How to pass state certification exams

August 5, 2016 -  By

iS33610704passedFrom registering for your state’s pesticide certification exam to keeping up on CEUs, refer to this guide on how to best prepare yourself to pass.

Whether or not you need to become certified as a commercial pesticide applicator is as simple as answering the question, “Do you apply or supervise the use of restricted use pesticides?” If you answered yes, by federal law, you have a test to take. Be prepared to study up—it’s closed book, after all.

Here, we offer a walkthrough for lawn care professionals to position themselves for success leading up to their state certification exams. The takeaway? As told by Barry Troutman, technical adviser for the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP), “Those who study ahead of time are apt to pass with flying colors.”

Step 1: Contact your state agency

There are 10 federal categories of pesticide certification, which also vary by states, territories and tribes. They include:

  • Agricultural pest control;
  • Forest pest control;
  • Ornamental and turf pest control;
  • Seed treatment;
  • Aquatic pest control;
  • Right-of-way pest control;
  • Industrial, institutional, structural and health-related pest control;
  • Public health pest control;
  • Regulatory pest control; and
  • Demonstration and research pest control.

Your first step toward certification is to determine in which category you must test. Contact your state agency—typically a department of pesticide regulations or department of agriculture—for affirmation. Don’t know how to find the contact information? It’s as simple as running your state’s name and “pesticide certification” through a search engine, Troutman says.

Step 2: Schedule your test

As each state develops its own certification examination, the time to schedule your test through your state agency varies widely, from weeks to months. Tests also vary in their level of difficulty. However, the form of the tests most often offered is one of the following:

  • written test;
  • performance-based test; or
  • another EPA-approved system.

Step 3: Set aside time to study

Since certifications vary from federal requirements, your state agency is the best point of contact for pesticide safety education programs, training and study materials, and these often will be included in a registration packet that’s mailed to you. In any event, it’s a safe bet to study at least to federal standards. Prospective commercial applicators should be sure to have practical knowledge of the following topics prior to taking their exams:

  • pesticide label and labeling comprehension;
  • safety, including pesticide hazards, first aid, personal protective equipment and emergency response;
  • pesticides in the environment;
  • pest identification and management;
  • pesticide formulations;
  • pesticide application equipment and application techniques; and
  • laws and regulations.

Step 4: Take the test

The last thing you want on test day is to cram your studying or be blindsided by questions. Beforehand, talk to others who’ve taken the exam or check out some sample questions you could be asked below.

Step 5: Pencil in recertification

Pencil in recertification
You’ve aced the test, but your road to certification isn’t over. Before safely applying pesticides in the field, be mindful of how long you’re permitted to do so. Though it varies by state, recertification generally requires acquiring a certain number of continuing education units (CEUs) every one to five years or retesting.


Put to the test

While each state develops its own certification exam, most tests are twofold, focusing on pesticide safety and on the category in which you are seeking to be certified. On the written test, questions are either multiple choice or true/false, but may also include identifying common pests from pictures.

Sample pesticide safety questions could include the following:

The signal words on a pesticide label in order from least to most hazardous are:
a) Danger, Warning Caution
b) Warning, Caution, Danger
c) Caution, Warning, Danger
d) Caution, Danger, Warning

Pesticide instructions on the
attached label:
a) Prohibit its use on residential lawns
b) Prohibit use within 25 feet of a body of water
c) Prohibit use if heavy rainfall is
expected within 24 hours
d) All of the above

Pesticide certification must be renewed
a) Annually
b) Every 3 years
c) Every 5 years
d) Every 10 years

Sample lawn and landscape category questions could include the following:

Chinch bugs have the following
life cycle stages
a) Egg, larva, pupa and adult
b) Egg. nymph, adult
c) Egg, adult
d) Egg, larva, nymph, adult

Preemergence weed controls are applied early in the season to control perennial weeds.
a) True b) False

Adult sod webworms damage
turf by feeding plant roots.
a) True b) False

Art: ©istock.com/axstokes/VladSt

About the Author:

Former Associate Editor Sarah Pfledderer is a West Coast-based contributing editor for Landscape Management.

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