What’s the passing score for the PE Exam in 2021? And what’s the scoring process? In this article (and video above), we look at the exam and see how the NCEES “determines the level of performance that corresponds with minimal competence in that discipline”.
You can find the information shared in this post, plus more, on the PE Exam passing score at NCEES. Most of the PE Exams are 80 multiple choice questions taken over an 8 hour period – 40 questions in the 4 hour morning session, and 40 questions in the 4-hour afternoon session.
The NCEES administers some of the PE exams (depending on discipline) through computer-based testing (CBT) and others through traditional pencil-and-paper testing. No exams are offered in both formats, and the scoring process DOES vary based on the testing method.
You can see a full list of which PE exams are offered in which method at ncees.org/exams/scores/
The NCEES’s Scoring Process for CBT Exams:
The CBT Exams:
Exam results are based on the total number of correct answers that you selected. There are no deductions for wrong answers.
The score is then converted to a scaled score, which adjusts for any minor differences in difficulty across the different exam forms. This scaled score represents an examinee’s ability level and is compared to the minimum ability level for that exam, which has been determined by subject-matter experts through psychometric statistical methods. This is similar to how they place exams on a grading curve in elementary school, the passing grade is related to how everyone in the class did on the exam.
NCEES does not publish the passing score. They score each exam with no predetermined percentage of examinees that should pass or fail. All exams are scored the same way. First-time takers and repeat takers are graded to the same standard.
Your Exam Results…
Exam results are reported as pass/fail. If you did not pass the exam, you will receive a diagnostic report indicating subject areas of relative strength and weakness. The diagnostic report can assist you if you decide to retake the exam.
The Traditional Pencil-and-Paper Exam:
The Grading Process:
All answer sheets for multiple-choice exams are machine graded; a percentage of answer sheets are also manually verified to ensure accuracy. The essays for the afternoon portion of the SE exam are scored by teams of subject-matter experts, but let’s stay focused on the PE exam here.
Determining Passing Scores:
When an exam is introduced or when its specifications change, a committee of subject-matter experts works with experienced psychometricians (testing experts with a background in statistics) to determine the level of performance that corresponds with minimal competence in that discipline. This process serves to determine the passing score. They are really doing some heavy data analytics here to determine what they believe to be a fair passing score.
NCEES does not publish passing scores because they change with each administration. Again for the pencil and paper exam, NCEES scores each exam with no predetermined percentage of examinees that should pass or fail. All exams are scored the same way. First-time takers and repeat takers are graded to the same standard.
For subsequent administrations of each exam, statistical equating is used to ensure that this level of performance is consistent across multiple administrations of that exam. Essentially, this means that while the numerical passing score may change with each administration, you are not disadvantaged when one administration of a particular exam is more difficult than another. This process accounts for the 8- to 10-week interval between an exam administration and the release of scores to member licensing boards.
This process serves to make sure regardless of when you take the exam, your chances are just as good as anyone else that took it in the past, even though the questions might be slightly different.
Your exam results are determined by the number of items you answered correctly for the exam in its entirety. There are no minimum requirements for particular sections or topics within an exam. You are not penalized for incorrect answers. You may request that your exam answer sheet be manually verified, however a fee is charged for this service.
Although there are no set numbers provided to pass the PE Exam, it is believed, according to research that you will need to correctly answer approximately 70% of the questions. That’s about 56 right answers out of 80. This is just an approximation, based on opinions given by multiple people. Its best is to be prepared and to study everything you will need to know to pass the PE Exam which our other videos can help you do.
I hope you found this week’s article 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 this video, 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