Thanks for your comment! I am a VOLUNTEER, a NON PAID professional engineer who wishes to help advance the engineering profession. I am NOT an NCEES employee, get paid by NCEES or am I a member of any state licensing board. So just to be clear, I VOLUNTEER, PRO BONO, i.e., FREE my time to help advance professional engineering licensure. I spend about 10-15 hours a month on professional engineering licensure matters-- all PRO BONO.
A logical question could be, "Why?" Well, the work is intellectually challenging -- you see and learn many things that you otherwise may not. Additionally, the mind exercise is fun-- however it is work.
Each PE test subject areas are derived from what is called a Professional Activities and Knowledge Survey (PAKS) survey. This survey, conducted every 6-7 years polls professional engineers in the specific discipline on what a 4 year minimally competent engineer should know at that stage in their career. The results of the PAKS study determine what the subjects are that are included in the PE test for the next iteration. A new cut score is determined after each PAKS study for those tests-- which are then administered for 6-7 years and then the process repeats.
If you are a licensed professional engineer in some jurisdiction which NCEES has purview, then volunteer to take the survey. They are always seeking more PE volunteers to complete the survey. If you are a professional engineer and like a good challenge, consider joining a licensure committee. Yes, there is a time commitment, like anything else in life, however, the work is stimulating and you meet some very interesting people-- college professors, Deans, CEO's consultants, professional engineers who work in areas that you don't. I always come away learning material that I either did not know or were tangentially familiar but had not worked in that area.
The PE test is a bachelor's level exam-- designed to be successfully completed by the engineering candidate at the 4 year point in his/her career. The exam is designed to ascertain the "minimally competent engineer", the C- student! Each exam question has been worked at least 6-8 times by committee members, independently, to ensure that the question has only one correct answer. Each question is designed to be completed in no more than 6 min-- thus, if you have burned 10 min on a question, either you fail to understand the question or your going down the wrong trail and need to regroup and rethink your approach.
I can assure you that each question is judiciously reviewed-- wording, answers, solutions, everything. There are many times that a committee will spend an hour on a question, with 6-8 PE's having a "healthy", read robust and vigorous discussion on a particular question. Sooner or later, consensus is achieved on the approach, the wording, the answers and the question is put in the pool for pre testing. If the question performs well, i.e., is able to effectively discriminate between right and wrong answers, the question is then placed in the active item bank for possible use. If the question is too hard, i.e., say only < 33% of the candidates get the question correct, then the question is rejected and either reworked, or rejected totally and we start again. Maybe the same concept, but a whole new question. The converse logic is also true-- if a question is proffered that 95% of the candidates get correct, then that is question is also rejected as being too easy. Again, the question may be rejected and reworked, or totally rejected and a new question developed that tests the same concept.
Everything is statistically based-- lots of statistics analyzed by psychometricians (test development professionals) to ensure that question is able to determine who is minimally competent to practice engineering.
Sure, it is very frustrating and demoralizing when you don't pass the test, not to mention how much time and money you spent, only to have to do again.
There are no "tricky" questions on the exam-- the exam is straight forward. I have rejected questions by a committee member who is an engineering professor at a major university who works primarily with graduate students. His questions are very good, but require some higher order mathematical skills that a bachelor's level 4 year candidate may not possess. No problem, either we rewrite the question or start over-- no hard feelings-- away we go!
I trust that this explanation is of benefit to board members who may not understand the whole PE exam development process. The NCEES website has a lot of this material on it as well.