How to Use This Book
I hope you've picked up this book because you're looking for a
good-paying career as a licensed journeyman or master plumber.
That's exactly my goal: to launch your career by helping you get
licensed. This book has the information you need to pass a plumbing
exam based on either of the two popular national codes.
If you've been installing plumbing systems for years as an
unlicensed plumber, this book is for you. There's no need to work
under the handicap of not having a license. The information between
the covers of this book will cover every subject that's likely to be
on most plumbing exams.
If you're just starting as an apprentice plumber, this book is
also for you. It begins at the beginning. You'll have no trouble
understanding what's explained here. Read carefully and you'll soon
earn the recognition that licensed professionals are entitled to in
In most communities, any plumber working without supervision must
be licensed. Many states now require the certification of journeyman
plumbers as well as specialty plumbers. This trend is sure to
continue as legislatures recognize the need to protect the public
from charlatans and the incompetent.
Let me issue a caution right at the beginning. Don't let anyone
convince you that studying for a plumbing exam is a waste of time.
It isn't. Most licensing authorities prepare demanding exams that
are a good test of the examinee's knowledge. These exams guarantee
that plumbing installed in modern buildings will meet minimum
standards for protecting the lives and health of building occupants
for many years.
If you don't believe that slipshod plumbing and haphazard
sanitary systems can be a major health menace, you haven't traveled
in foreign countries where plumbers are neither licensed nor held to
reasonable standards of competence.
Begin your study for the exam with two points in mind. First,
you're going to take the exam seriously. You'll pass, but only if
you study carefully each of the questions and answers in this book.
Second, every minute you spend studying this book is a minute well
spent. What you learn for the exam is the foundation on which your
professional career will be built.
Understand also that the licensing authority isn't: the enemy.
They aren't trying to keep you out of the plumbing profession. They
only want to set some basic standards. The public should be assured
that all licensed plumbers are knowledgeable professionals. That's
good for society in general, and it's good for all professional
plumbers who live and work in your community.
Before I go any farther, let me offer some information on my
background. I've been an apprentice, journeyman and master plumber.
For 15 years I ran my own plumbing contracting company. For 14 years
I was assistant plumbing chief and plans examiner for a building
department. I've helped write, monitor and grade plumber's exams. I
have a pretty good idea of what you need to know to pass the exam.
Unfortunately, I see far too many applicants who are not well
prepared when they sit down to take the test. Let me make this clear
- taking the test without doing a good job of preparation is a
complete waste of time - both yours and that of the licensing
authority. The results are predictable. Don't make that mistake.
The most common reason for failure is that the applicant didn't
study properly because he didn't know how, or studied the wrong
material. This book should forever put an end to that excuse. You
have in your hands the most complete, easiest-to-use, most practical
reference available for preparing to take the tests that are
actually given today. Read this book carefully, examine every
question, understand all the answers. Do this, and there's no way
you'll be unprepared on examination day.
All the common questions and answers are here, of course. But
just knowing the answer isn't always enough. Sometimes it's just as
important to understand why a particular answer is correct. That's
why many answers include a quotation from the appropriate code
reference. Sometimes the correct answer depends on which code is
being used in the jurisdiction. If that's the case, I've given the
correct answer for each of the two popular national codes. And
sometimes you'll find notes or clarifications under the answer when
there's an important point you might miss.
What to Expect
There was a time when a few years of experience and some knowledge
of the gas and local plumbing code were almost enough to guarantee a
passing grade. The old tests were usually closed book exams. No
reference materials were permitted in the examination room. These
tests evaluated the applicant's memory of the code and his ability
to illustrate and design plumbing systems. That wasn't necessarily
the best way to test a plumber's knowledge. No plumber has to work
completely without reference books. Memorizing code sections isn't
practical. It's also important that you know where to find an answer
and have the background to interpret what the reference book says.
Today, you'll probably take an open book exam which asks you to
solve practical problems and answer questions from recommended
references. That's closer to the type of problems plumbers face
every day in their work. Speed in locating the right reference for
each question (and making the correct interpretation) is essential.
Most questions given on exams are based on the local plumbing and
gas codes. Other test questions will likely be taken from references
recommended by the examining authority. You'll probably receive a
list of approved references when you apply to take the exam. These
approved references are the only books allowed in the examination
The following is a typical list of approved references for a
journeyman plumber's exam. But this is an example only. Make sure
you use the actual list recommended by your testing authority.
