Structural Engineer Exam (SE Exam)

Definition

The term Structural Engineer Exam refers to a test specifically designed for candidates wishing to obtain a structural engineer license offered in certain jurisdictions.  The Structural Engineer Exam, or SE Exam, is sponsored by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying.  The exam tests the candidate's ability to design buildings and bridges safely in areas of high wind or seismic activity.

Explanation

In the United States, certain local state boards grant an individual a license to practice their engineering skills.  The Structural Engineer Exam, or SE Exam, is the final step individuals will take as they seek their license.  The examination is an open-book, "pencil and paper" based test offered in April and October each year.  Examinees are given sixteen hours to complete this four-part examination, which occurs over two consecutive days.  Each day is split into a morning an afternoon session as outlined below:

  • Vertical Forces Breadth of Knowledge (Gravity / Other): includes analysis of structures (loads and methods), designs and details of structures (considerations, integration, structural steel, cold-formed steel, concrete, wood, masonry, foundations, and retaining structures) and construction administration.
  • Vertical Forces Depth of Knowledge (Gravity / Other):  examinees are asked to focus on either a bridge or building module.  Responses to each of the following four areas are in essay form:  steel, concrete, wood and masonry structures.
  • Lateral Forces Breadth of Knowledge (Wind / Earthquake):  includes analysis of structures (loads and methods), design and details of structures (considerations, integration, structural steel, cold-formed steel, concrete, wood, masonry, foundations, and retaining structures) and construction administration.
  • Lateral Forces Depth of Knowledge (Wind / Earthquake):  examinees are asked to focus on either a bridge or building module.  Responses to each of the following four areas are in essay form:  steel, concrete, and wood / masonry structures in addition to general analysis of structures.

Results are released to state licensing boards ten to twelve weeks following the examination.  Candidates are given pass / fail grades determined by experts and measured against performance that corresponds to the minimal competence for this discipline.  First-time pass rates for SE Exams are near 50% (vertical component) and 40% (lateral component).  Pass rates for repeat-takers are near 35% (vertical component) and 40% (lateral component).

Related Terms

FE Exam, PE Exam, FS Exam, PS Exam