Tips and Tricks to Pass Your Category Exam

If you are like me, deciding to get your pesticide applicator certification or add a category is a big deal. You’ve spent time looking for the best exam prep to prepare you for your exams. You’ve circled the date on the calendar and the pre-test jitters are setting in. You have questions like “how much should I study? and "what should I study?” Every state's exam may be slightly different but the test taking skills you will need are universal. Here are some of the best exam taking tips to help you pass your exam.

Obviously the most important factor in passing the exam is knowing the material. However, don't lose sight of the goal: passing the test! Learning is great but you can't use what you've learned if you don't pass.

  1. Start by only answering the easy questions. Read the entire exam and only answer the questions you absolutely know the answer to. This will give you a sense of progress and your subconscious will begin thinking about the questions you skipped. When you’ve got a timed test, there’s always the concern that you’ll get hung up in a section and not be able to finish the test. Don’t be one of those people--unanswered questions are marked wrong. Wouldn’t it be a shame if the last three questions on the test were easy ones— guaranteed points for you--but you wound up just having to fill in a random answer on them because you didn’t have time to actually read and think about them? By skipping through the questions you don’t know the answers to and focusing first on the questions you do know the answers to, you’re assuring yourself that you get time to answer the questions you are most likely to get right.
  2.  If you don't know it, wait. Skip questions if you don't know the answer--don't waste time on questions you don't know. For example, if math is difficult for you, skip the math problems until after you finish the rest of the exam. Occasionally, the answer to an earlier question will be revealed in a later question. It is not uncommon on the exam to have questions that relate to one another, like using the same equipment or pest scenario. These hidden answers are another reason why reading all the way through the exam once at the beginning is a great idea.
  3. Don't second guess yourself. As a general rule, once you've answered a test question, don't change your answer even if you're unsure of the answer you selected. It has been statistically proven that you are much more likely to change an answer from a correct answer to an incorrect answer. An easy way to get tripped up on the pesticide certification exam is to misinterpret an answer choice, thanks to complicated wording. Deceptive language is fair game on tests like this, so are double-negatives, unrelated conclusions, or red herrings (especially in the math portion of the test). Do your best to puzzle it out, but ultimately move on without answering if you estimate having to spend more than a minute thinking about the correct answer.
  4. There is no penalty for an educated guess. Once you have gone through the exam at least twice, time may be running short and now would be a good time to start making educated guesses. The worst that can happen when you guess on a question is that you don’t get any points. The best thing that can happen though, is that you have a one in four shot at getting a point. Unanswered questions are marked wrong, and it is far better to take a chance on a wrong answer than eliminate any possibility of getting the correct answer. That being said, don’t guess blindly. There is likely at least one answer that is obviously wrong. Read the question and answers first and choose the most likely answer.
  5. Don't compete with other applicants. You're given plenty of time to complete the. Don't worry if other people finish before you do, it could be they are taking a completely different exam. All types of exams are given in one room. You may be sitting next to someone getting a completely different category from you. Remember that many students who finish quickly… fail.

There is no extra credit for a perfect score. If you’re like me, the allure of a perfect score on a test is hard to ignore, but in the case of this exam, we must remember, your goal is to answer the number of questions correctly that will get you a passing score. Use all your best energy to get to the passing threshold—anything beyond that doesn’t matter.

Bonus Tip: do as many practice exam questions as you can. The test is multiple choice and you will perform MUCH better if you've been doing practice tests that mimic the exam. Use a trusted service like ours to prepare for the actual exam.


Inspecting Homes for Pests

pest inspection/WDO inspection involves a full inspection of a home for any evidence of termite activity and/or evidence of dry rot damage, or moisture conditions that could lead to an atmosphere for wood destroying organisms or termites. It’s called a WDO because termites are not the only wood destroying organisms in the world. This means that a pest inspector would inspect the exterior of a home including all the trim, home siding, under roof eaves, ect. Additionally, the inspector will point out conducive conditions that could lead to a new termite infestation, or support an existing termite infestation. This includes firewood and other debris stored against the home, wood siding contact with the soil, and grade that does not slope away from the foundation. Pest Inspectors do a full inspection of the interior as well, specifically checking for water leaks in the bathrooms, kitchen and laundry areas, windows, and inspecting the attic where applicable.

Termites cause more than $5 billion in property damage each year and are known as “silent destroyers” because of their ability to chew through wood, flooring and even wallpaper undetected. Home Buyers and Sellers are always surprised to find out that a pest inspection is helping make sure the structure is intact and will remain intact. The new home market is a big industry that applicators can tap into by adding general/structural categories to their current licenses. For those that currently have this category and need CE we here at Certified Training Institute offer a variety of courses to choose from.

