Frequently Asked
Questions About Becoming a Guide

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Association of Licensed Battlefield Guides and protected
under copyright laws of the United States, was without
authorization or permission lifted for use in a private publication
purporting to be a study guide for the ALBG exam.  The Association
of Licensed Battlefield Guides has no association with either the
author of the work or any of this author’s publications.  All
errors contained in such publications are the sole responsibility of
the author and the inclusion of information from our website DOES NOT
indicate ALBG acceptance or endorsement of the author’s contents.  

is the size of the guide force?
is the size of the guide force determined?
are exams announced?
it cost anything to apply?
long will I have to study?
should I study?
is the written test given?
is the written test like?
does the score mean?
I made the cut. What now?
is the oral exam like?
will this be evaluated?
if I fail the oral the second time?
if I pass the oral exam?
do I keep my license?
are the licensing categories?

is the size of the guide force?

This is determined by the old forces of supply
demand. Originally, the LBG force numbered around one-hundred
individuals. From
1929 through 1952 no additional guides were added to the point where
active guides decreased and numbered less than fifty. During the 1950’s
about fifteen to twenty guides were brought on bringing the number of
active guides to around sixty, a level maintained through periodic
through the 1960’s, 1970’s and into the very early 1980’s. At that
the late Mr. John Andrews, Guide Supervisor, began a policy of
gradually rebuilding the guide force to its original level of
approximately one-hundred individuals. The large numbers of visitors
requesting guide
services as a result of the 125th Anniversary, Ken Burns’ Civil War
Series on PBS, and of course, Ted Turner’s movie, Gettysburg,
forced the LBG’s
to finally break the "100" barrier. Since then the NPS has gone wild
the licensing process and at present, approximately 155 individuals
hold valid guide licenses. At the present time visitation levels appear
to be leveling off and it is highly unlikely that the present number
will again be increased.  Future openings will occur through
attrition of the current guide force.  Index

is the size of the guide force determined?

year the Guide Supervisor decides if guide
levels are such to warrant adding additional or replacement guides.
This is done
based on an evaluation of the status of the present guide force. There
is no guide retirement age. So long as a guide is physically able to
maintain the license, the guide generally does so. Thus, openings are
caused by death of older guides, or the moving out of the area of
guides. Occasionally, some simply tire of guiding and voluntarily give
their license. Each year a few guides achieve "Emeritus Status" which
relieves them of minimum tour responsibilities.  The number of
"Emeritus" members at any one time also dictates the addition of new
The park staff looks at the number of visitors turned-away at the desk
due to lack of guides on any given day as well as an examination of
visitation patterns. Since the opening of the new Foundation Visitor
Center in 2008 this latter statistic has fallen away.  The selling
of battlefield bus tickets tends to allow all visitors to experience a
tour.  It has also changed the pattern of individual car tours and
until all that shakes out far fewer guides are required to be
licensed.  At any rate  all of these factors are considered
when a decision is made as to
whether a test should be given and how many guides will be taken from
that test. Index

are exams announced?

Once a decision is made to offer a new exam, an
announcement is generally made public in the summer. This is done via
newspaper announcements in local newspapers as well as mailing a letter
to all who inquired about an exam. By far the best way to get the
information is to stop by the park visitor center or to write to the
park and ask to have your name put on a list to receive guide-exam
information when it next is sent out. If you stop by the visitor center
ask to talk the Guide Supervisory Park Ranger, Mrs. Angela Atkinson. Index

If you write, send your
request to

Angela Atkinson, Guide Supervisor
National Park Service Visitor Center
Gettysburg National Military Park,
1195 Baltimore Pike, Suite 100
Gettysburg, PA 17325.

it cost anything to apply?