Your local plumbing code, plus any applicable ordinances and
NFPA Pamphlet No.54, Gas Appliances and Gas Piping
NFPA Pamphlet No.14, Standpipe and Hose Systems
Plumbing, by H.E. Babbitt
Plumber and Pipe Fitters Library
Mathematics for Plumbers and Pipefitters
Plumbing 1, by Harry Slater
Related Information Plumbing 2, by Harry Slater
Blueprint Reading for Plumbers, Residential and Commercial
Plumbing Installation and Design
Student Guide for Plumbing Installation and Design
The master's exam list will be longer and includes several
subjects that aren't covered in the references listed above.
Getting the Right Books
Get all the recommended references as soon as possible. If you
live within driving distance of a well-stocked technical bookstore,
they'll probably have most or all of what you need. Smaller general
bookstores usually don't stock many technical books. But they may
have some of the listed titles. Most bookstores are willing to
special order books for you, but you'll have to wait four to six
weeks for them to arrive.
Remember that books and pamphlets used to improve or maintain
your professional skills are deductible on your income tax return.
They're also valuable references even after you've passed the exam.
Don't be afraid to spend what's needed to get the recommended books.
They'll be a good investment.
Codes and Standards
Five major plumbing codes are used in the United States: Basic
Plumbing Code, ICBO Plumbing Code, Standard Plumbing Code, National
Standard Plumbing Code and the Uniform Plumbing Code. Several
states have written their own plumbing codes. The five model codes
are written by private organizations that have some interest in
improving standards in the plumbing industry. By themselves, these
model codes are not the law. They're written in hopes that some
city, county or state will adopt them as a regulation. When your
city, state or county does adopt a model code, it becomes the
authority for all plumbing work done in that jurisdiction.
Of course, the code adopted is entirely up to the governing
authority in your city, county or state. And that branch of
government is free to amend, delete, or supplement the code that's
actually adopted - and many do.
Almost all plumbing codes in the United States are "referral
codes." They refer to other standard references when describing
materials and design procedures. For example, every model plumbing
code includes a table which lists all the plumbing materials
acceptable for use within the jurisdiction. The Standard Plumbing
Code states, "Plumbing fixtures shall be constructed from
approved materials, have smooth impervious surfaces, be free from
defects and concealed fouling surfaces, and shall conform to the
standards listed in Table 500." The standards for plumbing fixtures
as listed in Table 500 were developed by the American National
Standards Institute, Inc. (ANSI).
You'll see many references like that in your plumbing code. The
Standard Plumbing Code lists 31 separate standards in the
plumbing section alone. A few of these references are ANSI
(mentioned above), ASTM (American Society for Testing and
Materials), CISPI (Cast Iron Soil Pipe Institute), FS (Federal
Specifications) and NBS (National Bureau of Standards). All
references in your code place a burden on you, the plumber, to
understand what's required and comply with what's called for.
Questions in the plumbing systems section of this book are based
on the two most popular national codes, the Standard Plumbing
Code and the Uniform Plumbing Code. If you compare the
code references for each question, you'll see how similar these
plumbing codes actually are. In cases where there are some
differences (mainly in the area where fixture units regulate pipe
sizes and lengths), I've provided notes to explain the differences.
Most states adopt all or nearly all of one of these two popular
codes and, of course, use that code as the authority for the state
The Standard Plumbing Code is used in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida,
Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina,
Tennessee, and some parts of Delaware, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas,
and West Virginia.
The Uniform Plumbing Code is used in Alaska, California,
Hawaii, Idaho, Maine, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, Oregon, Utah,
Washington, and some areas of Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas,
Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South
Dakota, Texas, West Virginia, and Wyoming.
If you don't live in one of the 34 states listed above, the
answers to some questions may vary slightly from the answers given
in this book. But the differences between most plumbing codes is
growing smaller and smaller with each passing year. After all,
what's good plumbing practice in Massachusetts is also good plumbing
practice in Indiana.
