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NICET Level 3 Hydraulics - Impossible????

NICET Level 3 Hydraulics - Impossible????

NICET Level 3 Hydraulics - Impossible????

(OP)
I'm new here due to frustration and seeking advice. I have been in design for the past 8 yrs, currently a Level 2 and have passed the General Plans portion of Level 3 Water Based Layout. I have taken the Hydraulics test twice and failed both times. NICET claims that their test is based off of common design knowledge that one can obtain designing for more than 5 years, this couldn't be any further from the truth. First attempt was in March directly after General test and scored a 472 (500 to pass) and I couldn't believe how difficult (tricky) and confusing the test was. Through out the years I have taken several NFPA, NFSA and other state courses for additional education on topics. After I failed the test and saw how difficult it was I decided to enroll in Firetechs online course for additional education before attempting the test again. Now, what I did will probably not work for others, but I own my own inspection and design company so I took 3 weeks off to fully commit myself to learning. I personally think Firetech offers a great course and very beneficial, they get you digging in to the code where you normally might not spend much time. At the end of Firetechs course there are 3 practice exams that test your knowledge, I also purchased NICET's practice exam. I passed all 3 of these practice exams with the lowest score of 94%. NICET practice exam, I missed 1 question and didn't have to open the book, would tell anyone they are ready for the real deal. Took the test the second time in August and thought I was untouchable, brushed up on every area of the code and was ready to take the test with confidence, not quite, I scored 444. Called NICET to ask about their success ratio, he said it was below 20%. I also asked how I could only miss one question on his practice exam with out opening the book, and score a 444 on the real test, he had no answer. At this point I'm done, I'm not throwing any more money at this scheme called NICET. I have been through the forum looking for advice and saw where others have been too, but the only people who seem to have passed level 3 did not do so on the new CBT format. I have talked with 2 level 3 guys who help make up the questions for NICET, and no they did not share any information with me, I was only stating my frustration to them about how ridiculous the test was and both of them said they would not be able to pass the test if they had to take it. Figured I would share my story and perhaps get some helpful information as to how others have done with their level 3 CBT test.

RE: NICET Level 3 Hydraulics - Impossible????

I know it is not possible, but I would like to see what the questions are that are giving so much trouble. It could be that they have the wrong answer. When I took mine many years ago, I challenged some questions as I was positive they had the wrong answers. It turns out the NICET answer was referencing an older standard than was noted for the exam and things had changed.

As far as Level 3 calculations, are you competent in hand calculations? Can you do a hand calc that matches the same thing you get with a computer generated calc? I find many new guys are unable to do hand calcs because they never learned that process. That is not meant as a slam, just wondering if that may be part of the case.

Travis Mack
MFP Design, LLC
www.mfpdesign.com
"Follow" us at https://www.facebook.com/pages/MFP-Design-LLC/9221...

RE: NICET Level 3 Hydraulics - Impossible????

(OP)
TravisMack, you stated that you "know it is not possible", is that a typo or am I reading it wrong? This last test I got a percent correct score in the 4 areas, where the one in March I did not. I got an 83 in Standpipes, 75 in Calcs, 53 in pumps and 43 in Hazards and Occupancies. I vaguely remember one question about storage asking for the lowest density on the curve and the question was set up where a reduction could have occurred. I have read a lot about answering the NICET question directly and don't overthink them, but both were answers in the multiple choice, the actual point on the curve (which is what I selected) and the reduction. This is what frustrates me so much, was I right because it was the actual point on the curve or was I wrong because I didn't take the reduction from the scenario?

TravisMack, I have read a lot of the information and suggestions you and others have made on these forums. I see that everyone here and everyone I know or have met, all passed their level 3 on the module format, and that's how I passed my level 2. I have not found a person yet that has passed this new CBT format, and it's hard to do because people usually only have something to say when they're complaining, like myself. I was hoping to find someone else who has taken it and hopefully passed it and got their thoughts.

