prepare nec code book electrical exam

How To Prepare Your NEC Code Book For An Electrical Exam

Last updated on February 27th, 2024.

Whether you’re a first year apprentice, electrical technician, or getting ready to take the journeyman’s or master’s license exam, the National Electrical Code book is going to either be your best friend or your worst enemy. Finding information in the NEC is very difficult if you don’t understand the layout and know how to use it to your advantage.

You can learn more about the NEC here.

So I’m going to show you how to properly prepare your codebook to help you pass any exam.

Learning how to use the NEC is like learning to play the game of chess. There’s a system to using the codebook and knowing how to use that system is key.

Highlighting and tabbing your codebook is the most effective way to increase your ability to find answers to questions related to the code.

study for electrical exam
If you follow these instructions you won’t end up like Homer.

Using Tabs On NEC Code Book

Placing tabs throughout the code is the first step to improving your ability to find information in the NEC. The good news is that it’s affordable, time-saving, and essential for your toolkit.

2014 nec code book tabs

I used EZ Tabs from the Electrical Association for my codebook. EZ Tabs make studying the codebook a lot easier and improves your speed when searching for answers.

As you can see they’re color-coded by chapter which makes it easier to locate where you should look before you even open the book. These EZ Tabs are the perfect tool for helping you organize your codebook.

Remember, testing centers require the use of official tabs over post-it notes, so plan accordingly.

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The tabs are super easy to install. They’re clear so you can place them exactly on the edge of the page.

Instructions are provided and they explain where to place each tab. Plus, it only takes maybe 5 or 10 minutes to put all of them on your codebook.

You have the option to use all 96 tabs or just index certain areas you refer to most. Do yourself a favor and pick up a set – they cost around $15.

Best Way to Highlight Your NEC Code Book

The 2020 National Electrical Code or NFPA70 is around 910 pages long, separated into 9 Chapters, broken down into 125 Articles, including 12 Tables, 10 Annexes, and 1 Index.

National Electrical Code 2020, Spiral Bound Version (National Fire Protection Associations National...
  • (NFPA) National Fire Protection Association (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 896 Pages - 10/01/2019 (Publication Date) - Delmar Cengage Learning (Publisher)

While the NEC 2020 code is an essential electricians training book, it can be a tad hard to read. To make it easier to find specific information related to an exam question, you’re going to break down each article within the code by: Parts, Sub-articles, and specifics. Each one gets its own special color.


highlight nec code book
Pick up a pack of these Sharpies, they’re cheap as chips and will help your brain retain what you’re reading


I used ORANGE for parts, GREEN for sub-articles, and PINK for specific info within each sub-article.

My first choice was blue, but it was dried out and I was stuck with pink (that’s my story and I’m sticking with it!).

Parts (I, II, III, IV,…..)

nec code book highlight

Some of the articles in the code are very large and need to be sub-divided. This separates the main subject within the article into groups of information making it more user friendly.

Pick a color use it only for “parts” within your codebook. By doing this you’ll be able to know right away if you’re looking in the “Under 600 Volts” section or “Over 600 Volts” within an article.

For example, in the picture below I’ve highlighted Part IV. This is an easy visual clue that lets me know I’m looking at short-circuit and ground fault protection for motor branch circuits, and not motor overload protection (Part III).


An article would be “430 Motors, Motor Circuits, and Controllers” and a sub-article would be “430.52 Rating or Setting For Individual Motor Circuit”.

Sub-articles are the next phase of breaking down the information in the code. This is where you can start to over highlight the NEC.

Specifics Within Sub-Articles

Restrain yourself from highlighting EVERYTHING. In some areas I got a little carried away and started highlighting a lot more than should have been (as you can see).

Now, highlighting and tabbing aren’t the only things you can do to prepare for an electrical exam. Here’a great video from the electrical training expert Mike Holt who talks about a few more things that will help on your path to becoming an electrician.

And if all this is brand new to you, you might want to get started by signing up for an electrician apprenticeship.

If you have any tips and tricks make sure you leave a comment below.

About Thomas Hawkins

I run Electrician Apprentice Headquarters, a one-stop-shop for learning how to become a licensed electrician in the USA. I'm a licensed Master Electrician with over 20 years experience working in the Mining & Construction industries. Why do I do it? Well, because even plumbers need heroes.

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