In the section on gas systems, I've based the questions and
answers on the Standard Gas Code. It's compatible with the
popular National Fuel Gas Code, and probably with whatever
gas code is adopted in your area. The Standard Gas Code
provides (as do all gas codes) the minimum requirements for gas
Here's an important point: All exam questions are based on
minimum code requirements. If the minimum pipe size permitted under
the code is 1/2" and you answer 3/4" just to play it safe, your
answer is incorrect.
How to Prepare for the Exam
This book is a guide to preparing for the journeyman or
master plumbing exam. It isn't a substitute for studying the
recommended references and it won't teach you the plumbing trade.
But it will give you a complete knowledge of the type of questions
asked in the plumbing exam. It will also give you a "feel" for the
examination and provide some of the confidence you need to pass.
Emphasis is on multiple-choice questions because that's what
nearly all tests have now. I've grouped the questions into chapters.
Each chapter covers a single subject. This will help you discover
your strengths and weaknesses. Analyze the questions you miss on the
practice exam at the back of this book. You'll probably notice
you're weaker in some subjects than others. If you've missed a lot
of the gas questions or many of the math questions, go back and
study these areas again.
How to Study
Set aside a definite time to study, following a schedule
that meets your needs. Study two or three nights each week or all
day on Saturdays. Study alone most of the time. But spend a day
reviewing with a plumbing buddy before exam day. You can help each
other dig out the facts and concepts you'll need to pass the exam.
Study in a quiet, well-lighted room that's respected as your
study space by family members and friends. If it's hard to find a
spot like that in your home, go to the neighborhood library where
others are reading and studying.
Before you begin to study, spend a few minutes getting into the
right frame of mind. That's important. You don't have to be an
Einstein to pass the plumber's exam. But good motivation will nearly
guarantee your success. No one can provide that motivation but you.
Getting your license is a goal you set for yourself; it's your key
to a satisfying career and a better paying job.
As you study each reference, highlight or underscore important
points with a yellow marker or red felt tip pen. That makes it
easier to find important passages when you're doing the final review
- and when you're taking the test.
Put paper tabs on the corners of each major section in all the
references you'll take into the exam room. On the portion of the tab
that extends beyond the edge of the book, write the name of the
section or the subject. That makes locating each section easier and
quicker - an important consideration on an open book test. Speed in
locating answers is important. In the sample exam in this book,
which is based on actual exams, you'll have less than four minutes
to answer each question! Your study plan should allow enough time to
review each reference at least three times. Read carefully the first
time. The next review should take only about 10% of the time that
the first reading took. Make a final review of all references and
notes on the day before the exam. This is the key to success in
passing the exam: Review, review, review! The more you review, the
better your grasp of the information and the faster you'll be able
to find the answers.
Your examination questions were probably compiled from lists
submitted by members of the plumber's examination board. Board
members usually include several senior plumbing contractors, perhaps
a college professor, a registered engineer, and a code authority
like a plumbing plans examiner. The exam will include code,
practical, and theoretical questions. Some boards prefer theoretical
questions. Others favor practical and code questions. No matter
which type your examining authority emphasizes, this book will help
you get prepared.
In areas where the journeyman or master plumbing exam is given
two or three times each year, the examining authority will have
several basic exams that are used in rotation. But the same
examination will never be administered twice in a row.
The test writers maintain a bank of several hundred questions
covering each test subject. Questions are selected at random, and
chances are that some of the questions on any exam have already been
used on an earlier examination. Many questions are known as
universal truths. With minor variations, these questions will be on
nearly every plumber's exam in the country. This book is filled with
the questions that pop up on nearly every plumbing exam.
Although plumbing is a complex trade, it's encouraging to note
that there are only so many subject areas that any test can cover.
And many of the questions on the exam will closely resemble
questions in this book.
Types of Questions
Nearly all examination questions will be objective. This means you
won't be required to draw complex piping isometrics of DWV or water
piping systems and you won't have to write any essays. But many
examinations do require that you at least identify which isometrics
are wrong and draw simple corrections.
One major examining board gave the following instructions to all
plumbers taking their certification examination:
The afternoon portion of the examination (four hours in
duration), given on the first day, has been changed. Although all
of the 80 questions are related to codes, approximately 10
questions will concern the interpretation of isometric drawings in
which the examinee will be required to identify errors in the
drawings, if any, in accordance with code requirements. In
addition, another 10 questions will require the examinee to
examine isometric drawings. If the drawings are not in conformance
with codes, the examinee will be required to redraw isometrics
correctly in the spaces provided.