RE: NICET Level 3 Hydraulics - Impossible????

What I was saying, is that I would like to see what the test questions were. It is not possible because you are not permitted to record any questions. I believe you sign something along the lines of that. Therefore, "I know it is not possible" to see the exam question(s) that caused the problems.

If you did that well on the practice exams from FireTech and NICET, then you should have done very well. That is why I would be wanting to question NICET on the exam. You may even want to pay to have them go back and hand-grade if that is even possible at all.

I was also implying that if we could see the question, then the collective group on here may be able to point out where the issue was. Like I said, it could be that NICET had it wrong. It does happen. For as close as you were to passing, it may be beneficial to contest that question above where you think you were correct. If you were correct, then it could possibly push you into the passing range.

You are correct in that I passed long ago.

Travis Mack
MFP Design, LLC
www.mfpdesign.com
"Follow" us at https://www.facebook.com/pages/MFP-Design-LLC/9221...

RE: NICET Level 3 Hydraulics - Impossible????

I understand you can't remember the exact wording of a question that you considered tricky but could you paraphrase to give us an idea?

"Below 20%" doesn't sound good at all. I can appreciate 40% but below 20 seems a little tough.

About Firetech.

I used Firetech long ago when everything was on cassette tape (that dates me) and I was wondering how to do it today? I suppose everything on the computer which requires internet?

Did you use Firetech for Level I and II and if you did how do you feel they prepared for those levels?

RE: NICET Level 3 Hydraulics - Impossible????

(OP)
Travis, I was reading it wrong. I thought your initial statement was replying to my thread title. Sorry for the confusion. This new test has my head spinning in so many directions that when I walk out of the room I honestly can't remember a thing about any of the questions. Trust me when I say I appreciate your input and I have read a lot of the information you have posted. I'm no trying to put anyone down, I just feel like this new CBT exam is a different animal than the old module format and I feel like I'm all alone trying to figure out what it takes to pass it. Like I've said before, I passed my level 2 on the module format and I know what it was like which were questions designed to test your knowledge of NFPA 13 and design, this new CBT exam I feel is geared toward collecting money.

SD2, I did not use Firetech until this last test. I thought their material was pretty good at teaching someone about design, but I now believe there is a fork in the road, one way is to learn and educate yourself about design and the other is to learn how to pass a test. I am in constant contact with Firetech now, along with 3 other people they told me, and they are trying to better prepare people for the test. The course I took had 90 day access online and was self paced, it covers a lot of material and I went through it twice in 3 weeks taking time in some sections making up my own problems along with some problems from other books I have like "Design of Water-Based Fire Protection Systems" by Robert M. Gagnon, "Layout, Detail and Calculation of Fire Sprinkler Systems" by Kenneth E. Isman, "Fire Protection Hydraulics and Water Supply Analysis" by Pat D. Brock, "Designer's Guide to Automatic Sprinkler Systems" by Robert M. Gagnon and the NTC Grey Book.

Here's some examples that I can vaguely remember,

1. Pick the lowest point on the curve for Class III ordinary temp sprinklers stored to 14-0 ft.? There was a lot more wording, but this was what I remember.

2. Pick the best k-Factor, (the question got you to Table 16.3.3.1, NFPA 13-2010, 30-0ft storage - 40-0ft ceiling), with a 1,500gpm @ 100psi pump with city - 60%, residual - 40%, max - 20%. (all of these numbers are made up, this was how the question was formed to the best of my knowledge).

RE: NICET Level 3 Hydraulics - Impossible????

Answer to #1: .193/2000 (In real life I would use .20/2000 but real life and NICET doesn't always match.

I got to dig up my 2010 edition... sure the 2013 edition is the same but need to make sure.

I have a friend that needs to pass the Level I. How is Firetech for that?


RE: NICET Level 3 Hydraulics - Impossible????

(OP)
I have only taken Firetech for level 3, but from what I have read on here level 1 and 2 are not that bad and Firetech in my opinion is well worth the money. Even though I have not seen their level 1 or 2, I believe your friend will not be disappointed with Firetech.

