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ptatohed

Everything you wanted to know about the CA-Survey/Seismic Civil PE Exams

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ptatohed    570

I've been meaning to do this for a while now..... I thought a thread like this might be useful for future CA-Survey and CA-Seismic examinees. :)

 

If anyone has additional or updated information for this post, please let me know at any time so we can keep this thread current. I'll edit this post #1 as I receive new information.

 

 

Costs:

The application fee to the CA state board, BPELSG, is $125 (for either the initial or re-file application), and then $150 each for surveying and/or seismic (so, $275 for one exam, $425 for two). Prometric is the official CBT site for the surveying exam.  Prometric charges $65 each for surveying and seismic.  If you want to change your test date within 30 days of your scheduled test, you will be charged $40.  (Fees associated with the 8-hr NCEES exam and fingerprinting are separate and not discussed here)  

 

 

Useful Exam Links and Info:

- Link to the California State Licensing Board, BPELSG, homepage: http://www.bpelsg.ca.gov/

 

- Direct link to BPELSG's Survey and Seismic examination information page, including the Test Plans and the state's recommended reference lists: http://www.bpelsg.ca.gov/applicants/refs.shtml

 

- Link to Prometric's website: https://www.prometric.com/en-us/Pages/home.aspx

 

- Both exams are CBT (computer-based testing).  You can take the exam at any Prometric test center (even outside of CA).  Your application is submitted to BPELSG and your information is relayed to Prometric.  Prometric will send you an Authorization to Test (ATT) form about a month prior to the testing window.  You can then go on Prometric's site and sign up for the test(s) (you'll pay Prometric at this time).

 

- The CBT testing windows are offered two times per year - one in the spring and one in the fall at or around the NCEES 8-hr exam dates.  The windows for testing are typically about 10 days before the NCEES 8-hr to about 10 days after.  This can be helpful for those taking more than one exam... you can space the CA specific exams from the national exam.  It is planned that, starting in 2018, the CA-Survey and CA-Seismic exams will be offered year-round.  Link to the exam schedule:  http://www.bpelsg.ca.gov/applicants/exam_schedule.shtml 

 

- Both exams must be passed, separately, in addition to the separate NCEES 8-hr exam, in order to be licensed as a Civil PE in California.  You may pass one at a time, you do not need to pass all at once. 

 

- Each exam has 55 multiple choice questions of equal weight.

 

- Each exam is 2.5 hours long.

 

- You are not limited to the same calculator list required for the NCEES PE exams, for these state exams. Pretty much any calculator without a "QWERTY" keyboard is allowed. TI-89, HP-48, etc. See 'The Board's Current Calculator Policy' here: http://www.bpelsg.ca.gov/applicants/calculator.shtml

 

- The exams are open book / open notes (however, I believe you are limited to whatever can fit in one box).

 

- Historically, about 40% of test-takers pass.  http://www.bpelsg.ca.gov/applicants/exam_statistics.shtml

 

- Historically, a score of about 55% (+ or -) is needed to pass.  http://www.bpelsg.ca.gov/applicants/exam_statistics.shtml

 

- After you take the exam(s).  The wait time for results is about 6 to 8 weeks (+ or -).  Results are released around the same time BPELSG releases the NCEES 8-hr results.  (The Board plans to reduce the Survey and Seismic results wait time to about 4 to 6 weeks in the near future)  When results are ready, two e-mails are sent out: one with a password (applicant ID #) which states that results will be e-mailed within 24 hours of this e-mail, the second e-mail contains the password protected file. A failing diagnostic report lists the exam categories and the competency level you earned in that category (Deficient, Marginal, and Proficient).     

 

- Study/Preparation hours. For each of the survey and seismic exams, plan on dedicating about 50% of the time you'd dedicate to the 8hr exam.  If the national 8hr exam requires 300 hrs as they say, figure on about 150 +/- 50 total study/prep hours for each of the CA-Survey and CA-Seismic exams. The exact hours will depend on your strengths. For instance, if you are a Structural person, you'll have an advantage with Seismic. If you are a Land Development or roadway person, you'll have an advantage with Survey. 

