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Old 11.10.2012, 10:02
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Swiss sailing/motor boat theory exam - experience

This week I passed the Swiss sailing/motor boat theory exam in Zurich. As an RYA instructor qualified to teach up to Yachtmaster theory, you'd have thought it would be something of a shoe-in for me - but it's not, so I thought I'd pass on my experience so you don't underestimate the exam.
  • In Zurich there's a comparatively long waiting list - 3-4 weeks for an exam date.
  • The pass mark is tough, 56 out of 60.
  • The theory exam is common to both motor and sail.
  • The exam is a computer-based multiple choice exercise (three options for each question).
  • I can confirm that Zurich has the exam available in English (obviously I can't speak for other cantons but would expect the program to be the same). You can also toggle each question between any of the four languages (German, French, Italian, English) as well as mark questions to come back to.
  • However, some of the translations are poor at best (e.g. they refer to a clove hitch as a rolling hitch which, in English, is a different knot). The only question I got wrong was a mistranslation that had missed out the negative (it has been noted so they may change it). This means that if you can read one of the other languages, it is worth toggling between the languages if in any doubt whatsoever.
  • If you are used to coastal or offshore sailing, bear in mind this exam is for inland waterways with a much shorter time horizon. This means, for example, a question about the signs that pressage bad weather refers not to a mackerel sky and 24 hours hence, but to storm clouds and what will happen in the next hour or so.
  • If you are familiar with the international colregs, you will have a bit of a head start insofar as the lights and sounds are much the same (with a few exceptions and omissions, but you will be learning what's different rather than from scratch) and the fundamental priorities of stand-on and give-way vessels are the same.
  • You are expected to know the regulations for all the lakes with international borders (Bodensee, Lac Léman, Lago di Lugano, Lago Maggiore) even if you will never use a boat there, so don't skip these in your preparations.
  • There is an official book with all the information you need to learn, available from your canton (and good bookshops, I believe), but it is only in German, French and Italian. If you need English, there is a CD preparation course which also has loads of mock tests (www.click-me.ch). The English translations in the latter are also very poor and some of its answers are also unreliable (e.g. different answers to the same question in different tests), but it is nevertheless invaluable.
  • The latter also refers you to its web site where there are just over 50 new questions - do NOT miss these out as a lot of them come up in the exam. The authorities introduced a whole set of new questions without notice in early 2011 for which the answers are NOT included in the official book (which dates from 2010). Most of the answers are common sense if you basically know your stuff, but there are also some with unexpected answers and even one that wants an answer that IMV is actively incorrect (PM me for details).
I hope this is useful and feel free to post or PM me if you have any questions
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Old 11.10.2012, 10:22
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Re: Swiss sailing/motor boat theory exam - experience

I did the theory not long ago, but I refuse to pay the ripoff prices for the practical exam, the plan was to do the practical on my own boat but I seem to have missed the window of opportunity for this year. Maybe if people are interested perhaps a group could do the practical exam together on the Bodensee with me.
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Old 11.10.2012, 10:34
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Re: Swiss sailing/motor boat theory exam - experience

That's a great idea, but don't you have to do the practical in your canton of residence unless you have your own boat out of canton? In other words, your offer would work for people living in TG or SG?

According to the slip of paper they gave me, they only run practical exams between 15 March and 15 November so you may be right about having missed this year's window. Nesh southern jessies
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Old 11.10.2012, 11:50
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Re: Swiss sailing/motor boat theory exam - experience

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That's a great idea, but don't you have to do the practical in your canton of residence unless you have your own boat out of canton? In other words, your offer would work for people living in TG or SG?

