National Contractor's Exam Study Guide

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This book is not state-specific, but it is code-specific. It's guaranteed to help you obtain the knowledge and confidence needed to pass your contractor's exam on the first try. Lists 1,500 questions and answers -- presented in the same format used on the actual exam -- plus numerous references to the 2006 International Building Code. You'll find detailed illustrations that help clarify complicated code issues. And it also shows how to use your local codebooks to answer exam questions.

Weight 1.9600
ISBN 978-0-07-14890
Page Count 359
Publisher McGraw-Hill
Dimensions 8-1/2 x 11

This book is not state-specific, but it is code-specific. It's guaranteed to help you obtain the knowledge and confidence needed to pass your contractor's exam on the first try.

It lists 1,500 questions and answers -- presented in the same format used on the actual exam -- plus numerous references to the 2006 International Building Code. You'll find detailed illustrations that help clarify complicated code issues. And it also shows how to use your local codebooks to answer exam questions.

Covers administration, definitions, use and occupancy classifications, special detailed requirements based on use and occupancy, general building heights and areas, types of construction, fire-resistant-rated-construction, interior finishes, fire-protection systems, means of egress, accessability, energy effeciency, exterior walls, roof assemblies and rooftop structures, structural design and tests, soils and foundations, concrete, special construction, encroachments into public right-of-way, safeguards during construction, existing structures and more.

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Preface, xiii

Acknowledgments, xv

Introduction, xvii

Multiple-Choice Questions, 2
True-False Questions, 6
Answers, 9

Chapter 2, DEFINITIONS, 11
Multiple-Choice Questions, 12
True-False Questions, 16
Answers, 19

Fill-in-the-Blank Questions, 22
True-False Questions, 25
Answers, 29

Multiple-Choice Questions, 32
True-False Questions, 38
Answers, 43

Fill-in-the-Blank Questions, 46
True-False Questions, 48
Answers, 51

Multiple-Choice Questions, 54
True-False Questions, 56
Answers, 58

Fill-in-the-Blank Questions, 60
True-False Questions, 66
Answers, 76

Multiple-Choice Questions, 78
True-False Questions, 80
Answers, 82

Multiple-Choice Questions, 84
True-False Questions, 91
Answers, 97

Chapter 10, MEANS OF EGRESS, 99
Multiple-Choice Questions, 100
True-False Questions, 108
Answers, 113

Chapter 11, ACCESSIBILITY, 115
Multiple-Choice Questions, 116
True-False Questions, 127
Answers, 130

True-False Questions, 132
Answers, 138

Chapter 13, ENERGY EFFICIENCY, 139

Chapter 14, EXTERIOR WALLS, 141
Multiple-Choice Questions, 142
True-False Questions, 149
Answers, 152

Multiple-Choice Questions, 154
True-False Questions, 159
Answers, 163

Chapter 16, STRUCTURAL DESIGN, 165
Multiple-Choice Questions, 166
True-False Questions, 174
Answers, 200

Multiple-Choice Questions, 202
True-False Questions, 208
Answers, 211

Multiple-Choice Questions, 214
True-False Questions, 222
Answers, 225

Chapter 19, CONCRETE, 227
Multiple-Choice Questions, 228
True-False Questions, 230
Answers, 234

Chapter 20, ALUMINUM, 235

Chapter 21, MASONRY, 237
Multiple-Choice Questions, 238
True-False Questions, 250
Answers, 256

Chapter 22, STEEL, 257
Multiple-Choice Questions, 258
True-False Questions, 259
Answers, 261

Chapter 23, WOOD, 263
Multiple-Choice Questions, 264
True-False Questions, 277
Answers, 289

Chapter 24, GLASS AND GLAZING, 291
True-False Questions, 298
Answers, 296

Multiple-Choice Questions, 298
True-False Questions, 300
Answers, 304

Chapter 26, PLASTIC, 305
Multiple-Choice Questions, 306
True-False Questions, 310
Answers, 313

Chapter 27, ELECTRICAL, 315


Chapter 29, PLUMBING SYSTEMS, 319
Multiple-Choice Questions, 320
True-False Questions, 321
Answers, 323

Multiple-Choice Questions, 326
True-False Questions, 327
Answers, 329

Multiple-Choice Questions, 332
True-False Questions, 335
Answers, 339

True-False Questions, 340
Answers, 342

Multiple-Choice Questions, 344
True-False Questions, 347
Answers, 350

Multiple-Choice Questions, 352
True-False Questions, 356
Answers, 359

Techniques for Studying and Test-Taking


1. Make a study schedule. Assign yourself a period of time each day to devote to preparation for your exam. A regular time is best, but the important thing is daily study.

