Herbicide license test in DeKalb

As I just took my tests for renewing my applicator licenses yesterday, I thought I'd write a few notes that might be useful to any readers who might be planning to take herbicide license tests at the Illinois Department of Agriculture on Bethany Road. They say DeKalb, but Google says Sycamore. No matter, it's not hard to find either way. There is a sign on Bethany Road just east of Route 23 pointing you to the Illinois Department of Agriculture, and a sign in the parking lot. They share an entrance with the Northern Illinois University Press, down a sidewalk in an alcove tucked away from the main activity, which is a much larger NIU building with a semicircular lobby just to the south.

You do have to pay for parking at a kiosk in the lobby of the main NIU building, so leave an extra 10 minutes for that. Also remember that the paperwork you have to do will take you at least 20 minutes for each agency you plan to herbicide for. Make sure you have all that information ready, because unlike at the training and testing sessions that the VSN sponsors, there is no training and the proctor there doesn't have all that info. No doubt that's because most of the people taking the test(s) are working for commercial firms, and are undoubtedly from all over the northern part of the state.

The Department does sponsor training sessions, which aren't that expensive, and are held every few weeks at different locations around the state. They seem to be 2 day affairs, and cost the participants a $40 registration fee, which must only barely cover the cost of providing them, if it even does that. The only catch is that if you're going to be taking a test for an applicator license, you need to check to make sure that the Department is giving the training and testing you want at the particular session.

In any case, at DeKalb they just do testing, and you have to call to make reservations in advance. On the days they offer testing, they have 2 sessions, one at 8:30 and one at 12:30. What I wasn't told, but should have figured, was that the sessions run from 8:30 to 11:30 and 12:30 to 3:30. I opted for the 12:30 session, which is plenty of time to take 1 or 2 tests. But I was taking three, and with all the duplicate paperwork I had to do for 3 agencies, it left me less than 2 hours to take the 3 tests. Not the best way to do that.

At 100 questions, the General Standards (operator) test is the hardest, at least to me. It's not really that difficult, but there are a lot of questions. A fair number of them are ones where you have to look up the answer on the herbicide label that you're given with the test. As the labels are several pages, it does take some time to read the label and find the correct answers to the questions. The ones involving any math aren't that difficult, because all the formulas you'll need are in the back of the test book. It is a lot quicker when you have a calculator though.The Department does provide a few calculators for those who forget to bring them, and they also provide plenty of pencils and a pencil sharpener, which is kept busy enough.

Math has never been a big problem for me personally, but if you and algebra don't get along well, that would be a sticking point. Probably would be better to make sure you studied everything else well enough to get all the other questions right, and not worry too much about the math. For what the great majority of volunteers do, knowing how to figure the gallons per acre you're applying with a boom sprayer on a truck is not apropos anyway.

The testing room has several rows of long plastic folding tables, the inexpensive kind that you've seen before. It probably seats about 30 people, and there's plenty of space to lay out the papers.

The best thing about this testing is that you get the results immediately. It's always nice to know that you've passed. The only drawback is that you still have to send in the actual application to Springfield. It would be great if you could walk out the door knowing that your license has been printed and is being mailed to your agency. Better yet would be to walk out the door with your license in hand.


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