Fluid Power Journal

Succeeding in Hydraulics Certification Exams

By Dan Fernandes, CFPS, Sun Hydraulics

It was 9:00 a.m., Oct. 10, 2012. I was fresh out of college and four weeks into my fluid power career. I saw a dozen of my new colleagues around the room diligently working on pressure and flow calculations while I was pondering the true meaning of psi. We were sitting for the hydraulic specialist exam, administered by the International Fluid Power Society.

This was an intense introduction to hydraulics. Torque calculations, work profiles of mechanically loaded beams, ISO cleanliness vocabulary—this was information overload for a new guy like me! Three hours later I found myself praying that I answered 35 of the 50 questions correctly. A few weeks later, I learned that I had correctly answered only 34.

I thought I had been well prepared for the exam. I had done every review test in the back of the Hydraulics Specialist Review Manual. I completed the online pretests. I even made sure that I fully understood each practice question in the review manual.

What I learned about the hydraulics specialist exam was that practicing the review questions is not enough to earn the designation of hydraulics specialist.

Two years later, with hands-on experience and a much better understanding of hydraulic vocabulary, I sat for the exam again. This time, I was very pleased to receive a passing mark.

Since that time, I have been able to help others prepare for the hydraulic specialist exam. I’d like to share some advice that could help you pass the exam on the first try.

  1. Don’t just study the practice questions in the review manual. Read the review manual cover to cover. It is loaded with valuable information that will help you understand each component in a hydraulic system and how they are used together.
  2. If any single topic in the review manual is unclear or challenging, ask your colleagues to help you understand the topic, then explain it back to them. To become a hydraulics specialist, in-depth knowledge is required.
  3. Practice the fluid power math problems often, changing the givens, unknowns and the units of measure so that you can do the problems forward and backward.
  4. Give yourself time to find relationships between your daily work and the study materials.
  5. Seek out additional fluid power education materials on YouTube, component manufacturers’ websites, and the IFPS.org Training/Resources page at www.ifps.org/training-materials, where you can find animated circuits, symbology flash cards, and online study groups led by accredited instructors.
  6. Spend hours studying and practicing alone. Study groups are powerful and effective, but you will be alone on testing day, so be sure to have that experience of working through questions by yourself.

Good news! The same principles can be applied to complete the pneumatics and electronic-controls specialist exams to earn a fluid power specialist designation.

IFPS is a wonderful group of professionals in our “hidden giant” of an industry. It is not hard to find a helping hand or a new friend. I wish you the best of luck in your career and certifications.

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