2. Study alone. You will concentrate better when you work by yourself. Keep a list of questions you find puzzling and points you are unsure of to talk over with a friend who is preparing for the same exam. Plan to exchange ideas at a joint review session just before the test.

3. Eliminate distractions. Choose a quiet, well-lit spot as far as possible from telephone, television, and family activities. Try to arrange not to be interrupted.

4. Begin at the beginning. Read. Underline points that you consider significant. Make marginal notes. Flag the pages that you think are especially important with little Post itâ„¢ Notes.

5. Concentrate on the information and instruction chapters. Study the Code Definitions, the Glossary of air-conditioning and refrigeration terms, and the Decoding Words of equipment and usage. Learn the language of the field. Focus on the technique of eliminating wrong answers. This information is important to answering all multiple choice questions.

6. Answer the practice questions chapter by chapter. Take note of your weaknesses; use all available textbooks to brush up.

7. Try the previous exams if available. When you believe that you are well prepared, move on to these exams. If possible, answer an entire exam in one sitting. If you must divide your time, divide it into no more than two sessions per exam.

When you do take the practice exams, treat them with respect. Consider each as a dress rehearsal for the real thing. Time yourself accurately, and do not peek at the correct answers.

Remember, you are taking these for practice; they will not be scored; they do not count. So learn from them.

IMPORTANT: Do not memorize questions and answers. Any question that has been released will not be used again. You may run into questions that are very similar, but you will not be tested with the original ones. The included questions will give you good practice, but they will not be the same as any of the questions on your exam.


Get to the examination room about 10 minutes ahead of time. You'll get a better start when you are accustomed to the room. If the room is too cold, too warm, or not well ventilated, call these conditions to the attention of the person in charge.

Make sure that you read the instructions carefully. In many cases, test takers lose points because they misread some important part of the directions. (An example would be reading the incorrect choice instead of the correct choice.)

Don't be afraid to guess. The best policy is, of course, to pace yourself so that you can read and consider each question. Sometimes this does not work. Most exam scores are based only on the number of questions answered correctly. This means that a wild guess is better than a blank space. There is no penalty for a wrong answer, and you just might guess right. If you see that time is about to run out, mark all the remaining spaces with the same answer. According to the law of averages, some will be right.

However, you bought this book for practice in answering questions. Part of your preparation is learning to pace yourself so that you need not answer randomly at the end. Far better than a wild guess is an educated guess. You make this kind of guess not when you are pressed for time but are not sure of the correct answer. Usually, one or two of the choices are obviously wrong. Eliminate the obviously wrong answers and try to reason among those remaining. Then, if necessary, guess from the smaller field. The odds of choosing a right answer increase if you guess from a field of two instead of from a field of four. When you make an educated guess or a wild guess in the course of the exam, you might want to make a note next to the question number in the test booklet. Then, if there is time, you can go back for a second look.

Reason your way through multiple-choice questions very carefully and methodically.


Here are a few examples that we can "walk through" together:

1. On the job, your supervisor gives you a hurried set of directions. As you start your assigned task, you realize you are not quite clear on the directions given to you. The best action to take would be to:

(a) continue with your work, hoping to remember the directions
(b) ask a co-worker in a similar position what he or she would do
(c) ask your supervisor to repeat or clarify certain directions
(d) go on to another assignment

In this question you are given four possible answers to the problem described. Though the four choices are all possible actions, it is up to you to choose the best course of action in this particular situation.

Choice (a) will likely lead to a poor result; given that you do not recall or understand the directions, you would not be able to perform the assigned task properly. Keep choice (a) in the back of your mind until you have examined the other alternatives. It could be the best of the four choices given.

Choice (b) is also a possible course of action, but is it the best? Consider that the co-worker you consult has not heard the directions. How could he or she know? Perhaps his or her degree of incompetence is greater than yours in this area. Of choices (a) and (b), the better of the two is still choice (a).

