*****How you can pass PPCDL Practical Handling Test (Powered Pleasure Craft Driving Licence) first time?

Yes! I got my PPCDL licence on my first attempt yesterday!

First attempt pass for the theory test (which I got 29 out of 30 marks) & yes, first attempt pass for the infamous PPCDL Practical Handling Test. Of course, this could not have happened without the guidance of instructors over at METS1, Marina Country Club & especially Captain Zul with whom I took my 2 refresher sessions just 2 days before my actual test date.

Time taken: Duration of just 50 days
25-26 Aug 2011  Attended PPCDL Course at Marina Country Club
4 Oct 2011          Passed PPCDL Theory Test (29/30)
15 Oct 2011        Passed PPCDL Practical Handling Test

After I completed the 2-days course over at MCC, I straightaway booked my theory test (http://www.sp.edu.sg/wps/portal/vp-spws/spws.cet.shortcourses.cselisting.csedetails/?WCM_GLOBAL_CONTEXT=/wps/wcm/connect/Lib-SPWS/site-spwebsite/lifelong+learners/short+courses/powered+pleasure+craft+driving+licence+%28ppcdl+english+theory+test%29%28short+courses+-+powered+pleasure+craft+driving+licence+%28ppcdl+english+theory+test%29%29) & practical handling test (http://www.sp.edu.sg/wps/portal/vp-spws/spws.cet.shortcourses.cselisting.csedetails/?WCM_GLOBAL_CONTEXT=/wps/wcm/connect/Lib-SPWS/site-spwebsite/lifelong+learners/short+courses/powered+pleasure+craft+driving+licence+%28ppcdl+handling+assessment%29%28short+courses+-+powered+pleasure+craft+driving+licence+%28ppcdl+handling+assessment%29%29) altogether. Of course, I was very confident that I would pass my theory test on first try. (Will share how I did it soon)

At the same time, I started to google about PPCDL on the internet in order to find “clues” & “tips” on how to pass my PPCDL test, especially the practical. But on the contrary & to my horror, all I found was “I failed 6-7 times”, “really hard to pass”, “3 tries already”, “re-take Again”, “quota”, “so difficult to pass one ah!”etc, especially relating to the practical test! This really didn’t boost one’s morale…

Power of Declaration (Making up your mind)

Undeterred, I told myself that I MUST pass on my first attempt. This was also because I told my wife that I would give her a present on her birthday (which falls exactly on my test-date!), that is, my boating licence ☺ It was kind of like a declaration that I definitely can do it. If not, a bit embarrassing ya! I also told a few of my family and friends of my test date & I would sure get the licence. Of course, I also requested them to help pray for me. It worked, as always.

I firmly believe that most of the people didn’t pass on their first attempt because they NEVER really made up their mind! Some would even have the “try-try” mentality, “if not, next time!” so they say… There is truly a difference between wanting and wanting it BADLY. Of course, some may say that’s too stressful… Well, that’s why having the right preparation is critical.

Finding success story(stories)

After deciding that I want to make it on my first test, I literally combed the internet for people who have done it before. And yes, there it was, one young 20+ years old lady, passed her practical on her first attempt, & together with her friend some more! “If she can do it, so can I.” And one thing I learnt from her was to make sure we took refresher sessions before the practical. As it always is, success leaves clues…

Quality Preparation:

(Stated below are the various steps I undertake for my preparation. I believe quality is more important than quantity. Because most of us are busy with our career and family. We certainly cannot afford to take a month off from every other thing just to pass the PPCDL!)

1. Know the Test Environment (1-2 weeks before your test date; I went on 1st Oct 2011)

I cannot imagine anyone could just show up for the PPCDL Practical Test and that is actually also their first time at Poly Marina! It’s like going to war without even knowing where the battlefield is! Truly amazing!

What you can do first is simply find the location on the Google Map.

Poly Marina (Test Site)

Then go to test site. Probably during one of the weekends when you are near the area. The test site is at Poly Marina, not RSYC (Republic of Singapore Yacht Club), though these two venues are just next to one another.

I had the realization that the test boat is slightly different from the boat used during the PPCDL course. Even engines are slightly different!