Certified Training Institute offers state-approved continuing education courses that are available online from any internet enabled device - which means your classes are available when you are. Have a few minutes between client meetings? Why not watch a segment or two of a video course! Is the weather not cooperating with your planned applications? Take the day and knock out a couple hours of your required continuing education!

Choose your state below to view the available courses or call our office to speak with a licensing expert for help getting started!


Plants in Distress: A Beacon for Birds

Researchers at the University of Delaware have recently found that agricultural plants send out sensory volatile cues that alert organisms in the area (such as birds) that they are in need of help. Previous research has shown that this occurs in ecosystems such as forests. These “signals” are sent when plants are under siege from insects. With a little Play-Doh and orange colored pins, they are seeing the potential for growers to defend their crops.

Play-Doh "larvae" were distributed onto plants around a volatile dispenser that released the odor and recorded how many bird pecks were on the larvae closer to the volatiles versus the organic solvent dispensers. The results were clear: There were significantly more attacks on the larvae closer to the volatile dispenser.

It has been known for years that parasites and predatory insects respond to the damaged plants that release volatiles. With this new evidence of birds using the same cues, it allows a better understanding of their behavior. This information will be crucial when creating pest management programs. Interestingly, when scientists compared the number of pecks on the larvae attached to the volatile dispenser and the number of pecks on the surrounding plant larvae there was virtually no difference. That means the birds are smelling the volatiles and when it gets close to the damaged plant it visually searches for the insects.

It has been a longheld belief that birds were unable to smell. However, this research indicates that they are smelling the volatiles and then coming in closer to visually locate their prey. Birds lack certain anatomy to be able to smell yet somehow they are able to sense the volatiles emitted by the plant. Researchers will be testing to see which species of birds have this capability using essentially the same experiment as above.

Pesticide Professional Continuing Education

Online state-approved video continuing education courses are available 24/7.



South Carolina Builders Prepare for Solar Expansion

If you work in a residential building trade, you know that consumers are taking a more active role in understanding building practices as they relate to energy costs. South Carolina's residential utility customers pay the country's highest monthly energy bills according to federal statistics. Currently, it seems the winds of change are in the consumers' favor. On Thursday, July 26th, 2018  the State House of Representatives voted 64-33 in favor of the Solar Industry in South Carolina. They approved a bill that is going to put money back in the pockets of energy customers and save solar jobs.

Over the last 10 years, residential building contractors have been increasingly changing their mindset to more of a house-as-a-system mentality. Contractors are striving to become more well-rounded with greater environmental awareness. As studies reveal the massive benefits of energy efficiency, it is becoming standard practice for builders to have familiarity with many aspects of a home and to consider all the potential.

As solar energy has grown more popular in South Carolina a law passed in 2014 that caps solar expansion at 2% has become more problematic.  If the cap is not lifted South Carolina could lose thousands of jobs as alternative energy companies flee the state. Consumers producing solar energy would be charged by utility companies instead of getting paid for their excess power. By removing the said cap, as the creators of this bill hope, it will allow people interested in rooftop solar panels to produce energy without extra charges from utilities. This will, in turn, allow homeowners and builders a little extra cash in their pocketbooks.

What’s great about solar-ready homes is that the added clean energy maximizes financial returns and can cover 100% of energy needs, including electric loads, vehicle charging, heating, and cooling of the entire home. This is the direction that homebuilding is going. South Carolina seems to finally be ready to jump on board.

South Carolina Residential Contractor Exam Prep



Miami Real Estate – A Sizzling Summer for Brokers and Agents

This summer’s study of Miami-Dade Counties sizzling real estate market proves that despite the negative variables, to buyers and renters, Miami is still the place to be. Mid-Market properties ranging from $200,000 to $1 Million provide a more comprehensive overview of the state of the market and real estate professionals are optimistic in this buyer’s market. Overall, Miami-Dade continues to see decent gains in property values, thanks to broad demand for single-family homes in the middle of the market and the completion of nearly $6 billion in new construction. There's a lot of inventory and buyers have the pick of the litter. Agents are narrowing down their searches based on the key variables that buyers are looking at including financing, weather insurance, and location, location, location.

The percentage of cash buyers financing homes has dwindled down and mortgage buyers have taken the lead. Professionals are seeing a more traditional model of real people buying, not just cash investors from foreign countries. Banks are more confident in the real estate market and are offering more options. Interest rates are inching up making fence-sitters who might be waiting to buy a home jump now before they get any higher. The housing affordability for renters, however, is getting worse. More than ½ the county’s families spend more than 30% of their gross income on rent. Miami-Dade has the 3rd worst rent to income ratio in the U.S.

