The Rumor Mill

Fact v. Fiction about Engineering Licensing and the Exams


Rumor:

The FE exam will be required for all engineering BS degree candidates in the future.

Truth:

Assessment of BS degree candidates has been a big subject among engineering educators in recent years. While it is possible that the FE exam will be used in the future as an assessment tool for engineering majors, no decision has been made and it is unlikely that we'll see this in the next few years.


Rumor:

Soon, you will be able to get a PE license when you graduate from engineering school, without taking any examination covering engineering principles.

Truth:

NSPE made such a proposal in 1997. Thus far, however, it has found little approval. There is currently no discernible movement to adopt this plan.


Rumor:

Soon, you will be required to have a master's degree in order to get a PE license.

Truth:

The ASCE has recommended that a "masters degree or equivalent" be the minimum education required for CE licensure. However, the idea does not seem to have garnered much support. Ultimately, it is the state boards that decide on the education requirements for licensure.


Rumor:

Soon, the PE exam will be replaced by a "law and ethics" exam. You will become a PE when you graduate with your BS degree and pass the law and ethics exam.

Truth:

Again, NSPE made such a proposal in 1997, and occasionally still mentions the concept. But this, too, has found little support.


Rumor:

The format of the PE exam is changing to:
(a) a computerized format
(b) be more or less than eight hours
(c) include required problems outside of your discipline

Truth:

(a) Eventually this may happen, but not in the near future.
(b) No, not true.
(c) No, not true.


Rumor:

Economics (engineering economy) is no longer a tested subject on the PE exam.

Truth:

Economics is no longer a specific portion of the exam, but questions continue to appear that require economic knowledge.


Rumor:

PE exam pass rates are fairly consistent.

Truth:

The passing rates vary from discipline to discipline and from administration to administration. Some disciplines enjoy pass rates of 70+%, while others languish around 50%. NCEES now reports the pass rates for only first-time examinees, which has caused the rates to appear to be more consistent that they were when repeat examinees were included in the report.


Rumor:

(a) The April and October PE exams do not have the same emphasis.
(b) One is harder than the other.

Truth:

Neither is true. There is no discernible pattern to the subjects or difficulty level of the exams.


Rumor:

States are free to set their own passing scores.

Truth:

True. However, so far states have always use the passing score recommended by NCEES. This allows for comity between states.


Rumor:

The PE exam is graded on a curve.

Truth:

Not true. The PE exam has a minimum passing score (the "cut score") that is determined prior to the exam.


Rumor:

NCEES changes the exam based on previous passing rates to allow more/fewer examinees to pass.

Truth:

Not true. The number of people passing is not a factor in setting cut scores.


Rumor:

Repeat test-takers are graded differently than first-timers. This is why the passing rate for repeaters is much lower than for first-timers.

Truth:

Not true. All tests are graded in exactly the same way.


Rumor:

Examinees with special needs may receive extra time or special accommodations.

Truth:

This is true. Examinees with special needs may be given additional time, may be allowed to take the exam on a different day or over multiple days, or may have someone read them the questions. Other accommodations are also possible.


Rumor:

PPI knows who passed and failed before examinees receive their results. That is why you may receive a PPI catalog before getting your exam results.

Truth:

Not true! PPI mails catalogs in June and December to people who have purchased from us previously and to others whose names are on mailing lists we purchase. Neither PPI nor any other company or institution has access to the information concerning who passed or failed the exam before it is announced by the state boards. Receiving a PPI catalog has absolutely nothing to do with whether you passed or failed. (If you would like to be removed from our mailing list, please let us know by sending an email with your name and mailing address as it appears on the catalog you received.)


Rumor:

(a) If you passed the exam, your notification envelope will be thick/thin.
(b) If you failed the exam, your notification envelope will be thick/thin.

Truth:

There is no standard here. Different states send out different amounts of information.


Rumor:

NCEES and PPI are the same organization.

Truth:

They are entirely separate organizations.


Rumor:

All states use NCEES' "Model Engineers Act" as the basis for their engineering licensing laws.

Truth:

A few states use the NCEES Model Engineers Act. However, most states wrote their own engineering laws before NCEES developed its proposed unifying code.


Rumor:

The state engineering licensing boards are staffed by bureaucrats who don't care about the PE candidates.

Truth:

Most state boards are staffed by hardworking people. The boards are totally dependent upon NCEES for the timing of certain events and upon their state legislature for funding.


What rumors have you heard that we may be able to help clarify? Send an email to The Rumor Mill.

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