Choice (c) is an acceptable course of action. Your supervisor will welcome your questions and will not lose respect for you. At this point, you should hold choice (c) as the best answer and eliminate choice (a).
The course of action in choice (d) is decidedly incorrect because the job at hand would not be completed. Going on to something else does not clear up the problem; it simply postpones your having to make a necessary decision.

After careful consideration of all choices given, choice (c) stands out as the best possible course of action. You should select choice (c) as your answer.

Every question is written about a fact or an accepted concept. The question above indicates the concept that, in general, most supervisory personnel appreciate subordinates questioning directions that may not have been fully understood. This type of clarification precludes subsequent errors. On the other hand, many subordinates are reluctant to ask questions for fear that their lack of understanding will detract from their supervisor's evaluation of their abilities. The supervisor, therefore, has the responsibility of issuing orders and directions in such a way that subordinates will not be discouraged from asking questions. This is the concept on which the sample question was based.

Of course, if you were familiar with this concept, you would have no trouble answering the question. However, if you were not familiar with it, the method outlined here of eliminating incorrect choices and selecting the correct one should prove successful for you.

We have now seen how important it is to identify the concept and the key phrase of the question. Equally or perhaps even more important is identifying and analyzing the keyword or the qualifying word in a question. This word is usually an adjective or adverb. Some of the most common key words are:

most least best highest
 lowest always never sometimes
most likely greatest smallest tallest
average easiest most nearly maximum
minimum only chiefly mainly but or

Identifying these keywords is usually half the battle in understanding and, consequently, answering all types of exam questions.

Identifying these keywords is usually half the battle in understanding and, consequently, answering all types of exam questions.
Now we will use the elimination method on some additional questions.

2. On the first day you report for work after being appointed as an AC mechanic's helper, you are assigned to routine duties that seem to you to be very petty in scope. You should:

(a) perform your assignment perfunctorily while conserving your energies for more important work in the future
(b) explain to your superior that you are capable of greater responsibility
(c) consider these duties an opportunity to become thoroughly familiar with the workplace
(d) try to get someone to take care of your assignment until you have become thoroughly acquainted with your new associates

Once again we are confronted with four possible answers from which we are to select the best one.

Choice (a) will not lead to getting your assigned work done in the best possible manner in the shortest possible time. This would be your responsibility as a newly appointed AC mechanic's helper, and the likelihood of getting to do more important work in the future following the approach stated in this choice is remote. However, since this is only choice (a), we must hold it aside because it may turn out to be the best of the four choices given.

Choice (b) is better than choice (a) because your superior may not be familiar with your capabilities at this point. We therefore should drop choice (a) and retain choice (b) because, once again, it may be the best of the four choices.

The question clearly states that you are newly appointed. Therefore, would it not be wise to perform whatever duties you are assigned in the best possible manner? In this way, you would not only use the opportunity to become acquainted with procedures but also to demonstrate your abilities.

Choice (c) contains a course of action that will benefit you and the location in which you are working because it will get needed work done. At this point, we drop choice (b) and retain choice (c) because it is by far the better of the two.

The course of action in choice (d) is not likely to get the assignment completed, and it will not enhance your image to your fellow AC mechanic's helpers.

Choice (c), when compared to choice (d), is far better and therefore should be selected as the best choice.

Now let us take a question that appeared on a police-officer examination:

3. An off-duty police officer in civilian clothes riding in the rear of a bus notices two teenage boys tampering with the rear emergency door. The most appropriate action for the officer to take is to:

(a) tell the boys to discontinue their tampering, pointing out the dangers to life that their actions may create
(b) report the boys' actions to the bus operator and let the bus operator take whatever action is deemed best
(c) signal the bus operator to stop, show the boys the officer's badge, and then order them off the bus
(d) show the boys the officer's badge, order them to stop their actions, and take down their names and addresses

Before considering the answers to this question, we must accept that it is a well-known fact that a police officer is always on duty to uphold the law even though he or she may be technically off duty.

In choice (a), the course of action taken by the police officer will probably serve to educate the boys and get them to stop their unlawful activity. Since this is only the first choice, we will hold it aside.

In choice (b), we must realize that the authority of the bus operator in this instance is limited.
He can ask the boys to stop tampering with the door, but that is all. The police officer can go beyond that point. Therefore, we drop choice (b) and continue to hold choice (a).

