How to Pass the Customs Broker Exam to get your License

If you want to pass the Customs Broker Exam you need to know how to study. This exam is one of the most difficult professional tests in the United States. I’m not just trying to scare you.

Customs Broker Exam Pass Rate

The pass rate for the CBP broker exam is between 3% and 20%. I read an interesting take on this comparing the Customs Broker Exam to some of the more well known professional exams.  You can read it here.  I've updated with relatively recent published pass rates to help put this all in perspective.

Customs Broker Exam: less than 20%

There are a couple of ways we can look at this. People taking the bar exam or the medical exam are some of the smartest people in the country. Does this account for the higher pass rate? I don’t think so.

I think it comes down to training personally. Doctors and Lawyers spend 4 years in undergraduate school and another 3-5 years in graduate school. In addition to the years of schooling there are a plethora of exam study guides available.

How to Become a Broker

To become a Customs Broker requires much less schooling and training. To begin working in the industry requires no formal education. If you are working under a licensed customs broker (LCB) you don’t even need a license.

In order to get your broker’s license you must be at least 21 years of age, a US citizen, of good moral character, and receive a 75% or better on the broker’s exam.

This takes us back to the question of why the Customs Broker License Examination is so difficult?

The answer is people aren’t properly prepared for the exam. Most of us when taking the LCB test haven’t been in school for many, many years. We aren’t accustomed to taking tests any longer. And, this test is not one you can cram for.  You should follow a good customs broker study guide.

How to Study for the Customs Broker Exam

The secret to passing the test is properly preparing for it. In order to have a real chance to pass the exam you must know how to study. You cannot memorize the material. In fact attempting to memorize answers or answer based on your experience will hurt you.

The simple truth to passing the exam is that you must answer the questions based on how the definitions appear in the Code of Federal Regulations, the HTSUS, and the Directives.

The key is finding the answers quickly. To do that requires practice with your test materials.

There are 80 questions on the exam and you have 4.5 hours to complete it. This leaves roughly 3 minutes per question. Between the Regs and the tariff book you will have over 2000 pages of information. You need to be able to find your answers in all of these pages very quickly.

Use indexes and page tabs to help you locate the sections the information is in.

Customs Broker Exam Prep Course

It is recommended that you put in 150-180 hours of study time to have a realistic chance to pass the test. If you start about 12 weeks out from the test date you will need to spend about 2 hours a day.

Find a good exam prep course like the one we offer here.  That link will take you to a free trial. It will give structure to your study time, help you prepare your materials, and explain areas you should focus on.

For example, we have charted where questions have come from over the last 10 years.  This is the basis for how the course is structured putting focus on the areas that are most heavily tested.

In the last 10 years nearly 30% of the questions have been on Classification. It is by far the single most tested area. If you do poorly on the classification section you are almost guaranteed to fail.

The next section that is tested heavily is Valuation coming in at 8%. In our exam course we focus on the 20 most heavily tested areas. Doing well on these sections will guarantee that you are prepared for the questions that will be on the test.

Testing Tips

Each question is worth the same value. So, a difficult question and an easy question are worth the same number of points. Answer the easy questions first.

A question with an answer of “all of the above” can be determined by only verifying two of the options. This can save you very valuable time during the test.  This can save you much needed time on the exam.

The Test is Difficult, Not Impossible

Don't believe the naysayers that tell you that you won't pass your first try.  The test is very difficult, but with proper preparation you can pass your first try.

Try the Course For Free!

For a limited time we're giving new members a free preview to checkout the Customs Broker Exam Course.  Try it out.  No strings attached.  You will have complete access to the first two modules of the course. If you would like complete access you can sign up at any time.

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