Ohio PE Board vs. calculator felons


Two recent PE candidates

were removed from the PE examination in Cleveland, Ohio during the examination because they were using calculators that were not approved by Engineering and Land Surveying Examination Services (ELSES) — an affiliate of the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying — which administers the licensing exams for the Board. The calculator policy is distributed to all examinees prior to the exam and the policy is also explained during the exam instructions given the day of the exam to ensure that all examinees are testing under the same conditions nationwide.
The two candidates in question will not be allowed to retake the PE exam until October 2010. Full press release here. The press release does not indicate if the two candidates were attempting to use banned HP calculators (the only HP calculators that are currently legal for NCEES exams are the 9S, 30S, and 33S).


It's things like this that make me wish I could figure out a way to compromise those exams. I'd do it just for the sheer nuisance value, as well as the expense that would be incurred by the testing organizations when they had to replace all the exams...


According to the rules, an HP-35 is not allowed. Nor is any generic four-banger. If it's not on the list, it's not allowed.

I wonder if slide rules are allowed...


In closed book tests during my college days back in the 1940's we were allowed to use our slide rules but we were expected to remember formulas, conversion factors, and the like. Most of us used duplex slide rules such as the K&E Log Log Duplex Decitrig or similar models manufactued by Pickett. Those who couldn't afford the K&E or Pickett duplex slide rules had to settle for using low cost,closed frame slide rules such as the K&E 4058 Beginners/Student slide rules which were made with painted pine and had inferior hairlines. (Were they the equivalent of the engineering students who couldn't afford an HP-35 in later years?) Many of the closed frame rules included formulas and conversion tables on the back of the rules, a sort of built-in cheat sheet. Somehow, I never recognized that potential advantage during my college days. But then, I had my treasured Duplex Decitrig.

There was a way to cheat with a closed frame slide rule which I was introduced to only last year. I was buying a Post 1447 (a high quality closed frame slide rule made in Japan by Sun Hemmi) at a garage sale. Another shopper observed my purchase and stated that it was his Hemmi that allowed him to get a passing grade in physics class. I asked how that could be. He explained that there were two unused surfaces on his Hemmi on which he could write formulas that he had trouble remembering. One surface was on the frame under the slide. The second could be made available by bending the tabs which held the celluloid insert in place on the back of the Hemmi such that he could move the insert and store more formulas under the insert.


At least one state engineering board, in Maine, still explicitly permits slide rules on professional licensing exams.

Other state boards would probably allow them as well. But I would check with the board in advance, get their opinion in writing, and bring their written opinion to the exam. The problem is that exam proctors (who are typically not engineers) might not understand what a slide rule was, or whether it was acceptable.

The EIT exam is "closed-book"; the only reference that you are allowed to have is the official NCEES handbook. If your slide rule had formulas or conversion factors on it, then it would probably be deemed illegal for the EIT exam.

The PE exam, on the other hand, is "open book". So it should be legal to use any slide rule on the PE exam, even if it had formulas.


I'd really like the way my maths exam was held - if you can carry it, you are allowed to use it. My 48GX, the Bronstein and a couple of different books, as well as all our notes were allowed and at least a bit of help. The idea however was to create so many tasks that you didn't had the time to look everything up. In fact exam would have been passable without a calculator (though a bit inconvient), the 48 was great to verify results though.
Way better than to simply retrict the type/brand of the calculator used.


We don't know the full story, of course - was it an innocent mistake, was it a nefarious scheme to copy the test questions onto RAM, etc. Still, I betcha if the two perps hadn't been so disruptive when their unapproved calculators were discovered by the proctors, they wouldn't have been banninated for so long. I'm glad I was able to take the PE legally with my 32S, but if I was taking the test today I would make do with a 33S and not risk it!


It's stories like this that make me so glad that I took the PE test back in '97 before this policy went into effect. I used the 32SII, which of course would be banned today, despite the fact that you can put far fewer programs in it than the 33s.

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