When you take a USSF referee exam, take the time to break down each question.
First, anytime there is a restart waiting to happen the only things that will prevent that are the end of the half/game or the end of the world (with apologies to the late Harvey Finberg for borrowing his line). If there’s a goal kick waiting to happen and the goalkeeper punches an opponent in the penalty area, after we send off the GK for violent conduct, we still restart with the goal kick.
Second, was the ball in play? For a foul to occur the ball must be in play. But to know if the ball was in play one must also know when the ball is in play from a stoppage. There are eight restarts and referees must know when the ball is in play from each of them. Only one kick requires that the ball is kicked and moved forward to be in play -- the penalty kick. For a kick from one’s defensive penalty area including goal kicks, the ball must leave the penalty area and enter the field of play to be in play. For the other kicks, the ball is in play when it is kicked and clearly moves.
Third, know the difference between direct free kicks and indirect free kicks fouls. The simplest way is to remember "contact" or the "ING" fouls. All the Direct FK fouls involve contact: Tripping, kicking, striking, tackling, spitting (at), pushing, holding, jumping into, charging, impeding (with contact), and even deliberate handling (contact with) the ball. The IDFK fouls are the four GK violations plus dangerous play (w/o contact), impeding the progress of an opponent (w/o contact), preventing the GK from releasing the ball (no contact), and stopping the game just to issue misconduct.
Fourth, know the yellow and red card offenses. Read them. When testing, know that for fouls, careless is a run of the mill foul, reckless will be a caution (for Unsporting Behavior) and excessive force will be a send off (for serious foul play if contesting for the ball -- otherwise it will be violent conduct).
Fifth, know the difference between offside position and involvement in active play. And know the three restarts that one cannot be penalized for being offside even if they receive the ball directly from a teammate. Those are throw-in, goal kick, and corner kick.
We have some soccer-specific terms, sometimes used only in instruction and higher-level game reporting. Careless, reckless, and excessive force are three of those terms. Anytime one endangers the safety of the opponent they must be sent off. When we talk about directly we mean no other player has touched the ball in the interim. If a player receives the ball directly from a kick or throw it means just that - no second player has touched the ball. Even must is one of those special words. Many places we see the word must but it is really absolute in Law 1 where goals must be anchored and in Law 4 where players must not wear anything dangerous. Everywhere else we tend to regard must as should.
Finally, when you test, if you do not know the meaning or the words, ask for an explanation. The tests are written at around a 10th grade vocabulary and if you’re younger than that or if English is not your native language, it’s not embarrassing to ask for clarification. It’s one thing to miss a question because you don’t know the answer, it’s another to miss it because you don’t know what the question means. Ask for clarification from your instructor.
Updated: 5 Mar 2017