Frequently Asked Reference Questions

Test Preparation for Civil Service & Other Professional Exams

Example Questions that can be answered by this FAQ:

  • Does the IPL have a study guide for my city’s firefighter exam?
  • Where can I find old tests for the Refrigeration License Exam?

First, the bad news:

The Internet is currently not a very good place to get help if you want study materials for a civil service test and/or professional licensing/certification exam. Most of the organizations who give these tests (city, state & federal governments; professional organizations), if they even provide study materials such as sample questions or old tests, do not make them freely available online. Instead, on the Internet, you will mainly find online bookstores who will try to sell you study guides like those published by ARCO. And even these are often not specific to the test you may be taking in your particular city, but are generic guides that may or may not help you on your city’s civil service test.

Second, the good news:

So where can you turn to? Many public libraries have recognized the need that their community members have for these study guides, and have purchased copies of them for their collections. They will often have these in their reference collection, so that you will be able to use them without competing with others who may already have checked these materials out. Ask a librarian there for help in finding guides for the test you are taking, as these can often be tricky to find through a card catalog search. Not sure how to contact your public library? Try your local telephone directory, or check this site to see if they have a web site:

LibWeb Directory of Library Web Sites

Also, don’t forget to ask the organization which is giving the test. You may find that they do provide copies of sample questions or other study materials, that you can pick up in-person, or have mailed to you. In a small number of cases, they may even offer these materials on their web site, if they have one. For example, the State of Louisiana offers Sample Civil Service Test Questions on their state civil service department web site. Yahoo! is a good starting point for finding web sites for particular government agencies or professional associations — just do a search on the city’s name to see if you can find your city’s official web site, for example.

If you are interested in purchasing study materials online, here are some sites that can help you out. (Note: these links are not an endorsement of these services. You should always practice common sense and caution when ordering from web sites):

  • Civil Service Test Center — part of the Public Service Employees Network, this site offers links to a number of sites where you can buy study guides, but also includes some free information, such as Test Taking Tips.
  • Amazon.com Test Guides – Careers — a browsable collection from Amazon.com.
  • LearnATest — this "Online Career and Test Preparation Center" sells study materials, and also offers practice tests that you can pay to take online.
  • Yahoo! Test Preparation — Career Fields — Yahoo’s category for companies selling test preparation materials in various career fields.

Finally, don’t forget that your local library may also be able to get the study guide you need from another library if you use their Interlibrary Loan Service. Not every library offers this service, but it never hurts to ask if they do!