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  • Does my reference have to be a SEP?

    by Courtney Wright | May 26, 2023
    No. A qualified reference is someone who knew the candidate at the time she was performing SE work and who knows what SE work is. References do not need to be SEPs or even SEs.

    A SEP candidate should start by looking for anyone who knew her during the time she worked. Then, figure out if there’s a way they can 1) understand what SE is and 2) convince others that they understand it. They’ll need to convince others in the reference form. The candidate may be able to teach the reference what SE is and then they will realize they’ve been working with SE’s all along.

    If that fails, the candidate will have to look forward. Starting now, find someone who will be her reference in 5 years. Choose a person who will either be tracking her work or who knows what SE is. Ideally, find someone who can do both of those things. If they can only do one thing, help them with the other piece. Examples: a member of her local INCOSE chapter knows what SE is, so she should start keeping in touch with them monthly to tell them what work she is doing. A customer or manager at work might know what work she is doing, and she can fill their gaps in SE knowledge.

    A third option is for the candidate to become an ASEP. It is still a respectable certification for someone who “speaks SE” but hasn’t proven their experience to INCOSE.

  • Checking Certification Status Online

    by Courtney Wright | May 19, 2023
    INCOSE notifies candidates of their progress toward certification by sending them emails. You may also check the status of your application, references, and exam results through the Certifications section of your Profile Home on the INCOSE website. 

    We have a partner, Accredible, that will email you a link to view your certificate once you complete the certification process. When your certification expires, that will be noted on your certificate at the link Accredible sends you. 

    All SEPs are also listed on the INCOSE website.  The current SEP list is posted to the main Certification page on the INCOSE website.
  • Where can I get a CSEP polo shirt or jacket?

    by Courtney Wright | Apr 21, 2023

    INCOSE's Certification Program has loaded our SEP logos at this online store: Lands End

    At the Lands End store, you’ll find men’s and women’s polos, button-ups, and jackets, as well as blankets, towels, and bags for sale.  All clothes come in multiple sizes and colors.  You can get an ASEP, CSEP, or ESEP logo embroidered on these items, or you can get the standard INCOSE logo.  The SEP logos are for current SEPs only, not just fans of the Certification Program.

    INCOSE does not make a profit off these but rather offers them as a way for SEPs to advertise their own status and affiliation. You must pay all costs. If you would like to use the SEP logo for items from a local vendor, please contact to discuss this with the Certification Program Manager. It will probably be approved, we just want to understand the products and make sure the branding follows INCOSE branding guidelines

    Lands End production takes 4 to 6 weeks, and shipping outside the US is rather expensive for small volumes of products. If you are attending an INCOSE International Workshop or International Symposium, you may reach out to two months prior to the event to ask if someone could receive your order in the US and transport it to the event.
  • Is the exam offered only in English?

    by Courtney Wright | Apr 14, 2023

    INCOSE’s activities are generally handled in English, and that is the standard language of all aspects of INCOSE’s Certification Program. The SE Handbook, application materials, knowledge exam, and ESEP interviews are all published or performed in English. We are aware that candidates for whom English is not their first language – or perhaps not a language they speak at all – this is a significant hurdle. We are constantly working to identify, evaluate, and implement alternate paths to certification that recognize knowledgeable SEPs without penalty for their English skills. 

    Testing Accommodations – Applicants whose first language is not English qualify for additional time (30 minutes, added to the standard 120 minutes) for the knowledge exam. These candidates may also bring in a paper translation dictionary to use during the exam. These candidates must tell INCOSE that they want these special accommodations when they register for the exam. 

    Academic Equivalency - INCOSE's Academic Equivalencies are a recognition of university coursework (taught in any language) as an alternate path to meeting the knowledge requirement for ASEP or CSEP certification. A student who does well in an academic equivalency course or courses may be able to skip the knowledge exam when applying for ASEP or CSEP.

