This number, 70, is very important to any engineer that wants, or, dare I say, needs to get their PE license. It has caused untold angst to many an engineer down through the decades. The reason is that 70 is the number that represents a passing score on the Professional Engineering (PE) exam. Well, sort of.

From reading a fair amount about the scoring process of the PE exam, 70 at least used to be the scaled score that an engineer would have to get to pass. I remember being told this and reading this when I took the PE exam. Now, with equating, the different structure of the exam, the differing approaches of the states that designate passing scores, and numerous other reasons, one thing is extremely clear – no one knows what passing really is and what that 70 represents any more.

So, while an engineer may take the PE exam and desire to score at least a 70, that might mean that the engineer has passed the exam, or it might not. To confuse matters more, the 70 does not necessarily represent 70%, as many might think. With typically 80 points, that would mean getting at least 56 correct to pass the exam, but again, though many believe this to be the case, it is apparently not. The score one receives on the PE exam is a scaled number that is derived, from best accounts of it, by a group of experts locking themselves in a room with the exam and challenging each other to feats of engineering. I’ve never seen it, but I don’t think it is for the faint of heart.

Remember that 70 is the number. What it means, what it represents, how it is derived – who cares? As long the number in the end is at least – 70. Or possibly higher. When success on the PE exam is obtained, then the engineer can then achieve the life-long ambition of seeing one’s own name immortalized on a rubber stamp.

To an engineer, the closest thing to a perfect number is 70. Even if it doesn’t mean 70 any more.