Friday, June 17, 2011

Fraud! “California Special Civil Engineering Exam Simulation Software 1,000 Questions” Do NOT Buy!

Fraud! “California Special Civil Engineering Exam Simulation Software 1,000 Questions” Do NOT Buy!

Why I Bought the Seismic Sample Test Software
Previously I have stated that I failed the special California seismic exam because I completely did not study. This fails to capture the truth. The truth is, I planned well in advance for my exam preparation. I allotted money to purchase up-to-date reference books, join ppi2pass, acquire a copy of CERM, and to purchase study manuals and software. After reading the testimonials, and enjoying the effectiveness of the practice tests on ppi2pass, I purchased ATI's seismic and surveying exam software.

After establishing my resources, I carefully researched all the required materials. I considered the import of each code book, exam preparation book, and other materials, including ATI Publication’s seismic exam practice questions “for both Seismic Principles and Surveying portions of the Exam.”

The software, in fact, has no seismic exam questions at all. Zero. Nada. Null. The limit of 1/x as x approaches infinity. There are only surveying questions, bizarre, unhelpful surveying questions. 

Reality of the Material 
The surveying questions, however, focus on aerial survey geometry. There were actually some of these questions on the exam. And, I was able to spend some time on those problems in calculations. However, I solved those using a library book I checked out the previous week from the Stanislaus County public library. The offered solutions and explanations for the surveying questions in the sample problems were bizarre, non sequitur and just plain made no sense. I have to provide an example to clarify the unique strangeness to you:

Q:4  In C-2-II order base error is 3.0 & allowable error ratio 1:20000. Following where it’s applicable?

You answered: A. Property survey

The correct answer was:  A. Property survey

Explanation: At property survey C-2-II order is applicable.

Let me rephrase the explanation, in case it is not obvious. The answer is “property survey” because C-2-II order is applicable. Umm… okay. And, what about the base error and allowable error ratio? What do those two data points mean? How do they help me know “property survey” and C-2-II go together? Thanks for nothing.

Here’s another one:

Q:11  Rapid static GPS surveying is same as static, except that one receiver always remains on the control point while the other is moved from one unknown station to another unknown station. Following where it may use?

You failed to provide an answer.

The correct answer was:  A.  Boundary survey

Explanation: Rapid static GPS surveying is applicable for boundary surveying.

This one just does not make any sense. Does anyone beside me think someone used “translate to English” software to convert these questions from foreign text?

The two above examples came from Exam 1. There are zero seismic questions in Exam 1. There are a total of 20 exams. I opened several, quit to the review and scrolled through all the questions. There are NO seismic questions. And, the questions are all very generic about aerial surveying and a few other minor things.

In the end, I passed the surveying portion based on my extensive surveying experience in California and as survey team leader in Georgia. Even the topics covered in this software availed nothing but a vague familiarity. The library book helped me solve additional problems on the cusp of my knowledge.

False Testimony
The Testimonies on the home page of the company’s site contains many testimonies. Each testimonial is attributed to an initial and a last name. I looked up 11 of these on the Board of Professional Engineers License Lookup page. For two of these, M. Dotty and D. Gotvald, no person with that last name has ever been registered. For 5 more, the last name has representatives. But, no person with the given initial has ever registered: X. Han, E. Faust, L. Washington, B. Sengupta, and W. Vargas. Four of the names matched and included a first initial. However, one of these was cancelled, and registered in Ohio. Another is in Illinois. R. Wong comes from a group of 602 registered Wongs. 42 of these successful Wongs have initial R.

In short, a reasonable person would consider that these testimonials are entirely fabricated. First, 64% of the names do not exist. Next, some of the testimonials mention seismic material which does not exist in the software. Here is one from the fictitious D. Gotvald:

"Good practice for the exam. Thorough explanations which helped me become more familiar with the seismic ca codes. Practicing on the computer as appose to paper and pencil helped also."

Note the phonetic spelling of “as opposed to”.

Basically, I cannot see any value in this product. Additionally, it is my conclusion that this product is a fraud.