3 test boats parked here

Close-up of test boat (note engine propeller is up)

• *Go survey the Poly Marina when there is actually a test going-on. (PPCDL Practical Handling Assessment is conducted on Saturdays (except public holidays) at 1.30 pm and 3.30 pm at Poly Marina, 50 West Coast Ferry Road) Might be a test also at 11am/12pm timing.
• **On hindsight, view the people taking the test from the stone slipway of RSYC, ie the place RSYC members launch their boats into the water
• If test is at 130pm, usually one tester will mark attendance and brief the people for about half hour. Actual going unto the boat will be about 2pm.

2. Take the Refresher Session One (Preferably within a week of your test date. Some people book 2 hours straight. I prefer to split it into two 1-hour sessions. My first refresher session was on 13th Oct 2011.)

Call up your course instructor to ask him how to book your refresher session. Else you can call Yi Fan @ 65644866 to arrange.

In my experience, you should take the refresher session at RSYC. Why? A refresher session is equivalent to your “mock” test. It is like taking your 10-year series theory questions, closed book. For me, refresher session one is like taking your 10-year series “mock” test, open book. I deemed session #2 as more like closed book. This is why I book two 1-hour sessions instead of one 2-hour session. Another reason is also I can be exposed to 2 different sets of weather conditions, wind directions, current situations and boat movements.

Taking my refresher session at RSYC helps me in the following 12 ways:
(a) I learnt that many boats going in and out of the West Coast Ferry Terminal just to the left of RSYC

(b) This created swells, which rock the jetties (which you might be asked by tester to berth) up & down
(c) Let me see where I could be asked by tester to berth, and actually doing it there!
(d) Get close to the test boat to view it more closely
(e) Realise that there are 3 moor lines to each test boat (bow, beam, stern)

(f) Get familiar with the wind direction, especially from the various flags on the RSYC jetty

(g) Let me do my MOB drill in the actual location of test
(h) See the danger zone (stone slipway of RSYC marked by 2 yellow & blue poles)

danger zone (stone slipway of RSYC)

(i) Understand that there are 2 different lengths for inner berths

(j) Know that, after unberthing and going astern, which part to start making 3-point turn and head out to sea
(k) Help me visualize the whole process
(l) Know that there are 3 chimneys out there (which the tester might ask you to head in the direction of the chimneys) & lateral/directional buoys (which the tester might ask you whether you should pass the buoy on the port side or starboard side. I was asked that question while piloting the boat during the practical test!)

* To fully utilize the $100/hour refresher sessions, I recommend writing down any questions that you have and ask the instructor. Remember, the refresher session is not the course! You already attended the course!

3. Take Refresher Session Two (like the test, closed book; I took mine on 14th Oct 2011, a day before the actual test)
During this session, treat it as though you are actually taking the test. Ask the instructor to “test” you on the following 5 areas:
a. Overall Hull & 12-Equipment Check
b. Checks before starting engine & Actual Unberthing
c. Man-over-board Drill
d. Berthing
e. Oral Test

The Actual Test

1. Reach 15minutes early (in case of traffic jams etc)
Tester marked attendance. Shared about the 5 different areas to be tested on, namely:
a. Overall Hull & Equipment Check
b. Unberthing
c. Man-over-board Drill
d. Berthing
e. Oral Test

2. Relax
Easier said than done. I still felt the butterflies in my stomach! But then I told myself that I have done the best preparation I could, so just relax, take DEEP breaths and do my best.

3. How many on each boat?
Depending on the total number of people taking the test, you might have one or two more people taking the test accompanying you on the same boat. Usually it’s just two.

4. First or Second?
Some testers may ask ALL onboard to run through Check test together before getting one to unberth. Other tester will go through all areas for one person before changing to the next one.

***limited offer for iuboating readers



72 thoughts on “*****How you can pass PPCDL Practical Handling Test (Powered Pleasure Craft Driving Licence) first time?

  1. Pingback: Cost of getting a PPCDL Boat License in Singapore « iuboating

  2. Wow. very comprehensive guide. thanks so much! im in the midst of going to book a practical date. who do i contact to book refresher course at rsyc?