As you know, the lines on isometric drawings represent pipe and
fittings. Symbols are used to show the location and type of
fixtures. If your examining board requires reading and drawing of
isometrics, you'll need additional preparation for the exam.
Plumbers Handbook, by this author, explains how to read and
create plumbing isometrics. If your local bookstore doesn't have
Plumbers Handbook, use the order form at the back of this
manual. Once you understand the key principles, it's easy to read
and make isometric drawings.
The Answer Sheet
Following this introduction, you'll find a sample answer
sheet that was used for a major plumbing examination. Answer sheets
like these are designed for computer grading. Each question on the
exam is numbered. Usually there will be four or five possible
responses for each question. You'll be required to mark the best
answer on the answer sheet.
Here's an example. The question is:
- Atlanta is the capital city of the state of:
( A ) Florida
( B ) Texas
( C ) Arizona
( D ) Georgia
You should mark answer D for question 1 on the answer
Your answer sheet may vary slightly from the one that follows
this section. But no matter what the answer sheet looks like, be
sure to follow any instructions on that sheet! Putting the right
answers in the wrong section will almost certainly cause you to
On the day of your examination, listen to any oral instructions
given and carefully read the printed directions. Failing to follow
instructions will probably disqualify you.
There won't be any trick questions on most exams. Examination
boards usually take their work very seriously. But the test writers
will probably include at least a few questions that have to be read
very carefully to be understood. The question may look familiar and
the answer may seem obvious. But re-reading the question may point
out some subtle distinction that makes the obvious answer totally
Any time the answer seems obvious at first glance, read the
question again. Always look for the qualifying word or phrase in the
question. Words like always, never, least, most likely, smallest,
but not less than, shall and may can be dynamite. They can change
the whole meaning of the question.
Sometimes several of the answers may seem possible. But only one
will be correct. If you're not sure of the answer, use the process
of elimination. Strike out answers you know are wrong. Then select
the most likely of the answers that remain. This can change your
odds from five-to-one to two-to-one on a question. Don't ever assume
that there's an answer pattern. I've never seen a planned answer
pattern on a plumbing exam. By chance, there may be a short series
of answers that go "a, a, c, a, a, c, a, a." But don't assume that
the next answer is "c". It probably isn't, and you'll probably miss
several questions if you think you see a pattern in the answers and
try to follow it. Read each question carefully and give the answer
you think is correct.
Most important, pace yourself. Spend the first minute or two
after the exam is passed out looking over the entire test booklet.
Make an estimate of how many minutes should be allowed for each
section or for each question. Check your progress after each 30
minutes. Most applicants won't finish all questions. Any question
you don't answer will always be wrong, of course. Time will nearly
always be at a premium on an open book exam. With enough time
everyone could get 100%! Using your time wisely may be half the
Don't spend too much time on the toughest questions. It's a
mistake to squander 10 minutes on the hardest question in the exam
(and get it wrong) and then leave several relatively easy questions
unanswered because you ran out of time. My advice is to skip the
hard questions on the first pass. Then come back to them as time
If you complete the exam early, don't leave the room. Spend the
remaining time reviewing your answers. Try to find at least one
error. It could mean the difference between passing or failing the
examination. Many applicants do fail by just one point. Don't find
yourself in that position. Make the most of every second available.
Organization of This Book
I've included here questions on gas systems, specialized
plumbing systems and several other plumbing-related topics. There
are two reasons for this. First, many exams include questions on
these subjects. Second, this information is not readily available in
the standard reference books. You may have trouble finding books
that cover these questions.
This book is organized into five sections. Part One has questions
and answers and code responses on plumbing systems. Part Two has
questions and answers and code responses on gas systems. Part Three
has questions and answers and code responses for more specialized
plumbing subjects. Part Four has questions and answers and solutions
(where applicable) on plumbing-related topics. Part Five is a sample
examination. Take this test two or three days before you are to take
the actual exam. Use it to spot areas where you need extra review.
Let's Get Started
Enough of the preliminaries. It's time to get started with
the questions and answers. Used correctly, this book will give you
the confidence you need now to prepare thoroughly for the upcoming
Happy studying! And best wishes.
Softcover - 320 Pages
8-1/2 x 11 in.
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