Dr. Z’s Corner

Dr. Z

Ahmet Zeytinci, P.E., Ph.D., Fellow-NSPE, Fellow-ASCE is an award-winning professor, structural engineer and author living in Washington, D.C. Since joining academia, "Dr. Z", as he is known by his students and colleagues, has distinguished himself on campus and beyond. He is passionate about engineering, gifted in teaching, and a true champion for professional licensure. Dr. Z. has extraordinarily high standards; has produced award-winning designs; is prolific in professional service; and infects others with these same values. He is the recipient of numerous local, regional and national awards, including the recent national award, “Excellence in Engineering Education-2015” from the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE). Since 2014, he has been regularly writing monthly technical articles here for ASCE-NCS and his column is titled "Dr. Z’s Corner." Dr. Z. also offers pro-bono Saturday classes for students and engineers; his free classes are open to all in the metro area and cost nothing, nada, zilch!

Dr. Z's Corner

Dr. Z’s Corner (201705)

Alternative Item Types: A New Testing Component for FE, FS and PS Practice Exams

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Are You Ready for AITs?

Over the years, I have observed that taking the multiple-choice Fundamental of Engineering (FE) tests comes more easily for some examinees than for others. Even some students enjoy taking these tests and exhibiting their knowledge while others dread the process and suffer from test anxiety. Knowing what format the test will have can help you develop your own learning and preparation process and focus on the strategies needed to do well. As we promised last month, today we are going to talk about some new exam formats including the new AITs.

Starting July 1, 2017, all computer-based NCEES exams will introduce a new testing component called Alternative Item Types (AITs). Alternative item types will be incorporated into the FE, FS, and PS practice exams. Alternative item types provide opportunities to assess the technical knowledge of examinees using methods not available through paper-and-pencil based testing.

AITs are questions other than traditional multiple-choice questions. According to NCEES, all computer-based exams will incorporate commonly used alternative item types that include but are not limited to the following:

  • Traditional Multiple Choice Questions – A multiple-choice question consisting of the text of the question and four options provided after the question
  • Multiple Correct Options – Allows multiple choices to be correct
  • Point and Click – Requires examinees to click on part of a graphic to answer
  • Drag and Drop – Requires examinees to click on and drag items to match, sort, rank, or label
  • Fill in the Blank – Provides a space for examinees to enter a response to the question

Let’s explain these formats starting with the traditional Multiple-Choice questions that feature four-answer options from which to choose, one of which is the correct answer. This format has been used for years and all students are familiar with this format.

Multiple-Choice questions with multiple correct options feature more than four answer options from which to choose and allow for multiple answer options to be selected.

Point & Click questions require you to select one or more predetermined clickable areas that become visible when you move your cursor over the graphic or picture. Point & Click questions may also ask you to select an unidentified spot or spots on the graphic. In other words, Point & Click questions contain a picture or some other form of media with one or more areas designated by NCEES. The test taker, when answering a Point & Click question, cannot see the area(s). The examinee must select a point on the graphic/picture. Credit is given if the examinee selects a point within the designated area(s).

Drag & Drop questions require you click and drag your answer options to sort, rank, match or label a provided graphic. This question type allows examinees to drag answer to a question. These type of questions are great for sorting information especially information that is visual or process-oriented. To give an idea, let’s say that a question has four levels of information and the exam developer would like to evaluate each student’s knowledge by having her/him match each level to its title. To do this all steps are displayed on the left-hand side of the screen. Then the right-hand side of the screen would include the name of each level. This question type is similar to matching in that the user must match answers to questions.

Fill in the Blank questions are familiar and they require examinee to enter the response instead of choosing it from a list of answer options.

Now a few words for the PE exam takers as well: As always, the first thing to do is to familiarize yourself with your state licensing board’s registration procedures before registering for a PE exam. The Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE) exam is designed by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) for engineers who have gained a minimum of four years post-college work experience in their chosen engineering discipline. According to our students who have conquered the PE exams, the best strategies are; studying the reference material from NCEES regularly for at least two hours a day, solving as many practice problems as possible, reviewing the PE exam specifications and design standards, and, of course, organizing your test material in well-indexed three-ring binders. Most importantly, remember not to “cram” because you are being tested on knowledge that you have accumulated over several years. Studying at the last minute will only stress you out. Before the exam day, you may go to a movie or hang out with a friend – anything to get your mind off of the test!