  3. hi, im going to book the theory test.

    can i book and then i keep refreshing and get a earlier date? or should i just book and wait?


    • Hi there, sorry I don’t quite understand your question…
      For me, I booked my theory test asap after the course, but I only started studying for it 1 week before.
      Also, I booked my practical test together with the theory test because I was quite confident I would pass it first time.
      Let me know if this isn’t what you were referring to , thanks.

      • hey,, ic.. no i was asking can the theory date be change? like i keep goin to the website to see if any earlier dates.
        but its oki. i have booked my theory.

        thanks! will study hard for it and hope to pass it. but i will book the practical later la. need to save $$ =]]


  4. Hi, i just pass my theory test on 22/03 first try.. Yet to book my practical test.. Can someone which have not pass the theory test can take the refresher?

    • Well done.
      I don’t think you need to pass the theory test in order to take the refresher lessons.
      I feel the best time to take refresher lessons is just 1-3 days before your practical test.

    • Hey Alan,

      Just came back from Australia. Nice boating scene there in WA.

      They did not test me on tying and untying the knot, but make sure you know it as it is important to secure your boat well.



  5. Congrats!! Nice… All 1 time only 😉 juz went for my theory & practical course last Mon/Tue. Already booked my theory test on d 26 Jun. Muz b like u, all 1 time only!! (hopefully) cheers!!

    • Yes you can ! Just do as per mentioned on the blog and your chances of success will be greatly increased.
      Already dozens have read and followed the instructions and passed their PPCDL!

      All the best! BTW, do you fish marlin??

      • Thk u 🙂 wish me best of luck! Still trying to hook on black marlin/ sailfish on the Johore waters. Will b goin fishin on d 12/13 Jun with my family. Fishing d whole nite! But not targeting any marlins. See if i’m lucky to hook one… 🙂

      • Too bad… Otw for our fishing trip d boatman called up n told us not to come coz d weather was very bad n most of d boats out for fishing has come back to shore. N we end up on one of d kelong sumwer in gelang patah. Hard to predict d weather yaa… 🙂 btw, i’ve pass my theory test yesterday on my 1st attempt! Yeyy!! I’ll go for my practical sumwer early Sep, after my Hari Raya. Wish me luck again ok. 🙂 u hv a g’day ahead…

  6. Thanks to iuboating for sharing the experience. I pass both the theory and practical on the first attempt.

    My tester was quite friendly and reasonable. His focus was to make sure that I understand the safety and general handling aspect of boating. Just a few tips to add:

    1) make sure u know how to use the kill switch. Remove the end connected to the key and attached to your life vest. Know what is use for.

    2) hart transponder. Know that it’s purpose is for security and emergency. In case distress signal is pressed accidentally, check the security code pasted below the helm for the numbers to call.

    3) mob drill. Make sure u know the immediate actions; throttle down, check and confirm the side mob occur and turn into the person. Should slide the buoy down the side instead of throwing.

    4) berthing. Always approach at angle about 30 degrees. Going parallel will have risk of boat colliding with jetty or other boats if wave or wind hits.

    5) prime fuel before starting engine when cold start.

    6) systematically check the boat from bow the stern or vice versa to be more efficient.

  7. Hi,
    Thank you for the selfless comprehensive guide! I would also like to ask you for the moor lines, when do you release them? After you start the engine or before you even start the engine?

    Is the order of release the Stern line followed by the forward line and lastly the beam line?

    Must i be outside of the boat when releasing all the lines?

    These are not taught by my instructor hence would like to seek for your advice.

    Thank you very much!


    • You need to start the engine before you release the Stern Line then the Forward Line.
      Another person is require to release the line if you are the Driver. You cannot leave your engine unattended to release the line.

  8. I just came back from the practical. It was fun but I guess I am not talented for the course as I have not much direction sense nor understanding of the boat.. Got to go for many refresher course before I have full confidence to take the practical exam…

  9. What is the colour of the port hand buoy and starboard hand buoy?
    Just a test for all of u. Because many people get wrong on this question

    • Depend on the direction. The lateral buoys are “designed” for sea to harbour flow. So green on starboard and red on port. If going out, it will be the other way.

