engineeringforfun - I'm not taking your comments as a shot at me or the Board. I simply view what you are saying as a constructive observation, which is why I'm reading it. The licensing board is not the entity that makes anyone take the state exams, the Legislature is. Several events, related and not directly related, were occurring in the late 1970's and early 1980's that led to these state exams. The elimination of the authority of civil engineers to practice surveying; the recognition that the national exams do not sufficiently test for seismic-related factors in design or engineering surveying; and the insistence by professional societies for civil engineers to be able to retain a subset of surveying (topographic and construction staking), all of which led to the requirements to additionally test for engineering surveying and seismic principles. The Board is simply carrying out its duty to implement those requirements. If you wish to put the blame on anyone as to why California requires these two additional exams when other states do not, you should consider directing that towards the professional societies that demanded this authority and the Legislature for agreeing to it.
Beyond that info, I would like to more directly respond to your comments about the diagnostic, the detail of information provided to you in that report, and your examples. If you were to compare the new published test plan for engineering surveying exam, you will see how closely it coincides with the language in the PE Act, Section 6731.1 which provides for the authority of what engineering surveying, licensed civil engineers are allowed to practice...(You may be saying, "yeah, yeah, I already know that. What does this have to do with giving us more information on the diagnostic?" Please bear with me on this, I'm trying to get there.) In other words, what services you can provide to your clients as a licensee.
The Board doesn't have an expectation that a candidate will go and read books, take a seminar, practice solving examples, etc. in a sufficient amount to offer those services in a satisfactory manner to the public. The Board's expectations are that you have sufficient enough knowledge and actual work experience to adequately demonstrate competency in actually practicing those tasks for the public. Whether you have gained that knowledge and experience prior to applying for a license or whether you recognize your deficiency in your knowledge and experience level after failing an exam and then gain additional experience, it doesn't matter. You are expected to adequately demonstrate that you have a sufficient amount of experience to practice. Licensing is not an authority based solely upon one becoming knowledgeable or "book smart" in a subject. It's about the actual experience gained to demonstrate competency. And these exams are assuming that each and everyone one of you have the experience to actually practice.
Let's use your example of getting "...100% on horizontal and vertical control layout, but 0% on a number of other categories; the diagnostic report doesn't tell me which areas I'm lacking competency in." towards this. If (and maybe you do, I've no idea of your actual real world experience) you had sufficient actual work experience in performing all the surveying listed in that test plan (and the laws), you would already understand that horizontal and vertical control layout is a concept/task inherent in every one of the test plan areas listed. And not a separate category. And therefore could likely appear in some percentage of questions in each of the areas listed.
The Board expects you to possess a minimum adequate amount of knowledge and work experience in each of those areas to understand what all is involved in practicing/offering/performing those tasks and services to the public. The later pages in that test plan provide you with the detail that should help you understand what all is required to demonstrate that competence in each area. I can guarantee you that if you actually have/had the actual work experience in these tasks, you would virtually find the questions easy to answer and not as time-consuming as you may think. In many ways, its not up to the Board to "grow a crop" of new licensed individuals. It is for the individual to prove/demonstrate to the Board that you possess an adequate amount of competency to practice. The more you recognize your deficiency and gain the requisite experience to overcome that to pass the exam, then you are doing what you are supposed to do. I do wish you well and expect that you will eventually become licensed.