For problem #1, I chose .285 because the question read "which point on the curve?", but .285 and .191 (I think) were both answers. And like you said NICET and real life do not always match, so I answered the question as stated.

RE: NICET Level 3 Hydraulics - Impossible????

There are a thousand more variables that are critical for that first question.

So, making the assumptions that it was solid piled, then Figure 14.2.1 gives you +/ .285/2000. Then, you apply the storage height modification figure 14.2.4.3 for a modification of +/- 67%. Therefore, you get 0.285*.67 = 0.191. Section 14.2.4.6 states that for storage greater than 12 for Class III and IV commodities, the density shall not be less than that for Oh2. So, you are going to have to go with 0.20 gpm / sq ft.

So, based on the lowest point on the curve, 0.191 would be the answer. However, the minimum required for design would be 0.20.

If this was one you missed, I would send in a challenge to NICET.

I would challenge a best k-factor question. I haven't worked it out, but if they wanted K25, you could argue that since you already have the pump, then a K17 would be better if you can make the pipe sizing work to save on costs for installation. I hate the questions like that because "best" does not just mean water flow. We had a question like this on the mid-term (or final) for my Master's degree program in the fire sprinkler section. The instructor was looking for an ESFR answer, but I was able to show that a standard spray sprinkler would work and for the problem, actually worked better while providing better cost savings. So, I was able to get full credit on that problem.

Again, challenge NICET on the question if you feel you were correct. They are often quite receptive to helping out the certificants.

Travis Mack
MFP Design, LLC
www.mfpdesign.com
"Follow" us at https://www.facebook.com/pages/MFP-Design-LLC/9221...

RE: NICET Level 3 Hydraulics - Impossible????

Quote:

2. Pick the best k-Factor, (the question got you to Table 16.3.3.1, NFPA 13-2010, 30-0ft storage - 40-0ft ceiling), with a 1,500gpm @ 100psi pump with city - 60%, residual - 40%, max - 20%. (all of these numbers are made up, this was how the question was formed to the best of my knowledge).

I have no idea what they are looking for here.

Instead of % was it residual pressures available on the pump suction of 60 psi static, 40 psi residual @ 1,500 and 20 psi @ 2,250 gpm?

I have no idea what factors they would consider when deciding what is "best" but I like the 16.8 k-factor ESFR sprinklers

16.7 takes the least amount of water discharge and from an economic standpoint I've never had luck with the 25.2 because the increased cost will eat up whatever little you manage to save on pipe size reduction. The only time I've used a 25.2 was when I was able to use the city water pressure without having to resort to a fire pump in a 30,000 sq ft building.

In the form you presented the question doesn't make sense to me.

RE: NICET Level 3 Hydraulics - Impossible????

For question #2 above they may have been leading you to pick the K25.2 for the 25psi operating pressure which is the lowest in the list. None require in rack sprinklers so that criteria is equal among all options.

But that's only one way of looking at it. With experience we know that the smaller K factors will likely over-discharge less [sounds ironic] leading to higher operating pressures but lower line losses due to the reduced flow compared to larger orifice sprinklers.

I would go with the smallest K factor ESFR sprinklers because of the fire pump (end head pressure) and squeeze the pipe size down as far as I could go. It might be the difference between 2" and 2-1/2" or 2-1/2" and 3" branch lines depending on configuration[loop/grid/tree] and size of building.

I guess the answer is "it depends".

RE: NICET Level 3 Hydraulics - Impossible????

I am prepping for my Level 3 exams now and I am using the Firetech Courses. So far, I like them a lot. That said, one of the things I noticed about my Level 2 exam was that there were several questions that I felt like there was either no wrong answer, or multiple correct answers on a question that was supposed to have only a single correct answer. I had several questions at the end of the test that I had flagged for review and I was kinda annoyed because there were multiple answers to the question.

