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Critical Analysis of the Validity of the Fundamentals of Engineering Mechanical Exam

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2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

Mechanical Engineering Division Technical Session 3

Tagged Division

Mechanical Engineering

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Paper Authors


Alex C. Szatmary King's College Orcid 16x16

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Alex Szatmary teaches mechanical engineering in a new program at King's College, Wilkes-Barre. In his technical research, he uses mathematical models to study how cells get to places in the body.

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The purpose of the Fundamentals of Engineering Exam (FE) is primarily to ensure that Engineers in Training possess at least minimal competency on a broad range of engineering subject matter. It is secondarily used in curricular assessment; for this purpose, it has been suggested that it has particular value as the only nationally-normed exam on engineering. Here, I argue that the FE is not suitable for curricular design or assessment. The FE has not been shown to be a valid instrument and there is evidence in the literature that it is not. Furthermore, it is unclear, from the Exam Specifications alone, what content the exam actually assesses. To clarify how competency in subjects is operationally defined on the FE Mechanical, I wrote learning objectives based on questions from the FE Mechanical Practice Exam on Computational Tools, Fluid Mechanics, and Mechanical Design and Analysis. I show that the practice exam is not content valid with respect to the exam specifications or the FE Reference Handbook. Furthermore, the questions are posed at a low cognitive level and are mostly an exercise in applying simple formulas so performance on the FE may have more to do with motivation, test-taking skills, and familiarity with the handbook than competency in engineering. Furthermore, the FE is poorly aligned with ABET student outcomes; in addition to the poor validity of the exam, evidence of student performance on the exam is too coarse to be useful for continuous improvement.

Szatmary, A. C. (2018, June), Critical Analysis of the Validity of the Fundamentals of Engineering Mechanical Exam Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--30239

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