Straightedge(s) for the PE Exam: Yea or Nay? - Anything about the PE Exam - Engineer Boards
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Will.I.Am PE

Straightedge(s) for the PE Exam: Yea or Nay?

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I'm wondering if it's worthwhile to bring a straightedge (like an engineering scale) and/or a protractor into the 8-hr pencil-and-paper PE exam.

Here are some things that I've gathered from reading the forum:

  • The NCEES examinee guide allows for 2 such items.
  • A protractor is often useful for the mechanical exam (particularly HVAC depth) for psychrometrics. 
  • A ruler or scale can be useful for the California-Specific Seismic and Surveying exams for civil engineering licensure, as the figures are often to scale.
  • Knowing how these things work, there's probably at least one state that forbids the use of straightedges... 

I'm planning on taking the Civil - Geotechnical exam this October in Ohio. In general, I think a straightedge might be useful for picking numbers off of tables or figures (or for staying on the same line as you read furiously through your references, searching for an answer.)  For the civil exam, the only particular use I can think of for a protractor would be measuring a friction angle from soil shear strength testing data; and I think even that would be doubtful.

Within the bounds of the NCEES Candidate Agreement (obviously), has anyone here found that a straightedge came in handy?  Or conversely, has anyone needed a straightedge and not had one?

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I brought 2 clear plastic rulers (only used 1), and I definitely found it handy when I took the Mechanical: MDM exam. There were questions that required reading a graph. It wasn't so precise that you couldn't have made due without it, but for both speed and accuracy, it's best to have a good tool at your disposal. I like clear so I can avoid obscuring the rest of the graph (e.g. I can still see all the numbers on the axis).

I didn't bring or need a protractor, but I could definitely imaging it being useful for a psych chart if you're a thermal/fluids person.

Quote

Knowing how these things work, there's probably at least one state that forbids the use of straightedges..

Also all exams are administered by NCEES, so they should all have the same rules. Now we've all heard stories of differences between exam sites, but that's probably an NCEES volunteer training issue, not a state rules issue.

Edited by jean15paul
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@Will.I.Am

I can confirm I used my straight edges, i.e. rulers, for measuring scales when I took the October 2018 MDM exam, so I would say that it would be prudent to have at least one ruler even if you don't wind up having to use it... it can't hurt...

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This definitely falls under the “it doesn’t hurt” category. I might have used a ruler a few times for Transpo but it wasn’t a necessity by any means.

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I took one with me, but I admit I felt kinda silly seeing as how I was taking the computer engineering exam.

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Yes.  Clear ruler.h3970E5DC

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I just used my ID as a straight edge during the exam if I needed it. I took power so it was kind of not necessary except maybe to draw some clarifying lines on graphs.

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This is such a good question. Glad you asked it. I'll take a clear ruler with me and if I'm not allowed to use it, then I'll just use my ID. Better to be prepared.

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I've never wanted or needed a straightedge when taking the exam but I've taken power so 🤷‍♀️

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I (Civil - Enviro) brought one just in case, and used it (Or might have forgot about it and just used my ID...) to approx straight lines without marking up my resources. Moody diagram, that kind of thing.) I'd say bring it just in case. Doesn't take up much space, and is light.

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On 8/19/2019 at 4:40 PM, jean15paul said:

Also all exams are administered by NCEES, so they should all have the same rules. Now we've all heard stories of differences between exam sites, but that's probably an NCEES volunteer training issue, not a state rules issue.

Nope, some sites have extra rules courtesy of the state boards. Some states are more restrictive than others *cough* Maryland *cough*.

The uneven enforcement and implementation of the NCEES rules speaks to the lack of training and/or direction for the staff and volunteers.

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7 minutes ago, RBHeadge PE said:

Nope, some sites have extra rules courtesy of the state boards. Some states are more restrictive than others *cough* Maryland *cough*.

I was legitimately thinking of commentary you've made on Maryland exam administration when I wrote that particular comment.

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FWIW, the last time I checked Maryland explicitly allows straightedges. But one needs to be careful when using them in concert with a pencil in their own reference materials.

OTOH, at one time or another Maryland has banned: anything worn on the wrists, extra erasers, references with anything written in pencil, certain erasers, watches and clocks, suitcases, opaque trash bags, etc etc. Some of these items have since been unbanned. The Maryland site specific instructions usually contradict the NCEES rules.

Edited by RBHeadge PE
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I just sent an email to my local state board to ask for a list of site specific requirements. I hope they respond with something helpful and useful.

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Response from my local board:

Quote
NCEES Administers all of the examinations.  Please refer to the examinee guide for more information.
 
 

I wanted something more specific than this. I guess I have to take what I can get.

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