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Preparing for Your Heavy Equipment Operator Skills Test

Blog, Heavy Equipment School

Congratulations! You’ve been working hard, and soon, it will be time to take your heavy equipment operator skills test. Understandably, you might be suffering from a little anxiety about this—taking tests is always nerve-racking—but there’s no reason to be worried. With the right training, a little hard work, and proper preparedness, you’ll pass your test easily. Read on for some tips on how to prepare.

Start with the Right School

People choose to become heavy equipment operators for a wide variety of reasons. Some want to switch careers. Others are seeking advancement in construction jobs they’ve held for many years. Whether you’re experienced in the construction business or not, learning to operate heavy machinery starts with the right training.

You may be asking yourself, Why do I need to go to a school at all? Aren’t some of the best equipment operators self-taught?

While it may be true that many highly competent equipment operators are self-taught, it’s likely almost every one of them wishes they’d had the proper training from a certified school. They would have saved a great deal of time and effort!

There’s also the fact that more and more construction companies will not hire anyone without the right training, however competent they may be. This is almost certainly for the best: a reputable company should always make safety its top priority. When you do begin applying for construction jobs, you’ll want to be sure you’re working for a company that considers your safety to be critically important. Most such companies will demand you’re thoroughly trained and properly licensed.

Of course, there are many schools out there, and each of them claims that they’ll offer the best training. Finding the right one is a matter of doing your homework. You’ll need to do more than a cursory internet search. You will want to look for a school, such as West Coast Training, that makes use of top-quality equipment, a carefully crafted curriculum, and (perhaps most importantly of all) highly experienced instructors. Do a little research on the licenses your prospective school carries and, if you can, attempt to interview former students about their experience with their training.

Preparing While You’re Training

If you’ve found a truly great heavy equipment training school, you’ll have instructors who will work closely with you in both the classroom and in the field. This is only possible if your school prioritizes small classroom sizes (like West Coast Training does) so that instructors have plenty of opportunities to provide personalized help to each student. If you’re going to ace your test, you’ll need to be able to make mistakes during your training and learn from them. You’ll also need to be able to ask plenty of questions.

There are other ways you can constantly be working toward a successful test during the training portion of your class time. As in almost any classroom environment, taking good notes is key: show up prepared with plenty of paper and pencils. Studies have shown that students retain information better when they take notes by hand, as opposed to typing, so don’t be afraid to jot things down!

Studying with other students is another key element of success: you should find a few study partners in your classes who can help you stay accountable for your studies. You can compare notes, quiz each other, and discuss the fieldwork you’ve been doing. Early on, try to make a few friends in your course and exchange numbers and email addresses. It will pay off in a big way when the time comes for you to take your test.

Practice, Practice, Practice!

Of course, while notes and study are crucially important parts of your training, you are preparing for a heavy equipment operator skills test. That means you need to actually have the practical skills required to operate the actual equipment, and the only way to get that is through lots and lots of practice.

Practicing with heavy equipment should be done in a variety of different conditions. You’ll need to be prepared to handle many different types of machinery in every kind of weather imaginable. Familiarize yourself with the type of equipment you’ll be using during the test. Know exactly what models of what machines you’ll need to be familiar with. Learn how to handle these machines in rain and snow, and in icy conditions. Take time to make maneuvering your equipment second nature to you. Work hard to know the area where you’ll be taking the test as well. The more knowledge you go in with, the better you’ll do—and the more confident you’ll feel.

Don’t Be Afraid to Make Mistakes

Too many students fall into the defeatist trap of beating themselves up when they make a mistake. It’s alright to fail. The more mistakes you make as you prepare for your test, the more you’ll learn. If you’re going to make mistakes, you’ll want to be making them in a controlled, safe environment, with your instructors around you helping you to correct problems. If you don’t let your failures discourage you, you’ll arrive on the field on test day with no anxieties left.

The Day of the Test

The day before your test, make sure you eat a good meal. Don’t stay up late cramming for the test—or watching television, for that matter—make sure you head to bed nice and early and get a good night’s sleep. You’ll be more successful if you’re nourished and well-rested. You’ll have to take a written exam, usually worth about 20 percent of your grade, and a practical skills test, which is usually worth about 80 percent. Especially in the practical test, anxiety can be a killer. You’ll want to show up on test day feeling calm and confident. The best way to do this is to be prepared. You won’t be worried if you’ve taken great care to take great notes, study hard, practice frequently, and ask plenty of questions of your instructors.