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A better world through a systems approach
  • What is the CAG?

    by Courtney Wright | May 20, 2022
    The Certification Advisory Group (CAG) is a set of nine volunteers who advise the INCOSE Board of Directors about the direction of the Certification Program. Members serve three-year terms and are also responsible for managing certification denial appeals and advising on policy changes. Most CAG members are ESEPs, and they come from all three global sectors of INCOSE. 

    The current members of the CAG are shown at this page:

    https://www.incose.org/systems-engineering-certification/who-runs-the-certification-program 
  • Who are the INCOSE staff members who work on INCOSE certification?

    by Courtney Wright | May 13, 2022
    INCOSE is a volunteer-run organization with support from a few paid staff. There are three individuals you may interact with when applying for INCOSE Certification. 

    carol-berardino

    Carol Berardino answers emails you send to certification@incose.net, including your certification application, proof of education, renewals, and Academic Equivalency applications from universities. She also works with the volunteer reviewers who check every CSEP and ESEP application form as well as Academic Equivalency documentation.  


    DanniDeRoche

    Danielle DeRoche receives references and manages exam registrations and results, and she processes Academic Equivalency student lists from universities. 


    CourtneyWright

    Courtney Wright rarely works with individual candidates, instead concentrating on the program's overall strategy and setting procedures. She gives presentations about the INCOSE Certification Program within INCOSE and to external audiences, and she sets up relationships with other organizations to help streamline the path to INCOSE Certification for employees, students, and members of other organizations. 
  • How can I help my chapter members get certified?

    by Courtney Wright | May 06, 2022

    The best way to help your fellow systems engineers get certified is to educate them about the value of INCOSE certification. They will show more appreciation when you explain the process, because SE’s love process, but what they really need is motivation.

    Help them see the role of systems engineer like the parable of the bricklayers: you’re not just laying bricks, you’re building a cathedral! The systems engineer connects and translates and asks questions that lead to successful products.

    Once they’re convinced that systems engineering is great, then tell them about the value of an external certification in systems engineering. Whether one has a degree in SE or has been doing it for years, a certification motivates them to gain perspective on the practice of SE and where they fit into it, and it gives them documentation they can use to help the world recognize them.

    Finally, help them with the process. Organize a study group for the exam, offer to review their application, or host a paper exam.

  • How can I help my team get certified?

    by Courtney Wright | Apr 29, 2022

    The two key people in getting a group of people certified are the Influential Leader and the Worker Bee. We know, because the current Associate Director for Certification at INCOSE started off as a Worker Bee. As one of the first people at her company to get certified, her Influential Leader (who went on to become an INCOSE President) drafted her to help her colleagues get certified.

    The Worker Bee is often one of the first SEPs within their organization. While they are applying for certification, they are a benchmark to see if other employees like them will likely qualify and they are gathering information on how to make the process efficient for those who follow them. Like a prototype or an early test site, the first few SEPs within a company will likely do some things inefficiently. They may study more than necessary, or give too little detail on their application form. After they get certified, the Worker Bee will be in a good position to share a presentation with colleagues, explaining the process to them and giving their personal advice. The Worker Bee may also share their completed application form and other materials they used to study. They are not allowed to talk about the content of the exam questions, but they are welcome to talk about the exam questions’ format and logistics.

    The Influential Leader declares to an organization that INCOSE certification matters. This person provides organizational support in the form of funding of prep courses, certification fees, or labor for Worker Bees. The Influential Leader may also encourage recognition of SEPs in career development plans. They may sign a Memorandum of Agreement with INCOSE, which reduces the number of references required for CSEP applicants from the organization. They may form an internal committee (led by the Worker Bee) to review applications before they are submitted and encourage a shared drive to store certification applications, PDU logs, and exam study materials.

    In getting your team certified, figure out if you are more of an Influential Leader or the Worker Bee, then find the person to fill the other role. It may be someone from outside of Systems Engineering. Reach out to INCOSE’s AscD-Certification with further questions or for best practices.

  • How can I volunteer with INCOSE's Certification Program?

    by Courtney Wright | Apr 22, 2022
    As a volunteer-run organization, INCOSE relies on the contributions of its members, particularly SEPs. Members serve as chapter leaders, handbook editors, paper authors, webinar presenters, and Certification Application Reviewers, along with many other roles. 

    Sometimes, when we are most organized, INCOSE leaders post volunteer opportunities at the link below:

    https://www.incose.org/about-incose/volunteer-opportunities/vo-request 

    This site is also where paid positions are listed, such as the INCOSE internships. 

