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CA PLS Exam Advice  


Spiffyone571
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Looking for anyone to give me advice for the California Specific PLS Exam. I took the National and found it to be quite easy, I finished that exam with plenty of time to spare but I have a feeling based upon the pass rates (65% vs 20%) that the CA PLS exam is much more difficult. I do know that there is an emphasis on state specific requirements such as SMA, PLS Act, The Civil Code and the Public Resources Code, but what is making studying difficult is the lack of definition to the exam. For instance the National Exam was very clear and concise on the exam format, breaking the amount of questions into categories and further supplementing with specifics of the exam. The California Exam breakdown is very general, basically you need to know everything applicable and it doesn't provide a question count, so there way to gauge if the problems i'm solving are too long/short. Additionally, the exam does not have any study material specific to the CA exam.

If you passed you California PLS Exam after the switch to computer based testing, what would be your recommendation for studying? Also, did you find any good reference materials that i'm missing?

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eapls2708
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The cut score is typically close to 50% and there are no "must pass" portions.  Don't spend a lot of time on the areas that you are less confident in.

Best strategy I used was to make generous use of page tabs.

My references were printed versions of the PLSA & Board Rules, the SMA, the Civil Code pertaining to real property, and 4 or 5 widely used survey references.

As to text books, take 1 good boundary text (exam writers in CA typically like the "Brown" books); Wattles for descriptions; 1 good water boundaries text; 1 for GPS that is good for practical application; I don't know if photogrammetry is still reflected on the exam, but that was useful when I took the exam; and something that covers SPC calculations.

On the tabs, I would write a short description of the content at the tabbed location (i.e. "B&P8762 - When RS Req.").  Color coding your tabs by topic helps.

The printed statutes and administrative code had, on average, a tab per page.  Each of the text books I took had 30 to 60 tabs in them.

When trying to find content for an answer or to verify what you believe is the right answer, skimming through tabs is much faster than looking up in an index then flipping through pages.  With tabs, I was able to get to pertinent content in less than 30 seconds in almost every instance, and often less than 10 seconds.  Without, finding the content you're looking for would likely take 30 seconds in the best instances, and up to several minutes in many instances.

Time is your most valuable commodity in the exam.

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SPMPLS
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The test plan, located here, is pretty specific. I can assure you that the questions in the exam will fit the percentages of the Test Plan with regards to the areas covered.

https://www.bpelsg.ca.gov/applicants/ls_test_plan.pdf

Here is the reference list provided by the Board.

https://www.bpelsg.ca.gov/applicants/lsrefs.pdf

I passed the exam 32 years ago, so I can't speak to the number of questions on the current exam, but I have heard it is around 70. I was involved with grading for several years under the old format, and was on the exam development team the final year (2011) so I know that the Test Plan is the road map for building the exam.

Good luck.

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SPMPLS
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A few examples of CBT questions are located here:

https://www.bpelsg.ca.gov/applicants/sample_pls_questions.pdf

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Duane Frymire
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The test plan doesn't mention being calm under pressure; and yet example three:)

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Dave Karoly
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I'm looking at that, what about the pipe thickness? I guess they forgot.  So I got D.  Then I noticed the pipe thickness under the legend so I got B which I think is the correct answer.

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Dave Karoly
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I got D on both No. 1 and No. 2.

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Duane Frymire
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The way I read it, there's nothing to compute.  It's a design and has to be 12" below the sanitary. So correct answer is 1.00 feet as shown on the plan.

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K Huerth
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Spiffy, first off, congrats on passing  the national. I passed both national and CA state specific a few years ago, after it went to CBT. The biggest issue I saw was people bringing in giant boxes of reference materials and spending too much time flipping through the books and not answering the questions. I took one well organized 3 ring binder in with copies from reference materials that I wasn't comfortable with my level of understanding (water boundaries, public land info). I too finished the national so quickly that I went through all the problems a second time, which was the same for the state specific. I didn't feel the state specific was that much harder than the national (harder yes, but nothing too crazy), I think most people have that fear and over think the exam and psych themselves out. (disclaimer: I took the exam with 18 years experience, so I was pretty comfortable with most survey topics). I don't remember how many questions they were, but SPMPLS mentioned 70 and that seems about right.

Good luck with the exam, if I can find my study materials I took in to the exam with me I will reach out to you. Get that test passed soon, you don't want a 5 digit PLS number for your entire career!

Sincerely,

PLS 9375

 

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David Kendall
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I must have passed in the same group as Mr Huerth (April 2017) and I agree with his assessment.  I actually found the National PS Exam a bit more challenging as I was not as familiar with the content.

I went to several LS Exam Review sessions (CLSA/NALS conference coming up next month is a great opportunity but the local sessions are more in depth and the instructors will likely be better suited to the topics) and I suggest you watch the CalTrans videos on construction staking, geodesy and CA SPC  the night before you take the test (I believe a few exam questions came straight off of that 30 year old video)  Doc Martin above may be able to provide the link if you can't find it online.

You won't use the calculator for more than about five or ten minutes of the test, wouldn't hurt you too much if you left it at home

If you have the requisite experience and are well-rounded, you will probably do just fine.

If you don't then it is a difficult test to pass by studying alone....If this is the case then there are many years of old practice exams available on the CLSA website (you may be forced to join) which you could run through until you are comfortable and confident

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Jered McGrath PLS
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I found the board material and references as previously noted above are accurate to what you will face categorically. I think the California exam is not difficult for someone who has studied but it was very thorough.  keep your material referenced well and know what is in there. You should have an idea of an answer and use your reference material to check and verify.  Don't let pass rates and statistics fool you. The problem with pass rates, in my opinion, is when Current PLS's will sign off on someone whom they know is not prepared. I recall back in the early 2000's when everyone cried about pass rates and the board needed to make the exam easier. In response, the board pretty much released the exam / guide and current PLS's could look at it and say..... Well, I guess it's not that hard.  I'm sure computer-based testing has changed things a bit but just in the way you answer a question. Best of luck with your studies and the exam itself.. L8838

 

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cnettleman
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David:

Could you please provide a URL or more information about where the old practice exams on the CLSA website are located?

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Spiffyone571
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Thank you all for the responses. My experience relating to the exam varies from experienced well in some categories to none in others, I am a Register Civil Engineer with Broad Based LS Experience, so I am taking the exam with out responsible in charge experience. That is not to say that I am not experienced, because I have done ALTA's, ROS's, Parcel Maps, Topo Maps, R/W Maps, Legal Descriptions, Grading Plans, Etc. in the Office and in the Field. I am really pleased to hear that the National and the State are similar in difficulty. In fact I didn't study much for the national exam, so the fact I am putting more of an effort into the State one leaves me with a bit of relief. I will continue studying and putting in the hard work, so I can join the group of PLS's. Thanks guys  for the responses and anymore responses are welcome.

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