important point you might
What to Expect
There was a time when a few years of
experience and some knowledge of the gas and local plumbing code were
almost enough to guarantee a passing grade. The old tests were usually
closed book exams. No reference materials were permitted in the
examination room. These tests evaluated the applicant's memory of the code
and his ability to illustrate and design plumbing systems. That wasn't
necessarily the best way to test a plumber's knowledge. No plumber has to
work completely without reference books. Memorizing code sections isn't
practical. It's also important that you know where to find an answer and
have the background to interpret what the reference book says.
Today, you'll probably take an open book exam which
asks you to solve practical problems and answer questions from recommended
references. That's closer to the type of problems plumbers face every day
in their work. Speed in locating the right reference for each question
(and making the correct interpretation) is essential.
Most questions given on exams are based on the local
plumbing and gas codes. Other test questions will likely be taken from
references recommended by the examining authority. You'll probably receive
a list of approved references when you apply to take the exam. These
approved references are the only books allowed in the examination room.
The following is a typical list of approved
references for a journeyman plumber's exam. But this is an example only.
Make sure you use the actual list recommended by your testing authority.
Your local plumbing code, plus any applicable
ordinances and amendments.
NFPA Pamphlet No.54, Gas Appliances and Gas
NFPA Pamphlet No.14, Standpipe and Hose Systems
Plumbing, by H.E. Babbitt
Plumber and Pipe Fitters Library
Mathematics for Plumbers and Pipefitters
Plumbing 1, by Harry Slater
Related Information Plumbing 2, by Harry Slater
Blueprint Reading for Plumbers, Residential and Commercial
Plumbing Installation and Design
Student Guide for Plumbing Installation and
The master's exam list will be longer and includes
several subjects that aren't covered in the references listed above.
Getting the Right Books
Get all the recommended references as soon as possible. If you live
within driving distance of a well-stocked technical bookstore, they'll
probably have most or all of what you need. Smaller general bookstores
usually don't stock many technical books. But they may have some of the
listed titles. Most bookstores are willing to special order books for you,
but you'll have to wait four to six weeks for them to arrive.
Remember that books and pamphlets used to improve or
maintain your professional skills are deductible on your income tax
return. They're also valuable references even after you've passed the
exam. Don't be afraid to spend what's needed to get the recommended books.
They'll be a good investment.
Codes and Standards
Five major plumbing codes are used in the United States: Basic Plumbing
Code, ICBO Plumbing Code, Standard Plumbing Code, National Standard
Plumbing Code and the Uniform Plumbing Code. Several states have
written their own plumbing codes. The five model codes are written by
private organizations that have some interest in improving standards in
the plumbing industry. By themselves, these model codes are not the law.
They're written in hopes that some city, county or state will adopt them
as a regulation. When your city, state or county does adopt a model code,
it becomes the authority for all plumbing work done in that jurisdiction.
Of course, the code adopted is entirely up to the
governing authority in your city, county or state. And that branch of
government is free to amend, delete, or supplement the code that's
actually adopted - and many do.
Almost all plumbing codes in the United States are
"referral codes." They refer to other standard references when describing
materials and design procedures. For example, every model plumbing code
includes a table which lists all the plumbing materials acceptable for use
within the jurisdiction. The Standard Plumbing Code states,
"Plumbing fixtures shall be constructed from approved materials, have
smooth impervious surfaces, be free from defects and concealed fouling
surfaces, and shall conform to the standards listed in Table 500." The
standards for plumbing fixtures as listed in Table 500 were developed by
the American National Standards Institute, Inc. (ANSI).
You'll see many references like that in your
plumbing code. The Standard Plumbing Code lists 31 separate
standards in the plumbing section alone. A few of these references are
ANSI (mentioned above), ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials),
CISPI (Cast Iron Soil Pipe Institute), FS (Federal Specifications) and NBS
(National Bureau of Standards). All references in your code place a burden
on you, the plumber, to understand what's required and comply with what's
Questions in the plumbing systems section of this
book are based on the two most popular national codes, the Standard
Plumbing Code and the Uniform Plumbing Code. If you compare the
code references for each question, you'll see how similar these plumbing
codes actually are. In cases where there are some differences (mainly in
the area where fixture units regulate pipe sizes and lengths), I've
provided notes to explain the differences.
Most states adopt all or nearly all of one of these
two popular codes and, of course, use that code as the authority for the
state plumbing exam.
The Standard Plumbing Code is used in Alabama,
Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South
Carolina, Tennessee, and some parts of Delaware, Missouri, Oklahoma,
Texas, and West Virginia.
