• Control Systems Engineer (CSE) Licensure Preparation
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    Introduction to the CSE Exam

    Control systems engineering is a branch of professional engineering. It requires an understanding of the science of instrumentation and the automatic control of dynamic processes. The ability to apply this knowledge to the planning, design, development, operation, and evaluation of control systems to ensure the safety and practical operability of such processes is a must. The CSE examination includes elements of electrical, mechanical, chemical, and other branches of engineering, centered on the technologies needed for feedback and feedforward control of dynamic systems.

    The CSE examination is available through the U.S. state boards of engineering each October. Individuals seeking the PE designation, in their respective states, usually:

    • Hold four-year engineering degrees from an approved institution,
    • Have a minimum of four years experience, and
    • Pass both the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) and Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE) Examinations

    Most states in the United States offer the CSE examination as one of the Professional Engineers (PE) licensing exams. The following states do NOT offer the CSE examination: Alaska, Hawaii, and Rhode Island. Contact your state board for the specific requirements for your state.

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    Specifications for CSE Exam

    The National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) provides the Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE) examination in Control Systems Engineering (CSE). The CSE examination is a multiple-choice exam.

    Effective Beginning with the October 2011 Examinations:

    • The exam is an 8-hour open-book exam. It contains 40 multiple-choice questions in the 4-hour morning session, and 40 multiple-choice questions in the 4-hour afternoon session. Examinee works all questions.
    • The exam uses both the International System of units (SI) and the US Customary System (USCS).
    • The exam is developed with questions that will require a variety of approaches and methodologies, including design, analysis, and application.
    • The knowledge areas specified as examples of kinds of knowledge are not exclusive or exhaustive categories.

    The examination covers the following specification areas:

