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. 


  1. Wow, it is hard to believe that they would advertise that the seismic is covered in the exam, and not include it! The lost time is almost as big a deal as the money.

  2. Actually, Andy, my lost wages caused by the delay were substantial. It is important we pass the NCEES exam and both California state specific exams at the first sitting.


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