Your NCCCO Practical Exam Process

This information has been adapted from NCCCO Practical Exam resources. Where necessary, we default to their language about the exam. For all things NCCCO, visit them here.

NCCCO Practical Exam course setup example
An example of the course that NCCCO Practical Exams are given on. No matter the crane, the tasks and course setup follow this image. Variables include amount of stick, distance to barrels, and other factors.

The NCCCO Practical Exam is a necessary step in obtaining operator certification. Today, we get into the details of what you can expect when taking your NCCCO Practical Exam. Becoming familiar with the process around your practical exam will help you on testing day.

Below, we’ll detail the practical exam tasks, time limits, and actions that will cause deductions on your score sheet. First, we want to run through some of the questions about NCCCO practical exams that we often hear in our training sessions and introduce you to the practical course set up.

Do I have to take the written NCCCO exam first?

At Train For The Crane, we put our trainees through their computer-based written exam prior to the practical exam, but that’s not the required order. If you’re up for it, you can take your practical exam prior to your written. No matter what order you take the exams in, you’ll be required to take the remaining portion within one year of passing the first exam.

What happens if I go over on time during my NCCCO practical exam?

Unfortunately, this is somewhat of a gray area with no direct answers. You can go over on your time on tasks and still get a passing score on your exam. However, we can’t say how many seconds you can be over on a particular task. We suggest getting familiar with the NCCCO practical exam course prior to taking your exam so that time isn’t an issue. Prior to your practical exam you should have some time in the seat navigating a practice course—this is an important aspect of passing the exam for most operators.

How many poles, balls, or barrels can I knock over?

This is similar to the questions about time. We can’t say for sure that knocking down balls guarantees a pass or fail. Obviously, the goal is to keep as many balls on the poles as possible, keep the poles standing, and leave the barrels within their designated areas on the course. Taking the time to run through a practice course prior to your practical exam will help ensure you’re prepared on exam day.

Next, we’ll cover the tasks you must complete during your practical. If you have questions about NCCCO Practical Exams that we haven’t covered here, reach out to us here or over on Instagram.

NCCCO Practical Exam Tasks

In order to fully test your knowledge and abilities, you will be required to perform various tasks during your practical exam. These tasks include the following:

  • Pre-Operational (Shift) Inspection
  • Place Chain in Stop Circle
  • Follow Hand Signals
  • Place Ball in Barrels
  • Negotiate Zigzag Corridor with Test Weight
  • Safe Shutdown and Securing Procedures

Each of these tasks will be scored based on performance and how long it takes to complete the task.

NCCCO Practical Exams: Pre-Operational Inspection

During this phase of your practical exam you will be asked to identify five items on your machine that are a part of the standard pre-operational inspection. You will have one minute to describe how you would perform the inspection and what deficiencies you would identify.

NCCCO Practical Exams: Place Ball in Stop Circle

Optimal Time 1:30

You’ll have ninety seconds to raise the ball and chain from its starting position and move to the stop circle. You must keep the ball at least ten feet off the ground to clear all obstacles and personnel. Once the ball and chain reach the stop circle, you must place the chain on the ground within the stop circle and it must remain there. The examiner will give you a stop signal once this task is completed.

Point deductions will be applied for the following:

  • Dragging the chain or making contact with the ground outside of the stop circle
  • If the hook or ball makes contact with the ground outside of the stop circle
  • The hook or ball comes into contact with any part of the course or the crane
  • Raising the chain off the ground once you’ve already placed it inside the stop circle
  • Going over the 90 second time limit for this task

Tips for passing this section of your NCCCO Practical Exam:

  • As the first task from the seat, it’s natural if you feel a little test anxiety during this portion—take a deep breath, relax, and do what you know how to do
  • Get the ball high enough off the ground to clear any obstacles—there’s no reason for you to hit a ball or a pole during this task
  • You will need to boom up for this task so immediately start swinging and booming up once you begin

NCCCO Practical Exams: Follow Hand Signals

There is no time limit for this task

After your completion of task one, the examiner, utilizing standard B30.5 hand signals, will guide you back to the starting circle. Once you’ve reached the start circle, the examiner will test your hand signal knowledge by giving you four signals from the following options:

  • Hoist and stop
  • Swing and stop
  • Lower the load and stop
  • Lower the load slowly and stop
  • Lower the boom, raise the load, and stop
  • Raise the boom and stop
  • Lower the boom and stop
  • Raise the boom, lower the load, and stop

These signals may be given in any order, and once completed the chain will be removed from your ball.

