January 26, 2018.  We’ve been noticing some confusion about which tests a credential candidate takes at the Regional Examination Center. The “approval to test” letter lists all the exams required for the particular credential as determined by NMC.  If an examination is preceded by “Q”, then it is a newer examination that may be significantly different from an examination that is identified only by a number followed by “xx” (for example, 153xx), as the old exams were.  For deck candidates, all Rules of the Road examinations, whether “new” or “old” are “Q” tests.  Otherwise the candidate has the option to test under the “old” and more familiar examinations if he or she meets the requirements of the following paragraph from NVIC 02-14 Enclosure 1 Paragraph 1.d.

    1. A mariner who started approved or accepted training or seagoing service before March 24, 2014, and is applying for his or her first raise of grade or original credential after March 24, 2014, may qualify under the regulations in place before March 24, 2014, provided that application is made before March 24, 2019. A mariner seeking a credential based on approved or accepted training or seagoing service started on or after March 24, 2014, or who applies for an MMC endorsement on or after March 24, 2019, must meet the requirements of these new regulations. A mariner will be considered to have started service on the first day of their service that meets the requirements for the endorsement for which they have applied. Training is considered to have started on the first day of a period of training used to qualify for an endorsement. (Emphasis ours.)

If a mariner believes his or her “qualifying” service for an original license or for the first raise-in-grade of a license issued before March 24, 2014, meets the requirements of Paragraph 1 cited above, he or she should contact the National Maritime Center and ask to be tested under the old regulations.  For some credentials, such as a Chief Mate AGT, there is little difference between the old and new regulations.  For other credentials, for example a Master 500/1600, the newer “Q” tests can be considerably more challenging.