Questioning NATE Tests

I am a training supervisor at a local gas utility (I know the industry can’t stand us…LOL). I also operate an independent hvac training company in the Philadelphia area. I consistently read with interest the numerous articles concerning NATE certification in your publication. The way I am interpreting things is, NATE may not be at this point in time where they wanted to be. The most recent “advertisement” in your 11/20/00 edition on page 23 brought me to a point to want to speak out.

I am certified as a proctor for NATE as well as ARI and ESCO. Initially I loved the idea of a nationally recognized certification for the trade, but in order to fairly offer the tests to our service force of over 300 and market the tests to area supply houses and contractors, I felt I needed to offer tests to a small trial group to gather their opinion, and to see if they had the potential to pass the certification themselves.

The test group I used included myself along with five other individuals with a total of 80-plus years servicing natural gas appliances. Not one person was successful in their attempt to pass the test. I have a high degree of respect for these guys and I know that they are extremely competent service technicians. Everyone who took the exam basically formed the same opinion: too many stupid, irrelevant questions, also questions listing more than one correct answer.

I contacted NATE to address my concerns before any of us received our results. The attitude I received was one of ignorance. One question in particular that got my goat was, “What word in the following statement is incorrect or out of place” (I can’t remember exactly). The statement read, “I rang the doorbell and saw nothing.” My question was, what does this have to do with hvac? I was informed that this tested “soft skills.”

In my opinion, there were entirely too many questions that had more than one correct answer; the response to this was which one is the best correct answer. Now I’ve been through numerous classes, seminars, and correspondence courses and everyone always stated that tests of this nature should have one, and only one, correct answer. I also offered an idea as to offering “regionalized” testing. The reasoning being, service or installation practices will likely be different in the Southwest as compared to the Northeast part of the country. This too was immediately shot down with the statement, “We want our technicians to only have to take the test once, and if they relocate, they could get a job in that area.”

The sample questions offered in your publication fail to reflect the actual line of questions and quite possibly will mislead many who can answer these questions with “no problem.” Just wanted to express my views and frustrations with NATE’s overall attitude and test makeup. I was told to contact my local utility organization as they have input on the test. I still love the idea of universal certification, but at this point, NATE has to be more realistic.

Dan Hazley

Philadelphia, PA

Publication date: 12/11/2000