the past few years, the number of
applicants has increased dramatically. In December 1997 more than 750
folks applied to take a test of which about 200 actually showed up to
take it. With those numbers the park was forced to institute an
application fee. There is no cost to receive information concerning the
test date, but if you wish to receive an application to take the test,
you must send a non-refundable $50 fee to cover administrative costs.
The December 13, 1997 test had about 200 take the exam of which about
85 qualified to move on. In February, 1998, these folks came to
Gettysburg and participated in a two-day training session. More recent
guide exams (2004, 2006, 2008, 2010, 2012) have been administered to
pools of
numbering approximately 150 with only the top 20 or so scores being
guaranteed the chance to take an oral examination. The 2008 exam had
over 250 individuals inquire about the test. Of these, 145 actually
registered of which 135 showed up on a cold December day to take a test
which less than 20% would be eligible to move on to the next level. The
top 19 scores were notified that they were eligible and invited to
attend the weekend training event. In December, 2010 approximately 170
individuals registered for the exam and 165 showed up to take it!
Again, the top nineteen scores
will move on. The 2012 Exam had 153 candidates register with the top
twenty scores forming the prospectve guide class. Of the 230 possible
points on this latter test the highest score was 221 and the lowest
score to move on was 206.   Index

long will I have to study?

The answer to this, generally, is years. You
should be
studying for the exam as soon as you have a burning desire to become a
guide. The actual guide written exam is given in the late fall and
generally a Saturday  in early December. Since it is announced
the summer or early fall, at best you would only have about four months
of preparation time beforehand. Don’t wait. Start reading and studying
now. Index

should I study?

The basic answer to this is anything and
Start with a general work. Coddington’s The Gettysburg Campaign
a good one. Go through and try to get the basics of the ebb and flow of
the battle. Don’t concern yourself with names, particularly below
brigade level unless they are particularly significant individuals or
units. And don’t get bogged down on statistics. Once you’ve
accomplished this, pick up one or two smaller works like Tucker’s High
Tide at Gettysburg
a few of the older guide books. Although not-so-good for battle
related action they make great sources of human interest stories. You
also must concentrate on monuments, weapon types, uniforms, food, local
area place-names etc. It is important to note that successful guides
are those with a grasp of political, social, economic perspectives
related to this era. Knowledge of military aspects alone normally is
not sufficient. You’ll find that those with the most detailed
down-to-the-company knowledge level of the battle usually have the
hardest time making it through the licensing process because they know
too much of a specialized aspect of the battle (i.e. tactics) and too
little of the broad scope of the battle; the human element and the
meaning of it all. By all means know the Gettysburg area. Know its
roads, historic and modern. Know place names. Study the battlefield
proper. It will help you get through the written exam and is absolutely
crucial for the oral.  Index

is the written test given?

the written test has been given
the month of December, usually the first or second Saturday. There are
several reasons for this. First, it is the dead time of year freeing up
both rangers and LBG’s to polish up, test, print, administer, monitor
and score
the exam. Second, the process can then be completed and the new guides
licensed and uniformed before the start of heavy visitation the
following summer. It is generally administered in the facilities of the
Harrisburg Area Community College (Gettysburg Campus) from 9:00 a.m. to
12:00 noon. It is a timed and rather rigorous examination.
last written exam was administered in December of 2012. Although
individuals on a variety of internet discussion forums believe this
two-year cycle is cut in stone it is not.  National Park officials
establish a new testing date based on guide need and candidate
availability.  As of the 2012 exam there was still one candidate
left to be tested from the 2010 process. Though professional guide exam
takers talk of the "next test" in 2014 that will not be known until the
summer before at the earliest.  Index

is the written test like?

test is drawn from a data base of questions
written by a number of National Park Service employees, Licensed
Battlefield Guide and approved by a
variety of individuals
from Civil War Historians to educators familiar with how to construct a
test. Present Licensed Guides, though they are offered the opportunity
to suggest questions,  do not get to see the exam until the
day of the test.   ALBG has no role in test creation or

Recent tests consist of approximately 220 objective-type
questions, true-false, multiple choice, matching, fill-in-the-blank,/ short answer.
There may also be photographs of monuments which you will have to
identify, photos of officers or other personalities both north and south and a map section
where you will be asked to identify place names. You also will find
anywhere from four to six essay questions designed not only to test
your basic knowledge but your ability to express yourself. This is
administered in a testing center with about twenty guides as proctors.
It is graded by the park staff with the objective part rated
numerically and the essays scored pass-fail. The 1997 version of the
test was completely rewritten from previous versions and other major revisions have been implemented in recent years.. IndexSee "Sample

does the score mean?

