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

Help Support Engineer Boards:

ptatohed

Licenced to Spell
Joined
Oct 27, 2010
Messages
3,751
Reaction score
740
Location
Murrieta, CA
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. :)

[COLOR= rgb(0, 0, 205)]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.[/COLOR]

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/SEI 7 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.        

[SIZE= 10px][COLOR= rgb(34, 34, 34)]- 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.  [/COLOR][/SIZE]

[SIZE= 10px][COLOR= rgb(34, 34, 34)]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.      [/COLOR][/SIZE]

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   (you'll need Volume 2 or Part 2)

(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]

 
Last edited by a moderator:

Civil Dawg

Member
Joined
May 26, 2015
Messages
100
Reaction score
16
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.

 
Last edited by a moderator:

NakedOrangie

Resident Lurker
Joined
Nov 1, 2013
Messages
456
Reaction score
44
Location
Bay Area, CA
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.

 
Last edited by a moderator:

JerusalemPE.

Member
Joined
May 26, 2015
Messages
25
Reaction score
2
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.

 

ptatohed

Licenced to Spell
Joined
Oct 27, 2010
Messages
3,751
Reaction score
740
Location
Murrieta, CA
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?

 

John QPE

Straight Outta Compton
Joined
Oct 29, 2012
Messages
1,055
Reaction score
208
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!

 

ptatohed

Licenced to Spell
Joined
Oct 27, 2010
Messages
3,751
Reaction score
740
Location
Murrieta, CA
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.

 

John QPE

Straight Outta Compton
Joined
Oct 29, 2012
Messages
1,055
Reaction score
208
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.

 

John QPE

Straight Outta Compton
Joined
Oct 29, 2012
Messages
1,055
Reaction score
208
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.

 

JunZ

Member
Joined
Jan 7, 2010
Messages
65
Reaction score
3
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?)

 

ptatohed

Licenced to Spell
Joined
Oct 27, 2010
Messages
3,751
Reaction score
740
Location
Murrieta, CA
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.

 

ptatohed

Licenced to Spell
Joined
Oct 27, 2010
Messages
3,751
Reaction score
740
Location
Murrieta, CA
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?

 

NakedOrangie

Resident Lurker
Joined
Nov 1, 2013
Messages
456
Reaction score
44
Location
Bay Area, CA
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.

 

NakedOrangie

Resident Lurker
Joined
Nov 1, 2013
Messages
456
Reaction score
44
Location
Bay Area, CA
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.

 

JunZ

Member
Joined
Jan 7, 2010
Messages
65
Reaction score
3
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.

 

ptatohed

Licenced to Spell
Joined
Oct 27, 2010
Messages
3,751
Reaction score
740
Location
Murrieta, CA
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

 
Last edited by a moderator:

Latest posts

Top