How to Prepare for the ISA Exam?

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The ISA Exam is designed for qualified professionals in the arboriculture career. If you aim to become a Certified Arborist with earned respect from your peers, then this path might be what you’re looking for. However, it would help if you learned to properly prepare for the ISA Exam to pass it with flying colors successfully.

The reason numerous fanatics explore this examination and sit for it is that it boosts confidence as it proves you’re a knowledgeable entity in your feel. Earning any ISA credentials will help customers and business owners identify your level, and you will receive a more respected approach from people.

Keep in mind that taking this examination is entirely voluntary, and you are not obliged to sit for it. However, we generally recommend sitting for it if you’re in the field already. ISA Certified Arborists value the importance of continued education as they look towards what’s next instead of swelling on the now.

Is It Easy to Pass the ISA Certified Arborist Exam?Is It Easy to Pass the ISA Certified Arborist Exam?

Generally speaking, the examination is not a difficult one. However, you will find it challenging if you go in without much prep at all. However, numerous people have controversial opinions about the difficulty of the examination as many say it was a piece of cake, while others struggle through it.

Hence, to successfully pass the examination and find it easier than most would, we recommend you dedicate a chunk of your daily time to study for it. Put aside 3 hours a day to go over the material and research everything you need to know for the exam.

There are three main problems people face during the ISA Exam:

  • Test Anxiety: If you do struggle with test anxiety, then you might often find yourself forgetting the material you’ve spent months studying for. We recommend you learn how to study efficiently, prepare in advance, have sufficient time for revision, and make flashcards.
  • Complex Language: The questions might be in an off-language, or you might not be familiar with some of the words. If so, the only way to get through this is to study sufficiently through past exams and practice questions.
  • Insufficient Study: Numerous people sitting for the examination find it difficult simply due to lack of studying. You don’t want to be this person, as you’ll feel like you have wasted an opportunity. Prepare in advance, practice questions, find only forums, and study effectively.

What Topics are Covered on the ISA Exam?

What Topics are Covered on the ISA Exam?

The exam comprises 200 multiple choice questions, each with four different choices. One of them can only be correct. These examinations are developed through data gathered from other arborists worldwide.

There are two things to keep in mind about each examination. First of all, out of all the 200 questions, ISA will not calculate 20 of them into your final grade. Moreover, 20 new questions that never appeared in any previous exam will be present in new examinations. Hence, while some questions will repeat, you must be proficient enough to know everything about the various topics.

As for the included topics, the ISA certification test comprises ten different subjects. The examination itself is not divided equally amount these topics, as some have a higher content percentage than others. Below is a list of the issues and their percentage weight in the exam:

  1. Tree Protection (4%)
  2. Installment and Establishment (5%)
  3. Urban Forestry (7%)
  4. Tree Biology (8%)
  5. Identification and Selection (8%)
  6. Soil Management (12%)
  7. Diagnosis and Treatments (12%)
  8. Tree Risk Management (13%)
  9. Safe Work Practices (15%)
  10. Pruning (16%)

The Arborists’ Certification Study Guide is the best ISA study guide, a fundamental element to your studying. This book works as a study guide for all students who sit for the examination, as you probably won’t find a better source of information.

Another excellent reference is the Arborist Certification Practice Exam from Bova Books, containing 400 practice questions. These make up two complete examinations, which are sufficient to get you through the format and flow of the exam.

What’s ISA Arborist Exam Passing Score?

What’s ISA Arborist Exam Passing Score?

The examination comprises 200 questions, and the ISA Arborist exam passing score is 76%. You must achieve this minimum score to pass successfully. However, something to keep in mind is that when a job task analysis of the exam takes place, the passing score required might be subjected to change.

You can effortlessly achieve this score if you sufficiently study. Moreover, the minimum requirement to even sit for the examination is three years of theoretical and practical experience. These two combined will equip you with enough knowledge to get through the test.

However, keep in mind that the duration of the ISA Exam is 3 hours and 30 minutes long. That can drain the energy out of any candidate, which means you need to practice for the questions along with practicing patience.

While it is not an easy feat, it is entirely achievable. Remember that the 76% score required to pass the Certified Arborist exam is not set; it might vary according to the exam paper you’re sitting for. However, it is a rough estimate of what you should be aiming for.

Hence, if you’re still wondering how hard is the ISA certified arborist exam, our answer is quite simple: it depends. It depends on whether you’re good under pressure, patient, whether you studied enough, and how many practice questions you went through.