    Some of the ways you can help the INCOSE Certification Program are formal roles:
    * Certification Application Reviewer (CAR) - a current CSEP or ESEP who is trained to review CSEP and ESEP applications
    * Certification Academic Equivalency Reviewer - a current CSEP or ESEP who is trained to review university applications for Academic Equivalency
    * Certification Exam Developer - a current ASEP, CSEP, or ESEP who is trained to write, edit, or confirm traceability of knowledge exam questions
    * Certification Advisory Group member - a current CAR who advises the Associate Director, Certification on the direction of the Certification Program, including resolving appeals

    You can also help without a title.

    You can give a presentation at a conference, webinar, chapter meeting, or to your colleagues to teach them about systems engineering, INCOSE, and the Certification Program.
    You can buy and wear a SEP polo shirt.
    You can use the SEP logo in your email signature or on your business card.
    You can work with your local INCOSE chapter to host an in-person knowledge exam.
    You can offer to be interviewed as part of our marketing of INCOSE Certification.
    You can get involved in other parts of INCOSE, earning PDUs, and answer questions that arise about INCOSE Certification. 
    You can encourage your peers, managers, colleagues, clients, students, professors, and everyone else in your organization who thinks they know what systems engineering is to test themselves by looking at the INCOSE Certification application forms and SE Handbook, and even taking the exam online or in-person. 
  • What can INCOSE Certification do for me?

    by Courtney Wright | Apr 15, 2022
    The two primary values from INCOSE Certification are those gained by going through the certification process and those gained by having (and advertising) the certification. 

    Going through the certification causes you to reflect on your systems engineering work experience and to expand your SE knowledge. These steps are useful even if you don't get certified, but it is hard to motivate yourself to read the INCOSE SE Handbook if you aren't being tested on it. 

    Telling people you are certified, or listing it on your resume, helps people understand what your skills are interests are. You're a person who has chosen to identify as a systems engineer and has external validation that they're capable at it. 
  • When will INCOSE start testing based on the INCOSE SE Handbook Fifth Edition?

    by Courtney Wright | Apr 08, 2022
    INCOSE is working on the Fifth Edition of the Systems Engineering Handbook, forecast to be released in the third quarter of 2023. The Certification Program's knowledge exam is based on the SE Handbook, and an update to the handbook will necessitate an update to the exam. We do not wish to test on an old version of the handbook when a new version exists.

    Following the process of the last handbook update, the current plan is to offer testing based on the new handbook shortly after its release. A more significant question to most applicants is: When will INCOSE stop testing based on the INCOSE SE Handbook Fourth Edition? You're going to love this answer: it depends.

    It depends on whether we are able to develop a test bank of questions that can be used for both old and new handbooks. If so, we can start testing on the new handbook and keep testing on the old handbook for many months of overlap. If we need to pull from separate test banks for the two handbook editions, we'll want to minimize the overlapping time period. It creates extra complication in exam registration when we have to ensure that candidates are assigned the proper exam. 

    It depends on whether there is an existing translation of the handbook in a community's language. We will not require that community to start testing based on a handbook edition that is not yet translated. Thus, the shutdown date of the "old exam" in that community may be later than in other communities. 

    It depends on when our exam writers and beta testers can get access to a draft of the handbook. They need enough time to develop, test, and rewrite questions on the new handbook. 

    With all that in mind, our plan is to start beta testing on the new handbook in the first half of 2023; to open full testing on the new handbook no earlier than Q4 of 2023; and to close most testing on the old handbook no earlier than Q4 of 2023 or Q1 of 2024. We encourage all candidates who are preparing using the INCOSE Systems Engineering Handbook Fourth Edition to take the exam before 30 June 2022, and to allow time for further study and retakes.  
  • Introducing BiSEP

    by Courtney Wright | Mar 31, 2022
    INCOSE_BiSEP_Man_Flexing_Arm_MuscleNew on 1 April 2022 ...

    INCOSE's Certification Program is proud to announce an additional certification level, the BiSEP! 

    The INCOSE Certification Program first started with just the CSEP certification. A few years later, it added the ASEP and ESEP levels to recognize the earlier and later points in an SE career path. Over time, the perspective of systems engineering has transitioned from talking about T-shaped expertise, with SE on top of a traditional engineering discipline of depth, to Π-shaped, with SE as one of many pillars of expertise alongside a traditional discipline and also alongside domain expertise. The BiSEP is the natural evolution for the Π-shaped model.

