Gaining Clarity on F.E. and P.E. Exam Changes Amid Coronavirus

April 20, 2020
“This is an incredibly dynamic situation, and while we understand the frustration of those who have been studying and want to test, our primary mission is assisting the state licensing boards in protecting the health, safety and welfare of the public.” – Tim Miller, director of exam services for NCEES

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected seemingly every aspect of society this spring.

Along with that, the cycle of civil engineering exams for professional licensure has changed, leaving would-be test-takers with questions.

Tim Miller, director of exam services for the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying, talked with ASCE News, hoping to provide some clarity during these challenging times.

ASCE News: Is there any possibility of implementing a process for exams to be taken from home?

Tim Miller: We use an in-person proctored process, where examinees must take their exam in an approved testing center. There are online proctored platforms, but to our knowledge, no one with high-stakes exam programs (those that result in a license where the candidate is providing services to the public) is using it.

Miller

It’s mostly used for certification programs. Even though new technology has been developed to increase security, new technology can also assist in defeating security measures and allow collusion.

ASCE News: Will test centers remain closed until they can all open, or could some open earlier than others depending on restrictions in place for certain locations or facilities?

Miller: Our testing partner, Pearson VUE, is monitoring developments and making those decisions to protect the health, safety and welfare of our examinees and their employees based on government guidance. It is possible that test centers will be open in some areas before others. Once open, test-center capacity may be affected by distancing restrictions.

ASCE News: Will those whose scheduled exams were canceled receive priority for exam times when test centers reopen? And how will that impact availability of test slots for new graduates?

Miller: Test centers are currently closed until May 1. Those who were canceled may reschedule at no fee or cancel with a full refund. And those who have appointments already scheduled in May and beyond can do the same.

As this affects all of Pearson VUE’s clients, future appointment times will fill up quickly, so we recommend rescheduling as soon as possible.

ASCE News: What changes to the F.E. and P.E. exams or the exam-taking process are in the works, either related or unrelated to the pandemic?

Miller: We are in the process of transitioning our 33 engineering and surveying licensing exams from pencil and paper to computer-based testing. This is an enormous and complex undertaking, and we anticipate completion in 2024.

In the meantime, we still have some exams, including the five P.E. Civil exams, that are pencil-and-paper. Unfortunately, we had to cancel our April exam administration, and this affected nearly 16,000. We are making plans for a two-day, pencil-and-paper administration in October to increase capacity for those examinees, in addition to the ones who were planning to take the exams in October. Certain exams will be offered on each day, and we intend to open registration on June 1 – two weeks earlier than normal to allow additional registration time for all those wanting to take the exam. More information regarding the October paper and pencil examination can be found here.

ASCE News: Do you have any recommendations for adjustments or strategies exam-takers should plan for or make this year in how they prepare, given the COVID-19 pandemic?

Miller: Monitor our website for announcements and updates. This is an incredibly dynamic situation, and while we understand the frustration of those who have been studying and want to test, our primary mission is assisting the state licensing boards in protecting the health, safety and welfare of the public.

5 Comments
  • I am wondering how this will affect the passing rates and scoring of the Civil PE exam.

  • Avatar Godsgift Eleojo ACHEMU

    I am Nigerian and I have in mind to write the exam, is it possible for me to write as a Nigerian and does the system have an online examination?

  • Avatar Godsgift Eleojo ACHEMU

    I am Nigeria and I have in mind for me to write the exam, it possible for me to write as a Nigerian and does the system have an online examination.

  • Would like to try out the PE exams during this break due to COVID. Please let me know the procedure. Thanks.

    • Avatar Becky Waldrup, P.E., M.ASCE

      NCEES is planning to conduct the next P.E. exams in October of this year. Mr. Miller noted that registration for the P.E. exams will open on June 1, so set yourself a reminder for that date. The earlier you register the better your chances of finding available a test location and date that are most convenient for you. Since the April exams had to be canceled there are likely to be more people than usual registering for the October exams.

      ASCE will be offering a virtual live P.E. exam review course, and the schedule and registration information will be posted in early May at https://www.asce.org/live-exam-review-courses/.

      Find NCEES updates on the October 2020 exam at https://ncees.org/october-2020-exam-administration-updates/.

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