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Re: [SEAOC] RE: Structural Engineer registration

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Dennis McCroskey wrote:
> >
> >Ron Hamburger wrote:
> >
> >>There is no excuse for an engineer who regularly practices structural
> >>engineering, and believes himself to be competent in this area,
> >>not to sit for the Structural Exam.
> ...
> >
> >
> >
> I tend to agree more with Ron Hamburger
> dennismc


You are honestly to be congratulated for easily passing the S.E. exam on
your first attempt, and I'm sure you're proud of it and rightly so, but IMHO the CA.
S.E. exam is a joke and a crap shoot.  Half of the questions are ambiguous, 
and attempting to answer 20 of them in 16 hours requires a lot of luck.  Many of the
questions are so poorly written that it often takes 5 to 10 minutes of
study and re-reading to just figure out what the question is asking.  The
exams are graded by the same individuals who wrote the questions and
they often think there's only one way to solve *their* problem; but, as
you know, an experienced engineer can easily find numerous ways to
solve a problem.  If the gradee picks a method that the grader doesn't
agree with, or worse doesn't understand, should the gradee be penalized?

A test (any test) is *valid* if it measures what it purports to measure.  If
you presume the CA. S.E. exam purports to measure whether or not an
examinee is qualified to practice structural engineering, then you have to
wonder "if all of the examinees are already licensed and have 8 years of
experience in structural engineering, and if only 25% of those taking the
exam pass, are the other 75% *not* qualified to practice structural
engineering?"  If you presume the test purports to measure whether or not
an examinee is qualified to practice *special* structural engineering (such
as for high rises, etc.) then why do all the questions on the exam cover
basic, general and simplistic structural engineering concepts?  There
weren't *any* questions on the two exams I took that related to *special*
structural engineering.

A test (any test) is *reliable* if it repeatedly measures what it purports
to measure from test to test.  Assuming the CA S.E. exam is valid (which I believe
it is not), then the fact that the pass rate is only 25% immediately casts doubt
on the reliability of the exam, simply from a statistical perspective, i.e.,
with a pass rate of only 25%, the test's reliability can't be reliably

Has the CA Board of Engineers subjected this test to evaluation to
determine its validity, its reliability?  Have they set up controls to
determine its effectiveness?  Have they even stated what it purports to

I could give specific examples of the test's fallacies (such as the 1990 test
being based on the 1985 UBC, a full 2 years after the 1988 code was
published) but I'll save them for another time.

I tend to agree with Bill Sherman.

Lew Midlam, P.E.