RE: NICET Level 3 Hydraulics - Impossible????

I am getting ready to start studying for my Level III test. After reading this thread, I am wondering if I should just stay at Level II for the rest of my career. I'm only joking, but I think I will need to look into the Firetech course. My head is spinning just from this thread. I can't imagine what the test will be like!

RE: NICET Level 3 Hydraulics - Impossible????

Hi All! I received both my NICET 1 and 2 through CBT format. Never did take the level 3 (changed careers). I found the 1 and 2 weren't bad with open book testing. I have a theory/opinion on why it is so hard to pass the level 3. I'm going to preface this with saying: This is NOT meant to offend any professional engineers in the room. I worked for an FPE for 6 years and have a lot of respect for those that have gone through the grind of educating themselves and becoming a savant in your chosen field..That being said, most jurisdictions want to see a NICET 3 in order to stamp sprinkler plans (That's how my state and surrounding states are set up anyway). I believe a good number of engineers do not feel that a NICET anything should be able to stamp plans. Engineers have an air about them, very proud of the education and professional license they have obtained, as well they should. I have no problem with that. But guess who puts together these tests?? You guessed it. Professional engineers. It says right on their website that "NICET is a non-profit division of the National Society of Professional Engineers". I think that having someone pass a test that proves their competency has been overshadowed by a thought that "you want to stamp plans, then here you go! Good luck with this test!". You can disagree, but I've seen it in other engineering fields as well. My brother just got done passing an EIT test. After getting the results back it explained that on the test there were two questions that had nothing to do with that field of work but may have been close enough for you not to realize it. Whether or not they were answered correctly or not, it would not be counted against your score. The reason for this was to throw the tester a curve ball.....WHISKEY TANGO..?

Tony
NICET 2 Fire Sprink Design
ICC Fire Inspector 2

RE: NICET Level 3 Hydraulics - Impossible????

I hope no one is discouraged from taking their Level III exam from reading this thread. It is supposed to be difficult; that's the value to having it. Many states use NICET to establish minimum licensing requirements so it is a good benchmark to grade someone; we don't want just any old yahoo designing important things like fire sprinkler systems. Correct me if I'm wrong but I believe NICET solicits certified technicians to write or help write the exam questions.

Believe it or not [I believe] many technicians have much better understanding of the nuances of fire sprinkler systems than many engineers. Also your run of the mill tech should be better versed in the standards [NFPA 13,14,20 etc.] than the code [IBC] vs. an engineer.

Having taken the EIT in 2011 there were lots of questions that didn't pertain exactly to my field but if you had a general course of study in engineering undergrad should be familiar with enough to get the right answer. The EIT is just a benchmark to ensure you soaked up enough knowledge and skill in school IMHO.

RE: NICET Level 3 Hydraulics - Impossible????

Quote (NewtonFP)

I hope no one is discouraged from taking their Level III exam from reading this thread

Some of us forget how valuable NICET is. I, for one, don't want it to be easy but tough as all heck. What we do is extremely important and to keep our value up we need to be even more professional about what it is we do.

How valuable is it? The average pay for a Civil Engineer is $61,796 per year and all the experienced (ten years or more) Level III's and IV's I know earn more than that.

According to the last salary survey, conducted in 2010, it appears the median salary nationwide for those with 10 to 14 years experience is right around $60,000. This is not bad when you consider less than 20% of our number has a bachelors degree with 72% having nothing beyond high school.

Another advantage with NICET is we have is it's so easy to "get a job" it's nearly laughable. I don't know how it is where the rest of you are located but around here in tough times the last ones to go are we NICET certified design technicians.

In October, 2009 there were a total of 5,407 certified layout of all levels with the following breakdown:

Level 1 1,516
Level II 1,010
Level III 1,808
Level IV 1,073

On July 31, 2015 there were a total of 4,648 (total number declined) certified layout technicians of all levels with the following breakdown:

Level 1 878
Level II 740
Level III 1,780
Level IV 1,241

The only increase is some Level III's went to Level IV but other than that the numbers declined.

