More than 20 years ago I purchase
one of the Home Study packages and for a few weeks worked hard at it. It then became a chore I just put off to do more important and interesting things like sorting out the sock drawer. The major problem was the "dryness" and lack of immediate response to questions (if your course even has the ability to ask... and this was by mail) and the importance of massive amounts of material to memorize for the formal CG test at the CG site. Lack of assistance for some for what I though were difficult calculations also made it less interesting and something to avoid, then I later found them to be very simple if you can be shown how to do them slightly different and better methods. After a while it just collected dust. I even pulled it out a year or so ago when I decided I want to get the ticket for several reasons. Looked at it again and finally trashed all but the tools.
I went with SeaSchool for the 6-pac and they teach the material necessary to learn for the test and to pass it first time. The test are School
written but Coast Guard approved as is the class curriculum unlike some of the classed that just teach you to pass the standard CG test. I don't see a lot of difference in the test questions but the school
seems to make them in standard English
rather than formal CG / Gov speak with fewer trick questions using double negative and the like.
Not all of the test elements are multi choice. You must do several plotting and calculations, something that memorization skills can't teach you. The First Aid / CPR did have practical applications using "Fred" the dummy for CPR. Some courses like the one I took had practical evaluations you had to pass in order to take the exam. These included knots, lights and day signals and the all important urine test which only requires extensive studding by a few who need to calculate when they can pass the exam.
Requirement for the other ratings require more hands on practical demonstrations including the fire rating, Radar
and Tow endorsement rating.
The two best things schools do for you is assist in getting your complete package together for the Coast Guard. It has to be Just Right or it gets bounced back with out regard as to whether you passed the classes and exam or not. The other is what you can learn from being a member
of a class with a wide range of experience from Professional Mariners to recreational boaters, coastal to international and widely varying locations. Made for great reinforcements to the class material and fun during the breaks.
Finished the school in two weekends and several evening during the week in between. Faster classes are taught but this fit my schedule so I could work during the day. Completed the test in under an hour and took about a week to get the final package ready to send to the Coast Guard for their review and background checks. In about 4 weeks I took a drive to New Orleans
spent the weekend having fun with a girlfriend and met with the Coast Guard for final review and to be sworn in as a US Merchant Marine
The failure rate even for professional mariners taking the class by study and experience is very high. Most know that and take the classes. By far probably the best, fastest and overall most economical method for Most people. Our class had 100% success out of a class of 28 with widely varying experience from none to lifetime professional mariners.