I was honored to take part in pilot testing for the Indiana Department of Environmental Management’s (IDEM) Wastewater Exams on Wednesday, October 29th at the Ivy Tech, Indianapolis test sight. The pilot test group was made up of IDEM personnel as well as instructors across Indiana.
The tests did not count toward anything (contact hours or certification), nor did IDEM care about the test score for the individual taking the test. The value was for IDEM to go through the testing procedure before it is officially up and running to make sure the right categories of questions are on the exam and to make sure the questions are in the right distribution. This also would allow for us (instructors and inspectors) to have a better feel for what to tell operator to expect who are planning to take an exam at Ivy Tech and to get a better feel for what the operators need to pass the exams (more on that later).
We were all asked to actually register and go through all of the steps as if we were sitting for the actual exam (more on that procedure later) and then we were assigned an exam to take (for the first one).
We were asked to look for the following items and make note of them on our scratch paper:
- Glitches in the actual program – found a few. One asked you to pick an answer but gave you no question. Felt like you were playing Jeopardy.
- Complete/relevant questions and answers – made a “few” suggestions
- Properly worded questions with correct list of possible answers – made a “few” suggestions
- All pertinent exhibits, if asked to look at a drawing or attachment, was it there and numbered correctly?
- Formulas (they have reworked their formula sheet) present for all math questions asked – found a few possibly missing
Check in procedure:
- You must have your letter of acceptance to take the exam – letter explains
- What Class exam you are approved for
- That you must take that letter with you
- The letter is valid for 180 days
- If your name/address/classification is inaccurate you need to contact Rebecca McMonigle as soon as possible (before scheduling the exam)
- The web-site to see to schedule your exam
- There is a $30 fee to Ivy Tech when registering
- An explanation of what to bring and not bring
- You must have your photo ID
- You don’t need a calculator – can’t use your own – they will provide you with one
- You don’t need writing instruments – they will provide one
- You will be provided with a locker with a key so you can leave your purse, watch, drink, tissues, bracelets, pendants, cell phones (turn them OFF), etc. You must also empty your pockets except for the lock key.
- You are not allowed to take in gum/candy/food/drinks into the testing room
- The proctor will set up your computer station for you then come back out to get you and take you to your station. You will carry in the formula sheets and exhibits and the provided calculator.
- You must keep you photo ID on top of the table in plain sight while taking the test
- There is an instruction screen you need to fully read before starting. Once you click the start button your 3 hour countdown begins.
- There were 5 questions per screen and (not sure if this will change) you can only pick one answer per question. If you change your mind you just click on the one you want to change it to.
- At the bottom of each page you needed to be careful (may change layout in future) because the “finish” button was before the “next page” button and I kept pushing the finish button causing a new screen to pop up and thank gosh it did because you can’t restart the test. I suggested switching the placement of those (not sure if they will).
- They provide you with a pencil at your station
- You are limited in the amount of breaks you get and the amount of time “10 minutes” you are allowed for that break (is explained in the letter as well)
- On some of the tests there was a countdown in the upper left hand corner of the screen for your exam (but not on all of them). There are two clocks (noisy) in the room in case you don’t have the counter.
- You are provided ear plugs or ear muffs if needed
- You are allowed 3 hours per test
- When finished you take all your paperwork, etc. with you and give it back to the proctor
- The proctor will log you out, and give you a copy of the letter you took in with you and at the bottom of the letter is a portion to be completed by the Ivy Tech Proctor. It gives the Proctor’s name, test location, date and exam score.
- This letter will also be sent to IDEM and you will receive your certification within a specified amount of time
So here was my experience. I got there and waited while others were being signed in. Then I was put through the procedure as described above – locker, ID, etc. I was then led to my computer (took about 5 minutes total). I told Becky Ruark (IDEM Wastewater Facilities Inspector/Laboratory Proficiency Coordinator) that I more interested in making sure exhibits/formulas were effective more than the test scores and I wanted to take as many tests as possible.
The first exam I took was the Class C Industrial (chosen for me). I found a few questions I didn’t like the wording of and I had one math problem I couldn’t find the formula for. I was pleased with most of the questions asked. I finished that test in 45 minutes and passed (barely with a 72%). Then I came out and we went through registration, etc. again and I took the Class A industrial (chosen for me). Again I found a few glitches. I was able to finish that test in approximately 45 minutes and received an 89%. The last test I took was the Class 4 and there were quite a few questions or answers that were just badly worded questions or gave more than one correct answer, depending on where in the Sacramento book you were reading. That one I received an 84% on in about 1 hour. I am not bragging or anything like that – I am just explaining that if you don’t read the material thoroughly you are sure to NOT pass. I teach this stuff in my sleep and should have scored much higher but I was skimming through quickly.
As far as study material I go over in classes and send home for homework. I found that for all the test levels I took if you read the question carefully the answers you have learned in class or in the homework are the same correct answers on the exam. But if you don’t thoroughly read the question you will be like me on some of the questions and decide there is either no correct answer or you will think there could be more than one correct answer. I was so convinced on about 10 or more questions throughout all the tests I wrote down the question number and was starting to write up notes regarding why it was a bad question/answer when it dawned on me I read the question wrong or I miss read the answer. As for the math – you will like the changes in the math formula sheets, but you need to be more diligent about them because ALL the formulas for ALL levels are on one set of sheets and that can be time consuming to find the one you need. Knowing how to work even 2 or 3 basic problems will save you much needed time and energy. Some of the math problems gave you all the information needed so all you had to do was plug and play (match the numbers and units in the problem with the formula) and others you had to know how to figure the basics (volumes, areas, convert inches to feet, percent to decimal, decimal to percent, averages) and make the conversions to work the given formula.
While I was there I asked about the low passing rate for the fall Wastewater Operator Exam pass rate (about 38% or so). Becky told me this test used more of the unused test questions that have been in the bank, but not used for a few years is the only thing she could think of. I would add that people are less apt to study during the summer months due to family vacations, reunions, kids being out of school, sports, etc. at home and more outside maintenance at work that draws your attention away from studying for the test. When studying for the spring exam there are not a lot of nice days to be outside doing so you tend to be in the house or office where you can take time to study.
As far as looking for a roll-out date; I would expect for this to be ready by the first of the year. Once all the notes and changes are made following this testing group there will probably be one more pilot test group before everything is finalized. But I can tell you from what I experienced – I believe you will like the results once this is done and rolled out to the operators.