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How do I Prepare for a Food Handlers Test?

By C. Mitchell
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Preparing for the food handlers test is usually as easy as picking up an exam manual from your jurisdiction’s food safety agency, and studying it closely. Exam manuals are typically available at no cost from the location where you will take the food handlers test, and are also increasingly available online. It is very important that you study the manual from the agency where you will test. Although food safety regulations are more or less uniform, the subject matter that actually appears on the food handlers test varies from place to place. While work experience or prior knowledge of food safety can help your chances of passing the test, the very best way to prepare is to avail yourself of the preparatory material that is provided to you.

Food safety is a public health concern that is typically regulated and controlled by local governments. Most local governments have established health departments and agencies to oversee the food handling process, which typically includes certifying food service workers. Certification is typically required to work in any facility that serves or prepares food. Usually, jurisdictions award certification based on passage of a food handlers test.

Most of what is tested on the food handlers test is common sense, but relying on your own knowledge is not usually a very good way to prepare. The content of the test is usually centered around a core set of food handling facts, some of which may not be obvious. Which demographic populations are most vulnerable to food-born illness, the precise temperature the center of a hamburger must reach to be considered “well done,” and the approved procedure for cutting fruit in a restaurant are among the things that can be easily learned by reading a food health agency’s rules and regulations, but that might not be otherwise known.

Familiarizing yourself with the rules on which you will be tested is also a good way to ensure that you do not miss any subjects. Usually, local governments administer but one food handlers test that must be passed by all individuals in the food service industry. This would include a food vendor at a mall, a waitress, a bakery assistant, and a bar tender, among others. It is likely that the food handlers test will encompass more information than you are naturally familiar with.

The food handlers test is generally presented as a multiple-choice exam. Most of the time, the exam is given by computer, which allows scores to be automatically recorded. Test-takers who pass the test, typically by answering a certain percentage of the questions correctly, are eligible to receive a food handlers permit or a food safety certificate. Certificates are often issued immediately at the testing center.

In most places, the food handlers test is not long. Often in can be completed within a half hour, and it can generally be repeated multiple times. Some jurisdictions require test-takers to register to sit for the test, but not all do. Many food and health agencies will allow anyone interested in receiving a food safety permit to take the test at any time during business hours. Be sure to check with your agency as a part of your preparation to double-check that you understand the testing requirements.

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