  10. Thank you for sharing the post. I recently passed my Practical Test although it was the second attempt.

    Once again thank you for the great post!

  11. Thanks for your tips and boat checks found in this website, it was very useful. i passed my practical test on my second attempt on 11 jan. Having more boat practise helps alot and i managed to find a cheaper lobang for boat lesson. uncle dave charges $60 per hour for refresher lesson, can contact him at 91119000. cheers

  12. Thank you! Your site has contributed to me getting my license on the 1st try! 🙂

    I’m truly glad that I have found this site before taking me test!

    Thanks again! 🙂

  13. I had been hunting for ideas for my very own blog and located
    your posting, “*****How you can pass PPCDL Practical Handling Test (Powered Pleasure Craft Driving Licence) first time?
    | iuboating”, would you care in the event I work with many of your own ideas?
    With thanks -Tamika

  14. Hello.. I dun own a boat and I dun not know anything bout boat but I really interested in taking the licence. Actually how do I go about? I mean wat should I di first? Nid help here.

  15. Thank you for all the info here. It’s really useful.

    Just to clarify, did you book the theory and practical tests together? I tried doing that but when I tried to register for the practical, the web page asks if I have already passed the theory test and when I say no it doesn’t allow me to register.

    I guess they added that condition later on.

  16. HI! do i need to produce the course certificate in order for me to sit for the theory exam?
    as i heard that the certificate will only be issued 2-3 week after the course finish.

    • Hi Kenneth, sorry for late reply. was traveling..
      yup u would need the course certificate. Mine seems to be received pretty fast.
      can u check with the course centre? Thanks!

  17. Hi, thanks for the much info you have given.
    I am thinking of getting the PPCDL to go boating with my friends. However, would it make sense if I am the only person among my group of friends who have the license when we go out to sea? That is, Is it possible to have only one person on board who knows how to drive/handle the boat?

    • Hi Michele, will do my best to reply… the answer to your question depends on the type of boat u r gonna get and also the distance you intend to go offshore.
      If it is just nearby, I feel it is okay that you be the only one. Anyway, once you get your boat, it would be pretty easy to make friends with those who already got their ppcdl
      to go with ya. Hope this helps!
      Cheers! Happy boating!

  18. Great website. I benefited much during my prep for the theory test. Passed last week on 1st attempt with flying colors (30/30). Thanks v much. Commendable efforts on your part. Taking practical test this weekend. Hope will pass and can begin my new adventure.

      • Just to share that I passed the practical on 1st attempt too. Again much was attributed to reading your sites over and over to visualize the whole practical test. The tips you gave were extremely useful. It was a double fun for me as my son who took the PPCDL also passed the theory and practical on his first attempt on the same days with me. Now my family has not 1 but 2 reasons to buy a boat! See you guys around the marinas.

      • Awesome! Just passed my practical. With help from iuboating and the practical test guide by nicole posted here.

        I’ve made some changes and added some extra stuffs on that doc. If anyone else is interested i can email you.

        I’ll try my best to help.

        Just in case i forget wat my oral test questions were. these are wat i was tested.

        1. he showed me a small card with two red circles(light). told me to identify the type of vessel and what is the other indicators for this type of boat (ans: two black balls)

        2. Given a scenario: another vessel is ahead on your perpendicular at starboard side, what are the lights you can see. (ans: masthead light and port side light (green)) in the above situation how should you react (ans: since you’re the give way vessel, you must allow the other vessel to move and you stay clear)

        3. Given a scenario: you are meeting another vessel head on, what lights do you see (ans: masthead light and both sidelights(green&red)). In this situation, how should you react? (ans: you need to steer my vessel to starboard and pass the other vessel port-to-port. sound 1 short blast to indicate your travelling to starboard)

        4. he then showed me another card, it was the west cardinal buoy. so he asked me where the safe waters were and how should i travel (ans: safewater is on the west side and i should move towards the west direction)

        5. in poor visilbility, how should you react? (ans: 1. keep a lookout for vessels and danger 2. show your lights 3. sound your horns (one prolong blast) 4. keep your vessel to starboard of the waters)

        6. If a vessel is not in command, what is the shape shown? (personally i didnt know the answer for this, so i told him i was unsure)

      • Hi Ed
        Think for question 2, you meant red light on port side instead of green. 🙂
        On question 5, we should also reduce speed immediately. He asked me where got horn in test boat. My answer was “got mah. in the box when we did the equipment check”. 🙂

  19. Thank you so much. I read your article and followed your recommendation. I passed both theory and practical on first attempt. I seriously do not think I can achieve this without your recommendation. Thanks for your time to put this up. I am sure others who took your recommendation will also benefit.

