How it Feels to Fail a Professional Licensing Exam
Disappointment doesn’t even cut it
After spending over $1,000 on study materials and test fees, over 120 hours of preparation, and a lot of wondering and waiting, I finally have the results of my attempt of the Principles and Practice of Engineering exam.
I’m frustrated with the national administering council for making such a difficult test. Let alone the fact that a large portion of what’s on the test I will never use in my entire engineering career.
It’s frustrating when a purely academic gauge of your intelligence is entirely incapable of detecting good engineering judgment. The exam doesn’t test your skills as an engineer; it tests your abilities as a test taker.
It’s more about solving the problem of “which answer choice is a trick and which isn’t” rather than “how can I be a good engineer?”
Which is ultra frustrating to someone who just wants a license, even though I understand you have to have some regulations in place for who does and doesn’t get to be a Professional Engineer.
I’m even frustrated for my friends who took it with me, none of which passed the exam.
With a mere 60% pass rate and many thousands of test takers each year, of course I can do the math and see that I am not alone. I’m not the first to fail this test, and I certainly won’t be the last.
It’s a hard test, no matter how well you prepare.
I know that fact should comfort me, but it’s almost as if I don’t want to feel better. Sometimes you want to wallow in the pain of your failure. It’s hard to reach out and admit that you messed up, even if you’re not the only one.
That’s another funny thing about society; we tend to hole up and keep to ourselves when something goes wrong.
A cancer diagnosis, lost job, or failed test keep us away from people when they are the one thing that can make us feel better.
And if you think about the last time you heard of a friend dealing with one of those or other difficulties, you know that all you want to do is help.
I’ve found that asking myself “how would I react if a friend had this experience?” is a powerful way to see my need to ask for help. When I think of others I know who struggle to reach out in hard times, it makes my resistance to it seem trivial.
Even though I know how to get through hard things, the automatic response of wanting to hide away feels inevitable. But, a few simple truths have kept the pain of failure from being too severe.
I know that I can take this test again, if I’d like to.
Having a professional license is a lot of liability and responsibility, and part of me doesn’t mind waiting a little longer. I get just that extra bit of experience before taking on something that still seems daunting.
I still have a great engineering gig with some kind mentors and friends.
My clients are some of the best I’ve ever worked with, and the business is growing rapidly right now.
I have a great thing going here on Medium, have a successful side business of my own, and am growing an email newsletter to help parents become better.
I have a beautiful wife who is my best friend, and two of the most adorable kids in the world.
I get to teach regularly, which I love and might be a path to a new, more well-fitted career for me. And I’m even losing weight after successfully re-igniting my passion for goal-setting.
Forgive the long tirade into why my life is so good, but I really have everything going for me right now and then some. I don’t believe that negates the need just to feel the pain of failure, but it does give me hope for a bright future.
Here’s to moving ahead, even if that means falling forward.