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The Five Best Ways to Prepare for the CA Surveying Exam

  • 27 July, 2020

1. Take a course

While preparing to take the California Surveying Exam (CSE), I found that there isn't one specific book that you can use as an exam review manual. Instead, my coworkers at the time presented me with five different textbooks I could use, with no real guidance or certainty on which one would be best. Beyond that, those texts were meant to go way deeper than the exam on many topics. Taking a course, in my opinion, is the best way to identify what is important on the exam and not waste time on topics that won't be tested.

2. Get familiar with your graphing calculator

The calculator permissions on this exam are different than others, and that means you can use a graphing calculator here. That is great news because you'll frequently be asked to convert Degrees Minutes Seconds to Degrees (in decimal form), either as the whole problem or a part of the problem. Sure, you could do it by hand, but you really won't have time for that! These calculators can be expensive but it's a worthy investment! (Tip: Ask a friend, classmate, or coworker to borrow theirs if you don't have one).

3. Create an easy reference guide

Whether you make a cheat sheet or tab formulas in your notebook, it's really important to have conversions (how many square feet are in an acre?) and formulas (area and curve) easily accessible to get through this exam.

4. Practice, practice, practice

I can't say this enough-practicing is so important. They can frame the question so many different ways, so you need to be really familiar with the information. Once you are well-versed in the material, it should be easy to identify what is being asked and how to plug it into the formulas you have.

The Five Best Ways to Prepare for the CA Surveying Exam

5. Become invested

One of the best "study strategies" I've found is to become really invested in the material. Change your attitude and try to find the content fascinating. At the time that I was preparing for this exam, I was doing design engineering work. I would look at some of my supporting material and get excited to see the bearings and easements and all the fun stuff you'll learn while preparing for the test. It not only makes the prep time more bearable, but it also will help the information stick!
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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