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Feature   September 1, 2001   by Auto Service World

Knowledge Builder: How to Pass The ASE Parts Specialist Test


Whether you’re taking it for the first time or are up for the five-year recertification, the ASE Parts Specialist Certification Test is known to be one of the toughest that the Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) has to offer.

The reason for this is simple: whereas the ASE tests that technicians take are subdivided into individual systems, the Parts Specialist test is not. This means that a technician can study up on one set of systems before going in to write the test, while you, the counterperson, have to have a strong understanding of all key vehicle systems as well as store operations and proper communication methods.

There are really four Parts Specialist tests, designed to target the specific needs of the types of specialties out there:

The Medium/Heavy Truck Parts Specialist (P1) Test was developed to assess the skills necessary to work in an OEM truck dealership.

The Automobile Parts Spe-cialist (P2) Test was developed to assess the knowledge and the skills necessary to work at a retail or jobber parts store.

The Medium/Heavy Truck Aftermarket Parts Specialist (P3) Test is for parts specialists working for aftermarket distributors which may handle components for a limited number of Medium/Heavy Truck vehicle systems. Counter-people can select an option on specific vehicle systems: the P3B Test focuses on brake systems, while the P3S Test focuses on suspension and steering systems.

The GM Parts Consultant (P4) Test covers similar ground to the P2 test, but with a tight focus on General Motors vehicles and procedures.

Four Steps to Success

Regardless of which test you plan on taking–if you’re not ready now, they’ll come around again in the spring–preparation is the best road to success.

Practice: Many suppliers have pre-test courses that will not only refresh your knowledge, but also give you a chance to get used to writing a test.

Study: You won’t be tested on systems theory; that’s left for technicians. You will be tested on systems function and component identification. In fact, Vehicle Systems Knowledge is the largest section of the test and the area where failure is the most common. While you won’t be tested on in-depth diagnostics, you will be tested on component and system knowledge.

Check out those counterperson correspondence course manuals. You may even want to look at some troubleshooting guides.

You will also be tested on your knowledge of how to greet customers, handling telephone calls and collecting necessary vehicle data. Your sales skills will be tested by asking you to identify parts numbers, use parts listings, and pursue related parts sales, and provide product and warranty information.

Take it seriously: Cockiness is the first step on the road to failing the exam. Every year, sophomore counterpeople, unsure about their skills, study and pass, while veteran counterpeople fail because they didn’t prepare and were caught off guard.

Pick the best answer: The tests are all multiple choice and even if you know of cases that more than one answer could apply to, pick the most likely answer. When a person has a stuffed nose, it could be a fatal disease, but it’s probably just a cold. So don’t waste time arguing with the test, just pick the most likely answer. Always mark an answer, even if you’re not sure. A blank will always be a wrong answer, but you might get lucky with a guess.

Recertification Tests are not as in-depth as initial certification tests–they’re about half the length–and are required every five years to ensure that the Parts Specialists who wear the ASE badge are up to date with their skills and knowledge.

If you’re planning to take a test this Fall, you need to have well-rounded knowledge and experience. Know all you can and be prepared to put common sense to use.

If you’re able to succeed, you’ll join a group of more than 33,000 ASE Certified Parts Specialists already proud to wear the ASE badge— Andrew Ross


Here, in general terms, is what you will be tested on. This is the Automotive/Light Truck (P2) task list. Other tests’ lists differ somewhat.


Most of the test centers are community colleges or other such learning institutions. Special test centers are available in certain circumstances.

In Canada, tests will be offered in the following cities:

Interested in Parts Specialist or Other Tests?

The ASE offers a variety of tests, for automotive technicians, parts specialists, machinists, body repair specialists and heavy-duty technicians. If you are interested in any of these areas, information is available at or by calling the numbers below.

Registration booklets for the Parts Specialist, Automotive Technician and other certification exams are also available from the Institute for Automotive Service Excellence website at, or by calling 1-877-564-8661 or 703-713-3800.

A. General Operations

B. Customer Relations and

Sales Skills

C. Vehicle Systems


1. Engine Mechanical Parts

2. Cooling Systems

3. Fuel Systems

4. Ignition Systems

5. Exhaust Systems

6. Emissions Control Systems

7. Manual


8. Automatic


9. Drive Train Components

10. Brakes

11. Suspension and Steering

12. Heating and Air


13. Electrical Systems

14. Miscellaneous

D. Vehicle Identification

E. Cataloging Skills

F. Inventory Management

G. Merchandising


Calgary and Edmonton

British Columbia

Burnaby, Kelowna, Nanaimo



New Brunswick



Saint Johns

Nova Scotia

Digby, Halifax


Kingston, London, Nepean, Sudbury, Thunder Bay, Toronto, Windsor

Prince Edward Island



Drummondville, Montreal, Sainte-Foy



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