I defeated the ASBOG FG!

All three times that I went to the Geological Society of America conferences, I picked up something from the Association of State Boards of Geology (ASBOG) booth. I won a rather nice tape measure from them in 2015. All three times, the booth staff admonished me with “you should take the Fundamentals  of Geology exam before you forget everything you learned in university!”.

And then I found myself thinking in the summer of 2016 – what am I waiting for? I took all the necessary coursework and more that I need to be licensed, I’m working under two licensed professional geologists, why not take the exam and get on the path to making all that work official?

I ordered the RegReview study guide, said farewell to my three-times-a-week climbing gym habit so I would actually make time to study, and got to work.

I really should have taken it right out of college, but wasn’t as rusty as I had feared. Even though I felt like throwing my study guide across the room after the fourth page of ore mineral formulas, studying for the exam actually reminded me why I want to be a geoscientist. One night I was messing around with formulas for mapping groundwater draw-down and projection of cross-sections onto a map view and didn’t realize that it had gotten to be 1 AM. (I had to get up to be at a job site at 6 AM. Oops.) I got to spend quality time with fields like seismology and structural geology that don’t show up often in my day-to-day work.

Not to mention that my sister drew me this gem of a Lord of the Rings/Geology crossover: Meet the ASBOG Balrog.


So that’s how I found myself at 7 AM at the Department of Commerce building on September 30 armed with a calculator, protractor, and 1 liter thermos of steaming hot caffeine. Walking through the door, I could immediately identify my fellow geologists waiting for the exam – plaid shirts, practical shoes, Patagonia vests, and looks of acute anxiety were all giveaways among steady stream of state employees heading to the elevator.

We all walked out of the exam room four hours later, exhausted and convinced that we had failed. Thankfully, today I found out that I actually passed! With acceptable marks in all categories, even the ones I was freaked out about! (I’m talking about you, engineering geology)

When I was studying for the exam, I scoured google and reddit for advice from people who had taken the exam, and couldn’t find much. Much of the advice pertained to the second exam, (the PG), like this excellent blog post over at Accidental Remediation. In the hopes of helping someone like me taking the FG, here are some of the things I found most helpful:

  1. There is no way on earth that you can cram for this exam. I did one chapter per week in the RegReview book, and that was almost pushing it. I should have started studying earlier – the ASBOG website isn’t joking when is says six months in advance.
  2. Take a close look at the application to take the exam. I got taken by surprise by the fact that after I had submitted my exam to my states professional licensing board, and I had to submitted a completely different application and fee to the national ASBOG organization.
    1. step one: State of Tennessee Geologist Licensing Forms (or your state’s equivalent). For Tennessee, this meant filling out two forms: the Geologist FG Exam Application, and the Geologist Course Reporting Form.
    2. step two: after the application is accepting by the state board, that agency will send you a candidate request form that you will need to send, with a check attached, to ASBOG.
  3. The actual exam questions were slightly easier than the ones in the RegReview book, and didn’t need quite as much math. However, they were still by no means easy. Looking back at my university quiz and test questions, the ASBOG questions were comparable to the more difficult 25% of them. They were very similar in difficulty to the questions in the official ASBOG candidate handbook.
  4. Memorize the picky mineral characteristics/formulas and mining terms. They were on the exam, believe it or not.
  5. Don’t underestimate the power of handwritten notes…
  6. …or flashcards, either. If you use the RegReview cards, add in a few additional handmade ones for ore deposit types, water quality standards, dating methods, Bowen’s reaction series, and engineering characteristics of earth materials (elastic properties, etc).
  7. And then working the practice problems a second time.
  8. I don’t recommend bothering to study in the two days immediately before the test. I know I was too keyed-up for any more information to stick, anyways.  Eat well, try to get some sleep, and do thing that clear your head. In my case it was lunch with an old friend and wearing myself out on the rock wall.

Have you taken the exam? What impacts have being licensed (or not) had on your career? I’d love to hear your opinions in the comments.





16 thoughts on “I defeated the ASBOG FG!

    • Hi Mary, I started studying 14 weeks (3-and-a-bit months) in advance. I planned on one week per chapter of RegReview and a week for good measure. It was adequate, but I wish I had more time to dig deeper into additional problem sets. If you’re taking the exam straight out of a rigorous college environment (or are not working full time) you might need less, if you’re taking it a few years out like I did and cramming after long days at work I would recommend planning for more time, like the 6 month timeline mentioned on the ASBOG website. Good luck! 🙂


  1. Great article! I’ll admit, it calmed my nerves at least for a minute or two… I am currently approved to endure the daunting task of taking FG, PG and the California Specific Exam (thank you so much California for your sick humor regarding torture). In regards to your final questions: I take my exams in October so I’ll let you know. And in CA having your PG license is EVERYTHING!!! Other employers are aware that in taking it soon (geotechnical is a small world out here) and they’re acting like a pack of hungry wolves! haha! Its lucrative here and gives you serious credibility in our field.

    I also have the REG review and couldn’t imagine studying for these exams without it. I highly suggest everyone preparing to take the exams use REG Review. (As you know) once you see the enormous amount of info you need to be familiar with in the REG book you’ll see why it’s so important. I was lucky enough to find a geologist at another company that took it recently and let me borrow her REG books (sorry REG!).

    Anyway, thanks for writing this and please PLEASE feel free to share more suggestions, tips, experiences, etc that may be helpful. I’d really appreciate it.


    • oh wow Kyle, that’s a lot to tackle at once! Good luck!! lol one of the reasons that I chose to not do grad school and live in CA was because I didn’t want to go through the rigamarole of their specific qualifications. If you’re starting to study now you should be in great shape by October. I hope you can find a great career with one of those eager companies! 🙂


    • Hey Kyle,
      I am taking the test in october as well with 2 of my buddies. Would you be interested in joining our study group. I feel the more heads we have the more we can contribute and help each other out. We are in the LA area.


      • Hi Toufic. I would love to work something out in regards to studying! We’re in the final stretch! Are you taking all 3 or just FG? I’m in the Temecula area but lets try to work something out. You can email me at kyle@lgcgeoenv.com. And Courtney, sorry for using your personal webpage as a forum!



  2. Great article! I’ve been looking for a good review book for the FG exam. I had no idea you needed 6 months of prep work.


  3. I’m scheduled to take the FG in October and the PG in March. One thing I don’t understand on the RegReview site is the difference in study materials for each exam. There is only one “Complete Set for ASBOG PG Exam Review” package. Does the set have separated information for each exam?


    • Hi Kyle, the RegReview ASBOG study manual does cover both the PG and FG – you can buy the book alone or in the set with the flashcards. It breaks down the differences in the two in the chapters, and there are different practice quizzes and exams for the FG and PG.


  4. Pingback: Sisters visit South Sister (and Green Lakes) | Blue Marble Earth

    • Hello Walt, it varies state by state. First you pay the state application fee when you apply to take the exam – in Tennessee it is $115. If the state board approves you to take the exam you then pay ASBOG the exam fee, which was $150 when I took it in 2016.


  5. I will be taking the FG Exam in October of this year. I was wondering how you guys are going about studying for the FG exam? I already purchased the RegReview Manual and plan to study at least one chapter per week. Is there anything you would recommend in addition to studying the RegReview study guide? Thanks for your advice!



  6. Thank you for this blog. I took the FG test a year ago and failed it, I completely underestimated the questions. The I found RegReview and it made sense why I failed. I’ll be taking it for the second time this Friday and I’ve already got butterflies in my stomach and a froggy in my throat and its only Monday. Your advice really helped and I hope I’m ready for it this time.


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