National Commission for the
Certification of Crane Operators
Committed to Quality, Integrity, and Fairness in Testing since 1995


Tower Crane Operator

Practical Exam Outline

The following is an outline of the practical testing procedure, as provided to candidates at the time of testing.


The following sections describe the specific tasks that you will be performing when taking the Practical Examination. It is important that you understand these instructions. If there is anything you do not understand, please request clarification from the Examiner.



The Practical Exam tasks are:

There is also a Pre-Test Briefing, a Pre-Test Familiarization Period, and a Pre-Task Familiarization Period (prior to the Load Circle task) with a load. You will be required to complete all phases of the test in sequence.

The Test Site Coordinator is responsible for setting the testing schedule. If you are familiar with the operation of the test crane, you may elect to test first to allow other candidates time to review the operator’s manuals and load charts. Otherwise, selection shall be by random drawing or by assignment of the Test Site Coordinator.

During the Practical Examination, you are under the direction of the Examiner and must follow the Examiner’s directions at all times.

Once you have completed all of the tests you are taking, you must leave the testing area. Only personnel involved in the administration of the test are allowed in the test area.


An optimum time limit has been set for all tasks and is stated as part of the task descriptions. If the task is completed within this time period, you receive no time penalty.

Once you exceed this time limit, you will lose points on a gradual basis. If you take one and a half times as long as the optimum time, you will have lost all the points allotted to that particular task. At two times the optimum time the Examiner may end the task and move on to the next task.


While you are waiting to take your test, you will have sufficient time to read this description of the tasks to be performed and review the operator’s manual and load chart for the crane you will operate. In addition, you will be informed of the make and model of the crane, the load hook height, jib length, and the weight of the test load. You will also watch a short video (above) showing all the tasks you will be required to perform during the examination. Candidates must watch the Candidate Video within 24 hours before their practical exam(s).

Note that:

  • The crane’s LMI system (if the crane is so equipped) has been correctly programmed and will not interfere with the proper operation of the crane.
  • The crane has been set up and leveled.
  • None of the target points have been placed at a radius that exceeds the crane’s rated capacity.


Circumventing the course on the CCO Tower Crane Operator Practical Exam is defined as when:

  • Chain leaves the corridor while on or off the ground and passes more than one pole left still standing on the original string line before re-entering the corridor; you must enter the circles from inside the corridor to avoid this being marked as a deficiency
  • Chain leapfrogs from one leg of corridor to another with the chain off the ground, outside the corridor
  • Chain passes four or more poles consecutively with the chain off the ground, inside the corridor

All points for a task are lost if a circumvention occurs.


If, at any time during the Pre-Test Familiarization Period or during the test, you commit an unsafe act, you will be disqualified from continuing with the test. Unsafe acts include but are not limited to the following:

  • Dropping the ball or load hook on ground
  • Two-blocking of the crane
  • Contacting the crane with the Test Weight
  • Uncontrolled or reckless operation (must be sufficient to cause safety concern to personnel or crane)
  • Failure to respond to a stop signal
  • Contacting obstruction with crane or Test Weight 

The Examiner has the authority to stop the test at any time for reasons of safety. Please ask the Examiner if you have questions.

If you are disqualified due to an unsafe act, you will not be permitted to test on any crane until the next day.


Prior to beginning the examination, the Examiner will ask you for a photo identification that includes date of birth, such as a driver’s license.

The Examiner will ask if you have read the Candidate Information and Instructions and will answer any questions you may have. He/she will review with you the weather conditions and ask you to sign indicating that you understand the instructions for the test and that you agree with the Examiner’s assessment of the weather conditions.


The Examiner will use an anemometer to check the wind speed and record weather conditions on your score sheet.

The Examiner has the responsibility to determine if weather conditions/equipment problems are such that a test needs to be suspended. If the test is interrupted due to equipment problems, the procedure for restarting will be as follows:

  • You will resume the test at the beginning of the task you were performing at the time of the interruption, except for Task 3, when you will go back to the beginning of either Task 3a or 3b, as appropriate.
  • You will be entitled to a Pre-Test or Pre-Task Familiarization Period before resuming the test.
  • If testing resumes on a different machine, you must start the test over from the beginning. The first score sheet will be marked as “VOID” with an explanation and returned to NCCCO.
  • If the testing is delayed to a different day, the test must be restarted from the beginning.


  • Before you begin operations, you are allowed a couple of minutes to walk around the crane to ensure proper setup.


  • The Examiner will identify five items regarding the crane that are part of the pre-operational inspection. One at a time, you will describe how you would conduct the inspection and what deficiencies you would look for.
  • You have approximately one minute per item.