The Uniform Plumbing Code is used in Alaska,
California, Hawaii, Idaho, Maine, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, Oregon,
Utah, Washington, and some areas of Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas,
Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota,
Texas, West Virginia, and Wyoming.
If you don't live in one of the 34 states listed
above, the answers to some questions may vary slightly from the answers
given in this book. But the differences between most plumbing codes is
growing smaller and smaller with each passing year. After all, what's good
plumbing practice in Massachusetts is also good plumbing practice in
In the section on gas systems, I've based the
questions and answers on the Standard Gas Code. It's compatible
with the popular National Fuel Gas Code, and probably with whatever
gas code is adopted in your area. The Standard Gas Code provides
(as do all gas codes) the minimum requirements for gas installations.
Here's an important point: All exam questions are
based on minimum code requirements. If the minimum pipe size permitted
under the code is 1/2" and you answer 3/4" just to play it safe, your
answer is incorrect.
How to Prepare for the Exam
This book is a guide to preparing for the journeyman or master
plumbing exam. It isn't a substitute for studying the recommended
references and it won't teach you the plumbing trade. But it will give you
a complete knowledge of the type of questions asked in the plumbing exam.
It will also give you a "feel" for the examination and provide some of the
confidence you need to pass.
Emphasis is on multiple-choice questions because
that's what nearly all tests have now. I've grouped the questions into
chapters. Each chapter covers a single subject. This will help you
discover your strengths and weaknesses. Analyze the questions you miss on
the practice exam at the back of this book. You'll probably notice you're
weaker in some subjects than others. If you've missed a lot of the gas
questions or many of the math questions, go back and study these areas
How to Study
Set aside a definite time to study, following a schedule that
meets your needs. Study two or three nights each week or all day on
Saturdays. Study alone most of the time. But spend a day reviewing with a
plumbing buddy before exam day. You can help each other dig out the facts
and concepts you'll need to pass the exam.
Study in a quiet, well-lighted room that's respected
as your study space by family members and friends. If it's hard to find a
spot like that in your home, go to the neighborhood library where others
are reading and studying.
Before you begin to study, spend a few minutes
getting into the right frame of mind. That's important. You don't have to
be an Einstein to pass the plumber's exam. But good motivation will nearly
guarantee your success. No one can provide that motivation but you.
Getting your license is a goal you set for yourself; it's your key to a
satisfying career and a better paying job.
As you study each reference, highlight or underscore
important points with a yellow marker or red felt tip pen. That makes it
easier to find important passages when you're doing the final review - and
when you're taking the test.
Put paper tabs on the corners of each major section
in all the references you'll take into the exam room. On the portion of
the tab that extends beyond the edge of the book, write the name of the
section or the subject. That makes locating each section easier and
quicker - an important consideration on an open book test. Speed in
locating answers is important. In the sample exam in this book, which is
based on actual exams, you'll have less than four minutes to answer each
question! Your study plan should allow enough time to review each
reference at least three times. Read carefully the first time. The next
review should take only about 10% of the time that the first reading took.
Make a final review of all references and notes on the day before the
exam. This is the key to success in passing the exam: Review, review,
review! The more you review, the better your grasp of the information and
the faster you'll be able to find the answers.
Your examination questions were probably compiled from lists
submitted by members of the plumber's examination board. Board members
usually include several senior plumbing contractors, perhaps a college
professor, a registered engineer, and a code authority like a plumbing
plans examiner. The exam will include code, practical, and theoretical
questions. Some boards prefer theoretical questions. Others favor
practical and code questions. No matter which type your examining
authority emphasizes, this book will help you get prepared.
In areas where the journeyman or master plumbing
exam is given two or three times each year, the examining authority will
have several basic exams that are used in rotation. But the same
examination will never be administered twice in a row.
The test writers maintain a bank of several hundred
questions covering each test subject. Questions are selected at random,
and chances are that some of the questions on any exam have already been
used on an earlier examination. Many questions are known as universal
truths. With minor variations, these questions will be on nearly every
plumber's exam in the country. This book is filled with the questions that
pop up on nearly every plumbing exam.
Although plumbing is a complex trade, it's
encouraging to note that there are only so many subject areas that any
test can cover. And many of the questions on the exam will closely
resemble questions in this book.