  • Videos: How to describe your SE experience

    by Courtney Wright | Apr 07, 2023
    Our interns tell us that videos are a better way to communicate than text. Here you go! Some tips on how to fill our the experience sections of the INCOSE CSEP and ESEP application forms.

    What are some common problems in looking at applications that have easy solutions?

    How is experience for applying for CSEP described differently or the same as applying for

    How can I write about work experience when I work in a classified environment?
  • New Certification Starting 1 April 2023: DSEP

    by Courtney Wright | Mar 31, 2023

    The Dinosaur Systems Engineering Professional (DSEP) is a new credential offered for specialists in the field of systems engineering as applied to extinct reptiles. These individuals are unique from other SEPs because of the biological and ethical considerations of their work. They are similar to other SEPs in their consideration of life cycles and product lines.  


    The field of Dinosaur Systems Engineering is a slow-moving one, and the Dinosaur Body of Knowledge (DBOK) is rarely revised but frequently expanded. Outsiders might describe the development of the DBOK as sloth-like, but DSEPs refer to it as “apatosaurus-like.” They then chuckle and, when asked for clarification, explain that the apatosaurus is large, slow-moving, and suspected to be not very intelligent. The editors of the DBOK declined comment on the characterization of their technical product. 

    The DSEP certification is starting off as a single, stand-alone credential. To answer the most commonly asked question about DSEP: No, just because others refer to you as a dinosaur does not mean you will automatically be certified as a DSEP.  

    The inaugural class of DSEPs will be invited as beta testers of the safety fences at future dinosaur reanimation parks. What could go wrong? 

  • Videos: How to be a great reference

    by Courtney Wright | Mar 24, 2023

    INCOSE's interns say you'd rather learn by video than by reading text. Here you go! Here is a collection of INCOSE's best videos about how to provide a great reference for a CSEP or ESEP applicant.

    SEP references

    How to determine CSEP and ESEP certification references are qualified?

    What can candidates do if references are not familiar with INCOSE terminology?

  • Who wrote these questions?

    by Courtney Wright | Mar 17, 2023

    INCOSE works with psychometricians to develop its exam content. These experts oversee the many volunteers who write, edit, and review exam questions. 

    Volunteers are all SEPs and are trained to write defensible exam questions. The current (early 2023) development efforts are focused on writing exam questions that are traceable to both the Fourth and Fifth Editions of the INCOSE SE Handbook. 

    Additional information about the knowledge exam is listed here: 

  • Rethinking Corporate Agreement

    by Courtney Wright | Mar 10, 2023
    INCOSE has been signing agreements with employer organizations for nearly fifteen years, with a goal of finding mutual benefit and efficiency in getting individuals certified. With the increasing popularity of Academic Equivalencies, we are now signing twice as many agreements as previously. 

    To ensure future agreements are beneficial to all stakeholders, we are reviewing our MOA terms and developing new benefits. We are particularly looking to offer benefits without requiring legal commitments. The current MOA benefits are financial discount, reduced reference requirements, and recognition of the company for its support of INCOSE Certification. We are working to offer these benefits separately and outside of formal agreements.

    While we do this work, we will not be signing any new corporate MOAs. We expect this to extend through 2023. We will continue to sign agreements for Academic Equivalency. 
  • Test the Test

    by Courtney Wright | Mar 03, 2023

    We are recruiting participants to try out the new questions we are considering for the next update to the INCOSE knowledge exam. We need candidates to study using the SE Handbook Fifth Edition draft (online only), and then take the online exam during April 2023. Registration closes once we reach 100 candidates or on March 23rd, whichever comes first.

    Participation entails:
    1. Register for online exam to be taken between 1-30 April 2023. By registering, you will be sent the link to book your online exam by 1 April.
    2. Early digital access to the INCOSE SE Handbook Fifth Edition, final draft. Details will be provided once you register. Access ends on 1 April 2023.
    3. Exam results will be emailed approximately 1 June 2023. If you have gmail, check your spam filter.
    4. Passing exam results may be used toward ASEP or CSEP certification through 31 May 2024.
    5. Whether you pass or not, all exam participants get a $100 discount on application fee for ASEP, CSEP, or ESEP certification through 31 August 2023.