Choice (c) as a course of action will not have a lasting effect. What is to stop the boys from boarding the next bus and continuing their unlawful action? We therefore drop choice (c) and continue to hold choice (a).

Choice (d) may have some beneficial effect, but it would not deter the boys from continuing their actions in the future.

When we compare choice (a) with choice (d), we find that choice (a) is the better one overall, and therefore it is the correct answer.

The next question illustrates a type of question that has gained popularity in recent examinations and that requires a two-step evaluation.

First, the reader must evaluate the condition in the question as being "desirable" or "undesirable." Once the determination has been made, we are then left with making a selection from two choices instead of the usual four.

4. A visitor to an office in a city agency tells one of the aides that he has an appointment with the supervisor, who is expected shortly. The visitor asks for permission to wait in the supervisor's private office, which is unoccupied at the moment. For the office aide to allow the visitor to do so would be:

(a) desirable; the visitor would be less likely to disturb the other employees or to be disturbed by them
(b) undesirable; it is not courteous to permit a visitor to be left alone in an office
(c) desirable; the supervisor may wish to speak to the visitor in private
(d) undesirable; the supervisor may have left confidential papers on the desk

First of all, we must evaluate the course of action on the part of the office aide of permitting the visitor to wait in the supervisor's office as being very undesirable. There is nothing said of the nature of the visit; it may be for a purpose that is not friendly or congenial. There may be papers on the supervisor's desk that he or she does not want the visitor to see or to have knowledge of. Therefore, at this point, we have to decide between choices (b) and (d).

This is definitely not a question of courtesy. Although all visitors should be treated with courtesy, permitting the visitor to wait in the supervisor's office is not the only possible act of courtesy. Another comfortable place could be found for the visitor to wait.

Choice (d) contains the exact reason for evaluating this course of action as being undesirable, and when we compare it with choice (b), choice (d) is far better.


Keep in mind that tests or exams are also learning tools. They make you learn the assigned material so that you don't have to refer to sources other than your own brain's memory.

There are a number of types of questions utilized in everyday teaching and learning. The advantage of the multiple-choice type of question is that it makes you think and then utilize your reasoning power to arrive at an educated guess. That is, of course, if you didn't know the answer outright from previous experience or studying.

Next, there is the true-false type of question. It is easy to answer either true (T) or false (F), you are either right or wrong. You have a 50 percent chance of being right or wrong when you guess. One of the major reasons this type of test is used is its quick right or wrong answer. It makes you think fast and recall the material you recently read or studied and quickly focuses your learning on the necessary information.

Both types are easy to check and grade. They also make the instructor's role an easier one.
Another type of question and answer test is "fill-in the blank." This requires you to think in regards to the meaning of the sentence with the missing word. There are, however, many clues in the question or statement before you. This type of test can also be used with the blank filled in by four possible answers. This type then resembles the multiple-choice type of test and serves the same purpose.

There are certifying agencies organized and operating to aid you in obtaining the skills and knowledge to perform correctly in your chosen field. By requiring you to submit to a written exam on the material, you have an incentive to study hard and organize the material you have committed to memory. Passing the exam from one of the agencies makes it easier for them to hire you to do the work and know that you can do it with some degree of skill and perfection.

The inspector relies on you to do the assigned task properly and safely. The inspector has to be thoroughly familiar with all the contract documents, including the plans with all changes, specifications, and contract submittals such as shop drawings.

Inspectors have different responsibilities and authorities, depending on the organizational setup, and size and scope of the project. Each inspector should be clear on the answers to the many questions presented during a day in the field.

Inspectors have the task of examining a finished job and informing the specialist as to how his work meets or fails to meet the code requirements.


On the exam day assigned to you, allow the test itself to be the main attraction of the day. Do not squeeze it in between other activities. Arrive rested, relaxed, and on time. In fact, plan to arrive a little bit early. Leave plenty of time for traffic tie-ups or other complications that might upset you and interfere with your test performance.

Here is a breakdown of what occurs on examination day and tips on starting off on the right foot and preparing to start your exam:

1. In the test room the examiner will hand out forms for you to fill out and will give you the instructions that you must follow in taking the examination. Note that you must follow instructions exactly.

2. The examiner will tell you how to fill in the blanks on the forms.

3. Exam time limits and timing signals will be explained.

4. Be sure to ask questions if you do not understand any of the examiner's instructions. You need to be sure that you know exactly what to do.