  • You will be allowed 15 minutes to familiarize yourself with the crane and to examine anything on the crane that you feel is necessary to operate it comfortably.
  • You will be allowed to get the feel of the controls and run the crane through its functions. The jib length has been preset. The brakes and other devices have been set according to the crane manufacturer’s recommendations.
  • You may not interfere with the test course, lift the Test Weight, or shadow the Zigzag Corridor and Load Circle.
  • You must finish the Pre-test Familiarization Period with the load hook under control in the Start Circle within the 15-minute period.
  • The Examiner will notify you when there are ten, five, and one minute(s) remaining.
  • If you are ready in less than 15 minutes, you may indicate this to the Examiner.
  • If, at the end of the Pre-Test Familiarization Period, you feel you are not ready to take the examination, you should notify the Examiner. You will have, in effect, disqualified yourself from taking the examination at this time, and you will be required to sign to that effect on the Candidate Score Sheet.


Optimum Time: 1 1/2 minutes (1:30)

  • At the Examiner's indication to start at which point time will begin,raise the load hook and chain at least 10 ft. off the ground to clear all obstacles and personnel.
  • Bring it from its starting position in the Start Circle to the Stop Circle.
  • Once the load hook and chain reach the Stop Circle place it there such that the chain suspended from the hook makes contact with the ground inside the circle and remains there.
  • Once the chain makes contact with the ground inside the circle, you are not permitted to lift the chain off the ground.
  • The Examiner will give you a stop signal once the load hook and chain are under control.
  • Points will be deducted for the following:
    • Dragging or contact of chain outside of the circle.
    • Load hook touching ground either inside or outside of the circle.
    • Load hook or chain contacting any part of the course (e.g., poles).
    • Lifting the chain off the ground after it has made contact with the ground inside the circle.


This part of the Examination is not scored.

  • At the Examiner's indication, bring the load hook over the Test Weight located in the test Weight Circle.
  • The load will be attached to the crane's load hook by the Examiner or Proctor.
  • You are allowed to bring the Test weight to the designated are where you can get the feel of the load, test the break, etc. before beginning the Load Circle task.
  • You may not swing the load outside of the designated area or shadow the zigzag course.
  • You will be allowed a maximum of five (5) minutes for this Pre-Task Familiarization, by the end of which period, you must have placed the Test weight on the ground in the Test Weight Circle with the rigging taut.
  • The Examiner will notify you when there is one (1) minute remaining.


Optimum Time: 3 1/2 minutes (3:30)

  • At the Examiner’s indication to start at which point timing will begin, bring the Test Weight from the Start Circle to the Load Circle.
  • Swing, trolley, or hoist as necessary to place the Test Weight on the ground completely within the Load Circle.
  • The Examiner will then give the hoist and swing signal and this will indicate that you should then hoist and swing to place the Test Weight on the ground in the Start Circle.
  • Do not let any part of the Test Weight make contact with the PVC barriers that surround the Load and Start Circles.
  • Timing ends when you have placed the Test Weight on the ground in the Start Circle. The task is not complete until the load is placed completely within the outside perimeter of the circle and the Examiner has given you a stop signal. If the Examiner has not given you a stop signal, this will indicate that the weight is not within the circle and the task continues to be timed.
  • Points will be deducted for the following:
    • Knocking ball off pole
    • Knocking pole over
    • Exceeding the optimum time
    • Hitting any part of the course


Optimum Time: 3 minutes each direction (3:00)

This task is divided into two tasks 3A and 3B. Task 3A requires you to go through the corridor in a forward direction; Task 3B requires you to go though the corridor in a reverse direction.

  • At the Examiner’s direction to start at which point timing will begin, lift the Test Weight into the and swing, trolley or hoist up or down as you judge necessary to guide the load through the Zigzag corridor without touching the ground with the Test Weight, or raising the Test Weight so high that the chains leave the ground, or knocking over any part of the PVC barrier.  Points will be deducted for the following:
    • Knocking ball off pole
    • Moving pole base off line
    • Knocking pole over
    • Chain leaving ground
    • Load touching ground
    • Circumventing the task
    • Exceeding the optimum time
  • Timing stops when you have placed the Test Weight on the ground in the Stop Circle and the Examiner has given you a stop signal. The task is not complete until the load is placed completely within the outside perimeter of the circle and the Examiner has given you a stop signal. If the Examiner does not give you a stop signal, this indicates the weight is not within the circle, and the task continues to be timed.
  • The Proctor will then detach the Test Weight from the load hook.
  • At the Examiner’s direction, swing the load hook to the Start Circle and allow the Examiner to attach the chain in readiness for the next candidate. Remain in the cab or at the operator’s station until the Examiner gives you a clear indication that you may leave. Set the swing brake and lock before leaving.


  • Describe the procedures you would follow to secure the crane at the end of the work day.


Once you have completed the practical examination:

  • The Examiner will record your performance.
  • The Examiner is not permitted to review your score sheet or discuss your performance on the test
  • Exam results will be mailed to you within approximately 12 working days of NCCCO’s receipt of the score sheet.
  • If you have made formal application to test on other cranes, return to the candidate briefing area.
  • If you have completed all of your tests, you must leave the Test Site.


All candidates receive score reports of their performance. Examination results are mailed to candidates approximately 12 business days after the receipt of Practical Examination score sheets by NCCCO.

Both the Practical Examination and the scoring system have been validated and verified by NCCCO’s pilot testing program. A score of 70 represents the minimum passing score for the CCO Tower Crane Practical Examination.