 

- Study/Preparation material.  See below for links to study/review/preparation resources.  In general, your core review material should be a very good workbook for each CA-Survey and CA-Seismic.  Along with the workbook, try to get your hands on as many practice problems/sample exams as you can.  The workbook and supplemental problems alone is enough to successfully prepare and pass the exams.  If you are taking a review class, the class should provide all the material you need.  To be completely honest, you most certainly can be very successful on these exams without obtaining the long list of references listed on the Board's website.  Of all the references listed on the Board's site, the two most worth consideration are the CBC and the ASCE-07 for the Seismic exam.  But, depending on the workbook you buy or the class you take, you may be provided all of the important excerpts from these books so you may not need to buy them separately.  It should be noted that BPELSG writes their exam questions from the content in these listed references.  But, again, your workbook and/or class notes should adequately cover all test topics.        

 

 

- Prometric Test Centers: Small cubicles that each fit one computer, monitor, and mouse, leaving room for maybe one book on each side. Any remaining reference books have to stay in your box next to your chair (only one box worth of references allowed). Sometimes the lighting is limited. You might hear other examinees typing away as they may be taking different exams (but Prometric does provide noise cancelling headphones). Before entering the test room, you will be asked to turn your pockets inside out - nothing is allowed in the testing room. Everything else goes in a locker. If you bring a jacket, you must wear it, or put it in your locker. You will be provided a Prometric pencil and blank paper – both will be surrendered after the exam. If you need anything out of your locker during the exam, or if you need to use the restroom, you’ll raise your hand and the person watching will come over to help (your 2.5 hour clock does not stop when you get up).  There is an optional tutorial before the exam begins which does not dig into your 2.5 hours.  There is an optional computer-based survey asking about your experience, offered to you after your 2.5 hour exam is over. 

You are permitted to visit a Prometric test center before your scheduled exam date and view the facility's layout and discuss the CBT procedures with staff.  You may also try out the computers for an additional fee.  You are welcome to show up early to your scheduled exam.      

 

 

 

 

Study/Reference Material and Class Information (no particular order):

 

EET Seismic class, book, and CBT practice simulation exam: http://www.eet-california.com/seismic_class_info

 

EET Survey:  http://www.eetusa.com/classes/ca-specific/surveying 

 

PPI Survey: http://ppi2pass.com/shop/pe-exam/ca-civil-surveying-exam

 

PPI Seismic: http://ppi2pass.com/shop/pe-exam/ca-civil-seismic-exam

 

Civil Survey Workshop: http://surveyingreview.com/

 

Seismic Design Review: http://www.seismicreview.com/

 

PassPE Survey and Seismic: http://www.passpe.com/products/materials.html

 

Civil PE Survey Review: http://www.civilpesurveyingreview.com/

 

Caltrans LS/LSIT Video Exam Preparation Course Workbook (free!): http://www.dot.ca.gov/hq/row/landsurveys/LSITWorkbook/WorkbookTOC.html

(This can be useful. A lot (but not all) of the material found in the workbook and videos includes topics found on the CA-Survey test plan.)

 

NCEES FS Reference Handbook: http://ncees.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/fs_references_1013.pdf

(Could come in handy for the CA-Survey exam. Some useful conversions and formulas)

 

California Building Code:  http://www.bsc.ca.gov/codes.aspx

(Free, but I think each section needs to be downloaded individually)  (The California Building Code (CBC) and the International Building Code (IBC), in regard to the Seismic Exam, are essentially the same.  You may use either)

 

 

 

[updated January 2017]

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Civil Dawg    6

I'll add my 2 cents...I took both CA Seisimic & Surveying as well as the Structural Depth PE Exam April 2015 and passed all 3 first try. I consider myself a good test taker and spent a good while preparing for the tests, but I'm far from being a genius. So don't freak yourself out, just begin studying with plenty of time and keep on schedule.



Seismic



I'm structural so I'm more familiar than a lot of Civil's with seismic design. I took Hiner's Seismic Review course and think it's very important to take a review course (highly recomend Hiner...can't say anything about any others) in order to pass, especially if you aren't structural and doing this day to day. If you don't take a review course, about the only way I could think to study would be to just dive into ASCE 7 and study all of Chapters 12-20 pretty much. If you have time and are on a budget, Hiner has a $100 workbook that you can buy and study from that is invaluable but I highly recommend the webinar that goes along with the workbook. All this being said, I went into the test feeling very confident and left feeling less confident. This test was harder than I expected. I did the Hiner webinars but probably only put in an additional 10 - 15 hours outside of that. If I would have put in another 20 or 30 hours doing the problems in the workbook I feel like the test would have been a breeze. If you do Hiner's webinar, he emails you a "quick reference" pdf that is about 20 pages of INVALUABLE information. Charts, tables, formulas etc. His goal with this is for you to only have to look at this during the exam instead of flipping back and forth through ASCE.



