Journeyman Electrician State Test Tips

What is the state exam?

The Journeyman Electrician state exam certifies you as a qualified journeyman electrician, and grants you your state license. This test challenges your knowledge of the National Electric Codebook (NEC) and some electrical theory, with the NEC making up the bulk of the exam. In reality, no one expects you to memorize all or even most of the codebook, but they do expect you to know how to navigate it. Being able to successfully navigate the codebook and find the specific passage for different requirements is easier said than done, but we have some tips to help you succeed on your test. 

studying for an exam

PSI Exams

Most states use PSI Exams to facilitate taking this test, although some states have their own standards and ways of testing you. These tips will be specifically geared towards those taking the PSI exam, however they should still be universally helpful as the National Electrical Codebook is the standard nationwide.

Tip 1: Buy a copy of the NEC

First thing you’ll need to begin studying is a copy of the NEC codebook. The National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) puts out a new version every 3 years, and from then each state has 3 years to adopt it. Generally the exams will test you on the most recent NEC, so you will want to get that version. If they end up testing you on an older version, it won’t make a difference as they will give you that version on your test day.

Tip 2: Take an exam prep course

If you haven’t already, I highly suggest taking an exam prep class. Many apprenticeships will have this built into their curriculum but if they don’t or you do not feel prepared, other classes can definitely help. I tried my hardest to study on my own and I felt like I was barely making any progress. I took one WECA exam prep course and I learned exactly what I needed to study to ace the test, and ace it I did. Try to schedule the class to take place or end about two weeks before your scheduled exam. This will keep the information fresh in your brain while giving you enough time to do practice quizzes and more self study.

Tip 3: Buy a test prep book

Buy a test prep book and work your way through it! It will walk you through how to prepare for the exam and what you need to learn. Pairing this self study method with a class will ensure you have all the practice to fly through your test! The added benefit of a test prep book is they come included with many practice quizzes and even full or half size practice tests. I bought multiple test books myself and found Mike Holt’s Illustrated Guide to Electrical Exam Preparation was my favorite. It had everything I needed and laid everything out very clearly.

Tip 4: Understand how the test is given, and use it to your advantage!

The test is generally done electronically on a computer at the testing facility, and is timed. However, the time does not start until you begin the test on the computer. What this means is you have unlimited time before you click start to get ready for the exam. They will provide you with a piece of scratch paper (always ask for another if possible. You don’t want to run out of space!), a pencil, eraser, the NEC book, and paperclips. If they do not give you paperclips, ASK FOR THEM. Use the time before the test starts to mark out the NEC code book. Put a paperclip at every table and chart you will need to reference during your test so that you can flip directly to it and don’t have to spend time looking for it each time you come across a question that references it.

This trick alone will save you a LOT of time on the test. You’ll of course need to memorize the location of each chart, or know where to find them. I have a list of recommended charts to remember at the bottom of this page, as well as formulas. 

Tip 5: Memorize all the formulas you will need for the test

Make yourself a cheat sheet! Before you start the exam, write out all the formulas you remembered onto the scratch paper for reference. When you’re getting burned out halfway through the exam you don’t want to be struggling to remember. There is a list of formulas at the bottom for reference.

Tip 6: If you are doing a PSI exam, purchase a practice test!

PSI puts out full sized Journeyman Electrician Practice Tests for your convenience. Carve out a morning or evening to yourself with no distractions, and practice it like it’s the real deal. Write out your cheat sheet. Start it and time yourself. Practice makes perfect!

Tip 7: Actually follow steps 1-6

I say this because the less prepared you are going in, the more nervous you will be and the worse you’ll do. Obtaining your license is a huge step in your career that opens a lot of doors. You want to be fully prepared going into the exam with the confidence that you will fly through it. 

Tip 8: Don’t get frustrated!

One of the things I learned is that the practice books and exams can be harder than the real test. Don’t take this to mean you don’t need to prepare, but to tailor your expectations. Many practice quizzes will make the problem a multistep-problem, forcing you to dance between multiple formulas and sizing tables. These are great problems because you have to be proficient at all of these to answer the question, but the state test will be more direct and to the point.

Charts and Tables to Memorize

Chart / TableLocation
Conductor ampacity and correction factors310.15(b)(16)
Sizing the main bonding jumper250.102(c)(1)
Sizing Equipment Grounding Conductor250.122
Box Fill314.16(a)
Motor Branch Circuit Short-Circuit and Ground Fault Protection430.52
Motor Overload Device Sizing430.32
Calculating Full Load Current of Motors430.250
Conductor PropertiesChapter 9, table 8
Conduit Fill and tubing fillAnnex C
Remember the location of all these tables so you can remember where to turn to mark them out before the test! You don’t want to memorize page numbers as some NEC books may have different cover pages which will throw the number off.

Formulas to memorize

To RememberFormula
True PowerP(t) = (I)^2 x R
Apparent PowerP(A) = E x I
Power FactorPF = [P(T)] / [P(A)]
CurrentI = E / R
VoltageE = I x R
Resistance R = E / I
Voltage DropSingle Phase: VD = (2 x K x I x D)/CM
Three Phase: VD = (1.732 x K x I x D)/CM
Maximum Distance allowed for voltage dropSingle Phase: D = (CM x VD)/(2 x K x I)
Three Phase: D = (CM x VD)/(1.732 x K x I)
Conductor size for voltage dropSingle Phase: CM = (2 x K x I x D)/VD
Three Phase: CM = (1.732 x K x I x D)/VD

Memorizing each of these formulas will help you fly through your exam! Remember to write them out on the scratch paper for reference before you start your exam.

Ready to start studying?

Click below to go to a pre-made online flash card set to help you remember charts and formulas for your state test!

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