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California SE Exam Cheating Ends

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In June 2011 Governor Brown signed Senate Bill 543 (effective 2012) that included approval of NCEES to prepare the California exam for structural engineer, which from the beginning, up to, and including the last exam, October 2011, was written, reviewed, and graded by “volunteer” California based structural engineers. This major, and permanent, change follows the Board of Professional Engineers effectively giving up on securing the exam to prevent insiders from leaking advance information about the exam to colleagues, friends, and relatives to the detriment of other examinees who do not have such contacts. The Board turned a blind eye toward the problem, each year supposedly attempting new procedures to prevent leaks and at the same time suppressing a myriad of complaints from those examinees who did not make the 25 or less percent passing quota. Other procedures to suppress dissent have been enacted; candidates appealing the exam were once afforded the opportunity to review the exam that they failed, but after complaints that some failing candidate’s solutions were correct because the solutions used by the Board were incorrect allowing some to pass because of leaks of the accepted solution or tricks in the problem, the long standing appeal procedure was suddenly dropped. Then the Board outlawed the publication of past exam problems because their solutions were very often found by reviewers to be defective, even to the point of prosecuting those who provided correct solutions under the guise of the possibility of reusing exam questions.

Over the years, structural exam "subversion" has been pervasive and tacitly allowed because of pressure by certain structural engineering companies, Caltrans, and the Board’s incredible naivete with the Board finally admitting to the public at the April 15, 2009 meeting that the situation was, essentially, out of control and hopeless. At the carefully orchestrated meeting, the two structural engineers on the Board spoke in tandem. The first engineer stated that subversion” is an euphemism for the word “cheating” and that "there is a very big problem". The second engineer put the vote to switch to NCEES to the Board, and it passed 9-0 without discussion. The capitulation was couched in accessory non-reasons such as "cost" (but volunteers, besides getting valuable information, have been paid an average of $15 per hour over the years) even though the structural exam was protested and litigated for many years. The general knowledge by all that the more qualified candidates were consistently failed more often than those that were connected, even just a little bit.

Investigators found that about 70 per cent of the candidates who passed the structural exam were from offices that wrote, reviewed, and graded the exam and with that statistic was that every candidate from those same offices passed the exam. Big surprise! The "problem" has been perpetuated and fairly recently enlarged with the use of the PC to the point that portions of the exams were available on networked computers of the offices that wrote or reviewed or graded the structural exams. Even grading was subverted, although numbers instead of names appear on exams, lettering is distinguishable between engineers and easily identifiable.  If found out, those who leaked information were quietly and gently, reprimanded with virtually nothing ever published about the "subversion" year after year, particular to only the home-grown exams (SE and GE), although it was known to be “a very big problem” but only admitted at the last minute when dumping the exam. The usual prostitute SE’s have been hired to act as "referees" or “subject matter experts” to combat complainants, with the result that appealing and complaining examinees inevitably are denied certification. Given that speed is what is needed to pass most competitive open-book tests, the huge advantage for any civil engineer having in advance even just a small part of the structural exam is obvious. Beginning this year, finally, examinees outside the locus of the insider virus will experience equality.