Hello, I haven’t posted here before, but in preparation for my exam I used your forums as a lurker, and now that I am done testing, I felt like I should contribute some knowledge back to you. I hope it helps.
As far as preparation: I have 8 years sea-time on Coast Guard cutters (big ships and patrol boats), so I knew most of the topics decently well, but was very deficient in others. I filled in gaps in my knowledge with Lapware, which I found to be an excellent training resource, especially the navigation problems solutions. I needed to install Firefox to get it to work on my mac, but after that it was smooth sailing. I also purchased a 1981 Nautical Almanac and used my personal copies of Bowditch and HO229 to prepare. Thankfully most of my USCG training counted for the license, but I did attend Radar, PSC, and firefighting school at civilian training facilities in Rhode Island, Maine, and Massachusetts, as duty permitted (I took leave). I tested at REC Baltimore, MD, and I was previously licensed at 200NC 5 years ago.
Tests that I took:
Sailing Endorsement (20 Questions, 70% passing score): Was very similar to the Lapware practice exams, no surprises.
Navigation Problems - Chart Plotting (10 Questions, 90% passing score): This was very straightforward. I was concerned because the Lapware Management Plot examples featured lots of errors in the USCG answers, but my test was pretty plain. I had Eastern Long Island Sound. My wife (also a CG sailor) tested as well and her Chart Plot for 100T was also straightforward. So I guess what I am saying is although Lapware found lots of errors in the sample problems, both of ours were fine. So maybe the NMC is listening to the Lapware guys, which would be great. I did have a hard time actually finding the chart plot solutions on Lapware - just note the USCG number on a practice exam and then look it up later.
Deck General (50 questions, 70% passing score): Was very similar to Lapware practice exams. There were no stability formulas needed for my test. I looked up about 10 answers in the CFR’s.
Rules of the Road (50 questions, 90% passing score): Very similar to Lapware practice exams. I’m required to take this test every 2 years for my job, but this version was the hardest I’ve ever taken. I don’t know why that is, just commenting. Also, I was told I had to take this test first, and then could take the rest in any order that I pleased, fyi.
Deck Safety (50 questions, 70% passing score): Was fairly similar to Lapware practice exams. However there were some significant differences. That may just be attributed to the amount of sample problems I took on Lapware, but I had about 30 questions from the CFRs. 3-5 tank ship questions, 3-5 “cargo” ship questions, 5-8 lifesaving questions, and the rest scattered throughout the CFRs. The stability questions I had were: 1 Rolling period, 1 weight shift, 1 total KG calculation, and a KG/diagram question (the liquid mud vessel). I did fine on the test, but it took me a bit longer and was a bit harder (in a CFR sense) than I thought compared to Lapware. I’m sorry but I can’t remember the rest of the questions I had. The stability was easier than I thought.
Navigation General (50 questions, 70% passing score): This was quite a bit harder than Lapware practice exams. I didn’t study too much because this is my afloat specialty, but I did have to look up about 25 questions in Bowditch Glossary. There were plenty of easy questions just like Lapware, but also a few hard ones. There were no tide calculations, and no luminous range calculations on my exam.
Navigation Problems - NC (10 questions, 90% passing score): This was nearly identical to the Lapware practice exams as far as distribution of questions. There was: 1 Azimuth of the Sun problem, 1 Amplitude of the Sun with a visible horizon correction problem, 2 time of phenomena problems (LAN, sunset), 1 ETA problem, 1 leeway problem, 1 Deviation table problem, 1 time-tick problem, and 2 fuel conservation problems.
Navigation Problems - Celestial (15 questions, 80% passing score): This was very similar to the Lapware practice exams as far as distribution of questions: There was: 2 starfinder problems (planets, stars), 2 time of phenomena problems, 1 ETA, 1 gnomic plot, 1 Rfix of the sun problem, 1 stellar Rfix problem, 1 Polaris latitude, 1 trivia question (about great circles), 3 Sailings problems (Mercator, Mid-Lat, and Great Circle), 1 LAN calculation, and another one I’ve forgotten. It was a very time-consuming test because for most problems you had to calculate the DR for the time of the problem by mid-latitude sailing (or plotting sheet I suppose), so I would highly recommend memorizing the mid-lat formulae: l=DcosC, p=DsinC, and Dlo=p/CosLm. Also, my two “Running Fix” problems were straightforward, however when I plotted my answer compared to the 4 CG answers, it was close to two of them, so you have to be very precise. I recommend zooming the Universal Plotting Sheet to a 30 mile scale to be safe if the DR times allow. I also recommend plotting it twice - once to solve it with DR’s and track line, and then again to plot just the final fix and the 4 USCG choices - then you can choose the closest without having to compare Lat/Long numbers and confusing yourself.
I memorized the following formulae. If I used them, there is a (*) next to it.
*Shift in KG
BM=I/V and I, V, formulae
Tons/Cubic Ft relationship
Fuel Consumption (for Nav Problems test)
NC/OC, with only speeds and with speed x distance
Bottom line: I liked Lapware a lot, and studied a good amount. I did many practice problems ahead of time. For the most part it was very similar to the actual tests I took. I had to take ROTR first and then I chose the order on my own, so I did ROTR, Sailing, and TNAV on day one, NG, Plotting, DG, and DS on day two, and CNAV on day three. That seemed to work well as far as distribution of effort. Be very precise in your plotting and calculations, especially with Eastern and Southern Hemisphere questions. That’s about all I can think of - study hard and I hope this helps!
Unfortunately I am heading out on a sabbatical soon, so I won’t be checking back in to this forum, but hit me up at chris.d.nolan(at)gmail if I can help, I usually check email every 2-3 weeks. Best of luck, LCDR Chris Nolan, USCG.