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Preparing for the ISA CCST Exam
ISA offers study guides, training programs, books, and other reference materials to help you prepare for the ISA Certified Control Systems Technician® (CCST®) exams.

Study Guides

An exam study guide is available for each level of CCST certification. Study guides include practice with questions that are similar to those found on the CCST exams.

ISA also publishes the Technicians Series — a set of five books that cover the most common work functions performed by automation and control systems technicians.

Review Courses

There is a CCST review course available for each of the CCST exams. If you meet the requirements for CCST certification you may be eligable to take the exam for free as part of your course registration. 

When you take a CCST review course (with ISA or through your company’s on-site raining) you will automatically receive an exam invitation after you start the course. Your test eligibility end date will be one year after the date you complete the course.

ISA can work with employers to offer review courses at your location if it meets certain conditions. Please contact us to speak with an ISA learning consultat at +1 919-549-8411 or for more information.

CCST – Level 1 Review Course

CCST Specialist – Level 2 Review Course

CCST Master – Level 3 Review Course

Additional Training Courses

 ISA also offers a complete technical skills training path of courses as well as distance education programs that are helpful to those preparing for CCST. View the Technical Skills Training page to learn more.

Exam Questions

The knowledge and skill bases for the questions on the current versions of the tests were derived from the actual practice of control systems technicians as outlined in the 2002 CCST Role Delineation Study. The questions on the latest versions of the tests were developed based on the most recent CCST job task analysis study, conducted in 2019.

Using interviews, surveys, observation, and group discussions, ISA worked with technicians to delineate critical job components to develop exam specifications to determine the number of questions related to each domain and task being tested. 

This rigorous program development and ongoing maintenance process ensures that CCST certification accurately reflects the skills and knowledge needed to excel as an automation and control systems professional.

Sample Questions

  1. To change a 4-20 mA analog signal from a transmitter to the signal required by a digital controller, a(n) _______ must be between the transmitter and controller in the measurement loop.

    A. I/P transducer
    B. P/I transducer
    C. DP transmitter
    D. A/D converter

  2. In order to provide a sample to a gas chromatograph or other extractive field analytical instrument at the proper temperature, pressure, flow, or concentration to make it most compatible with the analyzer, the sample should pass through a _______ prior to entering the analyzer chamber.

    A. glass capillary tube
    B. sample probe calibration system
    C. sample conditioning system
    D. smooth-walled pipe

  3. In a bubbler (dip tube) level measuring system, for a bubble to be emitted at the open end of the purge pipe, the air pressure at that point is _______ the pressure exerted by the liquid at that point.

    A. twice
    B. equal to
    C. less than
    D. three times

  4. What is the value of a resistor that is color coded: green - brown - orange - gold?

    A. 51 K ohms ± 5%
    B. 80 K ohms ± 5%
    C. 51 ohms ± 10%
    D. 503 ohms ± 10%

  5. To measure current in a circuit, without a clamp on probe, you must measure in _______, and the circuit must be _______.

    A. parallel, de-energized
    B. series, de-energized
    C. parallel, energized
    D. series, energized

  6. When connecting a "K" type thermocouple to a control system where extension wires are required, it is important to use only properly installed "KX" extension wires because:

    A. this prevents the formation of a second temperature measurement junction.
    B. the manufacturer's warranty for the thermocouple would be voided if "KX" extension wire is not used.
    C. "KX" thermocouple extension wire comes with special connectors for making the connection.
    D. "KX" thermocouple extension wire is cheaper than "JX" thermocouple extension wire and reduces installation cost.

  7. Which of the following valve actuation methods would be the best choice for an application that requires a very large force and a small actuator?

    A. pneumatic actuation
    B. hydraulic actuation
    C. manual actuation
    D. electrical actuation

  8. Which of the following is true of most pressure measurement methods?

    A. They are not able to measure a small differential pressure.
    B. The sensor matches the digital or analog signal conditioning and transmission.
    C. They are sensitive to volume but not temperature.
    D. They measure pressure by sensing the deflection of the diaphragm.

