21May

Let’s take a look into the past, the early-mid 1970s when the scantron was first developed. If you were in grade school or college proceeding the 1970s, you probably remember the stress scantrons caused—ensuring your #2 pencil completely filled in the bubble of your corresponding answer to a question, for example, or (the most stressful) hoping that the bubble you attempted to erase was in fact completely erased. 

Although the scantron completely revolutionized exam-taking and scoring in earlier years, technology continues to rapidly evolve, therefore causing the scantron to slowly lose its popularity. In our case, that statement is especially true for the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES). 

The last few years, you’ve probably heard the term “Computer-Based Testing” or “CBT” tossed around regarding NCEES examinations. Since 2011, NCEES has been slowly transitioning its exams away from scantron technology for an even more streamlined administrative and scoring process. Beginning with the Fundamental of Engineering (FE) and Fundamentals of Surveying (FS) exams, NCEES has already transitioned a handful of examinations to the CBT format. 

Wondering what a CBT exam really is and what it means for you as an NCEES examinee? If your exam has already transitioned to the new format, you will be taking your exam on (you guessed it!) a computer. CBT exams can be taken at any NCEES-approved testing center based on your schedule (granted, some smaller exams are offered on a limited, scheduled basis). 

So far, the following exams have transitioned over to the CBT format: 

FS
PS
• PE Nuclear 

According to NCEES, below are the estimated times of the remaining transition periods: 

Exam
Transition Year
2020
2020
2020
2020
2020
PE Agricultural and Biological
2021
PE Electrical and Computer: Computer Engineering
2021
2021
2021
PE Mining and Mineral Processing
2021
2022
2022
PE Metallurgical and Materials
2022
PE Naval Architecture and Marine
2022
2023
2024

If your chosen exam is a ways from being transitioned, your exam will be administered via the paper and pencil method (aka using a scantron). Exams will also be held only in April and/or October each year, depending on the type of exam. Because those exams are administered using scantrons, they will only consist of multiple-choice questions and do take some time to be scored. For most PE exams, for example, scantron scoring takes approximately a month.

As CBT exams are logistically easier to manage and score, CBT exams have differing question types throughout. These questions are called Alternative Item Type (AIT) questions. AIT questions feature multiple formats including drag and drop questions, fill in the blank questions and questions where multiple correct answers are selected. According to NCEES, those taking the computer-based exams should expect 10 percent of the questions to be AITs, and the remaining questions will be in the traditional multiple-choice format.