Tips for passing this section of your NCCCO Practical Exam:

  • Get familiar with the B30.5 hand signals listed above
  • Take a second to make sure you comprehend the signal given—if you slightly boom up but you should boom down then you will be docked points
  • Respond naturally —you already know the hand signals, don’t let the exam setting mess with your head
  • Don’t anticipate signals from the examiner—watch and act accordingly

NCCCO Practical Exams: Place Ball in Barrels

Optimal Time Telescopic Boom (Fixed & Swing) 3:30

Optimal Time Lattice Boom 4:00

Once you’re given the start signal you’ll bring the ball over and place it inside of barrel number one. Your ball will be considered “in the barrel” once you have dropped the marking around the center of your ball below the rim of the barrel. Once complete, the examiner will signal you to move the ball into barrel number two. After you place the center line marking on the ball below the rim of barrel number two, the examiner will give you a stop signal. When you receive the stop signal at barrel number two the time for this task will stop.

Point deductions will be applied for the following:

  • Moving the barrel more than 2” from its starting point
  • Knocking over the barrel
  • If the hook or ball come into contact with the ground
  • Going over the time limit for this task

Tips for passing this section of your NCCCO Practical Exam:

  • Make sure you’re familiar with placing your boom tip directly over your landing zone
  • Practice catching the swing of the ball and hook by moving your boom in the direction of the swing when it’s at its swing apex (highest point)
  • Use a fixed object in the distance to help you line up with the barrels—operators are offset from the boom, so finding an object like a tree, piece of equipment, or building in the distance will help you line up the boom

NCCCO Practical Exams: Negotiating The Zigzag Corridor

Optimal Time Telescopic Boom Fixed 4:00

Optimal Time Telescopic Boom Swing 3:00

Optimal Time Lattice Boom 3:00

Once you’re given the start signal from the examiner time will begin, and you’ll start making your way through the zigzag corridor. Based on your judgment, you will navigate the corridor by swinging, booming up or down, or hoisting up and down. You are required to keep the test load off of the ground, but not so high that the chain leaves the ground. Ideally, your chain should drag along the ground as you make your way through the zigzag. Your time will stop once you have made it through the zigzag, placed the load within the stop circle, and the examiner gives you the stop signal.

If you aren’t given a stop signal then your weight isn’t located where it should be. Your time will continue to run until you place the load in the proper location and receive a stop signal from your examiner.

After necessary cleanups of balls and poles, you will be required to make your way back through the corridor in the opposite direction from your previous pass through. Once you place the load into the stop circle you will be given a stop signal from the examiner. The examiner will then remove the test load from the hook.

Point deductions will be applied for the following:

  • Knocking a ball off a pole
  • Moving the pole base off of the marking line
  • Knocking over a pole
  • If the chain leaves the ground
  • Passing poles with the chain off the ground
  • Letting the load come into contact with the ground
  • Circumventing the course
  • Going over the optimal time given for this task

Tips for passing this section of your NCCCO Practical Exam:

  • The swing of your load will make it next to impossible to navigate the course without knocking anything over—practice until you’re able to use your boom to remove the swing from the load
  • You should make an “S” with the load as you go through the zigzag (see image below)
  • Move in a controlled manner—the test is timed, but the worst thing you can do is rush through this course
  • The only time concern is if you get a swing in the load
  • Be proactive with your crane movements instead of reactive by getting familiar with the test course
  • If you happen to get the load into a ball or a pole don’t stress over it—keeping your wits about yourself when something like that happens will help you complete the course
NCCCO Practical Exam zigzag corridor steps for passing.
This is the optimal path to follow while navigating the corridor.

NCCCO Practical Exams: Safe Shut Down and Securing

There is no time limit for this task

Before leaving your operator station you are required to complete safe shutdown procedures to prepare the crane for the next candidate. Once you have properly shut down the crane you will leave the station and explain to the examiner what procedures you would take to properly secure the crane at the end of a shift.

Tips for passing this section of your NCCCO Practical Exam

  • Don’t rush through this—take your time and make sure you take every shutdown procedure into consideration
  • Name off a couple tasks you would do if you were parking the crane in the yard before going home for the night

NCCCO Practical Exams: What to Expect Next

Once your exam is complete, if you have no other exams remaining, you’ll be asked to leave the testing site. You will receive your test results in the mail within 12 business days. Unfortunately, your examiner won’t be able to discuss the results of your exam with you. The examiner’s job responsibility is to record how you perform during the practical; examiners do not score any exams.

NCCCO Certified Operators: You’re in the Club

Once you’ve passed each section of the NCCCO crane operator exams, you’re a Certified Operator. With this card, the possibilities for you career are endless. You’ll be in high demand with this card, and you’ll be able to find local work or chase crane work all over the country. You can also continue to pursue other certifications, notably as a Certified Lift Director.

Need Help Preparing For NCCCO Practical and Written Exams?Get With Us

We’re here as a resource for the industry. If you have any questions about what to expect at your practical or written exams, reach out to our team here. If you’re a business owner or decision maker who’s looking to have a team certified, you can contact us here or give us a call at (812) 239-1521 to discuss our process for getting your team certified.

Don’t forget to check out our other blogs on Jobs That Don’t Require a Degree and Tips For Passing Your NCCCO Written Exam.