Where to Find Quality Surveying PE Exam Study Materials for the California Seismic Exam: 

Update: December 1, 2013: Here is a list of current and top-rated CA Seismic Exam Review books and products. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

2016 PE Exam Results (How to get them early!)

Passing Letters Sent Out! 

I received notice from the Board for Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors today: PASS!

If you have not received your letter, use the license lookup page on your state's professional board website.

The Secret to Finding PE Exam Results Early
Last week, another licensed engineer told me his nephew had not received a letter, but was able to find his number in the license lookup directory for California: Engineering PE License Lookup

[See list below for other states' license lookup pages.]

I searched for my own license number last week. I searched in the license lookup three times with different levels of completeness. I tried my city, name, and surname first. Next, just my last name. It was not in search results. Today, I got my letter. I also searched and found my new license number, which is not in the letter I received. Each state has their own license look-up.

I also learned my license expiration date. This was good information to know- it was set to expire in just a few months. So, I sent in a renewal payment. (In California, we don't have CEU's, we just continue learning because being a good engineer requires it!)

This method of acquiring the PE exam results should work for every state. It makes sense for the state boards to update their online license lookup databases before notices are sent. Otherwise, some ambitious engineer might get a stamp the same day, approve some plans, and submit them. Then, the public office reviewer checks on a name never seen before... and what if it's not there? So, it seems logical to expect the online lookup to be updated first. 

I also learned that A.B. 645 has removed the California requirement for engineers to include the expiration date on their stamp. It passed October 11, 2009. This bill alters Section 6735 of the Business and Professions Code to omit the requirement for the expiration date of the license of the professional at the time of stamping/sealing. Other states are likely to have followed this example. If your state does not require the expiration date, please post a comment with a reference so others can confirm. 

So, I am now off to order production of my stamp without an expiration date. I found the cheapest cost for the version I want here: PE self-inking stamp PE Self-Inking Stamps and Embossers

Best of hopes for all of you!

If You will Retake the Exam:
My personal theory as to why 60% pass and the others just get close is that the "close, but no cigar" examinees didn't have the right study tools. I waded through all the offerings, read all the reviews, and weighed in my personal experiences and recommendations on forums. Then, I compiled the best, current titles here:

PE Exam Materials - Best Only

Closing Thought:
Do you know what you call an EIT who takes three attempts to pass the PE exam?

A: engineer!

If you are not good at preparing for exams, you need "Pass the PE Like a Pro." It is an overview of how to prepare for the PE Exam. (Use the PE Exam Materials link above.)

License lookup for the 10 most populous states:

1. California
2. Texas
3. New York
4. Florida
5. Illinois
6. Pennsylvania
7. Ohio
8. Georgia
9. Michigan
10. North Carolina

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Marking the ASCE7-05 for Quick Recognition & Use

California Seismic Exam Preparation

While you prepare for your California State Specific Seismic Exam (or any other PE exam component), you will face a learning curve in chapter applicability recognition. One of the most important differentiations is to pattern yourself to quickly move to chapter 12- for Building Structures, and to chapter 13- for Nonstructural Components.

The problem is: the ASCE is a very bland mix of uniform type and random equations (at a glance, at least.) When you are maximizing your time (rushing), this can frustrate, confuse, and waste your precious minutes. To break the power of black and white type on paper:

Break up the page by highlighting the Section Titles. 

 I used blue for chapter 12 and pink for chapter 13. As you practice, you will begin to associate the blue with building equations and the pink with nonstructural equations. Additionally, the unique positions of the pink horizontal bars gives each two-page open book layout a unique look. You will begin to recognize these pages as the pages containing certain information and equations. This will help you visually recognize the location of certain pages.

Of course, the most important pages for referencing should be tabbed. For about $3, you can get some packs of see-through tabs in Office Depot or Office Max. The sticky part is clear. The tab which overhangs the edge of the page is in four colors: green, red, yellow, and blue. You will want these in all your reference books. It really speeds up referencing tables.

Where to find great books for the PE Exam:

You will need several reference books for the PE exam. Most people also purchase the CERM, two or more practice exam books, and other study materials. The best of these are compiled here:

Best PE Exam Review Materials