Surveying



Got Mansour's book and put in probably 15 - 20 hours studying. Went into the exam completely expecting to fail but walked out feeling like I did very well. In my opinion the exam didn't get very deep & felt like Mansour's book adequately prepared me. For a lot of the questions, if you could do basic trig then you could get the right answer. I took a basic surveying class in college and have done some site investigation with my job but that's all the surveying experience I had.




***Also, and this is probably the most important, you only have 2.5 hours to answer 55 questions. The way I kept up with it is every 30 minutes, I needed to have completed an interval of 11 questions (11 after 30 min, 22 after 1 hr etc...). As was stated above, somewhere around a 60% should be a passing grade so DON'T GET HUNG UP ON A QUESTION!!! If you come to a question that you don't know how to work it, just guess and move on. In my opinion, you have to accept the fact that you are going to just flat out guess and not put any time into a few questions before you walk into the test.

Edited by Civil Dawg

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NakedOrangie    46

Just adding in ptatohed that you're only allowed one bankers box of references.



Also, I carried my references in by hand and placed them all on the desk. There's more room if you scoot the monitor all the way to the back of the cube and then place the keyboard either on top of the tower or behind the monitor.



EDITED to add: The desk is still tiny as shit, so don't plan on having the same amount of space you did during nationals.


Edited by NakedOrangie

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NakedOrangie    46

Posting again to say that I'm okay with the quoting ptatohed ;) We're all here to help and poke fun at each other anyways!

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JunZ    4

I failed surveying, which reference book I should use?


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I Passed Transportation but failed both Seismic and surveying..... I used Hiner notes (2008) and used Mansour notes (2008


) but i felt that hiner notes are very close to exam but not Mansour so what techniques i need to follow or should i buy the webinar videos? what do you recommend? I live outside CA.


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ptatohed    570

I failed surveying, which reference book I should use?

JunZ, do you want to self-study or take a class? I primarily used the (3) PPI Survey books to self-study (Principles, 120 Problems, Sample Exams).

I Passed Transportation but failed both Seismic and surveying..... I used Hiner notes (2008) and used Mansour notes (2008

) but i felt that hiner notes are very close to exam but not Mansour so what techniques i need to follow or should i buy the webinar videos? what do you recommend? I live outside CA.

Jer, 2008 is way too outdated for Seismic! I'd recommend EET for Seismic. You can take the class or buy the book and self-study. What did you use for Survey?

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John QPE    178

So the 8th Edition Lindeburg Seismic Book I just bought for $5.00 is no good?

I need a new hobby, so I'm thinking of taking the seismic/survey tests in case we ever open an office in San Diego!

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ptatohed    570

So the 8th Edition Lindeburg Seismic Book I just bought for $5.00 is no good?

I need a new hobby, so I'm thinking of taking the seismic/survey tests in case we ever open an office in San Diego!

JQ,

I wish you would provide links when you refer to something so I don't have to look stuff up! :P Dude, if you mean this, then throw it away. Seriously. It's from 2001 and is countless codes old. It will only confuse you.

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John QPE    178

So the 8th Edition Lindeburg Seismic Book I just bought for $5.00 is no good?

I need a new hobby, so I'm thinking of taking the seismic/survey tests in case we ever open an office in San Diego!

JQ,

I wish you would provide links when you refer to something so I don't have to look stuff up! :P Dude, if you mean this, then throw it away. Seriously. It's from 2001 and is countless codes old. It will only confuse you.

That was it. Just bought it to get a sense of what we are talking about here. If I do take the exam I'll be buying current editions.

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John QPE    178

I'll assume I can take these exams in PA at any Prometric without a CA license?

Do these expire? Or require PDH's?

My move to CA may not be until my youngest is in college, but I'm thinking about just knocking these two out right now.

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JunZ    4

I failed surveying, which reference book I should use?

JunZ, do you want to self-study or take a class? I primarily used the (3) PPI Survey books to self-study (Principles, 120 Problems, Sample Exams).

I took the http://www.civilpesurveyingreview.com/ class, but I failed at 1st try, so I am going to retake it for free.

how about other resources? like Mansour's books? or mahallati book? ( does mahallati review book have concept? or its just problems?)

