The core of the IStructE qualification process is the exam. This is a gruelling marathon of 7hours duration (plus 30 minutes lunch break), and time is always a pressure. The first-time pass rate is very low – of the order of 30%. Both sections of the exam must be passed.
There are two institution prizes for the exam, for the best solution in steel (The Graham Wood Prize) and the best solution in concrete (The A E Wynn Prize).
http://www.istructe.org/Membership/Examination includes general information and assistance, including:
- Examiners notes which are useful for understanding how to avoid common pitfalls.
- Commentary and advice from the winners of the two Institution prizes
Time allocation is very important in the exam. Having a plan and sticking to it rigorously is beneficial to any candidate. An example of time allocation as used by institution prizewinner Huw Jones:
9:30 – 10:00 Key issues & assumptions
10:00 – 11:00 Scheme 1
11:00 – 12:00 Scheme 2
12:00 – 12:15 Scheme Recommendations
12:15 – 12:45 Client Letter
12:45 – 13:00 Review Scheme
13:00 – 13:30 Check brief, list standards used & key elements to be designed
13:30 – 14:45 Design Calculations
14:45 – 16:00 GA Drawings
16:00 – 16:20 Details
16:20 – 17:00 Method Statement & Programme
Past papers and examiner’s reports are available from the IStructE website; a CD of past papers will be sent to those registered for the exam (the same information).
There are many training courses available for exam preparation, either intensive courses or evening courses spread over many weeks. Ask and answer questions with other users of the site in the forum.
Key pieces of advice:
- Reference material is permitted, but trim this to a folder of essentials instead of a suitcase full of textbooks. Examiners even guess who is going to panic and quit the exam early based on the amount of material candidates have with them.
- Use a quick-drying correction fluid such as the mouse type with the tape!
- Start with a calculation plan explaining the load paths for all types of load
- Stick rigidly to the plan even if it means abandoning something halfway.
- Tips summarised from http://sharpeneer.posterous.com/39980051:
- Read the question. Draw out the key information.
- Practice doing the exam.
- Learn to draw free hand and in proportion.
- The Exam Question is Your Friend and Your Enemy.
- test every piece of information in the question: ‘why have they put that there?’
- completely distrust the diagram provided.
- Get as much advice as you can, but beware.
- Leave space at the end of each section for additions
- Do as many full day past exams as you can in full exam conditions.
- Tips summarised from: http://www.eng-tips.com/viewthread.cfm?qid=293478
- Make your own personal folder of information that covers information that might be relevant for the exam and be familiar with it. Use it in practice exams.
- Calculations should be kept simple and limited to key primary elements.
- Keep it simple. This is an exam to demonstrate your competency to develop a scheme from inception. It is not looking for detailed calculations.
- Structural engineers pocket book has good information on preliminary design and basic design data on all materials.
- There is not sufficient time allowed in the exam to provide full code calculations so appropriate use of rules of thumb is effectively encouraged. Span/depth ratios can be a good starting point to determine if a particular structural configuration is feasible given a certain ceiling to floor height.
- Thorough preparation and time management during the exam are essential
- It is an automatic fail if the scheme is unstable or unsafe to build or violates the clients brief.
- Ground conditions will often be challenging and knowing whether to use piles or conventional foundations requires careful consideration based on the geotechnical information provided.
- The restriction of time means that the candidate has to be able to think quickly on their feet and have the experience to pretty much do the exam without looking at references too often.