Another factor affecting buying decisions is windstorm insurance. After last year’s Hurricane Irma scare and the growing concern over South Florida’s vulnerability to sea level rise, windstorm insurance rates have held sway on home buyers’ decisions. Folks are used to property taxes but windstorm insurance matters more than anything else. These financial setbacks are what makes renting a condo seem more appealing. Nearly 4,800 new rental apartments were completed from 2014 to 2018 and another 5,062 are currently under construction making the supply outweigh the demand. Overbuilding has made the supply of apartments to go through the roof and as the cranes come down, rents are going to come down too. There is currently a 32-month supply of condos in downtown Miami alone, so the only way to move a condo in this market is to lower your price.

With any real estate purchase, the location is key. It may even be one of the most important variables. Traffic congestion in downtown Miami is brutal, it’s everywhere and it’s changing the city. The perpetual gridlock may be one of the biggest factors to the booming population in downtown Miami. This can be a selling point too for those that want to ditch their cars altogether.



First Passive Housing Standard Apartments in South Dakota

The new Copper Pass Multi-Family housing structure is almost complete and ready for residents in September 2018. This housing development is making headlines for meeting International Passive Housing Standards. These standards take energy efficiency to a whole new level. Passive Housing Standards are the world's leading standard in energy efficient construction. The Passive Housing Standard stands for quality, comfort, and energy efficiency while delivering superior levels of comfort, and protecting the building structure. Below is a brief description of the criteria.

  • Space Heating Demand not to exceed 15kWh annually OR 10W (peak demand) per square meter of usable living space
  • Space Cooling Demand roughly matches the heat demand with an additional, climate-dependent allowance for dehumidification
  • Primary Energy Demand not to exceed 120kWh annually for all domestic applications (heating, cooling, hot water and domestic electricity) per square meter of usable living space
  • Airtightness maximum of 0.6 air changes per hour at 50 Pascals pressure (as verified with an onsite pressure test in both pressurized and depressurized states)
  • Thermal Comfort Thermal comfort must be met for all living areas year-round with not more than 10% of the hours in any given year over 25°C*

For a more detailed description follow this link.

This design is a byproduct of years’ worth of planning and design. Architects spent weeks learning about Passive Housing Standards in order to become certified. These standards go far beyond what local and state governments require. For example, the entire building is wrapped in extra insulation from floor to roof and windows are triple paned and should feel just as warm as the walls.

This project will be an experiment in the world of architecture. A second building will be built using traditional energy star efficiency. Both developments will be equipped with monitors to track and report energy efficiency to see if the savings are worth the extra building costs.


Need Architect Continuing Education?

Architects in South Dakota are required to complete 30-hours including 20-hours of Technical Subjects relating to Architecture and only 10-hours in professional management. (HSW courses will satisfy this requirement.)  Licenses must be renewed every two years on the date of issuance.

AIA members: Must complete 18 learning unit hours including 12 HSW hours annually.

Architects Training Institute Provides: South Dakota & AIA-approved continuing education that meets all of your requirements and printable certificates available immediately upon course completion.


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The War on Rats

If you have ever lived in or traveled to big cities in America, chances are you have seen one or more of these pesky rodents. These furry critters pose a threat to cities not only because they are annoying but also because they spread diseases and wreak havoc on your stuff. Remember learning about the Black Plague? Allegedly spread by rats, it wiped out 2/3 of the world’s population.

New York City last year set a war on rats plan into action hoping to eliminate 70% of the rats in 10 of their most infested neighborhoods. How are they hoping to accomplish this by the end of 2018? The plan is pretty simple. Eliminate their food source. NYC has more trash than any other city on earth. 33 million tons per year! The plan is to change the design of trash receptacles with a mailbox style opening. They are advising residents to keep trash contained in closed bins or dumpsters; never leave pet food uncovered outside; remove piles of debris; ensure pet waste is disposed of in sealed containers; weed and throw away rotting vegetation from gardens, and maintain bird feeders.

The newly ordained “Rat Capitol” of the U.S—Chicago, has their own plan to take back their city. The Department of Streets and Sanitation conduct preventive baiting and began a pilot program to place dry ice into rodent burrows in parks or other green spaces to suffocate the rats.

Pesticide Applicators are seeing a 30% increase in requests for rat extermination services in many big cities across the U.S. Considering rats have come out on top for thousands of years it sounds like applicators will be in business for many years to come.


Pesticide Professional Continuing Education

Online state-approved video continuing education courses are available 24/7.



