Member Forum by J.P. Purswell
Industrial Engineer’s column for IIE members to share their perspectives (December 2012)
The PE exam – updated
IIE members, working with the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES), have completed significant changes to the industrial engineering professional engineer exam. First, the content areas assessed on the exam have been updated. For the new content areas, go to www.ncees.org/exams/PE-exam and select Industrial (specifications for April 2013 exam).
The second change, announced in July’s IE magazine, shifts the exam from October to April. Some engineering disciplines have enough examinees and exam development volunteers to support administering an exam in April and one in October. But several, including the industrial engineering PE exam, are given only once a year. The final October IE PE exam is done; the next exam is in April 2013.
Notably, this change also shifts IIE’s PE Exam Review for Industrial Engineers training course. The next opportunity for the class is Feb. 12-15, 2013, at IIE headquarters in Norcross, Ga., which is in metro Atlanta. The shift from October to April also will allow the IE PE exam committee to complete certain post-administration activities in May, after most universities have concluded their spring semesters, rather than in November during the fall semester.
Concerning the reformulated content areas on the exam, they still have the same broad areas, although the names have been changed. “System Analysis and Design” is now “System Definition, Analysis and Design.” “Logistics” is now “Supply Chain and Logistics.” “Work Design” and “Ergonomics and Safety” have merged into a combined area called “Work Design.” “Quality Engineering” remains the same. Each area has a weighting of 20 percent, so exam candidates can expect eight questions in each area on both the morning and afternoon sections.
The new names better reflect the types of questions that the committee thought were appropriate for the IE PE exam. With respect to the differences between “Work Design” and “Ergonomics and Safety” used on the preceding specification, the committee noted that many questions, such as a RULA analysis or a NIOSH Lifting Equation calculation, could fit in either area. I participated in developing that prior specification – and then had to live with it as the exam chair. I hope I’m passing on to my successor, Ron Janzen, a specification that works better with the questions that end up on the exam.
The exam format remains unchanged. It will have 40 four-option multiple choice questions in the morning and 40 four-option multiple choice questions in the afternoon. NCEES also specifies that subsequent questions should not rely on the answers to previous questions. The 80-question format works out to six minutes per question.
The limited time per question means it is unlikely that a candidate would be asked to model and solve a linear programming problem with several variables that had several pivots before obtaining an optimal solution. However, a candidate might have to solve a two-variable problem graphically. A candidate also might be asked to inspect an LP tableau and identify the next variable to enter the basis using the simplex algorithm.
Happy studying and good luck. And once you pass the exam and get licensed, please consider volunteering to help with the exam.
J.P. Purswell is the immediate past chair of the Industrial Engineering Professional Engineering Exam Committee. He teaches ergonomics and safety engineering at the Pueblo campus of Colorado State University. He was chair of the IE PE Exam from 2004 to 2009 and remains a committee member.
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