How Many Times Can You Take the ISA Exam?

How Many Times Can You Take the ISA Exam?

First of all, we should discuss the report itself. Once you get your examination result, you will receive detailed information about your performance. That includes your strengths and weaknesses, which helps you enhance your methods and studying procedure for the future.

Moreover, when submitting for the ISA Arborist application, you can choose one of two test delivery methods. The first one is the traditional face-to-face, pen, and paper examination. The other one is online-based, which you can do through a computer.

Remember that the paper-based test takes place at a chapter or affiliated organization related to the ISA. These examinations have predetermined test schedules, and the results could potentially take up to 6 weeks to be delivered.

However, you can take computer-based ones through a testing facility. They provide you with the chance to schedule your examination time, place, and date. However, the only downside to taking the computer-based examination is that you need to pay an additional $125 fee. On the plus side, you get your results instantly.

So, how many times can you repeat the Certified Arborist test? There is no limit on the number of repeats you sit for. However, the first thing to keep in mind is that you can retake the examination for the first time for free within a timeframe of one year from your initial test date.

However, after that, if you fail or exceed the one-year mark, you will have to pay $75 per examination if you retake the exam within the same year of resiting for the makeup exam. That means you can pay a mere $75 during that year.

However, once you exceed that benchmark, you will be required to pay $170 if you’re an ISA member and a total of $280 if you aren’t one.

How to Prepare for the ISA Exam: 5 Tips

How to Prepare for the ISA Exam: 5 Tips

The main thing you should obtain is the ISA Arborists’ Certification Study Guide. The book serves all the purposes and equips you with the necessary information and studying methods. Each chapter in the book offers additional references that we recommend you go through.

However, that guide should not be your only source of study. The guide itself and the ISA Certified Arborist Examination are from different organizations. Hence, the examination targets your general knowledge about arboriculture instead of specific topics.

Here is how to prepare for the ISA exam:

Know the Topics

As we have already discussed all the fields included in the examination, we won’t be listing them again. However, you must know what the topics are and how much-weighted percentage each has to obtain a general idea of what’s more important.

Remember that there are 200 multiple-choice questions, 20 of which are dropped and not calculated into the final grade.

Submit Application

Now, once you make sure you have the minimum requirements to sit for the exam, you must apply. First of all, you must submit your application through their online platform. You do so by creating your profile, where you upload your information on.

Generally, we recommend including any related documentation and certification. You should submit everything from previous work experience, letters of recommendation, certificates, and requests.

Await Approval

The processing of your application could take up to 6 weeks. However, if you have been waiting for more than that, we recommend contacting your local chapter or the ISA institute to ask them about it.

If you’re sitting for a writing-based examination, you will receive a confirmation packet containing information about your examination day. That includes the time, date, and location. Moreover, ISA will always provide you with contact information if you need someone to contact or questions to ask.

However, if you apply for the computer-based examination, you will receive a confirmation packet containing information about how to schedule your test. Since computer-based exams allow you to choose the timing and date, you have 90 days to decide and book your slot.

Pay Fees

After confirmation, you will have to book your fees. As an ISA member, your expenses are $170. Otherwise, you must pay $280. Moreover, there is an extra $125 fee for computer-based exams.


This is the most vital step in the whole preparation process. Go through ISA’s Arborists’ Certification Study Guide and use that as your primary reference. However, there are numerous other sources you can utilize:

  • Find online past exams and practice questions – do as many of them as you possibly can
  • Contact ISA chapters and ask them if they offer classes or courses for prep, as some of them do
  • Read up on more books related to the topics included in the examination

Wrapping Things Up: How to Prepare for the ISA Exam

Preparing for your ISA Exam will not be a piece of cake; the application itself is pretty lengthy and annoying. However, it is well worth it if you pursue a more professional career in the arboriculture world.

However, keep in mind that the exam is very long, as it takes 3.5 hours to complete. Hence, while you only have 200 questions, the questions themselves can be difficult.

You will pass this examination with flying colors once you prepare correctly for it. You do so by going through the ISA book, practicing past tests, and doing practice questions. Once you do all of that, there never comes harm from doing more revision and extra studying.

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Professor Conquer

Professor Conquer started Conquer Your Exam in 2018 to help students feel more confident and better prepared for their tough tests. Prof excelled in high school, graduating top of his class and receiving admissions into several Ivy League and top 15 schools. He has helped many students through the years tutoring and mentoring K-12, consulting seniors through the college admissions process, and writing extensive how-to guides for school.

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