According to the slip of paper they gave me, they only run practical exams between 15 March and 15 November so you may be right about having missed this year's window. Nesh southern jessies
No! Not quite, you are obliged to do the theory first, then when you are ready you can get a release document from your Kantonspolizei where you did your test with that you can do your practical in whatever Kanton you want. I live in BS and the boat is in SG and as it is my own boat I do not need to go over the über-expensive sailing schools.
So a working plan could be for a group to hire a skipper for a bit of practice then go to the Schifffahrtsamt (for me Rohrschach) and do the test. A group of four could do this in a weekend.
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Old 11.10.2012, 13:04
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Re: Swiss sailing/motor boat theory exam - experience

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No! Not quite, you are obliged to do the theory first, then when you are ready you can get a release document from your Kantonspolizei where you did your test with that you can do your practical in whatever Kanton you want.
Wouldn't work for me as none of the acceptable criteria apply:

http://www.stva.zh.ch/internet/siche...SFprakprf.html

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Wenn Sie die Prüfung in einem anderen Kanton ablegen wollen, richten Sie ein schriftliches Gesuch an die Schifffahrtskontrolle in Oberrieden. Die Bewilligung wird erteilt, wenn eine der nachfolgenden Kriterien, für den entsprechenden Kanton, nachweisbar ist. Eine kriterienbezogene Kopie ist beizulegen!

Eigenes Schiff mit gültigem Schiffsausweis
Schiff eines Familienangehörigen mit gültigem Schiffsausweis
Schiff von Lebenspartner mit gültigem Schiffsausweis (nur wenn im gleichen Haushalt wohnend)
Ferienwohnung
Beruflich oder Schule (Studium etc.)
Wochenaufenthalter
If you want to take the exam in a different canton, send a written request to the Schifffahrtskontrolle in Oberrieden. Permission will be granted if one of the following criteria is met for the canton in question. Send a copy of the document demonstrating the criterion.

Own boat with valid boat registration
Boat owned by a family member with valid registration
Boat owned by your partner (only if co-habiting) with valid registration
Holiday home
Working or attending school/university
Weekly resident


I guess, as ever, each canton has its own rules. But I'm going to have to do the practical in Zurich. Not to worry, though, as a school I spoke to implied they would like me to teach for them once I've got the Swiss ticket, so I'm sure there would be a deal to be had there.

Having said that, if you find a local skipper who knows what's required on the exams, I'd love to join you because, as in my OP, just because you know what you're doing, doesn't mean you know what the authorities here want.
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Old 11.10.2012, 20:05
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Re: Swiss sailing/motor boat theory exam - experience

Uff! Your Kantonal oath-comrades don't leave much to chance do they?
Yes I have a skipper who lives in SG and would be willing to assist.
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Old 12.10.2012, 00:00
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Re: Swiss sailing/motor boat theory exam - experience

A great initial post - thank you!!

Although RYA Offshore Skipper qualified, I have never been able to formulate a plan to obtain a licence in Switzerland (Zurich-based), as my German is just too poor to pass study and pass the exam in that language. You've now shown me a path to steer!
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Old 07.05.2013, 13:32
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Re: Swiss sailing/motor boat theory exam - experience

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So a working plan could be for a group to hire a skipper for a bit of practice then go to the Schifffahrtsamt (for me Rohrschach) and do the test. A group of four could do this in a weekend.
Slammer, I would go in on it. I would just need to take the Theory exam first, right?
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Old 22.02.2021, 20:08
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Re: Swiss sailing/motor boat theory exam - experience

Just passed the theory test today as well. Wasn't aware that I could do it in English but opted to do it in German anyway since I've been learning the theory in German. Would recommend the app bootspruefung24.ch pro version. It has the same questions as are on the real test and great was to internalise it all.
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Old 11.03.2021, 09:42
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Re: Swiss sailing/motor boat theory exam - experience

Good morning all,

I have failed my theory test yesterday in Zurich with 20 points (5 away from passed). I studied quite well.

I use this app https://bootstheorie.ch/ and I find terminology a little different when I seat on the exam. Exam English wording is different, a bit more broken in my opinion.

English is my second language so I do struggle with some naval terminology.

I don't speak German hence test in English.

Do you have any tips for me? Shall I change the source of learning maybe?
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Old 12.03.2021, 21:24
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Re: Swiss sailing/motor boat theory exam - experience

Need to do this ASAP. Ordered and received the handbook last year, will see if I can translate this, my German is not bad but obviously lots of new words to learn... Any advice appreciated.
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Old 13.03.2021, 15:56
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Re: Swiss sailing/motor boat theory exam - experience

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Need to do this ASAP. Ordered and received the handbook last year, will see if I can translate this, my German is not bad but obviously lots of new words to learn... Any advice appreciated.
Book asap. A bit of a wait.
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