Every land surveyor that has become licensed in the past three decades remembers their first of three exams, the FS, which is created, maintained, and hosted by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES).
Many years ago, the FS exam would ask you questions like “which tool is best to cut line?” But today, you are more likely to have to solve an algebraic equation or compute the volume of a cylindrical tank. As the FS has shifted from practical knowledge to more esoteric, book-based learning, the percentage of applicants passing the exam has steeply fallen. It’s a tough exam.
The current FS consists of 13 categories, lasts 6 hours (5h 20m of actual testing), and contains 110 questions. This basic format has not changed in over 5 years, but big changes are a foot that FS examinees should be aware of.
About every six years, NCEES convenes a special committee to update an exam’s categories, content, and minimum knowledge required (overall difficulty). From this information, another committee if formed that actually writes the questions. Finally, another committee is formed to try the questions themselves to verify the integrity of the questions and answer choices. The most interesting thing about this process is that while the administrators are full-time NCEES employees, the members of the team are practicing land surveyors that graciously volunteer their time by coming to NCEES’s headquarters in Clemson, SC for a few days or a week at a time.
NCEES announced at the beginning of 2019 that a committee was formed to begin updating the Fundamentals of Surveying exam. It typically takes between 6 and 12 months from start to finish to create the “next version” of the FS exam, and the surveying community will not know if the FS exam will change a little or change a lot, but some updates and revisions are almost guaranteed.
The new version of the FS exam will probably launch sometime in early 2020. Rest assured that NCEES will publish a revised specifications sheet that will list the categories and numbers-of-questions-per-category several months before the new exam going live. But examinees should be abreast of any changes so that they can study the correct material and use their time efficiently.
If you are interested in being kept informed about changes to the FS exam, subscribe to the NLC Test Prep YouTube channel for the latest information at https://www.youtube.com/c/CnettlemanNet1