What is NABCEP PV entry level exam?
The North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) Entry Level PV program is designed for individuals who wish to enter the solar installation and systems field. By passing the exam the candidates can demonstrate that they have achieved the basic knowledge of fundamental principles of application, design, installation and operation of the grid tied as well as stand-alone PV (photovoltaic) systems.
Steps to pass the NABCEP PV entry level exam
NABCEP only offers certifications and exams but does not offer any training programs for the exams.
1) Find a training program
You may need to find a training program that can help you to prepare for the NAPCEP entry level exam. There are several organizations that offer training for the exam. As per the NABCEP website you must find a program that meets the quality guidelines for Sustainable Power of the Interstate Renewable Energy Council Institute. You must choose a training program that is can help you prepare for the entry level exam. For appropriate training program available in your area you can refer to the NABCEP website.
2) Complete the training Program
Once you have decided to attend the training program look for an organization that is registered with NABCEP and accredited by IREC for the PV entry level exam. You can also attend online classes in case you are not able to go for regular training due to a demanding schedule. The instructors should be certified, licensed and must have practical experience in the field. Once you have finalized the training provider after considering all these factors complete the training program.
3) Register for the exam
Once you have completed the required training you can then register for the NABCEP exam. The cost of registration is $125 and once the application is accepted, invitation is sent by email to choose the exam location and pay the fees for the exam which is $375 for first time. The computer based as well as traditional pencil and paper option for the exam is available for the NABCEP exam. You can choose either of these based on your preferences. The exam has 60 MCQ’s (Multiple choice questions) that need to be completed in two hours. The pre-exam procedures may take around 30 to 60 minutes. The results are mailed within four to six weeks.
4) Study for the exam
You may need to study and prepare well for the exam as it is not easy. To prepare for the exam you may need to study following:
- You can download and study the resource material that is available on the website for NABCEP. The PDF’s from Bill Brooks and John Wiles who are the industry leaders and educators are really helpful.
- You must know the vocabulary and key terminologies that are associated with the exams.
- Practice mathematics as much as possible as there are several electrical calculations involved in the test related to amperage and voltage. The mathematics is not that difficult however you must know when/where or how you can apply simple mathematics to a certain circumstance.
- As the pattern of the exam is of multiple choice questions so you must be careful with the tricky questions.
- You must have clear understanding of OSHA safety regulations.
- You must also focus on code application such as wire sizing and design questions related to shade analysis, sun exposure etc.
- The learning objectives from the NABCEP must also be covered.
Apart from studying the theory you must also practice for the questions. There are several practice exams available online that can help you in improving the concepts and give you an idea of the type of questions that are asked in the exam. The NABCEP practice exams which contains sample questions can be purchased form the NABCEP website. Thus by practicing for these exams you will be familiar and comfortable with the exam format. These will also help in improving the speed to solve the questions.
5) Take NABCEP entry level exam
You may need to take the exam on the stipulated date. Passing score for the entry level exam by NABCEP is 70 percent. Once you have cleared the exam you will receive certification from NABCEP along with the score card within four to six weeks.
The learning objectives of NABCEP PV entry level
The exam is based on the learning objectives that are developed by committee of PV SME’s (subject matter experts). These objectives are reviewed periodically to incorporate any changes as per the National electrical code or technology changes. The tem knowledge content domains of PV entry level learning objectives are:
- PV Markets & Applications
- Electricity Basics
- Safety Basics
- PV Module Fundamentals
- Solar Energy Fundamentals
- System Components
- PV System Sizing Principles
- PV System Mechanical Design
- PV System Electrical Design
- Performance Analysis, Maintenance & Troubleshooting
Additional Tips to clear the NABCEP PV exam
It takes time to be well prepared for the NABCEP PV entry level exam. The length of preparation courses varies from a week-long 40 hour seminar to a course that is semester long where three classes are taken per week for several hours. The amount of review required depends upon your level of mastery post the training course.
You must study the complete details of the design starting from basics, to array size and estimating power product. The details about inverter, NEC, string and conductor sizing must also be studied.
You should be able to solve for every factor of Ohm’s law (V=IR) such as Volt, Watt, Ampere and Resistance.
You can study from the following books for the exam: Photovoltaic Systems by Jim Dunlop and Photovoltaics Design and Installation Manual (Solar Energy International).
The exam covers NEC by giving 3 or 4 possible designs and the way they are implemented, and then they ask which one is code compliant so you may need to practice such questions.
The other things that you may know about is temperature coefficients, pull out strength and troubleshooting.