Soils Exam FAQs

Who should take the exam?
If you are interested in soils certifications, please review the program requirements.  For requirements in a licensing program, contact the appropriate licensing board.

What is the registration cancellation policy?
You may cancel at any time up to the registration deadline. Note that you will only receive a refund for any amount over $75.00. The exam fee is non‐refundable after the registration deadline. This also applies to retest applications.  Exam fees will not be transferred to another exam date.  Please contact your certification representative with any questions.

What is the exam format?
The exams are organized in a multiple-choice format with only one correct answer per question.  The multiple choice questions on the Professional Practice exam are based on several scenarios provided throughout the exam.

Are there study materials available?
Yes. The Performance Objectives (PO) are available free of charge on-line.

Are calculators allowed during the exam?
Yes, calculators will be provided. The exam candidate will be given the variables needed for an equation, but he or she is expected to know the correct equation.

Who prepares the exam?
The exam is prepared by the Council of Soil Science Examiners (CSSE), which is a panel of soil scientists from across the USA. The CSSE has about 15 members. Membership is a balance of practicing professional soil scientists, state and federal government soil specialists, and university faculty. The educational background and level of experience of CSSE members range from BS to PhD and from as few as 5 to as many as 40 years, respectively. Membership is also balanced to represent the entire USA. An individual member is appointed to a three-year term. She or he may be reappointed once. All new members must be licensed and/or certified.

What is the exam based upon?
The exams are based entirely upon the Fundamentals and Professional Practice Soil Science Exams Competency Areas and Performance Objectives.  These documents are available free online.

The competency areas and performance objectives were developed by surveying soil scientists from across the USA asking what a minimally competent soil scientist needs to know. This survey also established the relative proportion of knowledge that professional soil scientists need in the different competency areas. The competency areas and performance objectives are periodically updated in order to insure they reflect the current knowledge necessary for any minimally competent soil scientist.

What is the balance of coverage among the Competency Areas and Performance Objectives?
Each exam is written to insure a balance of questions among the six competency areas: soil chemistry and mineralogy, soil physics, soil fertility and nutrient management, genesis, morphology and classification, soil biology and soil ecology, and soil and land use management. Not all performance objectives are covered on any exam although the number of questions asked per competency area is in proportion to the guidelines developed from a national survey of practicing soil scientists. Pragmatically this means the exam is weighted approximately equal among the six competency areas.

How is the exam graded?
The Council of Soil Science Examiners (the group that writes the exam) uses the Angoff Method to determine the passing score of the exam. This method determines a passing score based on the difficulty of the exam and is a common method that is used across a variety of examinations, not just soil science.  This method is recommended by our psychometrician, who oversees the statistical analysis of the exam. Thus, the passing score can change each time the exam is given based on the fact that the exam questions change, and therefore the difficulty of the exam can also change from exam administration to exam administration leading to a change in the passing score.  The methodology we use helps us to ensure that we have a statistically valid exam following accepted methodologies. Once the Angoff analysis is completed, a passing score is set. It is based only on the difficulty of the exam and does not compare test takers to each other or to a set percentage.

Is the exam curved?
No. The exam is NOT graded on a curve.

When will my results be available?
You will receive an email approximately six weeks after the exam date when official exam results are released with a specific password protected URL to log into for checking your exam results.   Please whitelist or note as a safe sender the email on your email account as this is the email we use to send email notifications to you.  Exam results will only be available to check for 30 days once released.

Can exam results be given over the phone?
No. Exam results notifications are sent via email and examinees will need to login to their certification record (using the email and password we have on file) to access the results.  Results will not be given over the phone or sent by fax.

Will the exam results be sent to anyone else?
For candidates taking the Fundamentals or Professional Practice Exams as part of their Agronomy or Soil Science certification requirements, the results will be emailed directly to the individual. The Soils Board is notified of your exam results.

For candidates taking the Fundamentals or Professional Practice Exams as part of state licensing requirements, the results will be emailed to the state board and then forwarded to the exam participant. Except for Texas, which requires the individual to notify the board of their exam results.

Is an appeal of my exam results possible?
Appeal processes are handled by the Soils Board or by the state in which you are applying for licensure.

Which states use this exam for licensing soil scientists?
The following states use the Fundamentals Soil Science Exam: Maine, Minnesota, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin.

The following states use the Professional Practice Soil Science Exam: Minnesota, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

How often is the exam offered?
The Fundamentals and Professional Practice exams are each given twice a year. Exam date notifications are posted to the website.