As you may have read in previous posts I wanted to try the “online experience” for my radar renewal. It did not go well. I signed up paid $225.00 and received my study material and then proceeded to work myself back up to a passing proficiency for rapid radar plotting. I took a couple of months, made an appointment at the nearest Prometric Testing center and believing I was ready, scheduled and sat for my renewal. All went well up to this point. The facility is clean, well organized and strict. I arrived early and was processed quickly.
The exam was straightforward enough. Once you get settled in at your exam station, the computer program is loaded and a timer promptly begins with your radar scenario.
There was the first part of roughly ten questions regarding theory and then the plots. I had no difficulty with theory and scored 100%.
You get two shots at the plotting section. It’s a normal three target screen, you need only identify the “most dangerous target” and proceed with your plot. I must add the timer is a bit unnerving. If you fail the first time it gives you the opportunity to select and proceed with a second chance/ different set of plots and you fly or fall at the end of the scenario.
I failed both my attempts on the exam and felt more than a bit embarrassed seeing as I had never not passed what we’ve all come to see as a less than useful skill since the advent of A.R.P.A. and modern radar systems.
I must admit that the failure was likely my fault due to my time management (or lack thereof) and perhaps a careless error.
The plots are “time sensitive” and you’re only allowed three minutes to solve for NTCPA and new course. I overran the time limit first time out. After the exam I noted in the instructions on this particular exam that there was no specific time for MX expressly indicated. The instructions for MX or “time of execution” were included in the practice instructions but absent in the actual exam instructions.
This isn’t an excuse, since after the fact I found the instructions in the practice material clearly indicated that the exam’s execution point was to be at 12 minutes. I missed that somehow.
Okay, so I failed. I was more than a bit upset, I have never failed this recert but I guess there’s a first time for everything.
No amount of post failure negotiation was sufficient to convince the proctors of the center to help, and the online school was adamant that in order to retest I’d have to pony up another $225.00 and reschedule. I didn’t elect to take them up on it.
Instead I called SUNY Maritime and scheduled my one-day renewal at a “brick and mortar ” school. I paid the fee ($325.00) and practiced the material they sent and showed up in the Bronx for the recert like I’ve done in the past.
The experience was easier in that I had an instructor on site that understood the material. He could see which of us in class were comfortable and possessed the skill set and helped guide those who were a bit shaky during the morning practice session and boosted their confidence level. That alone means a lot to anyone who’s uncomfortable in exam situations.
You’re not handed the cert, it’s challenging and you earn it. But that said, having the class in a place where it’s a familiar curricula helps. Online courses are fine, but you’re strictly on your own at the center. After you are scanned, frisked and asked to empty your pockets no one can or may assist you in any way.
I passed SUNY’s recert program as expected and left to deal with the gauntlet that is the NY area’s traffic to get home.
In closing, if you’re absolutely certain and speedy with rapid radar plotting you should give the online experience a go. If you’re like me, go to a school where an instructor can kick you back inside the lines of competency and get you through this “every 5 year P.I.T.A.”. I have a couple more times I have to submit to this ordeal and you can be sure it will be at a “brick and mortar” school from here on.