Types of Questions
Nearly all examination questions will be objective. This means you won't
be required to draw complex piping isometrics of DWV or water piping
systems and you won't have to write any essays. But many examinations do
require that you at least identify which isometrics are wrong and draw
One major examining board gave the following
instructions to all plumbers taking their certification examination:
The afternoon portion of the examination (four
hours in duration), given on the first day, has been changed. Although
all of the 80 questions are related to codes, approximately 10 questions
will concern the interpretation of isometric drawings in which the
examinee will be required to identify errors in the drawings, if any, in
accordance with code requirements. In addition, another 10 questions
will require the examinee to examine isometric drawings. If the drawings
are not in conformance with codes, the examinee will be required to
redraw isometrics correctly in the spaces provided.
As you know, the lines on isometric drawings
represent pipe and fittings. Symbols are used to show the location and
type of fixtures. If your examining board requires reading and drawing of
isometrics, you'll need additional preparation for the exam.
Handbook, by this author, explains how to read and create
plumbing isometrics. If your local bookstore doesn't have
Plumbers Handbook, use the order
form at the back of this manual. Once you understand the key principles,
it's easy to read and make isometric drawings.
The Answer Sheet
Following this introduction, you'll find a sample answer sheet
that was used for a major plumbing examination. Answer sheets like these
are designed for computer grading. Each question on the exam is numbered.
Usually there will be four or five possible responses for each question.
You'll be required to mark the best answer on the answer sheet.
Here's an example. The question is:
- Atlanta is the capital city of the state
( A ) Florida
( B ) Texas
( C ) Arizona
( D ) Georgia
You should mark answer D for question 1 on
the answer sheet.
Your answer sheet may vary slightly from the one
that follows this section. But no matter what the answer sheet looks like,
be sure to follow any instructions on that sheet! Putting the right
answers in the wrong section will almost certainly cause you to fail.
On the day of your examination, listen to any oral instructions given and
carefully read the printed directions. Failing to follow instructions will
probably disqualify you.
There won't be any trick questions on most exams.
Examination boards usually take their work very seriously. But the test
writers will probably include at least a few questions that have to be
read very carefully to be understood. The question may look familiar and
the answer may seem obvious. But re-reading the question may point out
some subtle distinction that makes the obvious answer totally wrong.
Any time the answer seems obvious at first glance,
read the question again. Always look for the qualifying word or phrase in
the question. Words like always, never, least, most likely, smallest, but
not less than, shall and may can be dynamite. They can change the whole
meaning of the question.
Sometimes several of the answers may seem possible.
But only one will be correct. If you're not sure of the answer, use the
process of elimination. Strike out answers you know are wrong. Then select
the most likely of the answers that remain. This can change your odds from
five-to-one to two-to-one on a question. Don't ever assume that there's an
answer pattern. I've never seen a planned answer pattern on a plumbing
exam. By chance, there may be a short series of answers that go "a, a, c,
a, a, c, a, a." But don't assume that the next answer is "c". It probably
isn't, and you'll probably miss several questions if you think you see a
pattern in the answers and try to follow it. Read each question carefully
and give the answer you think is correct.
Most important, pace yourself. Spend the first
minute or two after the exam is passed out looking over the entire test
booklet. Make an estimate of how many minutes should be allowed for each
section or for each question. Check your progress after each 30 minutes.
Most applicants won't finish all questions. Any question you don't answer
will always be wrong, of course. Time will nearly always be at a premium
on an open book exam. With enough time everyone could get 100%! Using your
time wisely may be half the battle.
Don't spend too much time on the toughest questions.
It's a mistake to squander 10 minutes on the hardest question in the exam
(and get it wrong) and then leave several relatively easy questions
unanswered because you ran out of time. My advice is to skip the hard
questions on the first pass. Then come back to them as time permits.
If you complete the exam early, don't leave the
room. Spend the remaining time reviewing your answers. Try to find at
least one error. It could mean the difference between passing or failing
the examination. Many applicants do fail by just one point. Don't find
yourself in that position. Make the most of every second available.
Organization of This Book
I've included here questions on gas systems, specialized plumbing
systems and several other plumbing-related topics. There are two reasons
for this. First, many exams include questions on these subjects. Second,
this information is not readily available in the standard reference books.
You may have trouble finding books that cover these questions.
This book is organized into five sections. Part One
has questions and answers and code responses on plumbing systems. Part Two
has questions and answers and code responses on gas systems. Part Three
has questions and answers and code responses for more specialized plumbing
subjects. Part Four has questions and answers and solutions (where
applicable) on plumbing-related topics. Part Five is a sample examination.
Take this test two or three days before you are to take the actual exam.
Use it to spot areas where you need extra review.
Let's Get Started
Enough of the preliminaries. It's time to get started with the
questions and answers. Used correctly, this book will give you the
confidence you need now to prepare thoroughly for the upcoming
Happy studying! And best wishes.
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