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ptatohed    570

I'll assume I can take these exams in PA at any Prometric without a CA license?

Do these expire? Or require PDH's?

My move to CA may not be until my youngest is in college, but I'm thinking about just knocking these two out right now.

Johnster-Monster,

Yes, you can take these exams (CA-Seis, and CA-Surv) at any Prometric.

Does what expire? Your CA license? The passing of, say, one exam? The passing of both exams but not applying for a license? Or what?

CA does not require PDHs (as of the current).

If you are going to get a CA license but not use it for many years, remember that you'll be paying the bi-annual registration fee to keep it current, which I think is currently $125.

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ptatohed    570

I failed surveying, which reference book I should use?

JunZ, do you want to self-study or take a class? I primarily used the (3) PPI Survey books to self-study (Principles, 120 Problems, Sample Exams).

I took the http://www.civilpesurveyingreview.com/ class, but I failed at 1st try, so I am going to retake it for free.

how about other resources? like Mansour's books? or mahallati book? ( does mahallati review book have concept? or its just problems?)

Well, hopefully you'll be fine on the re-take. In theory, if you are taking a class, you shouldn't need anything outside of what that class provides. Why do you think you did not pass? Yes, you can use Mansour's or Mahallati's books if you want more resources. Mahallati's book is both lessons and questions. Good luck. You're down to only the Survey, right?

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NakedOrangie    46

I'll assume I can take these exams in PA at any Prometric without a CA license?

Do these expire? Or require PDH's?

My move to CA may not be until my youngest is in college, but I'm thinking about just knocking these two out right now.

Also adding that CA now requires fingerprinting for all refile/new applicants starting July 2015. If you're out of state, you'll need to send in a hard copy of your prints.

More information about it here: http://www.bpelsg.ca.gov/applicants/fingerprinting.shtml

I'm not sure on an expiration per se, but you may want to doublecheck the board's website.

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NakedOrangie    46

Adding for others benefit:

I used Reza Mahallati's review for surveying and passed immediately after it. The class and workbook covers the material and then you spend a ton of time doing problems extremely similar to the exam. From what I can tell, he only offers a live seminar in person in CA. If you can't attend live, consider getting his workbook.

For seismic, you can't go wrong with Hiner or EET, but you must put in the effort to study the material well and know the ASCE chapters decent enough to not get tricked by certain questions. I passed seismic by reading all questions, making two lists on my scratch paper: one list of conceptual questions/looking up code and another of easy calculation problems. I did as many of those as I could before 8 moved to problems that would require more calculations or flipping of various codes.

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JunZ    4

Adding for others benefit:

I used Reza Mahallati's review for surveying and passed immediately after it. The class and workbook covers the material and then you spend a ton of time doing problems extremely similar to the exam. From what I can tell, he only offers a live seminar in person in CA. If you can't attend live, consider getting his workbook.

For the work book, does it have concept sutff? or it is just problem sets.

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NakedOrangie    46

He has some conceptual problems in there. It's a pretty complete workbook IMO

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ptatohed    570

Adding for others benefit:

I used Reza Mahallati's review for surveying and passed immediately after it. The class and workbook covers the material and then you spend a ton of time doing problems extremely similar to the exam. From what I can tell, he only offers a live seminar in person in CA. If you can't attend live, consider getting his workbook.

For the work book, does it have concept sutff? or it is just problem sets.

I answered this question (along with your other questions) in Post #14: http://engineerboards.com/index.php?showtopic=25246&p=7283050

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catinthehat    13

Thought I'd add my 2 cents from when I took the seismic and survey exams:



Seismic



Used Mansour as my primary reference, ASCE 7-10 as my supplemental reference. They were the only two I brought into the test center. Additionally I bought every other seismic book/practice exam available on the market for practice problems only. I found Mansour's method for organizing the topics covered by the exam extremely intuitive. That's strictly a personal preference. I glanced at Hiner's method for organizing the material, and it didn't suit me. Hiner had great practice problems though. I wouldn't say they were better than any other particular book, but for these types of exams, the more practice problems you can do the better.



