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Being a postal worker requires a keen eye for detail. According to federaljobs.net, 40,000 postal workers are hired each year, and each of those employees must take a postal exam. The postal exam, also known as the 473 exam, covers four key areas: address cross comparison, forms completion, memory and coding, and a personal characteristics and experience section. The personal characteristics and experience section needs no strategy, but the others do. To prepare for the exam, use the strategy below.
Take Practice Exams
Many practice exams are available online (see Resources for link); take as many of these tests as possible. Taking practice exams will help you become familiar with the format and types of questions. Practice exams also help you become faster at taking the test—since the exam is timed, this is highly beneficial.
Time yourself on practice exams. If you only complete half of a section before time is over, you cannot go back to it later. Therefore, allocate time wisely by working on the easiest questions first and going back to the harder ones. When completing the “personal characteristics and experience” section, which is relative and has no correct answer, try answering each question quickly. You have 90 minutes to complete 236 questions, meaning each question should take only 38 seconds.
Address Cross Comparison Section Tips
In the address cross comparison section, the most important elements to apply are correct spelling and correct numbers. An address could be misspelled or a number on an address could be different, a zip code could be mismatched, or both. Therefore, pay attention to the numbers and spelling. Dart your eyes between the two and look for discrepancies.
Mentally break single cities into two different words for better identification. For example, break Kalamazoo into "kala" and "mazoo": very likely, the cross address could be “kali” and “mazoo," which means that the address is incorrect. Do the same for zip codes: break the zip code “49007” into “490,” check it with the other side of the column, and then check “07” with the other side. Breaking zip codes into smaller numbers allows your memory to retain the information between sections. Memorizing three numbers is easier than six.
If time permits, double-check anything you mark as “no errors.”
Forms Completion Tips
Read directions very carefully and familiarize yourself with the content of each box. Double-check the other answers and cross out all unrealistic answers. This section may be tricky because it could require you to interpret what the question is asking; the answer might not be easily known. Nevertheless, the fine print of the form will provide guidance. For example, if the question contains the word “registered,” find the space on the form that also contains the word “registered”; likely it is the answer. You do not necessarily have to know what the difference is between "certified" and "registered" to get the answer right.
Memory and Coding Tips
For this section, pay close attention to the street name and number. Very likely, the same street name will appear on two different delivery routes and therefore provide two potential answers. If this is the case, revert to the number and pay attention to the number range. As with the address cross comparison section, memorizing the street number and name is important, especially because if the spelling of the street name differs, then the answer will be “all mail that does not fall in one of the address ranges listed above."
If you are given a hard copy of the booklet, write the address in the question by the coding guide. This will minimize the distance your eyes must scan, and writing it out will also help encode the address in your mind.
Since 2008 Catherine Capozzi has been writing business, finance and economics-related articles from her home in the sunny state of Arizona. She is pursuing a Bachelor of Science in economics from the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, which has given her a love of spreadsheets and corporate life.