Kansas First Time Home Buyers Struggling in Empty Market

Across the state of Kansas, the real estate market has seen an unprecedented seller’s market. While this is great news for those wanting to sell, first time home buyers are feeling the sting.

Homes ranging from $100-$200,000 are in such high demand that they are selling within days, even hours of being put on the market. They are selling faster than ever before, and you might receive 20 or more offers on one home. Real estate professionals are seeing offers $20,000 over the list price and the buyer is STILL not getting the home. In fact, houses are selling so quickly, buyers often find themselves in a bidding war. Experts are saying to up your chances at snagging your dream home, you basically must be ready to make an offer immediately.

If you are looking to sell your first home and move up to a larger one, you are in a perfect spot. The number of homes available increases the higher the price point. So, if you’re thinking about putting that ‘for sale’ sign up, now is the time!

The big picture problem that seems to be causing the drought in homes is possible sellers are not seeing anything they want to move into, so they are hesitant to put their home on the market. A solution to this problem would be new construction. However, there are new homes being built and even those are selling quickly.

Currently, in Kansas City, there is a 1.5 month supply of inventory. For buyers and sellers, this means if nothing else went on the market it would take only 1.5 months to sell every home for sale. It’s a great time to sell but a difficult and exhausting time to buy. While agents must be on their toes and ready to be run ragged, looking at 40+ properties, and writing up offers on 4,5, or 6 homes, they are also seeing more $$$.



The Buzz in Utah on the Effect of Pesticides on Wild Bees

Humans and honeybees go way back. We’ve been raiding their hives for honey for at least 10,000 years, and we domesticated them almost 5,000 years ago. Honey bees are the most commonly used pollinator for commercial crops in the United States. But there is another bee story; the decline of wild bees.

Ultimately, it may be the more alarming story. There are over 20,000 bee species in the world, and 43 percent of them are diminishing or endangered. Most wild bees are small and solitary, nesting in holes in the ground or wood. Solitary bees face different, less understood, challenges from pesticide exposure than their colony-dwelling honeybee cousins.

In a report published last week in Environmental Entomology, Utah State University graduate student Andi Kopi and Theresa Pitts-Singer, Ph.D., of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service make the case that we need to look beyond honeybees when assessing how pesticides affect pollinators. When it comes to pesticides, we typically only check their effects on honeybees before authorizing their use, even though solitary bees may interact with these chemicals in very different ways.

The factors affecting wild bee populations are the same as those responsible for the death of honeybee colonies. It’s not just one thing, but three factors intersecting that have caused the population to diminish. It’s this interaction between pesticides, poor nutrition, and diseases and parasites that is, in fact, bringing bees populations down.

Wild bees are ecologically critical. Worldwide, more than 1,000 plant-produced food, beverages, fibers, spices, and medicines need to be pollinated. Our pollinators have enough environmental stressors, curbing the use of bird and bee-killing pesticides should be a national priority.

Pesticide Professional Continuing Education

Online state-approved video continuing education courses are available 24/7.



Changing Society’s View of Plumbers

The public may view you as a plumber’s crack beneath a sink or hovering over a toilet, but what the public sees and the truth are two completely different things. How did this happen? How can we change public perspective so that you can be taken more seriously and instill the expectation that the expense of a real plumber is worth every penny to a homeowner?

A good place to start is to change the professional image. Nearly every profession has a recognizable and respectable uniform. Doctors wear lab coats, members of the military have their uniforms, and nurses wear scrubs. Since each profession has a similar standard and expectation for work appropriate dress, they obtain a certain level of respect within society.  If you needed an attorney and he showed up wearing a dirty old shirt and smelled like he hadn’t showered in a week, would you want him to represent you in court? No way!

Your trucks or vans should be just as clean as your personal image, from the lettering on the outside to the organization inside. You don’t necessarily need to apply expensive-looking decals or spend a ton of money on the latest organization system. Nothing sends a stronger message to a homeowner than your tool and van upkeep. People can tell how serious you take yourself and your job by how well you take care of your things. Think of it from the homeowner’s viewpoint. If you open the back door of your service vehicle and there is a mountain of junk, the homeowner’s first impression is that you are a slob. When you bring your pipe wrench to a job and it is covered with mud from yesterday’s water service, all they see is that you don’t care about your tools. If you track muddy footprints on their carpet, then you obviously don't care about your customer. Take the time to present yourself as neat and orderly, you'll be surprised at the level of respect you'll encounter by upping your professionalism!

These few changes can make all the difference to your business. A professional image at every level will command respect and will lead to higher wages, higher sales and less complaining about price because what customers are really complaining about is perceived value.

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