Point of Beginning

Editor's Note

August 1, 2004
Writing the licensure test.

Last May, the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) sent out its periodic survey, the Professional Activities and Knowledge Survey (PAKS), asking 5,000 geomaticians "to rate the importance of statements describing tasks and knowledge required of a newly licensed land surveyor." The purpose of the survey is for licensed professionals to share their opinions on the levels of importance of a variety of topics in an effort to develop the licensure tests. The instructions to the survey state: "The value of this study is directly related to the number of individuals who return completed surveys." It essentially calls out to the recipients that their opinions can help gauge the configuration of the Fundamentals of Land Surveying (FLS) and Principles of Land Surveying (PLS) tests.

Since the first NCEE (before "surveying" was added to the organization's name) FLS examination was administered in 1973, and since the first NCEE PLS examination was administered in 1974, there have undoubtedly been major changes to these tests. And they continue to be altered in accordance with changes to the respective fields covered. The board overseeing these changes offers the opportunity for licensed professionals to give their opinion on what will be on these tests. I think that's great, but I have two questions-one for NCEES and one for the survey recipients. To NCEES: why every five to seven years? Hasn't this profession proven in the last decade to 15 years (at least) that it is advancing rapidly, thus requiring the test to be updated more frequently? I took my question to NCEES. Director of Exam Development Chuck Wallace stated that the surveying committee "watches that subject matter closely. If they see we need a new PAKS before our next five to seven years, they would raise that flag." I personally think that flag should be waving every few years. Don't you?

A total percentage of 31.8 of the 5,000 PAKS were returned to NCEES for tabulation. This is a .3 percent increase over the 2003 returns. Maybe this rate on return wouldn't mortify most marketers, but I feel it can be better-much better. Without knowing the breakdown of the return rate from each of the groups the survey was delivered to, I hope that the surveying group shined above the others! So, my other question is directed at those of you who received the survey. Did you do your duty in completing the study?

Since the recipients of the PAKS are randomly chosen, and the modifications applied to the NCEES Model Law now include professionals from several different disciplines such as photogrammetrists and GIS specialists, many people of differing fields have a say in the exam process. Of these various groups, only 10 percent of U.S. licensed land surveyors received the PAKS questionnaire. The input from the other groups may be different than that of the land surveyor. That's why it's so important for all respondents to complete the survey-to provide a better representation of the various professional disciplines of the geomatics industry. If you don't, and I suspect some of you reading this did not, then you only have yourself to point fingers at. If you didn't give your opinion, you can't be a squeaky wheel. And think about this: the PAKS results are also made available to every state board, which can use the data to help determine content of the state exams.

I know if I were given the opportunity to write my own test, I'd definitely take advantage of it. Now, I know several of you have completed these surveys in the past. And to you, I thank you. For the others: what gives? It only takes about an hour to complete, and it could be worth a lifetime of value-or at least a five-to-seven-year value!

So when the updated exams are administered in October 2005, think about the Professional Activities and Knowledge Survey. You might be one of the recipients of this survey in the next five to seven years-or fewer if the committee deems it so. And perhaps if more people become involved, the 54 (FLS) and 66 (PLS) percent exam pass rates will increase.