Dr. Z’s Corner

Dr. Z

Ahmet Zeytinci, P.E., Ph.D., Fellow-NSPE, Fellow-ASCE is an award-winning professor, structural engineer and author living in Washington, D.C. Since joining academia, "Dr. Z", as he is known by his students and colleagues, has distinguished himself on campus and beyond. He is passionate about engineering, gifted in teaching, and a true champion for professional licensure. Dr. Z. has extraordinarily high standards; has produced award-winning designs; is prolific in professional service; and infects others with these same values. He is the recipient of numerous local, regional and national awards, including the recent national award, “Excellence in Engineering Education-2015” from the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE). Since 2014, he has been regularly writing monthly technical articles here for ASCE-NCS and his column is titled "Dr. Z’s Corner." Dr. Z. also offers pro-bono Saturday classes for students and engineers; his free classes are open to all in the metro area and cost nothing, nada, zilch!

Dr. Z's Corner

Dr. Z’s Corner (201701)

Dr Z’s Corner: P.S. Stands for Professional Licensed Surveyor: Let’s Talk about Surveying Licensure, Part-II


Let me start with a question: Abraham Lincoln, Henry David Thoreau, Thomas Jefferson, Daniel Boone, James Cooke and George Washington. What do these famous people have in common? They all engaged in surveying at some periods in their lives. Although the practice of surveying will not provide a sure road to the White House, many members of the profession like to think that important characteristics like problem-solving skills, paying attention to details, quick thinking, and self-reliance, helped these surveyors to become leaders. Unfortunately, many schools, including ours, dropped the Surveying course from their curriculum.

Principles and Practice of Surveying, Computer Based Test (CBT) Exam Specifications

According to NCEES, effective beginning October 1, 2016, the Principles and Practice of Surveying exam will be computer-based as well. It is a closed-book test with an electronic reference. Examinees have 7 hours to complete the exam, which contains 100 multiple-choice questions. The 7-hour time also includes a tutorial and an optional, scheduled break. The exam uses the U.S. Customary System (USCS) of units and was developed with questions that require a variety of approaches and methodologies, including design, analysis, and application. The categories with average number of questions area as follows:

1. Legal Principles (about 28 questions)

Topics: Common/case law boundary principles, Sequential and simultaneous conveyances, U.S. Public Land Survey System, Controlling elements in legal descriptions, Riparian and littoral rights, Property title issues (e.g, encumbrances, interpretation, deficiencies), Sovereign land rights (e.g., navigable waters, eminent domain), Prescriptive rights/adverse possession, Easement rights, Parol evidence.

2. Professional Survey Practices Principles (about 28 questions)

Topics: Public/private record sources, Project planning (e.g., photogrammetric, geodetic, boundary), Control datums, Encumbrances (e.g, easements, rights of way, mineral rights, subsurface rights), Control network accuracy standards, Supervision of and responsibility for field procedures, Supervision of and responsibility for the application of surveying principles and computations, Grading and site preparation, Survey maps/plats, Survey reports and Descriptions.

3. Standards and Specifications (about 13 questions)

Topics: Federal statutes, laws, rules and regulations, State/local statutes, laws, rules and regulations, Monumentation laws and ordinances, U.S. Public Land Survey System, American Land Title Association/American Congress on Surveying and Mapping (ALTA / ACSM) surveys, Geodetic control network accuracy standards, Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) standards (digital mapping), US National Map Accuracy Standards (analog mapping), Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)

4. Business and Professional Practices (about 21 questions)

Topics: Project planning (e.g, parameters, costs, budgeting), Contracts, Risk management (e.g, liability, safety procedures, insurance), Ethics, Communications (oral, written, graphical), Quality assurance procedures, Activities, background, and skills of related professions (e.g, engineers, lawyers, architects, planners)

5. Types of Surveys (about 18 questions)

Topics: American Land Title Association/American Congress on Surveying and Mapping (ALTA/ACSM) surveys, Control and geodetic surveys, Construction surveys (e.g, construction calculations and staking), Hydrographic surveys (e.g, elevations of submerged surfaces), Boundary surveys, Route and right-of-way surveys, Topographic surveys (e.g, scanning, photogrammetry, LiDAR, field), Condominium surveys, Subdivision surveys and Record drawing (as-built) surveys.

Brief History of Surveying

Surveying is as old as recorded civilization and nobody knows when surveying was first used. The history of land surveying dates back thousands of years and forms of land surveying have been around since ancient man in all major civilizations across the globe. As long as there has been property ownership, means of measuring the property and distinguishing one’s land from another became important and methods, techniques and regulations have been developed.

Ownership of land has and still is a very significant part of the lives of everyone in the world. For many scholars, the building of the Great Pyramid at Giza in 2700 BC is considered as one of the first examples in the history of land surveying. The Romans were the next civilization to advance on the initial land surveying techniques of the Egyptians. The early development of surveying cannot be separated from the development of astronomy or mathematics since these disciplines were closely interrelated. Geometry and surveying was particularly necessary in the Nile Valley to establish and control landmarks. In recent history, Napoleon Bonaparte was very enthusiastic about accurate land surveying. When Napoleon was trying to conquer the world, he always made sure that he had very precise maps available at the time, which were obviously very important for him.