    BiSEP looks not at knowledge or expertise but rather at strength. It measures effectiveness, not just effort. Rather than participating in remote, individual testing or phone interview, the BiSEP review process will take place in groups, with a preference for in-person activities. It will rely more on demonstration than on references and use of SE terminology. It will not require any particular degree or educational background.

    The first round of the BiSEP application process will be the Feat of Strength. Applicants may submit a video of themselves doing 10 or more pull-ups without releasing the bar. Or, they may perform an in-person curl demonstration using weights provided by the INCOSE Certification Program. We cannot accept videos or remotely proctored curls.

    The second round of the BiSEP application process is only for those who have completed the Feat of Strength. This is the Unmute Challenge. In this activity, five people (at least 2 of whom are BiSEP candidates; the others may be actors) get on a Zoom call and all try to make a point at the same time. The challenge starts with all participants muted, and they must unmute themselves and then yell over the others to be heard. Extra credit will be given when a candidate loudly and vehemently agrees with the point someone else just made, but translates into their own vernacular. The Zoom calls are recorded and scored afterward, with results sent out via email.

    The third round of the BiSEP is confidential. It involves a tractor tire. Further information will be shared to those who succeed at the Unmute Challenge. Anyone who divulges information about the third round will have their BiSEP removed.

    The BiSEP logo will be posted at the Lands End store soon. Recommended products for BiSEPs include resistance bands, hand grip exercisers, and nutrition shake bottles
  • What does certification denial look like?

    by Courtney Wright | Mar 25, 2022
    The INCOSE Certification Program may send a denial letter (via email attachment) to a CSEP or ESEP candidate who does not pass the experience or leadership reviews, respectively. This letter comes from the INCOSE Certification Program Manager. Generally, this letter comes after the candidate has been given a chance to update their application materials to address specific shortfalls. 

    INCOSE does not send a denial letter for a candidate who has failed to pass the knowledge exam (for ASEP or CSEP) or who has not responded to a request for additional information. 
  • How does exam scoring work?

    by Courtney Wright | Mar 18, 2022
    Every candidate who takes the INCOSE knowledge exam is given 100 questions that are scored. Some candidates take an exam with 120 or 150 questions. Those extra questions are not scored but are being offered so that INCOSE can decide whether to use them in the future.

    Every candidate is given questions about the INCOSE Knowledge Exam Learning Objectives. In fact, every candidate is given the same number of questions about each learning objective (LO). INCOSE does not publish how many questions are asked for each LO, but it will be not vary across exam publications.

    Every exam version has the same difficulty level. Not every exam question is equally difficult, so not every exam version has the same passing score. A more challenging collection of questions will allow passing at a lower score.

    Every correct answer must be chosen for a question to be scored as correct. There is no partial credit. There is no penalty for guessing beyond not earning the credit if the guess is wrong.

    Every exam is monitored, either by an in-room proctor or a remote one. If the proctor has a concern during the exam, they may allow a candidate to continue testing so as not to disrupt the other candidates. INCOSE and its proctors reserve the right to notify a candidate after the exam is completed that he or she will not receive a score on the exam due to suspected cheating. 
  • How can I pass the knowledge exam?

    by Courtney Wright | Mar 11, 2022
    The INCOSE knowledge exam consists of 100 multiple-choice questions based on the INCOSE Systems Engineering Handbook. (You may get an extra 20 or 50 beta questions, depending on the version of the exam you are taking. They are not scored, but you will not be told which questions they are.) To be successful on the exam, you should:

    1. Have proper ID and facility for the exam. You can't pass if you aren't allowed to take the exam! Review the requirements for your in-person or online exam.

    2. Understand the format of the questions. Many of them will have more than one correct answer, and you must choose all the correct answers to get the questions right. You can read more about this exam format in this paper from 2015

    3. Know the content of the INCOSE SE Handbook. All questions come from this handbook. Many candidates who fail the first attempt but pass a later attempt admit that they had not read the handbook thoroughly the first time. Most successful candidates report reading the handbook multiple times, taking notes or flash cards, and writing their own diagrams or sample exam questions. 

    4. Take it more than once. You are allowed to take the exam up to 3 times every 12 months. You will have to pay for each attempt. Consider taking it once for practice, then studying, then taking it again. This is probably the most time-efficient way to succeed on the exam.
  • How can I reschedule my online exam appointment?

    by Courtney Wright | Mar 04, 2022
    When you schedule an online exam, you will receive a confirmation email from the exam provider. This email, which comes from donotreply@examity.org, links to detailed instructions about Preparing For and Taking Your Exam. At that site, you are instructed as follows if you need to reschedule or cancel:

    1. Login to ‘CMS TESTWise’ (https://delivery.itemexperts.com).
    2. Click either the "Reschedule exam" or "Cancel exam" button. 
    3. Follow instructions on screen.