    • Hi. Saw from above post that you are in One 15 too. Hope to meet you one day at Boaters Bar. Really wish to thank you in person for helping me to pass the test. I berth there.

      • Hi, how do I identify you? I am a chinese, height about 170cm, shaved head, slim. Hope to meet you this Fri if you are down at the boaters bar.

        My weekends will be so different with your help. And that includes spending quality family time together boating once I receive the license. You have made so much difference in our lives.

        Thanks again

  20. Hi

    Sharing my PPCDL experience. I have benefited from iuboating article. Hope you will too.

    I am super kiasu type. For theory, I booked back to back. 7-8pm and 8-9pm. This is so that I do not have to wait for a month if I fail on first attempt. I studied hard for it and with the help of sample questions, I pass on 1st attempt.

    No kidding when I said I am super kiasu. Once I passed my theory, I went to book for practical. I booked 2 sessions a week apart. I took refresher training on Thu afternoon and Fri morning and then test on Sat morning. If you think you need more boat handling (man over board and berthing), book another session just for handling. The last session should as what iuboating recommend, be a “test” which should allow time for oral. I bet it will be a bad feeling if you pass the practical but fail the oral. So study for the oral.

    Impression to the tester. I think it is very important to give the tester that you are a safe boater. I dressed up neatly. Plain polo T, jeans, shoes. No sunglasses and no cap. Having a cool image may not work well in my opinion.

    A few things I do extra to give the tester a feel that I am safe and detail and deserve to pass.
    1. Lift up the anchor to make sure the rope is attached. Also check the rope to make sure it is attached to the boat. Then said out the observation. Don’t keep quiet.
    2. Don’t forget to check the mooring lines. Check and report the condition. Eg in good condition and have long enough length.
    3. I don’t just report presence of navigation light. I actually asked permission to test the light. I tested and the light was not working!
    4. I give instruction to the lookout/assistance to bring in the line and said “make sure all the lines are in. I don’t want it to be caught in the propeller.”
    5. For MOB drill, I checked the wind direction and said “check wind direction”. Check wind direction from those boats that have flags. Next I proceed to pick up MOB making sure the MOB is on the leaward. The boat should be on the windward. I actually have to change my approach because of the wind. Why boat must be on windward? Imagine if the mob or pilot is trying to climb up your boat and the wind is blowing strongly against him vs your boat sheltering him from the wind.
    6. Berthing is the last practical test. You will normally tell yourself don’t screw up. And this will give you even more pressure. Breathe. Calm yourself down and regulate your breathing. Smile, and berth.
    7. Don’t give up. I actually don’t accept my berthing. I took two attempts and both sucks although I did not bang on the jetty. Tester asked another person to take over. I thought I have failed. I did not let my emotion to be an ineffective lookout. I continue to play ball and do the best lookout that I can be to help the person. When returning the boat, the tester asked me to take over and berth at the starting place. I knew then that he was giving me a chance. I told myself I have to relax, breathe, and smile. I did it. The best berthing.
    8. Oral test: Again, all about safety and if you understand the cardinal buoys. I overheard the one beside me being asked an interesting question “give one example of a vessel restricted by maneuver”… Aircraft carrier! The aircraft cannot land if the vessel move to avoid you. 

    Remember, even if we are taking the test, once we are behind the wheels, we are the captain. Safety is our responsibility. Make decision based on safety.

    Good luck.

  21. Great write up. Key is to remember tt you’re taking a practical boat test, not car driving test. U nd to show that you hv the techniques n imperative to know what’s the testers are looking for

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