    Important information:
    1. Candidates are not required to be current INCOSE individual members, though they will have to pay for individual membership if they later wish to get certified.
    2. Current SEPs may not apply.
    3. Candidate exam results will only be shared with the candidate. We won't tell anyone you participated.

    If you have any questions, please email

    Main registration link:

    If you are eligible for special accommodations, including if English is not your native language, please register through this link instead:

  • INCOSE on Social Media

    by Courtney Wright | Feb 10, 2023
    Did you know that INCOSE has a LinkedIn group? You can post questions or announcements on there.

    This is in addition to the official INCOSE LinkedIn page, which has content from INCOSE Central. 

    And, there's a group for the INCOSE Certification Program. Individuals may post on there along with official messages from the Certification leadership.
  • What Animal Would Make the Best Systems Engineer?

    by Courtney Wright | Feb 03, 2023
    At INCOSE's International Workshop, there was a separate luncheon for SEPs to gather just with each other. In addition to brief speeches by the chair of the Certification Advisory Group, Dr. Beth Wilson, ESEP, and the Certification Program Manager, Courtney Wright, CSEP, there was a social activity. Attendees were encouraged to list the characteristics that supported one of two statements:

    1. Cats make the best systems engineers.
    2. Dogs make the best systems engineers.

    And, there was a third option for writing in an animal and arguing why it would make the best systems engineer. The honey badger got two separate write-ins, with its sponsors appreciating its willingness to promote an unpopular opinion. 


    The arguments in favor of cats being better at Systems Engineering are:
    * They are into your and everyone else's business
    * Delegation
    * They are curious
    * Agile and selective
    * They don't always listen to the "customer" (make their own decisions)
    * They decide everything by themselves
    * Climb into boxes (understand context)
    * It has multiple lives: 7 lives in England, 8 lives in Japan, 9 lives in US


    Suggestions on why dogs are better SE's are:
    * It is all people's best friend
    * Even if you shout at it, it will still love you
    * Easily recognize and accept stakeholders.
    * They understand what stakeholders' concern is.
    * It is teachable.
    * Follows rules ... sometimes.
    * It's a connector, eagerly accepting everyone.
    * Solves problems in groups and interacts with other "disciplines" (i.e., Humans)
    * A dog will poop anywhere
    * A dog sees with its nose (holistic worldview)
    * Friendly and persuasive
    * Willing to admit mistake
    * Has lots of energy

    Other animals' characteristics are:
    * River otter - because he is cluelessly happy
    * Tiger - flexible, agile, will go on offense only when needed (will not be a "yes animal" like a dog)
    * Honey badger - fearless, capable, outcome-focused
    * SEPs - they know what to do because of great training and use best practices
    * Honey badger - relentless, nearly impossible to keep in captivity
    * Ostrich - keep your head in the sand, it will all sort itself out
    * Beaver - they are resourceful, creative, focused, outcome-based
  • SEBok vs INCOSE SE Handbook

    by David Ward | Jan 20, 2023

    SEBoK vs. INCOSE SE handbook is a bit of a mystery to many. Meaning that I get asked the questions what is the difference between the two and which one is better?

    There are quite a few twists and turns to this so allow me to be concise and direct.

    In terms of details SEBoK is just under 1200 pages while the current handbook is about 300 pages. Also the former is 'part and knowledge-area driven' while the latter is organised in chapters. SEBoK is also wiki-based and roughly updated roughly every 6 months. The current version, as I write, is 2.7 (a copy is 'pinned' for you to the right for convenience). You can download it free of charge either all-in-one go or the parts of interest to you: Download SEBoK PDF - SEBoK ( SEBoK is also run by multiple organizations including INCOSE, I'll let you discover the others by going to the website.