And lastly, stay relaxed and confident. Always keep a good attitude and remind yourself that you are going to do your best!

Good Luck,

Dr Z
Ahmet Zeytinci, PE
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

Dr. Z’s Corner (201704)

What Engineers Do? Ten Reasons to Love Engineering

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What do engineers really do? How do they spend their days? If you think they mostly sit at a desk doing math, you are wrong. According to DiscoverE (E-in STEM), engineers not only design, invent, fix, improve, research, travel, present, inspect, draw, write, calculate, but also they work with really interesting people on great projects. Engineers are changing the world for the better all the time. They dream up creative, practical solutions and work with other smart, inspiring people to invent, design, and create things that change our planet. As promised, in this issue of Dr. Z’s Corner we will talk about “Ten Reasons to Love Engineering.”

1: Love your work, and love your life

Engineering is an exciting profession, but one of its greatest advantages is that it will leave you time for all the other things in your life that you love. According to author and creativity guru, Chris Barez-Brown, life and work are intrinsically linked. They are not separate, they are one. If we want to live an extraordinary life, we have to make our work equally extraordinary. It is possible to help you make your work, work for you. Apparently Brown’s approach has produced some tangible returns on investment for many Fortune 500 companies such as Nike, Coca Cola, Diageo, The Gates Foundation, Sony and WPP Unilever, and ITV, for his unique and energetic approach to transforming their people and their work.

2: Be creative

Engineering is a great outlet for the imagination – the perfect field for independent thinkers. Can Creativity Be Taught? What about the creative process? Certainly an understanding of the basic rules of thumb can be taught. Everyone can learn to some degree how to construct ideas and things that work by imitating, emulating and modeling the behaviors of effective teachers. A word of caution: According to experts on creativity, extensive technical thinking diminishes creativity. Most engineers would need to be a practitioner to understand the creativity process.

3: Work with great people

Engineering takes teamwork, and you’ll collaborate with all kinds of people inside and outside the field. Whether they’re designers or architects, doctors or entrepreneurs, you’ll be surrounded by smart, inspiring people.

4: Solve problems, design things that matter

Come up with solutions no one else has thought of. Make your mark on the world. A lot of people end up being successful, and some of those successful people end up being rich. But very few people actually make their mark on the world and leave us all better off for having known them.

5: Never be bored

Creative problem solving will take you into uncharted territory, and the ideas of your colleagues will expose you to different ways of thinking. Be prepared to be fascinated and to have your talents stretched in ways you never expected.

6: Earn a big salary

Engineers not only earn lots of respect, but they’re highly paid as well. Even the starting salary for an entry-level job is impressive comparing to other professions. According to a recent survey, entry-level civil engineers can expect to earn an average of $58K per year. Of course, the residence (location of the work) and the name of the company will impact the annual salary, with the former having the largest influence.

7: Enjoy job flexibility

An engineering degree offers you lots of freedom in finding your dream job. It can be a launching pad for jobs in business, design, medicine, law, and government. To employers or graduate schools, an engineering degree reflects a well-educated individual who has been taught ways of analyzing and solving problems that can lead to success in all kinds of fields.

8: Travel

Field work is a big part of engineering. You may end up designing a skyscraper in Europe or developing safe drinking-water systems in Asia. Or you may stay closer to home, working with a nearby high-tech company or a hospital.

9: Make a difference

Everywhere you look you’ll see examples of engineering having a positive effect on everyday life. Cars are safer, sound systems deliver better acoustics, medical tests are more accurate, and computers and cell phones are a lot more fun! You’ll be giving back to your community.

10: Change the world

Imagine what life would be like without pollution controls to preserve the environment, lifesaving medical equipment, or low-cost building materials for fighting global poverty. All this takes engineering. In very real and concrete ways, engineers save lives, prevent disease, reduce poverty, and protect our planet.

And finally, did you know that starting July 1, 2017, NCEES will introduce a new testing component called Alternative Item Types (AITs) in its computer-based FE and FS exams? As you may have guessed, AITs are questions other than traditional multiple-choice questions and next month we’ll talk about them.

Until next time,

Ahmet Zeytinci (Dr.Z.)
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.