IStructE Chartered Membership Examination Guidance

A little about Huw.

Huw attended the University of Wales Swansea and graduated in 2006 with a B-Eng (Hons) degree in Civil Engineering. He started working for Craddys immediately and undertook the IStructE technical Report route to chartership in 2011. He passed first time. He became an Associate in 2012 and has been a Director of Craddys since 2017.

Huw’s personal reflections on the exam process.

The first word of advice I would give any candidate is ‘Preparation’. In addition to my private study, I attended a locally arranged six week evening course, along with the intensive one day course at the Institution headquarters in London. These courses were invaluable, helping with exam technique, general development and introducing me to other Engineers in my local area.

The main area of focus during my preparation was the exam folder. I was keen not to rely on the fact that the exam was open book, taking in countless text books and folders. Instead I prepared one A4 size folder, with all information summarised into precise sections that followed the exam format. I resisted the urge of taking in any additional information, not even the Engineers Pocket Book! If it wasn’t in the file, I didn’t need it.

Time keeping was a major factor and it’s critical that you stick to your plan. My exam plan was as given below, but it’s important to understand that everyone’s will vary dependant on strengths and weaknesses.

9:30 – 10:00 Key issues & assumptions

10:00 – 11:00 Scheme 1

11:00 – 12:00 Scheme 2

12:00 – 12:15 Scheme Recommendations

12:15 – 12:45 Client Letter

12:45-13:00 Review Scheme (Check brief, list standards used & key elements to be designed)

13:30-14:45 Design Calculations

14:45 – 16:00 GA Drawings

16:00 – 16:20 Details

16:20 – 17:00 Method Statement & Programme

Choosing the correct question was, in my opinion, the biggest challenge of the day. When you sit down and first look at the paper, your head is spinning with ideas and you’re eager to get going. Seeing other people put pen to paper can be incredibly distracting, but taking the time to choose the right question will benefit you in the long run. Getting an hour down the line and changing really isn’t an option. I chose to use the first 30 minutes to list key issues and assumptions, and also used this time to discuss general issues such as fire; disproportionate collapse; boundary conditions and site restrictions. Writing a little bit about a lot of things can go a long way in creating a good first impression with the examiner.

I have always favoured the use of sketches, and relied heavily during the exam on the use of colour. Everything I had read in the build up suggested that if you make a good impression, with a well presented script that is easily interpreted, you will only benefit. I noticed that some candidates took in drawing boards and all sorts of technical drawing equipment, although this may benefit some people, it would have been far too time consuming for me. I used primarily free hand drawn sketches, GA’s and details, only really using a ruler when absolutely necessary.

One area I think many people struggle with is the lack of time. For instance, you will not have the time to produce detailed calculations checking bending, shear and deflection of a beam. I chose rather to check only the governing factor (long span beams = deflection) then simply writing a statement saying that I would check the other items given the time. The examiners understand the time constraints of the day, having been through it themselves, so simply telling them that you would do something will demonstrate you have a good understanding of Engineering principals.

I think some candidates can also put too much emphasis on the drawings and calculations, forgetting that the letter, method statement and programme represent a good portion of the marks. I felt that these were areas where I could easily pick up marks, and targeted them from the start. Too many people exceed their time limits on the drawings and calculations, leaving the method statement and programme for the last 10 minutes. I did not want to fall into this trap, and dedicated a full 30 minutes to the letter and 40 minutes for the method statement and programme. Yes you need two distinct schemes, yes you need good drawings, yes you need calculations, but why neglect the other aspects of the question when they could make up the difference between passing and failing?

To conclude, I feel the exam is fair, and contrary to what some people think, if planned well there is just about enough time to answer all parts to a satisfactory standard. You might not get everything in your head down on paper, but if you remain focused, work methodically, and most of all don’t panic, before you know it you will have your two solutions and should be feeling far more confident.

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