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Everything You Need to Know About the CA Surveying Exam

  • 13 July, 2020

The California Surveying Exam is part of the California Civil Professional Engineering License. Once you pass the national PE-the long, sometimes dreaded, 8-hour breadth exam-you can take both the CA Seismic and CA Surveying exams. Both of these are required in order to obtain your PE license in California.

The CA Surveying exam is a 2.5-hour test with 55 questions, which gives you fewer than three minutes per question. If you remember from preparing for the breadth exam, you get six minutes per question on that one. So, get ready to increase your speed!

The CA Surveying exam is computer based and offered most days of the year. You will receive an Authorization to Test (ATT) from the Board of Professional Engineers, Land Surveyors, and Geologists with your identification number, test name, and eligible dates which you will use to schedule your exam.

From there, you're on your own to study and prepare for the exam. I've written a few other blog posts on this topic, but my main study tips are to focus on the important topics (you can determine this through online research or by taking a prep course); invest in a graphing calculator, and get comfortable with it; make a cheat sheet with useful conversions and formulas for easy reference; and do as many practice problems as possible!

On test day, I advise you to get to the test center early, have all of your references bound (free sheets of paper are not allowed, so make sure to put your cheat sheet in a binder or notebook), and have a sweater with you in case the room is cold. The test center should provide earplugs, noise-canceling headphones, tissues, writing paper, and a writing utensil. Go into the test confident and focused, and it'll be over before you know it!

I can't say with certainty, but I found that test results are released on the ninth or 10th of the month after you take the exam. For example, I took the Seismic exam on the sixth of the month and had to wait for what felt like a really long time to get my results. Then, I intentionally took the Surveying exam on the 25th of the month so I could minimize the wait time.

I hope this helped you feel more comfortable with what to expect. This test is totally doable with good preparation. Best of luck!

School of PE offers comprehensive exam review courses for the CA Seismic and CA Surveying exams. Visit our website to register for a prep class that best fits your schedule.
About the Author: Erin E. Kelly

Ms. Kelly is an experienced structural engineer with a focus on seismic risk. She has extensive experience in structural failure investigations, seismic structural design, and seismic risk assessments. Through the School of P.E., she has taught a 32-hour course for the California Seismic P.E. Exam, authored several blog posts, and contributed to other review products. She has a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering from Johns Hopkins University and a Masters of Engineering in Structural Engineering from Lehigh University.

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