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Archive for the ‘exams’ Category

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I’m beginning my radar renewal process a bit early this time using the Calhoon MEBA Engineering School Distance Learning Program.
When I wrote the last article describing this new way to handle training and re-certification I said that I would be giving this a try as my renewal date approached.

I should say that my first attempt at finding and registering for the course was slightly side-tracked by the fact that I thought I would be using the Prometric portal.  Well let’s say that after a few calls to an endless loop of phone menu items and toll free calls including one to somewhere in southeast Asia, I found my way by calling  the Calhoon MEBA School directly and spoke to a nice young woman named Lisa Mc Neil.  (410-822-9600 ext 322).  I was able to ask all my questions and get answers from a real human being and I was set right in short order.

So here’s the deal as I understand it;

Any mariner can apply for their radar re-cert with this school, you do not have to be a member of MEBA.  Follow this link to their home page, hover your mouse over the “Online Courses” menu item and check out the drop-down menu.  Read everything then fill out your application, select your course and pay the lady.  You’ll receive an email with confirmation and then you’ll have to allow a day for processing the order.  You will receive an email confirming your registration and access to the study material and also (more importantly) your login and access to the instructors for any questions you might have (via email).

In the information link it states you have a month, but the conversation I had with Ms. McNeil made it clear that I could study longer if necessary and not have any problem.  Ms. McNeil can offer more info if you need more time.

Once you have registered and been accepted you will be given the key to the online course material and practice with it as often as you like.  The online course and testing material comes from the same source used at the Prometric Center on your exam day.
Clipboard01Okay so you’re ready to test.  The scheduling process is email based and finding the exam near your home becomes your next step.  Here’s where the Prometric System comes into play through the Calhoon website.  
Select “Locate a Test Center” and follow through the menu to filter it down by country, state, etc…

Select the course;

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Search the nearest test center;

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Select the center you want;

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Check for available dates

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So that’s what I’ve got so far.  I will report back after I’ve completed the process and let you know how it went.  So far I’m on track.

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With the East Coast buried under a record snowfall this weekend I  had the time to sit with the latest version of  SeaSource’s website’s new exam software beta, and found it every bit as good as previous editions.

If you are in the process of upgrading your ticket, this system lends itself to the task well since it has everything one might need for pre-exam review.  It has the distinction of being FREE and has a comprehensive and frequently updated database of USCG questions.  The very same ones you’ll see in the exam room.

I have written about this software and website in the past and it’s creator Stephen C. Littlefield has maintained headway over the last 14 years by continuing to make improvements and updating his software.  Now it’s our turn to help him debug it.  He’s seeking the input of mariners young and old to make this product as good as it can be.

The home page of his site explains all you’ll need to know and what to expect as far as performance of the software.  The setup is straightforward and allows moving from one module to the next with a click.  If your’re feeling confident, you can take on an entire module of questions without interruption or take smaller bites and track your progress. Some functions in the new version are unavailable as of this posting though they are sure to be incorporated in the final product.

If you are studying and looking to test soon, this site offers a good way to supplement your study regimen and hone your chops to stay familiar with the USCG exam mindset.  The old version is still up and running with the hope the new setup will take its place after the “debug” cleans up any glitches.  Help a guy out and give it a try.

Send your comments and suggestions to the webmaster.  I can’t think of too many other sites that offer such a comprehensive and well presented program as this one.  Steve offers other study materials for a small fee along with the free exam software. Take a test drive and see if your studies would be served by his work, you can’t beat the price.

The biggest issue we face in the licensing ordeal is cost, this is a terrific alternative for many of us.

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My advice to every freshly licensed Mate I have ever trained has been; “You should never renew a Mates ticket“. While that statement may sound counter-intuitive, the idea behind it is to put in your time working as a Mate and then upgrade to Master as soon as you’re qualified (time-wise) to do so.

It’s not like deep-sea tickets that require advancing 3rd through Chief Mate before you can sit for your Master’s ticket.  Lower level licensing basically has three steps; A.B., Mate, then Master. Realistically, a lower level Master’s ticket can be in hand within the 5 year term as a mate/pilot if one is determined enough to do so.

For the two years or so after you get the Mate ticket you’ll be working on your T.O.A.R. anyway, so an effort should be made to stay current with your studies.  You’ve done all the work to get the Mate’s ticket, retaining the skills is a matter of revisiting the material on a regular basis. After you’re working as a Mate/Pilot the only thing necessary is to accumulate the sea-time working under the authority of your license.

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It’s no secret that it gets harder to do as time goes by. When I was working on license and pilotage years ago I had to set aside time away from my day-to-day household responsibilities so I could focus on my studies (at the cost of precious time with my wife and young child). Both understood my need to bury myself in the study materials and I was fortunate that they were patient with me. The time was well worth the effort and I acquired my Master’s ticket using home study (thanks Capt. Murphy).

I, like many of us, didn’t attend an academy or have the luxury of being able to afford and then spend two or three weeks at school since I had to earn a living and pay bills. But, I did have the advantage of working with others who were “studying license” at the same time. Whenever I got jammed up, there was usually someone around who had overcome the issue I was struggling with and saved me some heartache in the exam room.  The internet would have been as widely embraced as a study aid if it existed then.

Young families are distracted with working and building their lives. Children, mortgages, family obligations and such throw many stumbling blocks in the path of an aspiring Master candidate. These distractions need to be ignored for the greater good and the time to “git’er done” is while your study skills and practice from the mate’s exam are still fresh. The material is going to be pretty much the same with a few exceptions, and once the big ticket is in your pocket you can relax and enjoy your young family with the knowledge that you’re set to accept that promotion fully documented when the opportunity presents itself.

The day after you have enough sea-time, file the application. Sit for the exam as soon as you can and see where your weaknesses lie. There’s no shame in failing a section or so, if that happens you’re lucky to have found where you need to focus your efforts to overcome the difficult parts and pocket the easy stuff.

Get the license as soon as you can. You’ll be glad you did while you’re spending time teaching your kid how to fish, ride a bike, or tie his shoes. If you wait, you’ll have all the distractions and none of the advantage of starting while it was still reasonably fresh in your head.

So, what are you waiting for?

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When it comes to mariner education and license upgrades, I don’t make a habit of promoting one product or another since they all pretty much do what they need to do albeit for a stiff price at times.  I came across a license prep website a few years back and took a liking to it right away, it was free. The ability to quiz yourself on any subject and have a running total on your progress was just what I needed for some exam prep.  Did I mention free?  I wish to add I have no affiliation with the authors of the site.  I do however applaud the product, it has matured nicely over time.  There is software for sale but the free online practice exams are very  handy.

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