few weeks after the exam is given, you would
in the mail a letter from the guide supervisor stating what your score
was and how you ranked in the list of guides. In the past, a passing
score was a 75% with all essays rated "pass." Anyone with a score of 75
or better was guaranteed the opportunity to move on to the second and
harder phase of the process, the oral exam. That cut off score was
raised to 85% in the mid-1990’s. You would be called, based
on your score and the licensing category which you intend to enter. In
other words, those with the highest scores were called
first, those nearer the bottom cut off were called last. When all
individuals who scored above the cutoff  were tested, the list was
considered exhausted and a new test
rescheduled for another year.

1994 exam was
the first in which the process
changed somewhat. The prior exam list had taken three years to deplete
and this was not felt to be fair to those who scored in the high 70’s.
From the time they intensively prepared and took the written exam, so
much time had passed before they were called for their oral that much
was forgotten. Accordingly, in 1994, John Andrews announced that
prospective guides would be taken from the list strictly according to
need. As he needed 30 new guides only the top thirty scores qualified
to move on. Some with scores in the high 70’s and low 80’s who three
years earlier were guaranteed a chance, simply didn’t make the cut. The
1997 exam returned to the "eligibles" list concept. When the same
failings of prior exams were exhibited we returned to the process of
setting a cut off score based on the approximate number of guides
believed needed over the next several years.  Anyone falling
that score would need to take the written exam again when offered. This
policy has now become the norm with approximately the top twenty scores
qualifying to move on.  That is the number that can comfortably be
tested in a two year period.  Index

I made the cut – what now?

next phase in the licensing process is
attendance at an intensive 18-hour training session, termed by some
wags as
"Charm School." All successful
examinees are informed of the scheduled date for the training and asked
to develop a fairly complete outline of their proposed tour to bring to
training.  This is
usually held on a weekend in late January through mid-February. You
will be assigned a veteran guide-advisor who will work with your
throughout the training and as you prepare for your oral.  Past
topics have included:

"History of Licensed Battlefield Guides"
"Elements of an Oral Exam"
"The Visitor and Visitor Relationships"
"Challenging and Difficult Visitors"
"The Importance of Theme and Transition"
"Site Relationship"
"Personalization Techniques"
"Historical Accuracy and Relevance"
"Superintendent’s Compendium of Rules"
"Touring Courtesy"
"The NPS, Gettysburg Foundation"
"Presentation Skills"
"Battlefield Tour Demonstration (with your advisor)
"Evaluation of the Oral Exam"

is a grueling experience but a learning one.
One of
the most important segments of this session is the ability to work with
an experienced Licensed Battlefield Guide throughout the weekend.
 He/she will assist you in developing the tour outline. Another
key component is the opportunity
to experience an actual guided tour. (Note: Plans have been discussed
as of January, 2013 to add a third day of training to be attended AFTER
successfully passing the oral.  This would include many logistical
topics previously covered in the basic training but of little use in
preparing for the oral exam. Index

is the oral exam like?

Immediately following the training session, the
process enters its hardest phase. All applicants are expected to
successfully pass an oral examination which consists of a two-hour tour
which you give to a ranger and an LBG playing the role of visitors. You
provide a vehicle and you drive. On the appointed day you arrive at the
Visitor Center and report into the desk where the examiners will be
called. Prior to arriving you should work out a good tour which covers
all possible aspects of the battle within a two-hour time frame (not
much shorter and absolutely not much over.) The oral is treated as any
normal tour of the field. The examiners play the role of visitors and
will tell you where they are from. You are expected to weave that
knowledge into your interpretation, to personalize the tour to the
party. You will be evaluated on that. The examiners will question you
throughout the tour in order to test your knowledge and your ability to
weave those answers into your narration. They will be looking for
your ability to present the information coherently, for evidence of a
theme, for good introductions and conclusions, nice transitions day to
day and site to site, an ability to keep the party oriented, an
expertise at using the site as an interpretive tool, the
ability to present at an appropriate level for your clients, your
rapport with people, your tonal quality, the handling of tour
mechanics, appearance, and driving ability. All of these and much more,
will be looked at by the examiners. To say the least it is a nerve
wracking experience that once endured, you do not wish to do again. Index

will this be evaluated?

