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CA Seismic Exam


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#1 pe_2_b

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Posted 19 September 2011 - 04:15 AM

There's a discussion on the PPI Forums about the CA Seismic exam. Just wondering what members of this forum felt about the level of difficulty.

#2 ptatohed

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Posted 19 September 2011 - 08:27 PM

QUOTE (pe_2_b @ Sep 18 2011, 09:15 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
There's a discussion on the PPI Forums about the CA Seismic exam. Just wondering what members of this forum felt about the level of difficulty.



I don't think you'll find an answer to this question that will benefit you in any way. It's too subjective and each person will have their own answer. Some people (like me) nail Survey and struggle with Seismic. Conversely, I've read about people that didn't study for the Seismic, finished the test an hour early and passed - yet are taking the Survey exam for the 3rd time.

I will say that (for me anyway), if you don't study, the exam is Greek! I have taken the test 2 times now without studying (because of my one-at-a-time approach - I studied once for the Survey exam only and once for the 8-Hour only. Passed each.) Both times, I had no clue what I was even looking at. I think I got all Deficientís in my scoring. Now that I am studying for the Seismic exam this Oct, I now know what I didn't know! lol.

Anyway, ask me again after Oct '11. It will be the first time taking the exam after actually studying. smile.gif

Are you/have you taken it?


#3 Boletus

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Posted 20 September 2011 - 08:26 PM

QUOTE (pe_2_b @ Sep 18 2011, 09:15 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
There's a discussion on the PPI Forums about the CA Seismic exam. Just wondering what members of this forum felt about the level of difficulty.


I agree with ptatohead, there certainly is no one answer to your question, especially with as little context as you provide. However, I will suggest that a major factor on the level of difficulty you will have with the test is your experience and competence with structural engineering. Here's the long version of my experience, below.

For example, my university program was strong Enviro focus; we had two semesters of engineering mechanics, and one semester for science and mechanics of material, combined. That was it, basically. When I took (and passed) the EIT, I struggled for my life in the morning (general) session, but I did the entire afternoon test (enviro focus) twice, went back and double checked that I had marked all of the boxes correctly twice, and left the exam room twenty minutes early. My work experience has been largely remediation, wastewater systems, and enviro compliance. I didn't apply for the PE until I had been out of school for 4 years, so I was pretty rusty.

When I took the 8-hour civil exam, I had studied a whopping 6 hours. During the 250-mile drive to the exam, the transmission on my vehicle started failing. I was stuck at a garage for three hours, and managed to limp my way (<10 mph at times, on I-5) to the motel at about 1 AM. I was so frazzled, I drank an entire sixpack of Sierra Nevada before passing out at about 3 AM. I dragged my carcass to the exam, certain I would fail, but determined to give it a shot and chalk it up to experience. The exam itself was tough, but most of the material was stuff I had seen before. I muddled my way through, but did not feel I had performed very well. On the way back to the motel, the vehicle got worse, and I got stranded and lost in Sac for a while. Again I limped back to the motel, and decided I needed to fix my vehicle more than I needed to do the state-specific tests, so I skipped them.

I found out I passed the 8-hour, so I got primed up for the seismic and surveying for the next exam dates. I studied a seismic review workbook and got to where I understood the concepts and could use the equations with enough flipping back and forth through the references. The surveying I did not worry too much about, since I had been told you could pass that based on good trig skills and judgement (ahem).

Well I got handed my ass on a plate for both tests. I felt like I could do the seismic test if I had another 6 hours, but the 2.5 hours allowed was just long enough for me to realize how much more work I needed to do. For example, going back to shear and moment diagrams and becoming very comfortable with them was not optional. Really, I had to roll up my sleeves and revisit a lot of stuff I barely remembered how to do. Understanding is not enough, proficiency is required. The surveying test was even worse for me, since there were a few trig problems, but they were the long, involved ones and took a lot of time. Three quarters of the test was basically gibberish to me.

I not only felt like I had failed both tests, but I actually felt like I had deserved to fail, even though I put a lot more work into the seismic exam than I had for the 8-hour. Now I am gearing up for the October seismic and surveying. I have put in a good amount of time studying, but I know I have a LOT more to do if I want to feel confident I am not going to have to go through this again.

End of long version. But your experience will (hopefully) be unlike mine. Perhaps you will just guess all of the answers and hit the PE lottery. Or maybe torsional moments and stress-strain relationships are something you play with in your spare time for amusement, when you are not designing 15-story emergency hospitals from scratch with pencil and paper and no reference materials. But if you are asking this question, it might behoove you to get at least one review book and get an idea what you are up against.

Good luck.

#4 sac_engineer

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Posted 20 September 2011 - 09:00 PM

Being a non-structural engineer, I believe that Hiner's review class not only prepared me for the exam content, but also prepared me for the expected level of difficulty. It's rare that a non-structural examinee can prepare for the exam on their own while preparing for the PE and surveying exams, unless they have an uncanny and natural way of learning the material quickly.

For the seismic, most of the exam comes down to confidence through studying and knowing how to quickly find and pull information from the building codes.

Good luck!



#5 ptatohed

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Posted 21 September 2011 - 07:28 PM

QUOTE (Boletus @ Sep 20 2011, 01:26 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
QUOTE (pe_2_b @ Sep 18 2011, 09:15 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
There's a discussion on the PPI Forums about the CA Seismic exam. Just wondering what members of this forum felt about the level of difficulty.


I agree with ptatohead, there certainly is no one answer to your question, especially with as little context as you provide. However, I will suggest that a major factor on the level of difficulty you will have with the test is your

...

paper and no reference materials. But if you are asking this question, it might behoove you to get at least one review book and get an idea what you are up against.

Good luck.



Wow Bole, that's quite a story!

#6 ptatohed

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Posted 21 September 2011 - 07:41 PM

QUOTE (sac_engineer @ Sep 20 2011, 02:00 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Being a non-structural engineer, I believe that Hiner's review class not only prepared me for the exam content, but also prepared me for the expected level of difficulty. It's rare that a non-structural examinee can prepare for the exam on their own while preparing for the PE and surveying exams, unless they have an uncanny and natural way of learning the material quickly.

For the seismic, most of the exam comes down to confidence through studying and knowing how to quickly find and pull information from the building codes.

Good luck!



Sac, I thought about the class but I am too cheap - lol. I probably shouldn't say anything until after Oct because I'll probably jinx myself. But, even though Structures is so not my thing and Seismic is not an easy/natural topic for me, I feel pretty darn good about my self-studies. I am hitting Hiner's book hard. 6 days a week. But, you are right, I'd never be able to do this and Survey and 8-Hour at the same time. Anyway, I'll have to see how it goes in Oct....

#7 Boletus

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Posted 22 September 2011 - 10:23 PM

QUOTE (ptatohed @ Sep 21 2011, 12:28 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Wow Bole, that's quite a story!



Glad you enjoyed reading it. It's not something I will soon forget. But once I get my PE, maybe I'll be able to afford enough therapy to repress it beerchug.gif




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