5. Fill in the grids on the forms carefully and accurately. Filling in the wrong blank may lead to loss of veterans' credits to which you may be entitled or to an incorrect address for your test results.

6. Do not begin the exam until you are told to begin.

7. Stop as soon as the examiner tells you to stop.

8. Do not turn pages until you are told to do so.

9. Do not go back to parts you have already completed.

10. Any infraction of the rules is considered cheating. If you cheat, your test paper will not be scored, and you will not be eligible for appointment.

11. Once the signal has been given and you begin the exam, read every word of every question.

12. Be alert for exclusionary words that might affect your answer: words such as "not" "most," and "least."


Read all the choices before you mark your answer. It is statistically true that most errors are made when the last choice is the correct answer. Too many people mark the first answer that seems correct without reading through all the choices to find out which answer is best.

Be sure to read the suggestions below now and review them before you take the actual exam.
Once you are familiar with the suggestions, you will feel more comfortable with the exam itself and find them useful when you are marking your answer choices.

1. Mark your answers by completely blackening the answer space of your choice.

2. Mark only ONE answer for each question, even if you think that more than one answer is correct. You must choose only one. If you mark more than one answer, the scoring machine will consider you wrong even if one of your answers is correct.

3. If you change your mind, erase completely. Leave no doubt as to which answer you have chosen.

4. If you do any figuring on the test booklet or on scratch paper, be sure to mark your answer on the answer sheet.

5. Check often to be sure that the question number matches the answer space number and that you have not skipped a space by mistake. If you do skip a space, you must erase all the answers after the skip and answer all the questions again in the right places.

6. Answer every question in order, but do not spend too much time on anyone question. If a question seems to be "impossible," do not take it as a personal challenge. Guess .and move on. Remember that your task is to answer correctly as many questions as possible. You must apportion your time so as to give yourself a fair chance to read and answer all the questions. If you guess at an answer, mark the question in the test booklet so that you can find it again easily if time allows.

7. Guess intelligently if you can. If you do not know the answer to a question, eliminate the answers that you know are wrong and guess from among the remaining choices. If you have no idea whatsoever of the answer to a question, guess anyway. Choose an answer other than the first.
The first choice is generally the correct answer less often than the other choices. If your answer is a guess, either an educated guess or a wild one, mark the question in the question booklet so that you can give it a second try if time permits.

8. If you happen to finish before time is up, check to be sure that each question is answered in the right space and that there is only one answer for each question. Return to the difficult questions that you marked in the booklet and try them again.
There is no bonus for finishing early so use all your time to perfect your exam paper.

With the combination of techniques for studying and test taking as well as the self-instructional course and sample examinations in this book, you are given the tools you need to score high on your exam.

Get 1,500 Construction Questions and Answers to Help You
Pass the National Contractor's Exam with Flying Colors!

Turn to the National Contractors Exam Study Guide to acquire the skills, knowledge, and confidence needed to ace this important exam on the first try. You'll find 1,500 questions and answers presented in the same format used on the actual exam - plus numerous references to the 2006 International Building Code and many helpful illustrations.

The National Contractors Exam Study Guide features:

Over 1,500 exam-style multiple choice and true/false questions and answers
Numerous references to the 2006 International Building Code
Detailed illustrations that help clarify complicated code and show how to use local codebooks to solve exam questions

Master Every Topic Covered
on the National Contractor's Exam

Use and Occupancy Classification
General Building Heights and Ares
Types of Construction
Interior Finishes
Fire Protection Systems
Means of Egress
Interior Environment
Energy Efficiency
Exterior Walls
Roof Assemblies and Rooftop Structures
Structural Design
Soils and Foundations
Glass and Glazing
Gypsum Board and Plaster
Mechanical Systems
Plumbing Systems
Elevators and Conveying Systems
Safeguards During Construction
And Much More!

About the author
R. Dodge Woodson has owned and operated construction companies in Virginia and Maine, and has over 27 years of experience as a contractor. He has also served as an adjunct faculty member for the Central Maine Technical College, where he taught code and apprenticeship classes. Mr. Woodson is the author of numerous books on the construction trades, including the Plumbers Licensing Study Guide, International Plumbing Code Handbook, and National Plumbing Code Handbook, all published by McGraw-Hill.