Throughout the trip the guide and ranger will
be taking notes, recording their observations, and marking your score
on a scoring rubric. Sometimes you may be asked to return to the Visitor
Center early. If this happens, you generally did something so wrong it
needs to be corrected. If you do make it the whole way around, and most
tours are allowed to continue to the end just to see it, then you will
be asked to give the examiner about a half hour to compare notes and
talk about what they saw. This half hour may seem like the longest time
you’ve ever waited.

You will be taken into an office and the three
parties: guide, ranger, and you, will talk about the exam. You will be
critiqued. You will be told what you did right, what you did wrong, and
what areas you need to work on. You will be told at this time if you
passed the exam or if the examiners wish you to take the test again. A
good many of the guides now licensed failed the oral exam the first
time through so that is normal.

you failed, you will be told exactly why and
how to
fix it. You will be allowed to take as much time as necessary to
correct the problems, asked to take some more practice runs around the
field and perhaps even hook up with a guide willing to help you work
on the rough spots. You will be provided with written comments from the
examiners after the initial oral exam. These comments are specific to
your individual tour and the comments given to one candidate may be of
little value to another candidate.  At your convenience, you will
asked to phone in and let the examiners know when you are ready and you
will be
rescheduled, going through the whole process again. Index

if I fail the oral the second time?

In any given testing year about one-third to one-half of the
who successfully pass the written test, fail both oral exams. If you
fail the oral twice you must repeat the entire process. You must wait
until the written test is offered again, take and pass it, go through
the training session, then take the oral. Some do so and again fail,
some do so and finally make it. Some simply give up. Index

if I pass the oral exam?

If your examiners say "congratulations, you’ve
passed!" you can breathe a deep sigh of relief. You’re almost there. At
this point you will be told you will receive an evaluation in the mail
as you probably still have weak points to work on in your program. At
the time you are doing so someone at the park will probably check out
your references and paperwork to make sure all is in order. You will
receive a written form of the license which must be signed along with
the statement of rules and regulations which your signature indicates
you will abide by. Included with this must be payment of your annual
licensing fee, ranging anywhere from $75 to $360 depending on your
license category. The superintendent will sign and issue your official
license which is a card you must carry while on tour.

You need to acquire a uniform from the list of
prescribed items. If you wish to do busses, you must purchase a
portable public address system. You need to visit the Visitor Center
in order to get some guide patches for your uniform and some receipt
books. Once this is done, and the expense to do so may run anywhere
from $200 up to $500 to get this far, you are ready to show up one
morning prepared to conduct your first tour!!! Index

do I keep my license?

Once you are licensed, there is no additional
examination necessary unless significant quality complaints are received. You are expected to keep up with your
research and to keep current. You are expected to constantly refine
your tour and, indeed, as you guide you actually begin to develop a lot
of different tours in order to keep your own sanity.

Each year you are required to conduct a minimum
of tours based on your category. Full time guides must do 175 tours a
year, part time guides must do 90 tours a year and weekend, part time
guides must do 50 tours a year. In addition, no more than 40% of those
tours can be busses or groups. During the summer months, you must guide
at least once every fifteen days. Presuming you meet all of those
minimums and have not received complaints from visitors, you will
automatically be renewed the following year whereupon you pay the fee
and sign the licensing agreement again. Index

are the licensing categories?

are considered a full-time guide if you are
available to work twelve months a year, virtually every day of the week.  A part time guide is generally
available full time June, July and August, and on weekends March, April, May,
September and October. The weekend, part time guide is
available to work on weekends from May until the end of October and
after 2:00 p.m. weekdays during the summer. This category is being
phased out and new guides can no longer select this. These categories
designed not only to provide maximum guide coverage during peak
visitation but to provide a variety of options for those still working
at "real" jobs. You are asked to select a guide category each year and
may change with permission of the guide supervisor. The Weekend,
Part-time license is being phased out and is no longer open for new
candidates or existing guides to choose.  Index