  9. In logical analysis troubleshooting, which step comes immediately after the first step: Identify and define the problem-?

    A. Implement a solution or conduct a test.
    B. If the problem is not resolved, reiterate until the problem is found and resolved.
    C. Gather information about the problem.
    D. Evaluate the information/data.

  10. An instrument location plan shows the _______ of each instrument

    A. location and wiring plan
    B. location, elevation, and tag number
    C. specification number and tag number
    D. location, specification number, and elevation

CCST Sample Question Answers

  1. The correct answer is D, A/D converter. A digital controller requires a digital signal as its input. A 4-20 mA transmitter outputs an analog signal. Therefore, a device to convert an analog (A) signal to a digital (D) is required. This class of device is referred to as an A/D converter.

    An I/P transducer is used to convert an analog current (I) signal to a pneumatic (P) signal, as for actuation of final control elements. A P/I transducer is used to convert a pneumatic signal (P) to an analog current (I) signal, as for a pneumatic transmitter in a programmable logic controller loop. A DP transmitter is a differential pressure transmitter, which can output a pneumatic, an analog, or a digital signal, depending on the model of transmitter used.

    Reference: Goettsche, L.D. (Editor), Maintenance of Instruments and Systems, Second Edition, ISA, 2005.

  2. The correct answer is C, "sample conditioning system." Answers A and C are items not generally associated with extractive field analyzers. Capillary tubes are used for collecting small samples (water, for instance) from a larger container. There are special capillary tubes that can be used in the analyzer chamber of a gas chromatograph, but they are not constructed from glass. Smooth-walled pipe is important for reducing friction losses in piping systems.

    A sample probe calibration system is important to the overall function and maintenance of an extractive field analyzer. However, these systems are not used to prepare the sample for analysis, but rather to provide a mechanism to verify and maintain analyzer performance.

    A sample conditioning system can contain devices, such as filters, demisters, flow regulators, and heaters. Sample conditioning systems are used to bring the sample to the ideal process conditions for accurate measurement in the analyzer itself. The sample conditioning system can be a key maintenance item in an analyzer system, since each device needs to be calibrated, cleaned, etc.

    Reference: Goettsche, L.D. (Editor), Maintenance of Instruments and Systems, Second Edition, ISA, 2005.

  3. The correct answer is B, "equal to." In order for air to be discharged from the end of a bubbler purge tube, the air pressure in the tube must be equal to (or higher than) the pressure exerted by the liquid head in the tank.

    As the tank level is decreased, the liquid head pressure at the tip of the purge tube decreases, and more bubbles per unit of time can escape. The corresponding reduction in pressure in the purge tube is proportional to the level in the tank. Therefore, the point at which the liquid head pressure and the purge tube pressure are equal is the highest level (URV = 100%) that the device will measure.

    Reference: Goettsche, L.D. (Editor), Maintenance of Instruments and Systems, Second Edition, ISA, 2005.

  4. The correct answer is A, "51 K ohms ± 5%."

    The four-color band coding is:
    Color    Value    Multiplier
    Black    0    1
    Brown    1    10
    Red    2    100
    Orange    3    1000
    Yellow    4    10 K
    Green    5    100K
    Blue    6    1 M
    Violet    7    10 M
    Gray    8     
    White    9     
    Gold    ± 5%    0.1
    Silver    ± 10%    0.01

    So a resistor with four bands, green-brown-orange-gold, has a value of: 5 1 x 1000 ± 5% or 51 KΩ.

    Reference: Goettsche, L.D. (Editor), Maintenance of Instruments and Systems, Second Edition, ISA, 2005.

  5. The correct answer is D, series and energized. To measure current, you must connect the two leads of the ammeter in the circuit so that the current flows through the ammeter. In other words, the ammeter must become a part of the circuit itself. The only way to measure the current flowing through a simple circuit is to insert your ammeter into the circuit (in series) with the circuit energized.

    Reference: Goettsche, L.D. (Editor), Maintenance of Instruments and Systems, Second Edition, ISA, 2005.

