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RE: California SE Exam

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"Is it fair for test takers to question the rationale of the Board?"

Absolutely.  Their answer to your appeals will generally be "no", but it is
certainly fair to ask the question.

"Pass rates of 25% to 60% are common for the other engineering disciplines."

One common rationale I have heard (not saying it's right) is that the SE is
a subspecialty, and so it is fair to raise the bar higher than in a more
general exam like the PE.  You can do quite a bit with a basic PE, after
all.  In the same vein, a lot of people with general civil backgrounds and
weak structural backgrounds may take a shot at the SE to see if they can
pass and pad their resume or extent their business, and set themselves up
for failure because they simply don't qualify by experience or study to work
at that level.  If you want to draw a more direct correlation, you could
look at the passing rates of WA's SE III exam, which is their seismic
supplement to the national SE tests.  Rates there have varied from 35% down
to 9% in recent years.  The passing rate for the last session of the NCEES's
national SE II was 17% for the full exam.  These are all awfully low, but
awfully similar to one another.

"The pass rate on the 2001 SE was only 12%."

All that being said, 12% seems awfully low unless there is some mitigating
circumstance.  At that point, you have to think that a qualified individual
who happens to have a headache or a cold on the day of the exam is probably
coming back next year.  That's tough to hold back someone's career based on
such a narrow measure.

"The purpose of these tests is also to ensure the public safety. Do you
believe that the arbitrary decision by the Board ensures public safety?"

Again, not saying you are right or wrong, but the exam is not going to be
exactly the same every year, so I wouldn't expect that passing score to be
exactly the same every year.  It is a very difficult and partly arbitrary
task setting a passing score that accurately reflects a particular level of
competency based on one exam.  I doubt that will change.

All that being said, 12%.  Wow.  Maybe wages for the existing pool of SE's
have been dropping and they figured they better shut the door for a while.
:)  Does anyone believe that only 12% of people qualified to test are
qualified to practice?  I don't know if I do.


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