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NCEES Approves Computer-Based Testing for PE, PS Exams

September 5, 2012
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The state licensing boards that compose NCEES, the organization that develops and administers the exams used for engineering and surveying licensure throughout the U.S., have voted to begin converting the PE and PS exams to a computer-based format.

The unanimous decision was made during the 2012 NCEES annual meeting, held Aug. 22–25 in St. Louis. It follows a 2010 decision to convert the FE and FS exams to computer-based testing, a transition that will be completed in January 2014.

The PE exams will be converted to CBT in 2015 at the earliest, but as NCEES Executive Director Jerry Carter explained, the transition will be paced for each exam. “We offer 25 different PE exams in 17 different engineering disciplines, and NCEES will review each exam individually to determine what it needs to move to CBT,” he said. “The language approved by the Council is ‘at the earliest feasible date,’ and NCEES will move carefully and deliberately with each conversion to ensure that the exam continues to reliably measure professional competence.”

There is no set time for converting the PS exam to a computer-based administration, but Carter explained that NCEES wants to gain experience with computer-based testing for the FE and FS exams before it moves another exam to the new format. Carter also noted the advantages, including greater scheduling flexibility for candidates, more uniformity in testing conditions and enhanced security for exam content.

The PE or PS exam is typically the last step in the engineering or surveying licensure process. Over 25,000 candidates took the PE exam in the past year, which included October and April administrations. Over 1,200 examinees took the PS exam during the same period.

Among other actions taken at the annual meeting, NCEES member boards expressed their support for strengthening licensure’s protections by applying them toward engineered products and systems. They approved an amendment to the NCEES Model Law to require responsible charge of a licensed engineer over the engineering design of buildings, structures, products, machines, processes and systems that can affect the public health, safety and welfare. The amendment is a response to provisions in many state laws, known as industrial exemptions, which exempt firms that manufacture products from requiring a P.E. to oversee their design.

“The newly added requirement is subject to implementation at the state level,” Carter said. “But adding it to the Model Law-which serves as a best-practice model for state laws-demonstrates the boards’ commitment to protecting the American public.”

Full details on all motions considered during the annual meeting will be included in the official minutes, which will be published later this year.

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