Do you know that all PE Exams are eventually going to be CBT (computer-based testing) and what exactly that means for you?
You can find the details from NCEES here, however NCEES had always planned to move the exams to computer-based testing or CBT, however, it is now fast-tracking the move to CBT for some of the PE exams, as part of its response to COVID-19. Currently, PE exams are administered in either CBT format or a pencil-and-paper format depending on the discipline of the exam. Once an exam is moved to CBT, the biggest difference is that you can’t bring in your own books or reference materials anymore – you only get one reference book that they provide you with which is an online reference manual.
Computer-based testing or CBT exams include traditional multiple-choice questions as well as alternative item types (or AITs). AITs, provide opportunities to assess the technical knowledge of examinees using methods not available through traditional pencil-and-paper testing.
All questions, including AITs, are scored as either correct or incorrect. There is no partial credit. These AITs or alternative item types may include but are not limited to the following:
- Multiple correct which allow examinees to select multiple answers
- Point and click which require examinees to click on part of a graphic to answer
- Drag and drop which require examinees to click on and drag items to match, sort, rank, or label
- Fill in the blank which provides a space for examinees to enter a response to the question
AITs are incorporated into the practice exams for CBT exams, so you will be able to practice these types of problems ahead of time. You can also review the general format of AITs in the Pearson VUE computer-based testing demo.
Some CBT exams are administered year-round. NCEES designs these exams using what’s called a linear-on-the-fly (or LOFT) algorithm. I know there are a lot of technical terms and algorithms. However, the LOFT algorithm ensures that all examinees for a particular exam are required to answer the same number of questions on the same topics. It also ensures that no examinees will have the same exact set of questions. The algorithm serves to design a unique exam within the same specification framework (meaning the same number of questions per topic area) and the same relative level of difficulty.
Other CBT exams that have a smaller population of examinees use a different high-stakes testing model and are administered on a single day each year. All examinees taking these exams do receive the same questions.
The question formats used on both types of exams are the same, independent of the statistical model employed.
NCEES has successfully converted some of its PE exams and is in the process of converting the rest of them to a computer-based format. Once they convert an exam to CBT, it is no longer offered in pencil-and-paper format. You can check the schedule for exams moving to CBT (including which already have) to find the dates and requirements for the test here.
All NCEES exams that haven’t yet been converted are currently in the conversion process and scheduled to launch in computer-based format between now and 2024. They are currently offered in pencil-and-paper format and available once or twice per year depending on the exam until they convert to CBT.
For more information on registering for a CBT exam, download the NCEES Examinee Guide where you will also be able to check out if you are eligible to register for the exam and how you can register for the exam. Please note the information reviewed in the video can be found here.
I hope you found this week’s video helpful. Remember the 80/20 Rule in YOUR studying efforts and your reference material selection. In upcoming videos, I will walk through some more practice problems, but also talk about tackling qualitative problems.
We publish videos weekly on our Pass the PE Exam YouTube Channel. Be sure to visit our page here and click the subscribe button as you’ll get expert tips and tricks each week – to ensure your best success – that you can’t get anywhere else. Believe me, you won’t want to miss a single video.
Lastly, I encourage you to ask questions in the comments of the videos or on this page and I’ll read and respond to them in future videos. So if there’s a specific topic you want me to cover or answer, we have you covered.
I’ll see you next week.
Anthony Fasano, P.E.
Engineering Management Institute
Author of Engineer Your Own Success
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