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Re: Unreinforced foundation walls and PE/SE debate

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With regard to your question about structural licenses exams...

There are 4 structural test out there at the moment (I believe that it is
still currently 4).  There is the NCEES Struct I, the NCEES Struct II, the
Washington Struct III, and the California SE exam (aka the Western States

The NCEES Struct I exam is equivalent to the Civil PE exam.  It is a 80
question (I believe) multiple guess exam.  The only really difference
between it and the Civil PE exam is that it is _ALL_ structural
engineering questions.  It is rather easy (in my opinion), much like the
Civil PE exam is rather easy.  If nothing else, it is certainly the
easiest of the structural exams.  It is an 8 hour exam.  It is used as the
"first" step/exam of many of the SE licenses and is also used by many
states as the PE license exam as an alternate choice to the Civil PE exam
(i.e. for those that only wish to do structural work).  FWIW, this exam,
like the Civil PE exam, used to be 4 hours of "short answer" (i.e. write
out your solution and get partial credit) in the morning and 4 hours of 40
multiple guess in the afternoon but was changed to the 80 multiple guess
format a several years ago.

The NCEES Struct II exam is generally the "second" step/exam (not counting
the EIT) toward getting a SE license in many states that offer such a
license.  It is an 8 hour "essay" exam.  That is you solve problems and
write out solutions much like you do in day to day work...i.e. you get
partial credit.  It is currently a 4 question exam (you get to pick from
at least a building or bridge set of questions).  It used to be two 4 hour
questions that you could pass seperately (i.e. when I took it, you could
pass the afternoon question but fail the morning question and only have to
retake the morning part), but I believe that it is now pass or fail it
all.  It is a reasonable hard exam.  The questions are very similar in
nature to what you will do in the "real" world, except you have serious
time limitations (you can still get it done in the time allotted, but
think of it as working on a project with a real tight deadline).
Basically, if you know the codes rather well (i.e. were to find stuff and
how to use/apply the code provisions) then you will likely do well.  It is
DEFINITELY much tougher than the Struct I or Civil PE exams.  In the past,
the afternoon problem would DEFINITLY have seismic design on it.  I am not
sure how it is done now that they have gone to the 4 question format.

The Washington Struct III exam is the last part of getting a SE license in
Washington.  At this point Washington is the only state that uses it that
I am aware of.  It is a 8 hour exam with 4 "essay" questions on it.  There
are 2 mandatory questions and then for the final 2 questions you get to
pick between a bridge question and building question.  It is rather like
the Struct II exam in over all format (i.e. "essay" problems that you
write out your solution/calculations and get partical credit), except it
is even harder.  Most, if not all, the questions have seismic on them.
FWIW, I believe the passing rate is typically around 5% to 20% (varies
from year to year).

The California SE exam (aka The Western States exam) is only used in
California and supposedly is on its way out there as well.  Supposedly,
the California Legislature is pushing to have a "nationally created and
recognized" exam used.  So, they may end up using Washington's "system" or
something much like it.  The exam is a 16 hour "essay" problem exam (i.e.
write out solutions/calculations and get partial credit)...I believe
(haven't take it, unlike the others).  From everything I have heard it is
extrememly difficult, but since I have never taken it, I really cannot
compare with the others.  If nothing else the 16 hours (two day) is

For most states with a SE license, they require the EIT, the Struct I and
the Struct II.  I know this is true of Illinois, but I also believe it is
true of the other states with SE licenses with the exception of Washington
and California.

Washington requires the Struct II and Struct III.  Since I was not an
"original candidate" in Washington (i.e. it was not my first license and
for me it was by least partially), I am not sure if you
take the Struct I as part of the SE license process or if you take the
Struct I to get your PE license.  Since I had already taken the Civil PE
(for Michigan), the Struct I (for Illinois) and the Struct II (for
Illinois), I only needed to take and pass the WA Struct III exam to get my
SE license there (PE license was by pure reciprosity...i.e. fillout the
paperwork and pay the fee).

California requires the Western States exam (at the moment) to get your SE
license.  In addition, you must have three California SEs who will act as
references for you...and you must have at least 3 years (I believe) of
"structural" experience beyond your PE license (don't know if they will
consider 3 years beyond your initial PE license or if it must be 3 years
beyond getting your California PE otherwords, if I got my PE
license in California this year, would I have to wait 3 years to apply for
the SE license or could I do it right away since I have had more than 3
years of experience since I got my PE license in Michigan? Dunno, but will
likely find out in the future).  And you must have your PE license in
order to get your SE license (this is true in Washington as well).  FWIW,
getting your PE license in California is not just a straight forward
reciprosity...they have two "extra" exams that civils must pass to get
their PE license...a surveying exam and a seismic exam (both are about 2
to 2.5 hours long if I recall correctly).


Scott Maxwell, PE, SE
Adrian, MI

On Tue, 1 Feb 2005, Don wrote:

> Stan wrote:
> "Don't you use the soil pressure and calc. the masonry wall
> stresses? If you do, you find that reinforcement is required
> for any height of fill."
> Not necessarily.  Especially with a larger house, there is a significant
> dead load placing the wall in compression.  In areas of lesser wind loads,
> most of this dead load may always be there.  This compression plus the
> minimal tensile capacity of the mortar joints provide some bending capacity.
> So, even if an engineering analysis were performed, a wall of a given height
> and thickness, unreinforced, can withstand  a certain height of fill/lateral
> load.  I believe that this analysis, plus tons of empirical experience,
> resulted in the foundation wall tables of CABO, now IRC.
> PE/SE:
> I am a PE only (not "only a PE"), licensed in several east coast states.  I
> took the civil exam, and answered every structural-related question I could
> find.  It was the first year I heard of the SE exam being offered, but I
> wanted the flexibility of being able to proctice both civil and structural.
> Good thing, because I have done both.  I now (for the last 5 years) practice
> structural only, and am intrigued by the SE license/tests.  I do not think
> it would benefit my practice significantly, but may add weight in a conflict
> between two engineers, especially at the legal level.  So, finally to my
> question:
> Could someone please expalin to me what the three tests are, how long they
> are, how difficult they are, and what SE states require which tests?  Could
> you please reply directly to dbryant61(--nospam--at) as I am in digest mode.
> Thanks,
> Don
> Donald R. Bryant, PE
> 518 Bushnell Drive
> Virginia Beach, VA  23451
> 757-428-6471
> fax 757-428-6473
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