According to CBP Customs and Border Protection passing rates for the customs brokers exam average only 3-11% nationwide. The test is given twice per year in April and October. It consists of 80 multiple choice questions and a passing grade is 75%. The exam is open book which makes it seem easy. However, the books consist of the HTUS Harmonized Tariff of the United States and CFR 19 Code of Federal Regulations, totaling hundreds of pages. The difficulty is in being able to quickly access the right section for each question. It is a four hour exam so three minutes per question is not much time.
I took a prep course in Boston taught by Atty. Mary Wright. The class met two nights per week for 6 weeks prior to the exam. Mary explained the material very thoroughly from her background as a customs attorney and prior experience as an import specialist for CBP. We also reviewed previous exams in class. As good as this class was, I would not have been able to pass the exam without additional study. I estimate that I spent about 40-50 hours on weekends leading up to the exam. I used 6 previous exams and a 3 step process. In step 1 I took each test for accuracy, ignoring the clock. In step 2 I took the tests again in the same order, while timing myself to make sure I could finish within 4 hours. I believe that step 3 was the key to my success. For this phase I circled all the questions I had missed in steps 1 and 2 and created a separate mini exam which I took several times until I answered all the questions correctly. I had many years of transportation experience but no customs brokerage background before taking Mary’s course. This actually proved to be an advantage for me. Most of the others in the class were working for brokers and may have felt overconfident.