Measuring professional competence

Providing uniform national licensing exams is an essential part of NCEES’ work to facilitate mobility and uphold standards for engineering and surveying licensure. Before the first FE and PE were introduced in the 1960s and the FS and PS in the 1970s, the exams used for licensure varied for each state or territory. This made it difficult for a professional engineer or surveyor licensed in one jurisdiction to become licensed in another.

Expanding computer-based testing

October 2016 started a new chapter for NCEES and its member boards: the first computer-based professional exam. Examinees began taking the computer-based PS exam at Pearson VUE test centers across the United States on October 3.

The new PS exam format is linear-on-the-fly testing, or LOFT, in which examinees each have a unique set of exam questions that are similar in difficulty. The same format is used for the FE and FS exams, which have been offered via CBT since 2014.

The computer-based PS exam introduced a new testing component: alternative item types (AITs). AITs are items other than traditional multiple-choice questions with one correct answer. They include

  • Multiple choice options (allows multiple answers to be correct)
  • Point and click (click on part of a graphic to answer)
  • Drag and drop (click on and drag items to match, sort, rank, or label)
  • Fill in the blank (provides a space for examinees to enter a response to the question)

NCEES plans to next introduce AITs in the FE and FS exams in in the PE exams as they move to CBT in the future, providing new ways to test licensure candidates’ competence.