I also cranked out some numbers concerning the age of Level III and IV certificate holders for the State of Georgia that you might find illuminating.

In Georgia the median age for Certified Level III's and IV's is 53 years old. Only 19% of those are < 42 years old. For Level IV's alone the median age is 61 years old and only 25.9% are less than 50 years old.

RE: NICET Level 3 Hydraulics - Impossible????

SprinklerDesigner2 & NewtonFP: I am not by any means saying it should not be hard. It absolutely should be. As you guys pointed out, the work that sprinkler designers do is very important from a fire and life safety standpoint (I am now a Fire Code Inspector working for an AHJ); and it is a hard field to be well versed in. And I don't know that anyone here is arguing that the jobs available and the pay is a problem. To me that doesn't warrant the disservice NICET has done. The part I have an issue with is the fact that someone like PatriotSprinkler can put that much time into studying and practice tests (that NICET sold him!!), that he did very well on, and still not pass. I'm not even saying the test is a bad test, the problem is in the prep required and what is being advertised and pushed by NICET. To me, that is where NICET is hurting the industry and doing it a disservice. Have you guys ever called NICET and tried to work with them on anything? I'll put it this way, if I ate a bowl of alphabet soup I could crap out a more coherent sentence than what comes out of their mouths..It's truly shocking the amount of stupid that works at that place. If they were any less intellectual we would have to water them three times a week. I love the sprinkler industry and am all for competent people working in it. I just think NICET has lost its way a little.

Tony
NICET 2 Fire Sprink Design
ICC Fire Inspector 2

RE: NICET Level 3 Hydraulics - Impossible????

It would be interesting to know the pass/fail rate for individuals taking the test. I don't know how different the CBT is from the paper test that I, and many others completed.

I've never had to contact NICET other than getting information updated and there was one test question that I challenged. They have been very helpful in those two instances.

Travis Mack
MFP Design, LLC
www.mfpdesign.com
"Follow" us at https://www.facebook.com/pages/MFP-Design-LLC/9221...

RE: NICET Level 3 Hydraulics - Impossible????

I've been monitoring this for awhile now, but having finally passed I feel like contributing. Now that I can speak as someone who has passed the exam to anyone who hasn't there's some things I want to make clear:

1. Hand calcing systems has near nothing to do with the exam. Everyone who says otherwise has never taken the CBT exam and although they mean well they're misguiding you. I've taken it three times and all you need to know are the formulas for calcing systems.
2. There's no good study material. That said, it's Firetech or bust. Nothing I could find online or in books like Pat Brock's and Robert Gagnon's prepared me for the exams. I'd say take the exam first and then study, I spent a total of somewhere around 200 hours studying before taking the exam the first time and I wish I could get all that time back.
3. The NICET Practice exam is a waste of money. They claim it's questions from past exams, but either past exams were insanely easy to pass or the questions are cherry picked for ease. I got a 91% spending only 10 minutes on it and then failed the exam my second after leaving with less than 5 minutes remaining. They're not comparable.
4. The only thing that got me through to finally passing was persistence.

It's a failing of the community that there doesn't exist any good prep work, but I don't see a way to remedy that. Since no study material demands the rigor the exam does and the exam doesn't tell you what the answers are, taking the exam multiple times can feel like a Sisyphean struggle.. Even having passed I can't give solid advice as either discussing questions is forbidden, or I'm not certain how many of the questions I got right anyway.

That all said, a year of my life spent on an exam cycle and over a grand of my own money gone forever still feels worth it knowing I've accomplished something many in our field never even attempt. Many people pay far more than that to get degrees and certificates that don't even mark them as a professional in their field.

RE: NICET Level 3 Hydraulics - Impossible????

Congrats WolfgangE!

It can be a grind and I think we've all spent lots of time in design dungeons hammering out plans and calculations but it is nice to have that recognition that you've passed a very difficult exam. In my opinion the FE (8 hours of supervised misery) was an easier exam than the NICET modules so I always respect certification.

