How to Prepare for the CPO Test

Each year, thousands of swimming pool operators put their skills to the test as they complete their Certified Pool Operator (CPO) training and take their formal exam. If you’re heading back to pool school this spring, you can do a lot in advance to make sure you’re well prepared for test taking time. Here’s how to prepare for the CPO test – tips and tricks to help you perform your best on test day.

Latest Schedule – We’ve added several new courses!

Before You Arrive

Review the Textbook – When you sign up for a CPO class with the Aquatic Council, we send you the latest copy of the CPO textbook, usually within a few days. There’s no need to read the book cover to cover, but we suggest you take some time to review the text and how it’s laid out. Note the chapter guide, charts and reference sections – all of which will be helpful during your open-book examination.

Prep for the Math – The CPO class does involve a bit of pool math. Our instructor’s go through all of the necessary formulas in class, but a quick review of the basics in advance of your program can give you a great advantage. Check out our pool math article here and focus your study efforts on the math-heavy chapters of the book (3, 6 and 7).

Pack Like a Pro – There are some essentials (and creature comforts) that successful students bring to class.

  • Book and Notes – Remember, the test is open-book, open-note. Bring anything you’ve used to prepare with you to class. Odds are, you’ll be allowed to use those resources during test time.
  • Calculator – On day-two you’ll need a calculator for your test. You’d be wise to bring that calculator on day-one as well. Take the time during the first day of class to make sure you know the functions of your calculator. Don’t be surprised by how it works during test taking time. Be sure to note that you won’t be able to use your cell phone as your calculator during the test.
  • Pencils – Pencils prevail over pens in when it comes to jotting down notes and taking exams. Don’t just pack pencils, pack a sharpener as well. At some course locations sharpeners can be tough to find.
  • Sticky Notes – There’s a handful of tremendously valuable pages in the textbook. You’re going to want to flag them for quick access during the examination. Post-It Flags work great.
  • Quick Snacks – What helps you focus? Caffeine, fruit, water, gum? Bring it with you to class for a quick pick-me-up during tricky chapters.

During Class

Take Advantage of Extra Help – Come early, stay late and ask questions during breaks. Your CPO instructor will provide you with plenty of time for extra assistance. Make sure you utilize these opportunities.

Highlight – Once again, the test is open book. That means you should be highlighting important notes, flagging important pages and organizing your notes as you go.

Do Your Homework – Many instructors prompt students to challenge their day-one skills with an optional homework activity. This is a great chance to test your pool knowledge before the actual test. If you’re stumped by something on the homework be sure to let your instructor know. They can provide you with additional assistance before your exam.

Pass That Test!

First Instinct – The CPO examination is multiple choice, which turns out to be a great advantage to savvy test takers. Like with most examinations, your first inclination is probably correct. Trust your instincts as you’re answering questions.

Trick Questions – As a pool-pro, you’ve probably taken some tricky tests. OSHA exams, EPA licensures and Red Cross Courses tend to throw tricky questions your way. The CPO exam doesn’t. If you take the time to carefully read each question, you won’t be subject to any tricks.

Easy Questions First – Some test questions take longer than others but all of the questions on your exam are worth the same amount of points. Don’t take too much time with any one question. Save the hardest questions for the end.

Still Stumped? – Once again, the test is open-book. Utilize the reference section of the textbook to point you in the direction of easy answers. The textbook’s index and glossary are wonderfully helpful, both in real life, and on the test.

Take Your Time – The latest version of the CPO test is only 50 questions (previous versions used to be much longer), and you’re still allotted a two-hour timeline to take the exam. Point being, most students don’t feel rushed. Instructors follow standard protocols for issuing the examination, but most will not make you speed through the test. Take your time and do your best work.

Ready to enroll? Check out the latest CPO class schedule here.