Sunday, August 9, 2009

How tough are NICET tests?

For most of it not all that bad really and for both layout and inspections there are a number of elements a complete novice can pass.

The Automatic Sprinkler System Layout PROGRAM DETAIL MANUAL requires passage of a minimum of 50 elements and depending on your abilities 2, 3 or 4 of the 50 required elements might require serious study or even tutoring.

There's a large number of NICET II certificate holders that can't get Level III certification just because they can't pass one or two elements. One of the stumbling blocks is the "advanced hydraulic calculations" element.

The Advanced Hydraulic Calculations is a Level III "core element" which means Level III certification will not be issued until this element is passed. It doesn't matter, you can pass every other single element NICET offers but until you pass this Level III will not be awarded. That's the way NICET works.

I was lucky I found this element easy enough because I started hydraulic calculations in the mid 1970's, before personal computers, when we were doing them by hand. Today our computers do the calculations for us, what used to take an hour or two or three now takes five seconds, which leaves someone new somewhat vulnerable. You are going to have to learn how to do this.

Understand thoroughly advanced hydraulic calculations as applied to looped and gridded systems, velocity pressures, etc. Perform Hardy-Cross analysis of flow in a simple looped system. (NFPA 13, Layout, Detail and Calculation of Fire Sprinkler Systems)
Click on the image to view a typical advanced hydraulic calculation problem. This is not easy for most of us.

If you aren't used to doing it I don't think you will be finding it easy.

Another element that stops people, especially those who last did an algebra or trigonometric problem 22 years ago in high school, is "Intermediate Mathematics".

Perform mathematical calculations utilizing basic algebra (fundamental laws, algebraic expressions), geometry, and the trigonometric functions of right triangles. (See basic textbooks on algebra and trigonometry)

This is a Level I core element and until this is passed NICET will not issue any certification.

I would also take exception to the description "trigonometric functions of right triangles". Unless it has been changed over the last few years the trinonometric questions I had involved triangles but they were not right triangles.

I had to take the test three times to obtain Level III certification and a fourth time to obtain Level IV certification. This is pretty well average because you are limited to the number of elements you can take in a single sitting.

For example you are required to have 50 elements for Level III but the maximum number of elements you can take in one sitting is 34. If you miss just one core element you'll end up waiting six months before you take it again.

The first three times I took the exam I seem to remember we started at 8:30 AM, broke for lunch for exactly one hour and finshed up around 3:30 or 4:00 PM. The fourth time I took the exam, this was getting the rest of elements I needed for Level IV, I had most passed and was out of the classroom by noon.

The tests are open book but they are timed. If you have to look more than one or two questions you will run out of time and won't pass anyway.

Computers and programmable calculators are not allowed.

Government issued photo ID required.

During lunch break people are clustered about the hallway, these tests are given mostly at community colleges by a proctor, furiously looking up answers to questions they remembered. Once your open book material is cleared for use in the classroom it can not be removed until the test is done. For this reason it is wise to have two sets of source material.

And that's the testing procedure, have fun!