FE Exam-Day Experience: From Testing Environment to Exit Procedures
Season’s Greetings! New Year brings not only joys, but it makes us happy with a hope to satisfy our dream or maybe even a new beginning of our life. We would like to wish all our readers a VERY HAPPY AND PROSPEROUS NEW YEAR!
When approaching the FE Exam for the first time, it’s natural to feel a bit overwhelmed. The best way to build your confidence is to prepare for the test and to know the ins and outs of the test. To answer many of our readers’ questions, in this month’s article, we would like to review the exam day experience and what you are expected to do that day. Make sure you review the website of NCEES. Once your registration is approved, you will receive an email notification that you have been authorized to take the exam and are eligible to schedule your exam appointment. NCEES computer-based tests (CBT) are offered in testing windows throughout the year during the following months: January, February, April, May, July, August, October and November.
After you register and know your exam date, NCEES recommends the following: First, you should plan to arrive at the testing center 30 minutes prior to your scheduled appointment. Upon arrival, a representative will provide you with a copy of NCEES-CBT exam rules for your review. After doing so, you will be asked to provide your digital signature to confirm that you have read the rules and agree to abide by them. Also you will be asked to provide a current government issued form of ID such as a driver’s license. Once the representative has confirmed your identification and the exam that you are taking, you will be asked to provide a palm vein scan and have your photo taken. Your signature, palm vein scan, and photo will be stored with your exam result. Prior to being admitted into the testing room, a representative will insure that you have, in your possession, only the items that NCEES allows into the testing room. These items include, your ID, an NCEES approved calculator, and eye glasses. Most test centers have secure storage lockers on site for you to store prohibited items such as cell phones, other electronic devices, and personal belongings such as a watch, wallet, and bag.
Once you complete the check in process, then you report to an exam proctor who will ask you to confirm your ID by providing, again, your palm vein scan. Next, the proctor will provide a review of the exam rules, escort you to the exam room, assign you a work station, and launch the exam period. Then the proctor will review the exam rules and will escort you to the exam room and assigned work station and launches the exam. Before starting your exam, all examinees will be required to read and agree to the NCEES’ non-disclosure agreement and complete a brief tutorial to learn how to ADVANCE to the next item, RETURN to a previous item, and FLAG items for review. After completing approximately 55 questions, examinees will be prompted, on screen with the option to take a 25 minute break. Examinees who wish to take the scheduled break should raise their hands and wait for the prompter to offer assistance. Unscheduled breaks may be requested at any time during the exam by following the same procedure. However, examinees should be aware that clock will not stop during an unscheduled break. Examinees are allowed to access their lockers during the scheduled and unscheduled breaks.
After completing the exam and a brief survey, you should raise your hand and the proctor will verify that you have properly exited from the exam. They will then escort you from the testing room and collect your booklet and marker. You will not receive any type of score before leaving the testing center. You will receive an email from NCEES within 7 to 10 days notifying you that your results are available for viewing in your MYNCEES account.
Finally, in both FE and PE exams, timing is everything. To conquer these exams, speed is crucial, but remember, speed can only be attained through practice and more practice!
Ahmet Zeytinci, Ph.D.,
P.E., F-NSPE, F-ASCE (Dr.Z.)
Future of FE and PE Exams: CBTs, AITs or Simply Alternative Item Type Questions
This month we would like to start answering some of our readers’ questions regarding the PE exams.
All Civil Engineering PE exams (Construction, Geotechnical, Structural, Transportation and Water Resources and Environmental) are currently offered in pencil-and-paper format and available once or twice per year depending on the exam. Computer Based Tests (CBTs) for all civil engineering disciplines is scheduled to start in 2023 and they will be offered year-round. A brief background about the CBTs:
In 2010, NCEES (National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying) started moving toward Computer-Based Tests (CBT’s). The process of first converting the FE and FS exams from paper-and-pencil to computerized exams changed the whole system of exam delivery.
This method of administering exams allowed candidates to have more flexibility in scheduling exams and provided a more uniform testing environment for all candidates while allowing NCEES to better protect exam content from theft, copying, and collusion. There are two types of CBT exams, year-round and single day exams.
Some CBT exams are administered year-round. NCEES constructs these exams using a linear-on-the-fly (LOFT) algorithm. This means that all examinees for a particular exam are required to answer the same number of questions in the same topics; however, no examinees will have the same set of questions.
The second type, single-day, CBT exams have a smaller examinee population using a different high-stakes testing model and are administered on a single day each year. All examinees taking these exams receive the same questions.
The question formats used on both types of exams are the same, independent of the statistical model employed.
After this brief introduction for CBT’s, now let’s talk about AITs.
Computer Based Exams include traditional multiple-choice questions as well as alternative item types (AITs). AITs provide opportunities to assess the technical knowledge of examinees using methods not available through paper-based testing.
As of July 1, 2017, the examinees taking a computer based NCEES exams have been receiving up to five types of questions on their exams.
Traditional Multiple-Choice (MC) questions that feature four answer options from which to choose. One of which is the correct answer.
Multiple Choice questions with Multiple Correct Options feature more than four answer options from which to choose and allow for multiple answer options to be selected or simply it requires examinees to select multiple answers.
Point and Click (P&C) questions require the examinee to select one or more pre-determined clickable areas that become visible when the examinee move his/her cursor over the graphic. To give an example for a P&C type question, you will be given the figures of a simply supported beam and its cross section (for example a rectangle). Assume the beam is under vertical transverse loads and the question asks you to mark (click) on the cross section where the maximum normal stress takes place. As you may’ve guessed, the correct answer would be at the top fiber (top portion) of the cross section. Another typical P&C type of question would a cantilever beam under downward transverse loads. In this case the entire top fibers of the beam will be under tension and bottom fibers will be under compression. Depending on the question, it is easy to mark the correct location on the figure to get the correct answer. Sometimes you will be given a graph, or a chart and you may be asked to mark a particular area depending on the question.
Drag and Drop (D&D) questions require the examinee to click and drag his/her answer options to sort, rank, match, or label a provided graphic. For example, you will be given the figures of four beams such as a simply supported beam, an overhanging beam, an indeterminate beam and a multispan beam. Next to the four figures you may see the list of four beam types. In this type of question, you will be required to match each of the beams with its correct description.
Fill in the Blank (FB) questions require the examinee to enter her/his response instead of choosing it from a list of answer options. Such questions can reduce or remove the potential for candidates to guess the correct response.
But in any case, don’t let these new AIT type questions scare you. As a rule, practice as many problems as you can. And never forget, during the FE and PE exams, the more time you spend on a difficult question, the more time you risk second guessing yourself. Always trust your intuition. You have worked hard, don’t doubt yourself. Come back to that difficult question when you might have a clearer mind.
Until next time,
Ahmet Zeytinci (Dr.Z.)