    The handbook i.e., V4.0 is exclusively the text to be used to prepare the SEP exam. I personally use it as a day-to-day reference, for my SE training including SEP exams preparation and also SE promotion in general. The handbook costs around 70 euros and is available through the Wiley, Amazon etc. If you are an INCOSE member the handbook is free and downloadable. The best way to appreciate the handbook is to apply it! In terms of content there is more to it than meets the eye so don't think that the contents are 'chiseled in stone', that's why application is fundamental to understand the reasoning behind it.

  • I HEART Captions

    by Courtney Wright | Jan 13, 2023
    Did you know that YouTube automatically captions all videos uploaded to it? And that it does it poorly? It does not recognize the name "INCOSE," and its guessing aren't consistent, either. 

    Fortunately, YouTube (and Vimeo) makes it easy to edit the auto captions they propose. Users can do that within the website or they can download, fix, then upload corrected captions.

    The Certification Program's current intern identified the need for INCOSE to fix its auto captions, and she has begun that work for the Certification Program. You can now find accurate, English captions for many of the videos on the Certification playlist of INCOSE's YouTube.

    Are we considering captioning in other languages? Yes. We're starting with English, but we also plan to offer other language captions for our most popular videos. If you're interested in volunteering your services to write those captions, please email and tell us what language you can work in. This is a great way to earn PDUs!
  • 2023: The Year of the Expert

    by Courtney Wright | Jan 06, 2023
    INCOSE is grateful for its experts. As volunteers within INCOSE, they lead the creation of technical documents, of working groups, and of new chapters. They mentor and present at conferences. They create new and improved processes for their employers and customers. Here are some of the ways INCOSE's experts can contribute to the community of systems engineers, and some of the benefits they may get: 

    1. Participate in your local INCOSE chapter, as a member, speaker, or leader.
    2. Participate in an INCOSE working group, as a member, speaker, or leader.
    3. Work with your colleagues to create a community of systems engineers at your workplace.
    4. Write a paper for IS
    5. Serve as a paper reviewer
    6. Volunteer as a mentor within INCOSE.
    7. Pay the Senior membership rate, if you're over 65 years old.
    8. Volunteer as a Certification Application Reviewer. 
    9. Host an INCOSE knowledge exam in your community.
    10. Become an ESEP
  • INCOSE's Virtual Book Club

    by Courtney Wright | Dec 30, 2022
    Did you know that you can claim SEP PDUs for independent reading related to systems engineering? The category is "Consume SE-related media," and you can claim up to 15 PDUs per renewal period.

    INCOSE members have access to Yammer, a closed social media platform with a page called "Virtual Bookclub." Some of the recommended reading includes books that don't realize they are about systems engineering, but INCOSE members think they are:

    * The Grammar of Systems: From Order to Chaos & Back Paperback by Patrick Hoverstadt
    * A Natural History of the Future: What the Laws of Biology Tell Us About the Destiny of the Human Species by Rob Dunn
    * The Logic of Failure by Dietrich Dorner

    * The Art of Thinking In Systems by Steven Schuster
    * Systems Thinking: Managing Chaos and Complexity by Jamshid Gharajedaghi
    * Noise: A Flaw in Human Judgment by Daniel Kahneman, Olivier Sibony and <g-bubble jscontroller="QVaUhf" data-du="200" data-tp="5" jsaction="R9S7w:VqIRre;">Cass Sunstein
    * SysML Distilled: A brief guide to the System Modelling Language by Lenny Delligatti
    * </g-bubble>SysML for Beginners: Using Sparx Enterprise Architect by by David Hetherington

  • 'Twas the Night Before CSEP

    by Courtney Wright | Dec 23, 2022
    Sheryl Gunn wrote this poem about her experience preparing for the INCOSE knowledge exam. I hope if brings as much joy to you as it did to me.

    'Twas the night before CSEP when all through the house,
    Not a creature was stirring, not even her spouse.

    Her study materials were laid out with great care,
    One last look in the morning would help her to fare.