    Control Systems Engineer (CSE) Examination Specification

      Specification Area Approximate Percentage of the Examination %
    I Measurement
    1. Sensor technologies applicable to the desired type of measurement (e.g., flow, pressure, level, temperature, analytical, counters, motion, vision)
    2. Sensor characteristics (e.g., rangeability, accuracy and precision, temperature effects, response times, reliability, repeatability)
    3. Material compatibility
    4. Calculations involved in pressure drop
    5. Calculations involved in flow element sizing
    6. Calculations involved in level, differential pressure
    7. Calculations involved in unit conversions
    8. Calculations involved in velocity
    9. Calculations involved in linearization
    10. Installation details (e.g., process, pneumatic, electrical, location)
    II   Signals, Transmission, and Networking
    1. Signals - 5%
      1. Pneumatic, electronic, optical, hydraulic, digital, analog, buses
      2. Transducers (e.g., analog/digital [A/D], digital/analog [D/A], current/pneumatic [I/P] conversion)
      3. Intrinsically safe (IS) barriers
      4. Grounding, shielding, segregation, AC coupling
      5. Basic signal circuit design (e.g., two-wire, four-wire, isolated outputs, loop powering, buses)
      6. Circuit calculations (voltage, current, impedance)
      7. Unit conversion calculations
    2. Transmission - 5%
      1. Different communications systems architecture and protocols (e.g., fiber optics, coaxial cable, wireless, paired conductors, buses, Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol [TCP/IP], OPC)
      2. Distance considerations versus transmission medium (e.g., data rates, sample rates)
    3. Networking (e.g., routers, bridges, switches, firewalls, gateways, network loading, error checking, bandwidth, crosstalk, parity) - 5%
    III   Final Control Elements
    1. Valves - 8.75%
      1. Types (e.g., globe, ball, butterfly)
      2. Characteristics (e.g., linear, low noise, equal percentage, shutoff class)
      3. Calculation (e.g., sizing, split range, noise, actuator, speed, pressure drop, air/gas consumption)
      4. Selection of motive power (e.g., hydraulic, pneumatic, electric)
      5. Applications of fluid dynamics (e.g., cavitation, flashing, choked flow, Joule-Thompson effects, two-phase)
      6. Material selection based on process characteristics (e.g., erosion, corrosion, plug, extreme pressure, temperature)
      7. Accessories (e.g., limit switches, solenoid valves, positioners, transducers, air regulators, servo amp)
      8. Environmental constraints (e.g., fugitive emissions, packing, special sealing)
      9. Installation practices (e.g., vertical, horizontal, bypasses, location, troubleshooting)
    2. Pressure Relieving Devices - 3.75%
      1. Pressure relieving valve types (e.g., conventional spring, balanced bellows, pilot operated)
      2. Pressure relieving valve characteristics (e.g., modulating, pop action)
      3. Pressure relieving valve calculations (e.g., sizing considering inlet pressure drop, back pressure, multiple valves)
      4. Pressure relieving device material selections based on process characteristics
      5. Pressure relieving valve installation practices (e.g., linking valves, sparing the valves, accessibility for testing, car sealing inlet valves, piping installation)
      6. Rupture discs (e.g., types, characteristics, application, calculations)
    3. Motor Controls - 5%
      1. Types (e.g., motor starters, variable speed drives)
      2. Applications (e.g., speed control, soft starters, valve actuators)
      3. Calculations (e.g., sizing, tuning, location)
      4. Accessories (e.g., encoders, positioners, relays, limit switches)
      5. Troubleshooting (e.g., root cause failure analysis and correction)
    4. Other Final Control Elements - 2.5%
      1. Solenoid valves (e.g., types, sizing)
      2. On-off devices/relays (e.g., types, applications)
      3. Self-regulating devices (e.g., types, sizing, pressure, temperature, level, and flow regulators)
    IV   Control Systems
    1. Drawings (e.g., process flow diagrams, P&IDs, loop diagrams, ladder diagrams, logic drawings, cause and effects drawings, electrical drawings) - 5%
    2. Theory - 7%
      1. Basic processes (e.g., compression, combustion, evaporation, distillation, hydraulics, reaction, dehydration, heat exchangers, crystallization, filtration)
      2. Process dynamics (e.g., loop response, pressure-volume-temperature relationships, simulations)
      3. Basic control (e.g., regulatory control, feedback, feed forward, cascade, ratio, PID, split-range)
      4. Discrete control (e.g., relay logic, Boolean algebra)
      5. Sequential control (e.g., batch, assembly, conveying, CNC)
    3. Implementation - 10%
      1. HMI (e.g., graphics, alarm management, trending, historical data)
      2. Configuration and programming (e.g., PLC, DCS, hybrid systems, SQL, ladder logic, sequential function chart, structured text, function block programming, data base management, specialized controllers)
      3. System comparisons and compatibilities (e.g., advantages and disadvantages of system architecture, distributed architecture, remote I/O, buses)
      4. Installation requirements (e.g., shielding, constructability, input/output termination, environmental, heat load calculations, power load requirements, purging, lighting)
      5. Network security (e.g., firewalls, routers, switches, protocols)
      6. System testing (e.g., factory acceptance test, integrated system test, site acceptance test)
      7. Commissioning (e.g., performance tuning, loop checkout)
      8. Troubleshooting (e.g., root cause failure analysis and correction)
    V   Safety Systems
    1. Basic documentation (e.g., safety requirements specification, logic diagrams, test procedures, SIL selection report) - 2.5%
    2. Theory - 5%
      1. Reliability (e.g., bathtub curve, failure rates)
      2. SIL selection (e.g., risk matrix, risk graph, LOPA)
    3. Implementation - 7.5%
      1. Safety system design (e.g., I/O assignments, redundancy, segregation, software design)
      2. Safety integrity level (SIL) verification calculations
      3. Testing (e.g., methods, procedures, documentation)
      4. Management of change (e.g., scope of change, impact of change)
    VI   Codes, Standards, and Regulations
    1. American National Standards Institute (ANSI)
    2. American Petroleum Institute (API)
    3. American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME)
    4. International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC)
    5. Institute of Electrical & Electronics Engineers (IEEE)
    6. International Society of Automation (ISA )
    7. National Electrical Code (NEC)
    8. National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA)
    9. National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)
    10. Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA)
      Total   100%
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    Statistics on the CSE Exam

    For the statistics on the CSE Exam please see the NCEES website.

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    Study Materials

    ISA offers study materials and courses for those preparing for the CSE exam. The CSE Study Guide reflecting the multiple-choice format of the examination, and the Control Systems Engineering Exam Reference Manual: A Practical Study Guide, are both available for order through ISA Publishing. ISA Training also offers a three-day exam review course, as well as other courses that may help you prepare. A list of potentially useful reference texts is also available for download.

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    Request Information/Listing of Licensure Boards

    Professional Engineering registration in the United States is administered by each State Licensing Board. The requirements for licensure vary from state to state. To receive information from your state on the requirements for the CSE examination, the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) has a listing of Licensure Boards by state. For more information on the CSE examination, visit NCEES or contact them at: 1 (800) 250-3196.