Your last chance to take the paper pencil pe civil exam is october 27,2021

The transition of the PE Civil exam from Paper and Pencil to CBT is not groundbreaking news as the NCEES has been transitioning exams from Paper and Pencil to CBT since 2014. We believe the real shock came was when they moved up the date from April 2023 to April 1st of 2022 as part of their response to COVID-19. The limited amount of test takers allowed in exam caused concern for the PE Civil exam, the largest of the PE Exams, so the NCEES fast-tracked the transition and moved it up an entire year. We have noticed this change has certainly caused a stir within the engineering industry as potential test takers are being forced to decide to register for the FINAL Paper and Pencil Exam in October or wait until registration opens for the year-round CBT exam in April. This decision comes with a significant amount of uncertainty as no one really knows what the new CBT exam will entail. With uncertainty comes concern and rightfully so.

The most common question we get:

What does this change mean for me?

First of all, understanding the difference between the two exams is imperative in making your decision.

With that being said, we will dive right in and go with the scariest part first. With the transition to CBT you will no longer be permitted to bring in personal reference materials. The only accepted reference material will be the reference handbook provided by the NCEES. This handbook will be displayed on one half of your computer screen and the exam on the other half. There is a search function within the handbook, but this still can be very difficult to find specific topics, especially if you are like most of us and are used to tabbing tangible reference materials for quick and easy reference. The other major concern is going to be the length of this handbook. We have already seen the monster PE Mechanical handbook at over 500 pages, and it is rumored that the PE Civil reference book could be even longer.

The second biggest change and possibly equally as scary change is that there are no longer just multiple-choice questions. At least with multiple choice you are able to make an educated guess by quickly eliminating a couple of options and choosing between the remaining ones, thus giving you some possibility of getting an answer correct even when you were uncertain of the answer.

With CBT testing there are now Alternative Item Type (AIT’s) as well as multiple chose. The AIT’s are as follows:

  • Multiple correct—allow examinees to select multiple answers
  • Point and click—require examinees to click on part of a graphic to answer
  • Drag and drop—require examinees to click on and drag items to match, sort, rank, or label
  • Fill in the blank—provide a space for examinees to enter a response to the question

These types of questions are scored as either correct or incorrect thus eliminating the possibly to receive partial credit.

The last major change is that the exam format used is called Linear on the Fly (LOTF) testing. With this type of testing each examinee gets a different exam. Whereas the Paper and Pencil exam is exactly the same for everyone across the nation on exam day. The questions of course changed from exam session to exam session but everyone received the exact same test. With the random selection of questions, you may find yourself in a position where the system is pulling a large number of questions from an area where you are not necessarily strong in and the guy next to you may have received a test that just so happened to be perfect for him. This can be incredibly frustrating, especially in the event that you do not pass the exam on the first attempt. It can make it difficult to determine which areas to study more in depth prior to your next attempt as you may not have any of those type of questions on your next attempt.

So, where does that leave you?

We would first suggest thoroughly weighing both options. After all this is a very big step in furthering your professional career. If you are like a lot of other engineers, there is certainly great apprehension in being some of the first ones to try out the new CBT format for the PE Civil exam.

If you determine that Paper and Pencil format is right for you, please check out our depth specific PE review courses to help prepare your for-exam day. For additional information about our comprehensive review courses please click on the following link

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