The Structural Engineer!

What is the true form of examining an engineer’s skills?

Dated: 2 May 2012

Whether it is the University examinations or the graduate recruitment system – we put our maximum effort to achieve the best. But what bothers me the most is does any of this actually test our engineering skills? How do we know where we stand?


120 credits per year – 480 credits MEng degree – spent 4800 hours of study time (well some spent more and some spent less) but what we all had in our minds was to just pass the exams – we had ours own ways to get rid of the exams. In my four years at the University I met only one person who said I am here to learn and it doesn’t matter if I do not get high grades. Being honest, at that time I was shocked with that response. Having a look back at my time spent at the University, I can’t recall a single exam, which tested if I am capable of being an engineer. I barely remember anything except for what I learnt and applied on my design projects – and at all times I was just guessing (applying common sense – checking if something sounds right).


In the same way, being through the very mind-numbing job hunting procedure, was I tested if I am a good engineer? No! At least not until the last interview i.e. the very last stage of recruitment process. So, whether I know how to design something or not is the least concern?


The reason I am raising these questions is not because I am questioning the system. It has been there for a very long time and I do not expect any changes in the very near future. Instead it’s because, I am trying to develop an idea of how to test the skills I have gained. To see what my current level is and what will be a practical target. Its funny how we all say I have effective communication skills. Well, what we should be asking ourselves is how effective are my communication skills. What is the level of complexity up to which I can solve problems? How much stress can I deal with? To what extend I justify the industry requirements.


Something large companies use as a second stage of the recruitment process – psychometric tests. I had an interesting conversation sometimes back on LinkedIn about how numerical and verbal reasoning tests determine your engineering skills. And personally I think they don’t, they are used as a tool to cut down number of applications. They have what so ever no link with the engineering but they do have a strong connection with our performance attributes.  A response I got from an engineer, Richard Morgan, which I found very beneficial was, “What is this capability of engineers you speak of? There will be a graduate in one field who knows much more than me, and a director in another who knows much less than me. It all depends on your degree, the University you went to and your experience. Engineering in its most base form is good judgment, reasoning and argument. Beyond the first year in a company tasks will begin to fall on your desk, which go beyond the standard rules you have learnt at University education. University is the basis of your education as an engineer, but it doesn’t necessarily give you the skills to “be” an engineer. 

That’s what these tests are. They test your ability for problems solving, and your understanding of numerical and verbal problems.”


Ok this sounds promising but how do I test my judgment and reasoning. Yes, this is something that develops with experience and the more we are exposed to the situations – the better we become as an engineer.



I am looking for a way to test mine. What do you feel has been an effective tool? This question is not targeted at any particular group but to every one?


Graduates and Students: What do you think can be a good way of examining your capabilities?


Senior Members (this does not mean old but with experience, please don’t take it personal): What is that you think has been successful for you in past and what do you expect to see in future?





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This entry was posted on April 19, 2014 by .

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