  6. The correct answer is A; it prevents the formation of a second temperature measurement junction.

    A thermocouple measurement junction is formed wherever two dissimilar metals are joined. KX-type thermocouple extension wire is made of the same metals as the K-type thermocouple (chromel and alumel). When extending the thermocouple leads with an extension wire back to the control system input card, KX thermocouple extension wire must be used, and the chromel wire and the alumel wire must be joined to the wire of the same metal in the extension cable. If JX or another type of extension wire is used, another measurement junction is formed. For instance, if JX extension cable is used in the example in this problem, the point where the iron and chromel wires are joined would form another thermocouple. This will negatively affect the intended measurement signal. Proper installation of thermocouple extension wires also requires special terminal blocks to prevent additional junctions from being formed.

    Reference: Goettsche, L.D. (Editor), Maintenance of Instruments and Systems, Second Edition, ISA, 2005.

  7. The correct answer is B, "hydraulic actuation." Although many pneumatic actuators can provide a large force, they require either a large diaphragm area (in the case of a diaphragm actuator) or a large cylinder (in the case of a rack and pinion actuator).

    Hydraulic actuators are driven by a high-pressure fluid (up to 4,000 psig) that can be delivered to the actuator by a pump that is remote from the actuator itself. Hydraulic cylinders can deliver up to 25 times more force than a pneumatic cylinder of the same size.

    Manual actuation is accomplished by turning a valve handle, and is limited to the amount of force that an operator can exert on the lever or hand wheel.

    Electric actuation delivers high torques for rotary-style valves, but electric actuators tend to be large and heavy compared to hydraulic actuators.

    Reference: Goettsche, L.D. (Editor), Maintenance of Instruments and Systems, Second Edition, ISA, 2005.

  8. The correct answer is D; they measure pressure by sensing the deflection of the diaphragm. For most pressure applications, changes in pressure are detected by the change in deflection of a measuring diaphragm.

    The deflection is converted into an electrical signal (voltage) by a piezoelectric or capacitance device. The small electrical current is converted to a standard signal (e.g., 4-20 mA or a digital signal) by a transmitter. Therefore, answer B is not correct.

    Answer A is not correct, because pressure sensors can measure very small pressure changes (inches of water) and in some cases, millimeters of water.

    Pressure measurement devices are not affected by volume, since they are measuring force over an area only. Many pressure sensors are sensitive to temperature (capillary tubes are filled with fluids that can expand with temperature). Therefore, answer C is not correct.

    Reference: Goettsche, L.D. (Editor), Maintenance of Instruments and Systems, Second Edition, ISA, 2005.

  9. The correct answer is C, "Gather information about the problem." Once a problem is identified, data must be gathered and analyzed to determine a viable set of potential actions and solutions.

    The logical analysis troubleshooting method consists of (in order):
    1. Identify and define the problem.
    2. Gather information about the problem.
    3. Evaluate the information/data.
    4. Propose a solution or develop a test.
    5. Implement the solution or conduct the test.
    6. Evaluate the results of the solution or test.
    7. If the problem is not resolved, reiterate until the problem is found and resolved.
    8. If the problem is resolved: document, store/file, and send to the appropriate department for follow up if required.

    Reference: Goettsche, L.D. (Editor), Maintenance of Instruments and Systems, Second Edition, ISA, 2005.

  10. The correct answer is B, “location, elevation, and tag number.” Instrument location plans are most often used to support new plant installations and give the installer information about the actual physical location of the installation of an instrument, the elevation of installation (at grade, on a platform, at what height on a process line, etc.), and the tag number of the instrument to be installed.

    Specification numbers (part of answers C and D) are usually indicated on instrument lists and instrument installation details. Wiring plans (part of answer A) are typically shown on conduit and wiring schedules or cabling diagrams. Although these details are useful in the installation of a plant, they are not part of the instrument installation plans.

    Reference: Goettsche, L.D. (Editor), Maintenance of Instruments and Systems, Second Edition, ISA, 2005.