Seismic is all about fully understanding and executing established ways of solving simple engineering structural related problems. The concepts are simple, but there are a mountain of exceptions and side rules for many types of problems, and only by doing practice problems with those exceptions are you really going to get it right during the exam. I probably did about 1200 unique practice problems, and I had to do about 800 of them twice to fully master the concept they were presenting. I dedicated about 80 hours at 1 to 2 hours per day for this test. Never took a seismic course before, my background is in pipeline engineering. Passed on first attempt.



Survey



Used Mansour as my only reference. I bought all the other survey books on the market for practice problems just like for seismic, however in this case I do feel Mansour's book better prepares you than most others out there. I also use the word "reference" rather loosely, because during the actual exam, there is no time to be flipping through books for each problem. I probably referenced equations out of Mansour's book for about 10 problems. I've never taken a survey course before, and I dedicated about 60 hours at 1 hour per day for studying, passed first attempt. Surveying is all about understanding simple concepts with basic math. Ask yourself what the concept is behind each practice problem you do, and don't ever go onto the next practice problem if you don't feel like you mastered the concept, getting the right answer is second in importance. There are an infinite number of ways to word the questions on this type of exam, there is a highly probable chance you will encounter questions not formatted in the way you practiced. Understanding concepts will save you each time since they never change.



Some additional thoughts:



For both exams, I feel like 10-20% of these exams are not realistically possible to prepare for unless it your everyday job. That leaves approximately 80% of the problems doable for the majority of us. Of those 80%, you need to get about 70% correct for a passing score. This is right in line with needing around a 70% to pass the national 8 hour exam, of which I feel 100% of the questions are possible to prepare for. In that respect I feel like seismic and survey are graded pretty fairly and in line with othe standards. Whether or not these tests are needed to demonstrate competence in your field is another story (I don’t think so). In any case, the level of mastery required to pass them seems reasonable from my professional experience with standardized tests.


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ptatohed    570

Very good c.i.t.h. Thanks for the input. While I don't think I'll add reviews of reference material to Post #1, you reminded me that I have not included the approx study time! I will add that now. However, in my experience, your #s are a little low (great for you!) so I think I'll advise what I usually do 150 +/-. If I receive a lot of feedback, I can always revise it later.



How many total class/study/prep hours did it take most of you to pass the surv and seis?


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catinthehat    13

Thanks ptatohed! Just trying to reciprocate the help I've received here over the years. Looking at those numbers, there's a good possibility they are a tad low. While I didn't do much more than 1-2 hours on weekdays (who can with a full time job anyway?), I do recall the last few weeks I was putting in some of 4-6 hour days. I had a field project at the time requiring some engineering field supervision. Long story short, I was able to get in fairly long uninterrupted study hours on the job under a field tent =). I would bump my estimate up by another 20 hours each exam for good measure.


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caley89    9

I took Reza's class and passed surveying the first try. And I had never taken a surveying class ever before (I was an ME in undergrad). His class is extremely helpful and some of the problems in his workbook were exactly like ones I saw on the exam.



For seismic, I took Hiner's seismic review. Even if you don't take the class, I know people who passed the first time with just the book. His problems are great, especially the longer problems. If you can do all the multiple choice in Chapters 3,4, and 8 and all of the longer problems, you're set for the exam. I passed the first time and was more confident than I was with surveying.


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ptatohed    570

I took Reza's class and passed surveying the first try. And I had never taken a surveying class ever before (I was an ME in undergrad). His class is extremely helpful and some of the problems in his workbook were exactly like ones I saw on the exam.

For seismic, I took Hiner's seismic review. Even if you don't take the class, I know people who passed the first time with just the book. His problems are great, especially the longer problems. If you can do all the multiple choice in Chapters 3,4, and 8 and all of the longer problems, you're set for the exam. I passed the first time and was more confident than I was with surveying.

What were your total exam prep hours? Please include class time and study/review/problem solving time outside of class.

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caley89    9

I took Reza's class and passed surveying the first try. And I had never taken a surveying class ever before (I was an ME in undergrad). His class is extremely helpful and some of the problems in his workbook were exactly like ones I saw on the exam.

For seismic, I took Hiner's seismic review. Even if you don't take the class, I know people who passed the first time with just the book. His problems are great, especially the longer problems. If you can do all the multiple choice in Chapters 3,4, and 8 and all of the longer problems, you're set for the exam. I passed the first time and was more confident than I was with surveying.

What were your total exam prep hours? Please include class time and study/review/problem solving time outside of class.

Around 200 hours total for all 3 exams, including class time.

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