    The dawn of that day had come soon enough,
    For one thing was certain, the test would be tough.

    Visions of context diagrams danced through her head,
    Wishing a few times she’d just stayed in bed!

    With excitement and panic, she entered the room,
    With thoughts of stray tenets like “from womb to tomb”.

    When the questions were answered, she must wait to know...
    The result of her test, a go or no-go.

    When the word finally came, she gave out a sigh,
    She shouted “I PASSED”… no need to be shy!

    The certificate hung on her wall to proclaim,
    Yet two things are missing, a mat and a frame.

    ‘Tis the end of this tale. Hope I’ve told it just right.
    Happy CSEP to all and to all a good night! 

  • It's not what you teach, it's what you assess

    by Courtney Wright | Dec 16, 2022
    The title of this blog is a statement I make to every professor who asks me about Academic Equivalency. Unlike the dean, your colleagues, your students, and their future employers, I don't care what you lecture about. I don't need to know if you explain the difference between verification and validation, or if you expect your students to know that already. What I care about is whether you assess their knowledge.

    I also don't have a strong preference on how you verify their knowledge. I hope you verify their knowledge in a way that is customized to their domain knowledge, giving them project assignments relevant to their past or future work. I hope you assess them in a language used commonly in their community, not necessarily English. We already have a generic, English-language assessment of systems engineers' general knowledge of the INCOSE Systems Engineering Handbook. That assessment is our INCOSE knowledge exam. We created the Academic Equivalency (AcEq) Program so that you can bring us alternate assessment methods. 

    The process of a university professor applying for AcEq is that he or she starts by expressing interesting through our SmartSheet form, then maps their coursework to our INCOSE list of learning objects used for our knowledge exam. The professor then tells us which class activities assess against those same objectives. If we agree that the classroom assessments are sufficient, we approve the equivalency. 

    There are some administrative hoops to jump through, too. Get more explanation at INCOSE webinar 162, How to Apply for Academic Equivalency.
  • What volunteer activities qualify for PDUs?

    by Courtney Wright | Dec 09, 2022

    INCOSE ASEPs and CSEPs are required to do ongoing professional development to maintain their certification. These activities are different than the work experience that qualified them to become certified initially. Details on renewal are listed online and on Form 13

    One of the ways to continue your professional development is through volunteering in ways that can use your technical knowledge. This may mean judging a science fair or it could be figuring out the logistics for a soup kitchen. As you make plans for how you spend time outside of work, consider helping your community through sharing your technical skills. We at INCOSE think that's a great way to improve those skills. 

    There are three categories of volunteer activities that qualify for PDUs. 

    Volunteer activities with youth in schools or community related to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) - limit of 72 hours per renewal period

    Volunteer activities with community, school, or non-profit organizations that help them accomplish their technical needs - limit of 30 hours per renewal period

    Volunteer (i.e., non-compensated) activities within your organization related to engineering and science - limit of 30 hours per renewal period

  • How much do I need to study for the exam?

    by Courtney Wright | Dec 02, 2022
    You don't want to hear the answer, "It depends." Let's see what we know.

    1. The cost of taking the exam ranges from $0 (for students) to $30 (for paper exams hosted in classrooms or meeting rooms) to $80 when taking the exam online. 
    2. You may take the exam up to 3 times within a 12 month period.
    3. Some people pass the exam on their first attempt, without studying. 
    4. Most people need to read the INCOSE SE Handbook multiple times in order to pass the exam.
    5. Taking the exam is probably the best way to prepare for the exam.

    The above information may help you decide how to prepare for the exam. It also might show that there are a variety of people taking the exam with differing backgrounds. Students and working professionals, first-time and repeat candidates, those who are well-prepared and those who are taking the exam just to prepare themselves for future attempts. 

    If you're hoping to pass the exam on your first attempt, and you have some work experience in an environment with other systems engineers, plan on reading the INCOSE handbook at least twice and making some flash cards. Successful candidates typically report spending 40 or more hours studying. Good luck!