From Rob McMillan, PLS, EIT:

Below is the standard advice I send out to survey people all over – many I meet through FaceBook, others from the classes I teach.  If you have any friends who are testing to become licensed engineers, the advice will work for them too – just go for the Engineering exam info at the same websites rather than survey.  Get yourself a mentor or two.  If you have a passion for this profession, others who have it will notice and be willing to help you.  Read the attached article – the author is a pretty sharp guy.  

I urge you to join your professional society, at both the state and local level and participate in their meetings, training, conferences, and events.  You might attend a meeting or a conference where you learn one little tidbit of information that is the one point that gets you over the hump in a future exam.  In California it is CLSA:  The next CLSA Conference is a joint event with Nevada: in Reno!  Particularly if you travel a long distance to attend a conference, be sure to talk to people there – counterparts at your level and folks higher up in the pecking order.  Different doors will open, and connections can be made that last a long time.  One year at conference, a surveyor from New Hampshire attended, and got invited to the President’s Reception (invitation only event).  Joining most of the state societies, also makes you a member of the national society – NSPS  An NSPS program is mentioned below. 

College conferences are also a great opportunity to listen to nationally known speakers.  The Cal Poly Pomona Conference is usually in September or October – I heard it is cancelled for this year, but they are doing a series of webinars on survey research in Southern California as a replacement.  The Fresno State Conference is usually at the end of January:  If you can attend college classes, please do so.  The profession needs more educated and better educated land surveyors.  Opportunities for on-line education are now much more available.  

There are published “exam specifications” or a “test plan” for most certification or licensing exams.  These specifications lay out what is covered by the exam, and sometimes in what proportions.  In the USA, the NCEES FS and PS exams are at least components of each state exam.  Check with your state licensing board for their specifications and requirements.  New NCEES FS specifications were released in January 2020, with the changes to the exam becoming effective in July 2020.  For exams given before July 1, 2020, the old exam specifications are still published.  

Current FS exam specs are here for FS Exams beginning July 1, 2020 use these: 

The NCEES PS specs are here:  

Go to your state licensing board website to find the exam specs for your state.  Do the same exercise shown below for any exam you still have to take.  Review the results, and prepare yourself accordingly.  You may need to work with your employer to get the experience you need in some areas.  You may even need to change employers to get what you need.  Again, knowing who can get you the experience you need is a another benefit of professional society membership…  

General info on NCEES exams is here:  There is also a lot of info on the site – be sure to look at all of it about the testing process and what you are allowed to bring – such as calculators.  Print the rules for the test and take them with you to the testing center.  I have heard that some people have faced opposition from testing center staff about calculators, etc.  The testing centers give different exams all the time which have different rules.  The staff may not know all the rules for every test…    

The California BPELSG PLS specs are here: 

California BPELSG PLS References: 

And California BPELSG PLS CBT sample questions are here:

To self-evaluate for any of these exams, print the exam specs out and do the following: 

With a BLUE highlighter pen, highlight all task areas of the test plan that reflect actual work experience (i.e. under the blue sky, but also actual office work).
With a YELLOW highlighter pen, highlight all task areas of the test plan that reflect your actual educational experience (i.e. formal college classroom education, training, workshops, seminars, webinars etc. (under fluorescent lights)).
Already BLUE?, highlight over with YELLOW = GREEN 

Evaluate your exam plan.

BLUE only – Increase your knowledge. Try to get education and training in this task area.
YELLOW only – Broaden your work experience. Try to get an assignment or work rotation to perform actual work in this task area.
No highlight – Get both training and experience.
GREEN – these areas are your strengths. Important to brief on, but concentration should be on other areas 

Resources for study.

Work your way through the NSPS Certified Survey Technician program. all the books listed in your state licensing Board website, which may be the same ones listed in the California BPELSG PLS References (above).

For practice problems: Surveying Solved Problems by Jan Van Sickle PLS. and any other thing that has problems.

Books to read for fun:

The Curt Brown Chronicles         Michael Pallamary         

The Mystery of Capital                 Hernando de Soto          

The Control of Nature                  John McPhee                   

Cadillac Desert                              Marc Reisner                    

Dropbox Link for Week 1 Assets: