I offered to help proctor a test. On the second of two days, we welcomed seven examinees to their Structural Engineering Lateral Forces National Licensing Exam. My friend Cherish was designated as chief proctor and invited several people she knew to help proctor the exam.


The previous day, we’d overseen the testing of 84 examinees across the spectrum of engineering. The second test day, however, was part two for potential structural engineers. For some of them, it was a second 8-hour test day. For others, part two came after taking part one during the exam in April. All in various circumstances, from a very expectant young mother to an older gentleman aged 66, the seven arrived to take the exam.


What Were the Pass Rates?


While meandering around the room, I wondered about average pass rates. There had been so many exams administered the day before that I just thought about it generally. But this day, since there were so few of them, and I was watching them flip through tagged thousand-paged books, I wondered about this test specifically.


It’s bizarre how after serving people in the simplest ways (like by checking IDs and paperwork and walking around a room ensuring that everyone has a fair and equitable experience), you really “see” the test-takers, empathize with them, and want them to do well. Several of us commented that we’d prayed for a test-taker who suddenly exhibited stress. We wanted them all to succeed.


So I wanted to know statistically how many would succeed in passing that test.


Since we were a new proctor team, the NCEES sent an exam pro, test editor, and proctor specialist all rolled into one great person named Ashley to oversee our exam administration. When I had a chance, I asked her (Ashley) if she happened to know the pass rate for the exam.


Ashley said that particular structural engineering exam was the hardest test in their exam bank! “It’s really hard to become a structural engineer,” she said. I’m grateful for the rigorous testing of those who build our bridges and skyscrapers. It gave me a new appreciation for the two women and five men who turned up for an intense exam day.


According to the NCEES website, 28% is the passing rate for the test they were currently taking. 28%!!! The 16-hour, four-sectioned exam’s passing rates ranged from 28-46%. The passing rates for those who retook the exam were only slightly higher.


Would You Take an Exam with a 28% Pass Rate?


exam28%! That passing rate suggested that only one of our little examination group would pass that section.


I looked at the backs of their bent-over heads. They sat solitarily at their own table surrounded by piles of books they could reference during the exam. Situated next to them on the floor were drinks and snacks and the suitcases or beach wagons used to transport their books. Besides the reference books, specific calculators were also allowed on the table. They could choose two of four other items—protractor, rule, triangle, or scale.


The most important, and the only required, items on their tables were their IDs and Exam Authorization form. They had to have their ID and Exam Authorization form visible at all times. They needed both items to enter the exam room, they carried both with them on restroom breaks, and they had to take both during lunch breaks so they could gain access to the room again after lunch. Their ID was persistent and key.


As I passed by the tables, I looked for their ID and Exam Authorization form every time. It’s one reason I began to recognize them. I had to recognize them as a part of my responsibility.


28-46% passing rate for all four sections. I couldn’t get over it. I wondered if any of them felt discouraged by those percentages. I knew they believed in themselves enough to attempt the beast because they all showed up ready to go.


Their focus amazed me. Only two people left to use the restroom during 8 hours of exam. Those two people were not the pregnant woman! Those seven people knew what they were there for and they gave it their best shot.


I wonder if the metaphor that this became for me is obvious to you yet. Regardless, I have to tell you about the barracudas.


Barracudas and Distractions During the Test


Barracudas circling during the testIn the pools at the Blaisdell Convention Center, where the NCEES held the two-day exam session, are lots of fish. In a pool between the parking structure and the building swim barracudas. Barracudas are large predatory fish with fearsome appearances and ferocious behavior. I was surprised to see several barracudas swimming lazily in the pool amongst the other fish.


So these few of many engineering hopefuls came to be tested. Their path required the hardest possible testing. Although very few passed the test, these seven showed up undaunted, ready to conquer. Even if they failed, they could try again until they did conquer the test.


While they took their test, predators swam nearby. Unforeseen distractions happened all around them, like a 4×4 truck show blasting music and announcements nearby and The Cat Fancier’s Association who tried to get into our room because they thought they reserved our room instead of the one next door. But in spite of those crazy distractions, all seven heads remained focused on the task at hand until the moment when I said their test was finished.


Mortality Is Our Test, Exaltation Our Goal


To read more of Delisa’s articles, click here.

Mormon knew this life would be a test, a probation, that would require our utmost effort and focus.


Be wise in the days of your probation; strip yourselves of all uncleanness; ask not, that ye may consume it on your lusts, but ask with a firmness unshaken, that ye will yield to no temptation, but that ye will serve the true and living God.


Paul recognized that not all who participated would pass the test.


Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.


Finally, Elder M. Russell Ballard discussed some of the ways we focus our attention and avoid distractions during our mortal test.


Mortality, then, is the time to test our ability to understand our Heavenly Father’s plan and, of course, our willingness to be obedient. Obedience is essential to obtain exaltation and eternal life….


Understanding the gospel of Jesus Christ and following him as our Savior and our Redeemer will influence every aspect of our lives, including all of our individual choices. Those who live according to Heavenly Father’s eternal plan will not want to absorb any information that is illicit or untoward, nor will they destroy their spiritual sensitivity through immoral acts or the consumption of any harmful substances. Neither will they search for doctrinal loopholes to find reasons to challenge the ordained leadership of the Church nor tamper with the simple truths of the gospel. They will not attempt to justify any lifestyle that is contrary to the plan of happiness.


If they do any of these things, they will never find the inner peace and joy that living the gospel brings. All of our Father’s children can seek prayerfully to know who they are and can find real happiness if they obey God’s commandments and endure to the end.

About Delisa Hargrove
I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I have moved 64 times and have not tired of experiencing this beautiful earth! I love the people, languages, histories/anthropologies, & especially religious cultures of the world. My life long passion is the study & searching out of religious symbolism, specifically related to ancient & modern temples. My husband Anthony and I love our bulldog Stig, adventures, traveling, movies, motorcycling, and time with friends and family.

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