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     Re: California SE Exam vs NCEES Struct I and II Exams 

At 11:40 AM 02/24/2000 -0500, you wrote:
> The Western
>Zone SE exam (16 hour) is different from the Structural I and II (16
>hour) and I know that in CA you can't get reciprocity as an SE unless
>you've taken the Western Zone SE exam, and also passed the Civil PE and
>the Special Seismic and Special Surveying exams as well.  The Western
>Zone SE exam has been previously given in Washington, Oregon, Idaho,
>California and Hawaii.

        This is correct on both points. The "Western States", or zone, SE
Exam is now back to being California-only, the way it started out. The
others switched over to the NCEES Structural I and II "national" exams. Who
may do what, as to structural work and use of the SE title, varies from
state to state even though exams in common are used. 

        Why did the California SE Exam fall from favor? 

        I heard two members of the Nevada Board give their reasons to the
Calif Board, and I read a Washington Board newsletter article that announced
and explained the switch. The reasons were circumspectly set forth: The
California SE exam did not serve their purposes as well as the National SE I
and II exams, etc. My opinion is that the California SE Exam had fallen into
a lengthy pattern of inept and unfair practices, in recent years accompanied
by well-founded charges of gross error, cover-ups, indifference in grading
to following instructions the examinees were bound by, denial of credit for
correct alternative answers, and leaks of exam info by problem writers.

        I related to the Calif Board at its Dec 1999 meeting my own
experience as a member of the by-invitation-only SEAOC committee that wrote
and graded the 1981 Calif SE Exam. Another committee member had written a
retaining wall on piles problem; my job was to prove out the problem and
solution. I found three equally valid solutions, each very different from
the others, according to which two (of three possible) conditions of static
equilibrium were used to solve for pile forces. Local sub-committee members
agreed the problem had to be revised. It was, by others higher up, but not
in a way that cured any portion of the defect. The problem writer then
graded everyone to his originally written problem statement and favored
solution, and marked way down all other valid approaches. My repeated
protests to the local chairman were not acted upon, and I was not asked back
the following year. 

        Various minor revisions in the SE Exam procedure have been
instituted by the Calif Board since then, but the whole activity is kept so
undercover, increasingly so in the last 5 years since a vigorous lawsuit hit
them, that it is very easy for them to continue disreputable practices and
very hard for outsiders to ferret out misconduct. The wagons are tightly

        A friend who annually writes and grades problems for the NCEES
Control Systems Engineering Exam tells me that valid solutions that the
graders had not forseen are cheerfully given all the credit that expected
solutions are, and that pride in fairness and integrity is uppermost.
Perhaps such an image helped attract the other "Western States" to the NCEES
Struct I and II Exams.

Charles O. Greenlaw SE   Sacramento CA