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Re: CA SE / SE2

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First, the notion that a "steel specialist" won't be screwed under the new
test format is rather naive.  Now, such a person could in theory be
"assured" of get about 25% correct rather than nothing right (assuming
that there was no steel problem or part on the old two problem
test...which there was on test BOTH times I took it).  Either way, you
would still likely fail (i.e. be "screwed").  To pass the test, you need
to be somewhat broad in your structural knowledge...I would opine that is
how it should be.

I do feel bad for those that will have to take it now that you can just
pass either the morning or afternoon session, but rather will have to
re-take the whole thing if you fail (which I had to do anyway since I
failed the morning and afternoon sessions the first time I took it).  It
was nicer to only potentially have to worry about re-taking a 4 hour test
rather than an 8-hour test.

Personally, I had no problem with the concept of two "long" problems.
This made the test much more like a real world problem.  The problems were
usually a series of small parts that were all linked together, just like
what you do in a real world project.  For example, you would determine the
seismic lateral loads, then determine how those seismic loads distributed
to the various lateral system elements, then design some or all of those
elements.

The concern that I see with going to 4 problems is the potential to make
speed more of an isue.  I have encoutered this with the SE III exam in
Washington.  It had four problems on it.  But, each problem is usually
involved enough that 2 hours is a little bit of a stretch from a realistic
point of view (oh, it can be done, but I have never believe in tests being
to test how quick you can do the stuff, but rather how CORRECT you can do
it).  Thus, I worry that NCEES will keep the 4 problems almost as involved
as the 2 problems were, which could emphasize speed too much.  But, then I
don't like the all multiple guess format that all the PE level tests have
gone to...so there is no pleasing me!! <grin>

As to the calculators, every test that I have taken have "prohibited"
programmable calculators.  Thus, I have never taken my trusty old Casio
fx-7000g (programmable and does graphs) to a licensing exam.  I have two
(identical) "cheap" scientific calculators (Casio fx-115w) that I use for
the tests.  The only time that I have had to "modify" what I take with me
was this last time (last week) that I took the SE III in Washington.  I
had to take my dad's cell phone with me to the exam cause I could not take
in my Treo (with built-in PDA and regular keyboard in terms of layout, but
SMALL).  And I don't have a problem with such a policy.  Everyone should
be operating on the same level...i.e. no one should be given the advantage
of having some programs in their calculator that can do some of the work
for you...besides, such a program could be a liability because how do you
show your work?  Just bite the bullet and get yourself a nice "basic"
scientific calculator.  Now, I will admit that Minnesota should list what
they consider acceptable vs. not acceptable.  It would really suck to go
out an get a calculator that you think meets the rules only to find out
not so when you go to the exam (almost as bad as the poor slob who showed
up to the SE III testing location in WA only to find out that his exam was
elsewhere and that the state had sent him directions to the wrong
location).

Anyways...have fun taking the test!!  I am sure that I will be back in WA
next year for another attempt and the SE III...yipeee!!

Regards,

Scott
Ypsilanti, MI


On Mon, 3 Nov 2003, Michael L. Hemstad wrote:

> Jason Kilgore wrote:
> "Something to be VERY aware of is the format for the SE II is changing
> in = the near future.  I believe as soon as next spring's test.
>
> Instead of two long and involved problems (one morning, one afternoon),
> = you get 4 not-quite-as long and involved problems (two morning, two =
> afternoon).
>
> The object was to be more fair to engineers who specialize in one =
> particular material.  For example, if a steel specialist got one
> concrete and one = wood problem on the old SE II, he was screwed.
>
> Now he'll get at least one steel related problem.
>
> The NCEES web site should have more information, and I know they'll be
> publishing a "sample problem" booklet as a study guide.  As I understand
> = it, the problems will be similar, just shorter."
>
>
>
> I have a couple opinions to vent:
>
> I took the SE2 a couple weeks ago.  Last spring, the pass rate in
> Minnesota was 17 percent.  I don't know how that compares to the
> national rate.
>
> Perhaps because of the obvious concern this raises over flooding the
> market with well-qualified structural (and civil, mechanical, and
> electrical) engineers, the Minnesota board decided to jump the gun on
> NCEES and outlaw nearly every programmable calculator made in the last
> 20 years (including my HP-41, purchased in 1981) based on concerns over
> text editing and communication capability.  I doubt the test was
> modified to reflect this disadvantage over past test-takers, but that's
> only a guess.  The really frustrating part was that they never published
> anything like a comprehensive list of acceptable calculators, they never
> outlined the drastic threat to security they were saving us from, and
> their reasons for rejecting many calculators were poorly researched,
> ieffective, and simply wrong.  They were both cavalier and not
> particularly competent.  OK, so that's many frustrating parts.
>
> I bought the NCEES Sample Problem booklet and was thoroughly
> disappointed to find that it referenced the 1994 UBC, while the test was
> based on the 1997 version (among other codes).  I also was dismayed to
> find that its problem solutions were in some cases based on pretty
> arbitrary assumptions; I hope the test graders feel the same way.
>
> I have not yet had reason to think of the NCEES as cavalier, but the
> fact that they sold me a Sample Problem book based on an obsolete code
> without telling me makes me, to at least some extent, question their
> competence.
>
> I think the 4 problem test is a better idea than 2 questions.  A test
> with so few questions is far too limited to use to judge a structural
> engineer's adequacy.
>
> Mike Hemstad, P.E.
> St. Paul, Minnesota
>
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