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What are the ASBOG Exams? And, Do I Really Have to Take Them?
By Boris Segel - March 30, 2015

At a minimum, the ASBOG Fundamentals of Geology (FG) and the ASBOG Practice of Geology (PG) examinations, are two exams that must be passed in order to call yourself a professional geologist in states where the ASBOG test is required. Depending upon your state's requirements, you may also have to pass some additional tests in order to be granted licensure in your state . . .

Twice each year, member states of the National Association of State Boards of Geology (ASBOG) administer the Fundamentals of Geology (FG) and the Practice of Geology (PG) examinations that are required for licensure as professional geologist. Both are multiple-choice, standardized tests (i.e., fill in the little circle with a pencil, type tests), and you have up to four hours to complete each test. The FG test focuses on theoretical knowledge. Equivalent to what is normally studied as part of an undergraduate geology degree program. The PG test, while covering much of the same material found in the FG exam, is more practical in nature and it focuses on how the knowledge you have learned is actually used in the field. The requirements to take the ASBOG examinations vary slightly by state, territory, and district. In most cases, to take the FG test you need to have completed, or to be near to completion, of an undergraduate geology degree, or to have complete a substantial number of geology courses. In addition, you also need to seek formal approval of your state Board of Geology to sit the exams. This usually requires the submission of an application, your transcripts, letters-of-recommendations, and other requirements that vary by state. If you are petitioning to take the PG test, you also need to prove that you have a certain amount of work experience (usually 3-5 years) and that you have complete specific tasks during this period, which is normally documented by presenting a work log. As with the FG test, the requirements for taking the PG test vary by state and you should consult with your state board to see if you qualify to take the test. In addition, some states, such as California, require that you also pass one or more state specific exams. In all cases, it is the individual state boards that determine the requirements for taking the exams in their state, as well as what constitutes a passing grade.

Once you jump through all the bureaucratic hoops and you get approval to take either the FG or PG test, you then need to submit an application to the ASBOG to take the desired test. Along the way, at both the state and national level, be prepared to pay application fees, as well as the fee for actually taking the test. After you obtain your licence you may also be required to periodically pay a renewal fee to keep your license up to date. In states that require additional tests, you may find that you are also required to pay additional application and tests fees to take these additional tests. Once you take and pass all the required tests for your state and receive your license, you can call yourself a professional geologist.

Do you have to take these tests? No. Even if you live in a state where they are given, you are not forced to take the test. There are just some down sides, career-wise, if you don't. There is however, one caveat in this regard. Many state run colleges have started to require that their geology students take and pass the FG exam as part of their degree program. If you don't take, and pass, the FG exam, you don't get your degree. So in this regard, if you want your degree you'll have to take at least the FG exam.

While you may not be forced to take the exams, in states that are members of the National Association of State Boards of Geology, you have to take and pass these tests in order to become a licensed geologist. Without such licensure you can still work in the field, but you may find that in most cases you will be required to work under a licence geologist. In other words, you will, in all likelihood, be stuck on the bottom rungs of the career ladder and you may find it very difficult to ever move into a management position. In addition, only licensed geologists are allowed to sign off on specific types of reports, conduct certain types of studies, to testify in court as a geologist, and to have a geologist-in-training working under you. What you can and cannot do in states that require licensure varies from state to state, but not having this license will put a damper on your career. So while you might not have to take the exam, it might very well be in your best interest to take it. If you fail the test, never fear, you can take it again, and again, and again . . . as long as you pay the test fees, again, and again, and again . . .

Even if you live in a state that does not require geologists to be licensed, you might still find it prudent to take the tests. This is because even if you live in a state that does not require the test, such as West Virginia, you may have to take and past the tests if you want to work in a neighboring state as a professional geologist!

But before you reach the dizzying height of becoming a licensed, professional geologist, you have to study. If you've just completed your four-year degree, and you paid attention in class, you might not have to study as hard as someone who has been out of the classroom for a couple of decades. Either way, do yourself a favor and do some serious revision (reviewing what you have already learned). In addition, if you are planning on sitting the PG exam and your job tends to focus on only one or two aspects of geology, be prepared to do a lot of review, as you are expected to have a broad understanding of just about everything geology related.

Ok, you've decided its time to take one of the ASBOG exams - where do you start? Hopefully you paid attention in school and remembered everything you studied, and for those already working in the field, that you stayed current on all aspects of geology, not just the area that you specialize in. As few people know or remember everything they learned in school, odds are that you are going to have to do a bit of studying. If you go to the ASBOG website, you will find some information about the tests, and you'll also find links to the state boards that require the tests. While you're on the ASBOG website, be sure to download the current Professional Geologists Candidate Handbook. This handbook goes over how to apply to take the test, how the test will be administered and graded, and a chart that shows the 'content domains' that will be covered in both the FG and PG exams. The topics that are covered on the tests are very broad and the outline can be very off-putting in its generalities. There are a few sample questions provided (along with an answer key) that will help you see what the test questions are like. In the 2014 candidate's handbook they provided 36 sample questions from the FG test, and 31 sample questions from the PG test. In the actual tests, there are 140 questions on the FG exam and 110 on the PG exam. If the information in the handbook does not give you sufficient understanding of what you need to study and be familiar with, be prepared to lay out some money to buy some study aids or to take a course that covers what you need to know. Many of the state boards, such as Pennsylvania Council of Professional Geologists (PCPG) periodically offers a review course for those preparing for the exams.

Be sure to determine, in advance, when you want to sit your exam, as the exams are only offered twice a year. In some states you are allowed to take both the FG and PG exams on the same day (if you qualify to take both), and in other states you can only take one at a time. Once you take the test, relax, you either passed or failed, either way there is nothing you can do about it. When you get your scores back, if you did not pass, you can hit the books again and retake the test on the next go around. If you did pass, now is the time to set your goals for preparing for the PG exam (if you just passed the FG exam), or if you just passed the PG you might want to consider expand your credentials by taking the Professional Geophysicist (PGp), Certified Engineering Geologist (CEG), Certified Hydrogeologist (CHG), Professional Engineer (PE), or Certified Professional Soil Scientist (CPSS) exams, or any of the other geology related licenses or certificates that can obtain by studying, and passing, the relevant tests. No matter what you decide to do, best of luck in all your career related endeavors!

Related Reviews:
  • ASBOG Exam Secrets Study Guide, from Mometrix Test Preparation.
    A handy study guide that presents the core concepts that you need to know in order to pass the ASBOG Fundamentals of Geology (FG) and the ASBOG Practice of Geology (PG) examinations.

  • ASBOG Exam Flashcard Study System, from Mometrix Test Preparation.
    These flashcards will help you learn and review the information you need to know in order to pass the ASBOG Fundamentals of Geology (FG) and the ASBOG Practice of Geology (PG) examinations.

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