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What people think is required to sit and pass the exam
#1
Everyone,

I am curious for people's opinion on the following two three questions. Please be honest and as blunt as you like. I hope this feedback can be passed back to the IRSE.

1) How much and what experience do people believe is required to sit the exam?

2) What is the primary reason for sitting the exam?

3) Is the level of feedback sufficient?

Thanks
Cyclisme24
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#2
1) I am advising people that 2-3 years experience in a directly relevant role is the minimum but 5+ years should be more normal. [That's directly relevant to one or more papers, and assuming they're not attempting all 4 in their first study year].
Signalling Designers (in my office) capable of getting a Principles Designer Licence or passing AST course should generally be able to pass Mods 2 & 3 with sufficient preparation, for example, but other Mods would be more difficult for them.

2) To prove something; for status; to learn stuff and for possible career improvement (my personal reasoning). There is no motivation / reward from my company (at least not directly) nor a culture that people do it, although that may be changing.

3) I think that those who failed or got a near miss will always want to know why, but the examiners have enough on their plates without providing a detailed commentary. I would like to see more "real" answers published (with the exam study packs) to illustrate what a good student can realistically achieve in the time. I would be happy for my output to be used like this.
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#3
(16-03-2016, 03:14 PM)Jerry1237 Wrote: Everyone,

I am curious for people's opinion on the following two questions. Please be honest and as blunt as you like. I hope this feedback can be passed back to the IRSE.

1) How much and what experience do people believe is required to sit the exam?

2) What is the primary reason for sitting the exam?

3) Is the level of feedback sufficient?

Thanks

The IRSE's recent Survey Monkey Poll to those who had registered to sit the 2014 exam actually asked some related questions-
1. asked not "what do you think is required", rather "how much had you got",
2. this was asked directly,
3. this was asked indirectly.
I believe that some summary of this exercise will be published in IRSE News in the next few months.  The survey (which had a quite impressive response rate) in many ways confirmed suspicions, but in a few areas gave some evidence contrary to what we had presumed.  This formed the basis of the recommendation made to Council that I understand from what was said at yesterday's IRSE Exam Review was broadly accepted and therefore a small but significant change relating to eligibility to sit the IRSE exam will be announced in the next IRSE News.

Now back to the queries (actually 3- I did READ THE QUESTION!) actually asked:

1. Very variable. 
Some smart recent grads who still have young brains trained as exam passing machines and who can very much focus on exam preparation and have had a wide ranging training scheme can pass a couple of modules after they have been in the industry for two years.  I think that I would generally recommend even to these people that they just do one (and assuming they had been on IST course during their training then I think module 2 is far the easiest for them) and get a good pass with confidence, rather than attempt say mod 2 and mod 3 and be rather borderline and depending on the actual questions and quite how they are performing on the day either end up with a couple of passes having scored around 52% or a couple of fails having scored 42% or some intermediate position. 
If someone of that ilk was after the scholarship then I would certainly suggest leaving until they had a minimum of  three but probably four years experience, studying for the first two modules one year but not sitting them and then sitting all four the following year. 
Most people though will not want to dedicate their life so totally to the IRSE exam and if there are significant work, partner, family, social activities that conflict as in most cases then I would advise doing the first couple of modules after around three years (i.e. a year of job role experience after a two year wide ranging training)
For graduates who enter the industry without so much support and training and just get immediately focused on doing one role (that I fear is becoming the norm) then depending on what that role is they could probably do their first two modules closest to their specialism after the same sort of time, but then they'd be struggling to do the other two in the following year and may need another couple of years to gradually gain wider experience and exposure.
People who are not so academic and who gain experience in a slow and steady manner do need rather longer and of course by that time in their life tend to get rather bogged down in the day job because of their seniority in the organisation and just ongoing delivery commitments as well as being somewhat older are much more likely to have a young family to consider as well; therefore it may be that it is only sensible for them to do the exam perhaps one module at a time and not start until they have been around for at least six years- however I think that it is the "outside commitments" which are more determinant of their timing rather than years of experience in this case.

2. This will vary as well.  Some certainly do it for personal growth (there are people who having completed the IRSE exam go on to sit further modules) but I think that some do it primarily motivated by the thought that it will increase chance of promotion and this may sometimes be very money focused. Others may be encouraged (but not necessarily then supported) by their company, presumably because they feel it looks good to have more qualified people on their books.

3. I can see that if I failed a module it would be useful to know if I got 10% or 40%.   However on the other hand " a miss is as good as a mile" and there is the "Near Miss" category.  In most exams I know of, you are not told your results (the obvious exception that I can recall was music exams in which the marks in each of the elements was given- I still remember that I struggled through my grade 8 clarinet exam and when I received the results these added up to 99 (can't remember what it was out of, but the pass mark was definitely 100) but I then looked further down and the overall result was PASS.  Presumably, to paraphrase what an examiner said yesterday, "we try to pass you if we can since we certainly don't want to have to listen to you again next time!".   However had they not been so kind then it might have been useful for me to know how my performance of the different pieces and activities such as scales was judged; certainly just knowing that I had got 99 rather than 50 would have encouraged me to try again rather than give up.

If a candidate gets a NM they can request info from the IRSE and they will be told the  F/NM/P/C/D rating of each of the individual questions of the paper- I feel that is probably sufficient.  In reality I believe that only a minority of those entitled to this actually do so.