    You will be charged $5 if you cancel or reschedule within 24 hours of your exam appointment.
  • How do I register for the INCOSE knowledge exam?

    by Courtney Wright | Feb 25, 2022
    Taking the INCOSE knowledge exam is the first step most candidates take toward ASEP and CSEP certification. The exam can be taken on paper or on the computer. Paper exams are hosted by INCOSE chapters, at INCOSE events, or at universities, and they are proctored by INCOSE CSEPs and ESEPs. Learn more about hosting a paper exam for a group of candidates here

    All individuals who apply for ASEP or CSEP are automatically registered to take the online exam. Those who have not yet applied can register to take the online exam here. They will then be allowed to schedule a specific time and date for the exam, and they will be required to pay the exam fee.
  • Webinars about INCOSE Certification

    by Courtney Wright | Feb 18, 2022
    On February 16, 2022, INCOSE's current intern presented a webinar about the Academic Equivalency Program. This is a great source of information and can be accessed by all INCOSE members and CAB associates at the Webinar library. Webinars relevant to INCOSE certification are:

    156 The Outcomes of Academic Equivalency to INCOSE Certification
    146 Internet-Based Testing for Students and Professionals
    141 Trends in Continuing Education for INCOSE SE Professionals
    139 Fundamentals of INCOSE Certification
    137 Paths to INCOSE Certification
    103 Squaring the Circle: Aligning INCOSE SEP Experience Areas to the INCOSE SE Handbook and INCOSE Competency Framework
    063 How Do You Recognize an Expert Systems Engineering Professional?
    059 INCOSE Certification Program History and Plans for 2014
    041 An Overview of INCOSE Professional Certification
    020 An Update on INCOSE Professional Certification and the New Expert Systems Engineering Professional (ESEP) Designation
    002 INCOSE Professional Certification Program

    Note that these webinars are listed in newest-to-oldest order, and content in the older presentations may be outdated.
  • Spokesperson for the Certification Program

    by Courtney Wright | Feb 11, 2022

    Would you like to be an unofficial spokesperson for INCOSE’s Certification Program? We would love to have you. 

    There are several presentations posted on this page. We recommend you choose and pare it down for your audience. You can also pull information from the INCOSE web pages and create your own presentation materials. And, please, send us a copy if you think they’d be useful for others. 

    If you do share information about the Certification Program, please remember that content of exam items and interview questions should NOT be shared. This restriction protects both INCOSE and you. It saves INCOSE from having to create a bigger set of questions such that we can rotate them out enough to keep people on their toes if they’ve already heard some of the questions. And it saves you from the anger of the applicant who studies for the questions you told them, then discovers that we actually do have a big enough question bank that it’s likely he or she will get different questions than you got. 

    You are welcome to share a copy of your application with a colleague so that he or she can see the formatting and level of detail expected. However, do not share if you feel your colleague will be tempted to copy the text directly. This would be an ethical violation and could result in problems for both of you. 

    Finally, if someone shares information about the Certification Program with you, consider the source. If you find a conflict between what someone tells you and the INCOSE website, ask the person how they know. INCOSE does not monitor or endorse training providers, so you’d be doing all parties a favor if you informed the person of the conflict. If confusion remains, contact the Admin Office for clarification.

  • Meet our fourth intern, Morenikeji Araloyin

    by Courtney Wright | Feb 04, 2022
    MAraloyinMorenikeji Araloyin is INCOSE's current intern. He will be delivering a webinar on 16 February 2021 about the outcomes of three years of INCOSE Academic Equivalency programs. He has also been reviewing data about past SEP applications and continued certification, with a goal of identifying underrepresented groups and proposing ways to better connect with them.

    The following questions are from an interview with Morenikeji in January 2022, during his internship:

    Q1: Describe your current position/role.

    I'm currently INCOSE's Certification Program intern. In my role as an intern, I support the Program Manager to identify areas of opportunity for process improvement and potential solutions. This experience is very impactful one for me, and I could not have asked for a better internship experience to build a foundation for my systems engineering career.

    Q2: What are one or two of your proudest professional accomplishments?

    I am proud to have received a Systems Engineering master's degree this past Fall as SE career has always been my high professional priority. I am most proud to have gained skills to develop and manage large-scale complex systems.

    Q3: What is the biggest challenge you face as a Systems Engineer?

