Orange County Branch Newsletter

May 2012

Secretary's Column

Changes to the PE Exam

By Gary Gilbert, PE, GE

The End of an Era - Changes Coming To The PE Exam

The transition to an all electronic version of the professional engineering (PE) exam is starting earlier than planned with the spring 2012 surveying exam being held in early June.  Some of our Orange County Branch Members may not have heard that there was an error in the printing of the survey exam in April and now the implementation of having the survey exam held in test centers is being moved up from the planned start in October.  For the formal letter from the board, click here.  

The rumor on the street is that the seismic exam was printed twice, therefore, no survey exam for aspiring professional engineers to take.  As can be guessed, the people who didn't study for the exam were joyous and the people who did study were angry.  The board of registration has tried it's best to address the range of reactions to the exam being cancelled.  It appears from the notice provided by the board of registration that there will be multiple dates for the exam (June 2nd through June 9th).  

With the change of the exam to 100 percent electronic and being held in test centers, it is officially an end of an era.  Future engineers will miss out on the following rites of passage us licenced engineers experienced

  • Driving to Pomona at 6 in the morning.
  • Having a test proctor ask about your calculator five times during the exam.
  • Argue with the test reviewer why you should have had one more point on a problem.
  • Making sure you had a mechanical pencil with #2 lead.  
  • Being careful not to get a splinter from the large wooden tables.
  • Wonder during the exam if the chairs were specifically designed to be so painful to sit in.
  • Think during the exam about how you probably should leave and go to the Home & Garden Expo in the building next door instead.

Of course  I am showing my age with a few of those comments.  With the change of the exam, there will be the usual conflict between the people who took the exam before the change saying the exam is easier now and the new generation of test takers saying the opposite.  I had the opportunity to take the exam when the afternoon portion was still a written exam.  It was interestesting just choosing three questions even though some were outside my area of expertise.  I found that the grades on the different questions varied a lot.  Since my plan to study twice as hard for the PE as I did for the Engineering In Training (EIT) exam didn't work out, I had the opportunity to be in the first group to take the all multiple choice exam.  There was discussion at the time about how the new exam was not at the same level as the former exam.  I felt the opposite taking the exam.  Test takers would still need to write out their exam problems to get the answer, but there was no partial credit.  The answer had to be correct or otherwise the wrong answer was also one of the answers.  This method seemed to be more consistent with the engineers mentality that the infrastructure we are designing needs to be correct and their is no partial credit.  

I wish the ASCE members taking the exam good luck in June, and hope that the new exam process goes well for you.  

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