First time contributor, long time lurker…hope this helps the fellow mariner.
I signed up for a prep course at Quality Maritime Training (St. Petersburg, FL), a school that I hold in high regard, and highly recommend to all…time and $$ permitting of course. The one-on-one time with George was invaluable, as he is one of the most knowledgeable mariners I know. I was very fortunate the 9/11 GI Bill covered all training and classes, and my current employer allowed me to adjust my work schedule accordingly. I realize that not everyone can take the time, or pocket the money for a prep course, so I will talk about the “Home Study” that helped me…as labeled in this thread.
For at home study material, I used the hawsepipe.net Master/Mate CD, which was great for taking practice exams. It allows you to retake questions answered incorrectly, which is a huge help for test question familiarization/memorization. It also has ALL reference material you will need, right on the CD…no need for internet connection. After a couple weeks of studying, I really wanted something that had solutions with it, and would help me learn each problems answer when I was stuck. I found Capt. Joe’s CD’s for $80 at http://www.uscgexam.com/ to be extremely helpful. Well worth the money. I used the two programs together. hawsepipe CD for the practice test (more user friendly for testing), and when stuck on a question, I would then switch to Capt. Joe’s in another tab, enter the CG question #, and work through the solution. I used this method for Deck General, Deck Safety, and Nav General. Repetition, Repetition, Repetition!
After really getting into the exam prep, I felt that my week points were Deck Safety (all the stability, formulas, ss american mariner, m/v grand haven, etc), and Deck General (a ton of info, more formulas, rigging, cargo, illustrations, etc.). Nav Rules I wasn’t worried about (took 2 - 50 question practice tests EVERY day for a month…averaged 96’s towards the end), and Nav General I wasn’t to worried about either, on account that Bowditch and CFR’s have almost every answer you will need. I ended up ordering the Deck Safety & Deck General Murphy books to overcome my weakness in the two subjects, and cannot stress enough what a HUGE help they were! For those that don’t know, Murphy books are basically a collection of every CG published exam question, broken down by subject, and organized by each topic. You will see every possible variance of wording, for each topic question. They also list the reference for each question. I started with Deck General, I read through the entire book, answering every question in my head. If I felt that I would get the question wrong on the exam, I put an asterisk next to it. After finishing the book, I then went back, and reread all the questions with asterisks, and highlighted the correct answer. Did the same with Deck Safety. For the questions that required solutions, I worked through them on Capt. Joe’s CD. My scores immediately went from 50-60’s to 75-85 consistently. The week leading up to the exams, I read all the highlighted questions again.
For Nav Plot, I went over numerous practice plots, which was good enough for me, chart work is one of my strong points. Terrestrial is a tough one, and I did take a course, also at Quality Maritime. I thought I was pretty familiar with Terrestrial going in, but it’s like anything else, if you don’t use it, you lose it. I wouldn’t have passed without the course, and would recommend doing everything you can to save/make time for it. Remember, you can only miss one. After the course, I made flash cards, memorized speed/rpm formulas, did enough azimuth/amplitude/sunrise/sunset problems to mind f**k Nathaniel himself, memorized distance off/abeam question formats and formulas, and took loads of practice exams until I was confident.
For 2 weeks leading into exams, I studied 6 days a week, EVERY free second I had. If I wasn’t working, sleeping, or eating, I was studying. Had to get the wife on board (god bless her), stopped going out, and cut out the boozing, basically no life…lol But it all paid off. I even found an app for android phones ($4.99) called “CaptainQuiz Deck” that has the entire CG database of questions, and lets you take 20 question practice exams all day long. It also allows you to go back and retake incorrectly answered questions. That was probably the best $4.99 I’ve ever spent. Every free second I had, I was using that app, taking practice exams, wherever I was.
I scheduled my exams at the Miami REC for Mon, Tues, Weds (2 weeks ago). 2 per day is the minimum at the REC, and I would highly recommend you schedule just 2 per day as well. Every morning I went in fresh and ready to go. After morning exams, I went out to the car, looked over my notes, took a few practice exams, and went back in for the afternoon exam.
I ended up passing all 6 modules, Master 500/1600 GRT (Near Coastal) Exams on the first try…in order as follows:
Nav Rules: 94%
Deck Gen: 84%
Deck Safety: 84%
Nav Gen: 74% (cannot stress enough the importance of being THOROUGHLY familiar with navigating the CFR’s. That’s one thing I would have spent more time on)
Nav Plot: 100%
I understand everyone has different study habits, learning abilities, and personal situations. My method may not work for everyone, just sharing what worked for me. Best of luck to all those in the hunt. Now it’s back to resumes and applications…lol …and maybe a cocktail…
p.s. NMC issued my credentials within 3 days. Had them in hand on Monday morning.