    The misconception about what is systems engineering is a huge challenge; Many people have their own interpretation of systems engineering. If you tell someone that you are a systems engineer, they most probably think that you are a systems administrator.

    Q4: What advice do you have for individuals starting their career as a Systems Engineer?

    To not get stuck with their definition of SE. SE is a rewarding career and opportunity to network and build lasting professional connections with systems thinkers. Go the extra mile to reach out and form relationships with experienced systems engineer both within and outside their organization.

    Q5: How do you continue to learn about SE? What professional development activities do you do?

    I have been INCOSE member since 2020, and I think the SE Handbook is an important resource to have at home, even though you've aced the knowledge exam and certified. So, I'm looking forward to the 5th Edition that will be released later this year. I also plan to get more involved with my local INCOSE chapter, North Star.

    Q6: What are the next career goals you want to achieve?

    A few of my future goals include becoming an ASEP. I'm also excited about the prospect of working in my first SE role while I work towards my PhD. My longer-term goals are to learn a variety of areas within the systems engineering field and work towards becoming an ESEP one day.

    Q7: What are some of your hobbies/interest outside of work?

    I enjoy playing soccer a lot, and because I live in the Arctic Minnesota, outdoor soccer is near impossible during winter. So, I have developed other interest like ice fishing.

    Q8: Why did you decide to get the SEP certification?

    I decided to get the SEP certification not just because of its growing need in job market, but because of the value of the certification. SEP certification helps increase your knowledge in systems engineering principles and guides you in applying these principles in real world complex projects. In other word, it is all about INCOSE clear definition of systems engineering.

    Q9: How does the SEP certification impact your professional career?

    I am preparing for the knowledge exam; however, SEP certification add knowledge and skills to your experience. And in the current world of competition, SEP certification can be a game changer for career growth. More hiring managers these days prefer a systems engineer with INCOSE certification than those without.

    Q10: What has surprised you in the past five years related to systems engineering?

    The growing need for systems engineering principles across all domains, in particular the healthcare and public policy. People are starting to appreciate systems approach as our society become increasingly complex.

    Q11: What job titles have you had other than “Systems Engineer?”

    Quality Assurance Engineer

  • Ace the class, skip the exam

    by Courtney Wright | Jan 28, 2022
    Why should you care if your university has an Academic Equivalency program? It may allow you to bypass the INCOSE knowledge exam on the path to certification as an Associate Systems Engineering Professional (ASEP) or Certified Systems Engineering Professional (CSEP). 

    At the end of each academic term, universities with Academic Equivalency programs send us a list of the students who did well in the required courses. Those students then have 12 months to apply for ASEP and CSEP using that knowledge equivalency. INCOSE counts the university assessments as sufficient verification of knowledge to replace the multiple-choice test that we offer. 

    Even if you're not a full-time university student, an Academic Equivalency program might help you out. If you're nervous about taking the INCOSE knowledge exam, you might prefer taking a university course that teaches you more about systems engineering and assesses you in lower-pressure ways than INCOSE's exam. Some universities offer Academic Equivalency through just a single, online course. You also might find a course offered in a language other than English. The INCOSE knowledge exam is only offered in English, but Academic Equivalency courses may be offered in any language. 
  • It's not what you teach, it's what you assess

    by Courtney Wright | Jan 21, 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 with 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. We give more details and a link to the application form at the main page describing Academic Equivalencies: https://www.incose.org/systems-engineering-certification/certification-agreements/equivalency-programs
  • 2022: The Year of the Student

    by Courtney Wright | Jan 14, 2022
    INCOSE has a few special opportunities for students. Our next post will be about the most exciting one - Academic Equivalency - but this week we'll note other ways INCOSE helps students. 

    1. Student membership - full-time or nearly-full-time students are eligible for a discounted rate on INCOSE membership. 
    2. Student divisions - in addition to joining INCOSE chapters and working groups, university students may form their own clubs that have a special relationship with INCOSE.
    3. Systems Engineering honor society, Sigma Theta Mu - here's a way to distinguish yourself if you know during your student days that you want to be a superstar systems engineer.
    4. Student rates for event registration 
    5. Take the INCOSE knowledge exam for free at your university or a chapter-hosted in-person exam.
    7. CAB Associate access to INCOSE materials if your university is a part of the INCOSE Corporate Advisory Board's Academic Council
  • Ordering SEP Logo Items

    by Courtney Wright | Jan 07, 2022
    INCOSE has shared the SEP logos with Lands End, a US-based provider of clothing and home goods. If you would like an ESEP polo, a CSEP fleece jacket, or an ASEP backpack, you are likely to find something you like at the Lands End Store.