There was an experiment some years ago when it was module 1 that had very poor results for NM feedback for that module to be sent out to all and this was quite a lot more detailed- a tick sheet of generic reasons why the answer was judged unsatisfactory (i.e. not looking at the specific of the question but whether time was spent in the wrong proportions, whether what was written was not actually answering what had been asked, the omission of a diagram when one had been explicitly requested etc etc.)  The IRSE then sent out a follow-up questionnaire to all recipients asking if it had been useful and how it might be improved- they did not get a single reply.  Hence they didn't do it again; can't blame them if all that time and effort to produce was not appreciated enough by anyone for whom it was done to bother to send a quick email.

I know from IRSE Study events that few participants submit attempts before the day and so don't avail themselves of feedback opportunity - you can lead a horse to water but not make it drink.
I know that the Survey Monkey poll that the IRSE Exam Forum was stated as the predominant means by which candidates obtained feedback on their efforts.  This was quite gratifying initially until I thought; look back over 2015 and see how many (i.e. FEW) attempts were posted- most of these are from Dorothy and actually I tended to give her feedback verbally directly.  Hence I interpret this to mean that many students don't get feedback on their work, but rather read feedback on other people's attempts which may be of some use but is not the same thing and indeed may lead one to suspect that they don't actually write out answers as practice.

Fundamentally I believe the time for feedback is before you decide to enter the exam, certainly before you sit the exam.

The one area of concern I have is where a candidate's response may have been misjudged by the examiner because they are from an environment outside the examiner's sphere of knowledge and expectation.  Something that seems patently wrong or irrelevant in an answer may just possibly be correct.  Terms such as "Sighting Distance" or "TPWS" in India do means things quite different than in the UK, but the examiner may not realize this is the case. 
I remember looking at Aditi's answer on the IRSE Forum re an LED signal; I didn't know LU at the time and the Howells "Light Engine" did not exist, so I was thinking Dorman LED (only one in use on NR) but her answer seemed to imply that it was not an LED signal head but the LED plugged in in lieu of the lamp. If I had not already got a degree of confidence in her previous answers I could have assumed that she did not know what she was talking about, rather than she was correct and that it was myself who was ignorant.  So I think there is a role for extending the complaints procedure to allow a candidate who has not got their expected result to ask for their ratings in individual questions even if get a Fail if they have any suspicion that they may, because of their environment, be judged very poor on one question and that might have been unjust.  I am thinking of a candidate who's marks may have been 55%, 55%, 10% and that was due to the examiner judging their last response was not addressing the question asked, when in reality perhaps it had been given the context of the candidate.  Hard to see how one could legislate for that, but there does need to be an element of flexibility and ability to respond in specific cases when there is a particular argument made for reassessment, rather than any blanket rule.
PJW
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#4
(18-03-2016, 08:52 AM)PJW Wrote:
(16-03-2016, 03:14 PM)Jerry1237 Wrote: Everyone,

I am curious for people's opinion on the following two questions. Please be honest and as blunt as you like. I hope this feedback can be passed back to the IRSE.

1) How much and what experience do people believe is required to sit the exam?

2) What is the primary reason for sitting the exam?

3) Is the level of feedback sufficient?

Thanks


If a candidate gets a NM they can request info from the IRSE and they will be told the  F/NM/P/C/D rating of each of the individual questions of the paper- I feel that is probably sufficient.  In reality I believe that only a minority of those entitled to this actually do so.

There was an experiment some years ago when it was module 1 that had very poor results for NM feedback for that module to be sent out to all and this was quite a lot more detailed- a tick sheet of generic reasons why the answer was judged unsatisfactory (i.e. not looking at the specific of the question but whether time was spent in the wrong proportions, whether what was written was not actually answering what had been asked, the omission of a diagram when one had been explicitly requested etc etc.)  The IRSE then sent out a follow-up questionnaire to all recipients asking if it had been useful and how it might be improved- they did not get a single reply.  Hence they didn't do it again; can't blame them if all that time and effort to produce was not appreciated enough by anyone for whom it was done to bother to send a quick email.

Hi Peter,

You mention here about getting feedback if you achieve a near miss. How do you go about requesting this feedback to see what the ratings were?

Thanks,

Joe
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#5
My answers are:

1) I believe many sit the exam far too early and do not always understand the nuances for answering M1 and M7 versus the more pure signalling or telecomms modules. Two years in the industry with training is the minimum I would suggest and a lot longer for some people if the work/training isn't overly relevant to the exam.

2) Personal ambition and to aid application for full membership. The technical modules still are not really relevant to my role, M1/7 certainly are.

3) This is subjective but with the changes to participating in the exam it may be a moot point. My view is some people attempt the exam too quickly, don't understand that it requires a demonstration of the underlying principles and are disappointed by not passing. Maybe, one suggestion is copies of the candidates paper being made available so the candidate could post on here or ask other experienced people to peer review their attempt. Electronic copies have little cost to create/distribute.

I will add, the exam is hard, it is meant to be. As PJW states, there are people here willing to read and provide feedback... take advantage and also of the Study Days. Like any exam, it takes practice and hard work to pass it. The studying should also help your day job and understanding of the bigger railway picture.

Jerry
Cyclisme24
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