Letters to the Editor
Surveying GISApril 2004
[I] found Mr. Binge's smiling face next to a well-written article [titled] "An exercise with Autodesk Map." Thanks, Michael, for taking the time to discuss how to import ESRI shape files (including attributes) into Autodesk Map. Between Deral Paulk's posts on Map [on www.rpls.com] and your article, there may be hope for me yet.
I originally upgraded to Map 3 for its digitizer cleanup functions and SDTS import functions. Map has a lot of hidden power beyond its CAD capabilities.
I believe a number of statements Mr. Mouland represented as facts in his column are quite misleading. Mr. Mouland im-plied that all state specific exams are two hours long when he stated that "a state board member recently said [to an audience that] it was almost impossible to come up with enough good questions to fill up a two-hour exam." Being licensed in Florida (and recently sitting for the Georgia state exam) I can attest to the fact that Florida's state exam requires five and three-quarters' hours of examination and Georgia's state exam encompasses a full eight hours of examination.
The statement that there is "an effort to get away from the old clothes of "apprenticeship'" is another misleading statement with regard to national surveying programs. In all states that I am aware of there is still a requirement for four years of experience subsequent to obtaining a degree to ensure Mr. Mouland's fears in this area are addressed. In fact, when I obtained my degree from the University of Florida, the program required (and still does require) two summer internships (co-ops) working for an established surveying company to be completed before a degree would even be issued.
Mr. Mouland's [statements] that students are required to take "more calculus than is needed by a rocket scientist" and "legal skills and studies are reduced or eliminated" certainly do not apply to surveying programs in Florida or Alabama. In this world of least squares adjustments, GPS, GIS, DTMs and the mathematical knowledge required to apply such areas effectively, trigonometry alone won't keep up with the requirement of our expanding profession. The surveying program [at] the University of Florida requires courses in surveying law, business law and even accounting principles, all of which prepare a future surveyor for [his/her] entrance into the professional community. The Troy State program in Alabama has courses taught by lawyers and a sitting judge to expose [its] students to the reality of how the law affects surveyors.
It is inaccurate and misleading to make blanket statements regarding the profession and academic programs throughout the country. With regard to those programs that are in fact guilty of the "ruses" Mr. Mouland speaks of in his article, the profession should endeavor to improve them and make them the programs we all desire and [that] the profession requires. There are excellent existing surveying programs around the country and these should be the models we follow.
Michael J. Zoltek, PSM
The National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) would like to respond to several statements in Dennis Mouland's March 2004 article "The Surveyor's New Clothes."
Mouland writes that the NCEES land surveying test "evaluates knowledge of trivia, ability to perform tasks only a small percentage of the profession would encounter, or demands that one answer questions with the wrong answer."
The issue of triviality is one that NCEES takes seriously. When developing a test to evaluate the competence of land surveying applicants, NCEES makes every effort to ensure that the questions and problems assess critical aspects of the profession. All NCEES examinations are grounded in a validation process that begins with a job analysis known as a Professional Activities and Knowledge Study (PAKS). NCEES uses rosters provided by its member licensing boards and the American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing to send a PAKS questionnaire to a cross-section of professionals across the United States, aiming for diversity in geography, practice, age, gender and ethnicity. The questionnaire asks recipients to rate the importance of different tasks and knowledge required of a newly licensed land surveyor. Those who complete the survey set the examination content.
Because the surveying profession changes rapidly, NCEES undertakes a new PAKS every five to seven years. Current exams are based on the 1998 PAKS. The most recent PAKS questionnaire was sent to more than 5,000 surveyors, photogrammetrists and GIS professionals in May 2003. The more than 1,900 respondents included surveyors from every state and jurisdiction. A special NCEES committee of volunteer licensed surveyors is using these survey results to develop new specifications for the content of the Fundamentals and the Principles and Practice of Land Surveying examinations; these are scheduled to be administered in October 2005. The PAKS results are also available to every state board, which can use the data to help determine content of the state exam.
Regarding test questions requiring a wrong answer, this is a concern that NCEES addresses through an arduous test-development process. The initial questions are written by practicing professionals. A committee of different practicing professionals then reviews, answers and discusses each question. Questions identified as possibly confusing, misleading or unimportant are discarded. The Council has in place a final safeguard against questions that require inaccurate answers. NCEES routinely analyzes test results statistically to detect questions with possible flaws. Those considered problematic are eliminated before the final scores are calculated and released. Examination pass rates are posted on the NCEES website.
NCEES understands the importance of having surveyors involved in creating the tests, and PAKS is just one of many ways the Council actively encourages surveyors to participate in the test-development process. It offers many opportunities for practicing surveyors to write new items, review existing items, attend cut-score workshops and help prepare study guides.
In the article, Mouland also writes that NCEES is on a "mission to make the test impossible to pass unless testers have a four-year degree," in an "effort to circumvent state laws..." The intent of NCEES is far from this. First, as part of its mission, NCEES is dedicated to assisting its Member Boards--the state licensing boards--with land surveying regulatory processes that demonstrate high standards of knowledge, competence, professional development and ethics. The Council provides these Member Boards with services that advance licensing procedures, such as quality education, examinations and qualifying experience. Second, through its Model Law, NCEES supports and advances a four-year degree requirement or education acceptable to the state board. Each state has the authority to set its own standards for licensure qualification. Experience is still an integral part of becoming licensed. In fact, the NCEES Model Law requires four years of experience at a minimum, and the Council recently accepted "Guidelines of Progressive Surveying Experience" (Appendix B of the Model Rules).
The NCEES website has much more in-depth information on all of these topics, and we invite you to visit it to learn more about exam development and licensure issues with regard to education and experience. Finally, please consider getting involved. The effectiveness of the testing process depends on professional surveyors throughout the country who volunteer their time and expertise. Visit the NCEES website at www.ncees.org to find out ways you can participate.
Donald Hiatte, P.E.
NCEES Executive Director
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