I shall close with a final thought. During the Fundamentals of Engineering and Professional Engineering exams, timing is everything. The more time you spend on a difficult question; the more time you risk second guessing yourself. When you use process of elimination to eliminate a wrong answer, make sure you cross it out on your note pad. Don’t leave it there to confuse you if you have to choose between two remaining answer choices.

And lastly, always trust your intuition and believe in yourself. You are braver than you think and more talented than you know. Definitely you will conquer the test!


Until next time,

Ahmet Zeytinci, P.E.
Dr.Z. (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

Dr. Z’s Corner (201611)

P.S. Stands for Professional Licensed Surveyor: Let’s Talk about Surveying Licensure, Part-I



First, to make some of our readers smile, let me start my note with good news on exam charges for Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) and Fundamentals of Surveying (FS). Yes, it is official; beginning January 2018 the price for the (FE) and (FS) exams will be just $175 instead of current $225.

In this issue of Dr Z’s Corner, we will be answering some of our readers’ questions regarding the requirements for becoming a Professional Licensed Surveyor (PS). When it comes to buying or selling property, making exact measurements and determining property boundaries, providing data relevant to the shape, contour, location, elevation, or dimension of land or land features on or near the earth’s surface for engineering, mapmaking, mining, land evaluation, construction, and other purposes, like driving down a highway or walking a public trail, Professional Surveyors (PS) are charged with protecting the health, safety, and welfare of the public.

In the United States every state and territory requires those who perform the tasks defined as the “Practice of Surveying” to hold a professional surveying license and surveyors are licensed at the state level by professional licensing boards. Surveying boards confer the PS license when licensure candidates meet a combination of requirements in education, experience, and exams; sometimes referred to as EEE requirements.


Complete the appropriate level of education in your state. Check the requirements of your state licensing board. Some require only a high school diploma, while many others require a degree from an accredited four-year surveying program.


Licensure candidates typically must pass the Fundamentals of Surveying (FS) exam, the Principals and Practice of Surveying (PS) exam, and a state-specific exam.


Most states require four years of acceptable, progressive, and verifiable work experience under the supervision of a licensed surveyor.

Before registering for an upcoming NCEES’ (National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying) surveying exam, a candidate for PS should review and understand his/her state’s approval and registration process. This can easily be done by referring to NCEES site and selecting the state or territory of interest from the map with a drop-down list.

According to NCEES, the FS and PS exams are administered via computer-based testing and the registration is open year-round. In order to register for your FS and PS exams, it is necessary to contact your state licensing board directly for information about state-specific surveying exams.

Similar to FE and PE exams, NCEES develops and scores the FS and PS exams for surveying licensure as well. The FS exam is generally your first step in the process to becoming a professional licensed surveyor (P.S.). It is designed for recent graduates and students who are close to finishing an undergraduate surveying degree from an EAC/ABET accredited program. The PS exam tests your ability to practice the surveying profession competently. It is designed for surveyors who have gained at least four years of professional experience.

Fundamentals of Surveying (FS) Exam Specifications for Computer Based Test (CBT)

The FS exam is a computer-based test (CBT). It is closed book with an electronic reference. Examinees have 6 hours to complete the FS exam, which contains 110 multiple-choice questions. It is important to know that the FS exam uses only the US Customary System (USCS) of units.

Topics & Number of Questions:

1. Mathematics: (about 13–20 questions) Topics include: Algebra, trigonometry, basic geometry, spherical trigonometry, linear algebra and matrix theory, analytic geometry and calculus.

2. Basic Sciences: (about 5–8 questions) Topics include: Geology, dendrology, cartography and environmental sciences,

3. Spatial Data Acquisition and Reduction (about 6–9 questions) Topics include: Vertical measurement, distance measurement, angle measurement, unit conversions, redundancy, knowledge and utilization of instruments and methods, and understanding of historical methods & instruments.

4. Survey Computations and Computer Applications (about 19–29 questions) Topics include: Coordinate geometry, traverse closure and adjustment, area, volume, horizontal curves, vertical curves, spirals and spreadsheets

5. Statistics and Adjustments (about 6–9 questions) Topics include: Mean, median, mode, variance, standard deviation, Error analysis, least squares adjustment, measurement and positional tolerance, relative, network, and positional accuracy.

6. Geodesy (about 5–8 questions) Topics include: Basic theory, satellite positioning, gravity, coordinate systems, datums, and map projections

There are seven more categories – total 13 categories – and we’ll continue in the next month’s issue, January 2016.

And finally, I would also like to include a statistic from NCEES. During January through June of 2016, total 363 examinees took the FS test and 47% passed the test on their first try.

I shall close with a final thought as usual: During the FS and PS exams, the more time you spend on a difficult question, the more time you risk second guessing yourself. Trust your intuition. You have worked hard, don’t doubt yourself. Come back to that difficult question when you might have a clearer mind (and visit some difficult questions in this month’s problem set).

Until next time,

Ahmet Zeytinci, P.E.
Dr.Z. (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)