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What Happens During an NCEES Exam Development Experience?

Dec 10, 2021

After taking two PE exams for mechanical and fire protection engineering, I thought I was done with those eight-hour exams and NCEES in general. However, in 2017, I was approved to volunteer on the NCEES PE Mechanical engineering exam development committee. The committee is responsible for writing and reviewing the items and developing the exams to meet all established guidelines for administration. Meetings are held at NCEES' headquarters in Greenville, South Carolina (previously Clemson, South Carolina before relocating). Volunteers in attendance had their expenses paid in accordance with the NCEES travel policy, and I simply could not pass up this golden opportunity to volunteer and help guide the future of professional engineering.

What Happens During an NCEES Exam Development Experience?

Professional mechanical engineers from all over the country attended this meeting, and I estimated there to be at least 80 of us there. We provided our feedback to NCEES after a multi-day meeting and many of the discussions were enlightening-I was able to learn what other engineers, companies, and governments around the US were doing and how licensure affected them. It drove home the importance of having a robust and relevant PE exam. I was familiarized with the exam development process and had the chance to meet some incredible NCEES staff, most of whom were professional engineers themselves. (Sidenote: Throughout the meeting, I felt woefully inadequate compared to my peers who were all incredibly talented and intelligent, but this has only served to push me harder in my own pursuits of professional development).

Overall, this experience with NCEES was eye-opening for me and I was glad I participated. I was impressed with the professionalism of my fellow engineers as well as the drive of the NCEES organization. As a test-taker, I always grumbled at the expense and difficulty of the exam without understanding or even considering the work that goes into developing, administering, and scoring the exams. I was glad to see that NCEES valued not only our exam experience but also our experience in the industry. They stressed that they relied on engineers like us to give accurate feedback because we know what is going on with the engineering profession across the country. The benefits of attending this meeting cannot be understated, and I even received a complimentary official NCEES coffee mug!

Another positive of attending this meeting was the ability to network with other like-minded engineers who were just as passionate about advancing the profession. Years later, I still keep in contact with engineers that I met there across the country, including Alaska and Texas. They have provided me with valuable advice, especially as it relates to sustainability and energy usage for HVAC systems.

After the meeting was over, and at my own expense, I spent a day in Greenville and Myrtle Beach, two beautiful places that I'm glad I was able to visit. I enjoyed my stay there as a tourist and it was nice to see some of the fun things there. Also, the food was delicious! I certainly hope I get another chance to participate in NCEES exam development and look forward to my next trip to South Carolina.

I highly recommend any professional engineer to volunteer with NCEES to help with their exam development. A link with more information can be found here:
About the Author: Nick Tran

Nick Tran is a licensed Mechanical and Fire Protection Engineer in California. He has an Associates degree in Computer Aided Design from De Anza College, a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering from San Jose State, and a Master of Science degree in Fire Protection Engineering from Cal Poly SLO. He is currently on the UL Standards Technical Panel for UL 38 and was president of the Alameda County Fire Prevention Officers Association.

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