I took the old element format exams. What helped me most were Firetech material and an early '90s AFSA manual. The AFSA material was very in depth covering tons of information to a small detail.

RE: NICET Level 3 Hydraulics - Impossible????

I'm going to have to check out that Firetech material sometime. I took the element style as well. I don't think I ever had the firetech stuff. I was given some old hydraulic books by some "old timers" and told to learn it so I could pass the exam. I am thinking the firetech would have been a lot nicer.

Travis Mack
MFP Design, LLC
www.mfpdesign.com
"Follow" us at https://www.facebook.com/pages/MFP-Design-LLC/9221...

RE: NICET Level 3 Hydraulics - Impossible????

WolfgangE,

How did you find FireTech Productions in regards to Level I and II?

What would you tell a newbie with four to six months experience about the test for Level I?

Like Travis when I took the test it was element based and I clearly remember a three looped grid you had to solve for Level IV. Of course back then you could take anything and everything with you to the test so having your own calculator helped and all the pipe tables you could take as well.

RE: NICET Level 3 Hydraulics - Impossible????

Congratulations, WolfgangE! I have been studying diligently over the last few months preparing for the Level 3 General Plans portion of the exam. I must admit, I am concerned after this thread, and the feedback I am getting from people I know that have many years of experience and lots of study time, but still couldn't pass. To a certain extent, I feel as though I almost need to know more about how to take the exam than I do about the actual fire protection material.

RE: NICET Level 3 Hydraulics - Impossible????

SprinklerDesigner 2,

I found FireTech to be really useful in taking the levels I & II. Their study courses and exams were much more rigorous than the NICET tests, so it was a breeze to pass the tests and found them very educational as well.

For any newbie's looking to take their Level I, I'd suggest Firetech's course if they're worried, but wouldn't advise against just going in blind. Especially now that the books are available as pdf's during the exam. You can search the document like a pdf which makes finding the answers easier then ever. I didn't have that when I took the Level I, but did have that when I took the Level II and that made it so much easier and saved a bunch of time. I can see why they haven't added the viewable pdf's to the level III or IV as that would make the exams much easier.

bmlxd40,

It's definitely more about learning how to pass the exams than just knowing fire protection, but that's also because there's such a stupid amount of things to know you'd never be able to memorize it all anyway. The General Plan prep is only fairly challenging, and the real problem I had with that is that FireTech's questions weren't the same style/material as NICET's. I'd advise for both the GP & Hydraulics exams to take them first before going crazy with studying. If you don't pass them the first time, at least you'll know what to study when you go take them again and you don't feel cheated like I did after shelling out the hours and money on FireTech and others. I was advised to take them before studying and I wish I had followed that advise. Especially since failing them makes you wait another 3 months before you can take them again. If I'd attempted them first, then studied later, I probably would have been able to get my Level III earlier as I wouldn't have been stuck waiting on retesting time limits.

RE: NICET Level 3 Hydraulics - Impossible????

Hey TravisMac! Just saw your response to the questions on Design Challenges in the latest FPC magazine! Good Stuff!!!

RE: NICET Level 3 Hydraulics - Impossible????

The test is by no means easy, I just took it for the first time and barely failed I got a 484. I have been in the NFSA Top Tech Competition the last two years in both Orlando & Las Vegas, and this was by far the most challenging test I have ever took in my life. There was one question about the Moody Diagram which I know I got wrong. I'm wondering if I had got that right, if my score would have been a 500?

RE: NICET Level 3 Hydraulics - Impossible????

I have taken the exam twice and failed. I admit that storage occupancies are not my forte and the Level III exam is full of questions pertaining to storage. I studied pretty hard both times and felt prepared. I felt very confident coming out of my second attempt and was surprised with a failing grade. I take the exam again in July and hope I can figure it out this time. I agree that this test is a difficult test.

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