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NCEES exams transition to computer-based testing (CBT)

NCEES began the process of transitioning exams to computer-based testing (CBT) in 2011. CBT offers many benefits, such as enhanced security for exam content and more uniformity in testing conditions. For most exams, it also provides greater scheduling flexibility.

All CBT exams are offered at approved Pearson VUE test centers. For more information on registering for a CBT exam, download the NCEES Examinee Guide and watch a video series about the exam-day experience.

Onscreen line tool

With the transition to computer-based testing for all PE Mechanical exams beginning April 1, 2020, NCEES has developed a new onscreen line tool to aid in reading charts and graphs.


Alternative item types

CBT exams include traditional multiple-choice questions as well as alternative item types (AITs). AITs provide opportunities to assess the technical knowledge of examinees using methods not available through pencil-and-paper testing.

All questions, including AITs, are scored as either correct or incorrect. There is no partial credit. AITs include but are not limited to the following:

  • Multiple correct—allow examinees to select multiple answers
  • Point and click—require examinees to click on part of a graphic to answer
  • Drag and drop—require examinees to click on and drag items to match, sort, rank, or label
  • Fill in the blank—provide a space for examinees to enter a response to the question

AITs are incorporated into the practice exams for CBT exams. You can also review the general format of AITs in the Pearson VUE computer-based testing demo.


Year-round vs. single-day exams

Some CBT exams are administered year-round. NCEES constructs these exams using a linear-on-the-fly (LOFT) algorithm. This means that all examinees for a particular exam are required to answer the same number of questions in the same topics; however, no examinees will have the same set of questions. The algorithm will assemble a unique exam within the same specification framework (i.e., the same number of questions per topic area) and the same relative level of difficulty.

Other CBT exams that have a smaller examinee population use a different high-stakes testing model and are administered on a single day each year. All examinees taking these exams receive the same questions.

The question formats used on both types of exams are the same, independent of the statistical model employed.

Conversion schedule

NCEES has successfully converted, or is in the process of converting, the following exams to a computer-based format. They are no longer offered in pencil-and-paper format.

2014FE exam (all disciplines)Year round
2014FS examYear round
2017PS examYear round
2018PE ChemicalYear round
2018PE NuclearSingle day (see date)
2019PE PetroleumSingle day (see date)
2019PE EnvironmentalYear round
2020PE Fire ProtectionSingle day (see date)
2020PE Industrial and SystemsSingle day (see date)
2020PE Mechanical: HVAC and RefrigerationYear round
2020PE Mechanical: Machine Design and MaterialsYear round
2020PE Mechanical: Thermal and Fluid SystemsYear round
2020PE Electrical and Computer: PowerYear round (beginning December 2020)
2021PE Electrical and Computer: Computer EngineeringSingle day (see date)
2021PE Electrical and Computer: Electronics, Controls, and CommunicationsSingle day (see date)

All other NCEES exams are currently in the conversion process and scheduled to launch in computer-based format between now and 2024. They are currently offered in pencil-and-paper format and available once or twice per year depending on the exam. See the current pencil-and-paper exam schedule.

The following conversion schedule is tentative. Official notification and details related to each exam will be provided 12 months in advance.

2021PE Agricultural and BiologicalSingle day (date TBD)
2021PE Mining and Mineral ProcessingSingle day (date TBD)
2022PE ArchitecturalSingle day (date TBD)
2022PE Control SystemsSingle day (date TBD)
2022PE Metallurgical and MaterialsSingle day (date TBD)
2022PE Naval Architecture and MarineSingle day (date TBD)
2022PE Civil: ConstructionYear round
2022PE Civil: GeotechnicalYear round
2022PE Civil: StructuralYear round
2022PE Civil: TransportationYear round
2022PE Civil: Water Resources and EnvironmentalYear round
2024Structural exam (SE)TBD