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  • 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!
  • Cultural Understanding is Relevant to SE

    by Courtney Wright | Nov 25, 2022 is not a sponsor of INCOSE's Certification Program, but we use it so much you might think we are getting paid to do so. When interviewing intern candidates from seven different countries, it was important that we offer interview time slots within their waking hours and that we communicate the agreed-to times. Calendar invitations are also a great help. During two meetings during the past week, a time was proposed an accepted in email, but a different time appeared in the invitation. It is a wonderful reminder of the communication problems that can occur with more complex topics. 

    This post is appearing on 25 November 2022, the day after American Thanksgiving, aka Indigenous People's Day. That holiday always falls on a Thursday, and many individuals take the whole week off from work to spend time with family. As a result of this, many recurring meetings are canceled. By identifying early that participation may be low, we can reschedule meetings, focus the agenda on those who will attend, or progress offline. Sounds a lot like Risk and Opportunity Management, doesn't it? 

    If you are looking for a way to earn PDUs to renew your ASEP or CSEP certification, consider learning more about your colleagues or potential colleagues. When is Chinese New Year? Will Ramadan fall during a planned conference? Does your noon meeting fall at 2AM for someone who wishes to attend? Learning about all of these topics - with an intention to apply them to your work - is relevant to you being a better systems engineer. 
  • INCOSE's International Workshop's Certification Activities

    by Courtney Wright | Nov 18, 2022
    INCOSE's International Workshop in 2023 is a hybrid event, with meetings hosted in-person and some of them streaming live online. The Certification meetings will not be offered hybrid. Rather, the meetings will be focused on in-person attendees during the IW. Then, there will be online-only meetings with the same topics.

    Topic 1 - How to Apply for Academic Equivalency. Reference material: INCOSE Webinar 162 and

    Topic 2 - How to Apply for ESEP. Reference material: Lori Zipes on YouTube and

    Topic 3 - How to Apply for CSEP Reference material:

    Topic 4 - How to Renew CSEP. Reference material: Cecilia Haskins on YouTube and

    The INCOSE knowledge exam will also be offered in-person at the IW. It is available year-round, online. Register online here.
  • Can a professor become a CSEP?

    by Courtney Wright | Nov 11, 2022

    Yes! The work of a professor is very likely to trace to systems engineering experience areas, no matter what topic he or she is teaching! An engineering professor is more likely to qualify than someone teaching in the humanities only because of the process the engineer follows is more likely to include systems thinking. However, if a professor uses systems engineering principles to design and execute a non-technical course, it could still count. It is the process and technical products (e.g., validation plan) that matter, not the specifics of the topic area (aka domain) that matter. 

    Here are some of the ways a professor might describe their work experience on a CSEP application:

    • Requirements Engineering - Developing a course to meet stakeholder needs
    • System Operation and Maintenance - Preparing for and managing results of course delivery 
    • Technical Monitoring and Control - Planning for research project assessment and control
    • Information and Change Management - Preparing for and executing change management activities for technical writing

    Just as a systems engineer's system of interest may be a hardware or software, it may also be a process, a research study, or a course. Like all applicants for CSEP or ESEP, the candidate should review the definitions of the systems engineering experience areas and should describe his or her own experience focusing on what they did, not what the product was. 

  • Why become an ESEP if I'm near retirement?

    by Courtney Wright | Nov 04, 2022
    Some well-qualified systems engineers resist applying for ESEP because they are near retirement or already have the job of their dreams, and they don't see a personal benefit to becoming an ESEP. And they're right, the value to them getting certified won't come back to them. 

    The benefit to an engineering leader becoming an ESEP is that they help define what ESEP means. There is an old joke that someone wouldn't want to be a part of any club that would accept him as a member. This is the opposite. Others will want to be a part of the club that has these folks in it.

    The beneficiaries of these leaders becoming ESEPs are other current and future SEPs of all levels. Someone will know what certification is, and that it matters, when they see that their manager is certified. It is about walking the walk.
  • INCOSE Interns

    by Courtney Wright | Oct 28, 2022
    INCOSE is hiring its next group of interns soon. Interested candidates should apply through the INCOSE Volunteer Opportunity Board. These internships are paid and may support different parts of INCOSE. Although most previous interns have supported the Certification Program, future interns will support the Marketing and Communications Team and other parts of INCOSE. The Q4 2022 internship application deadline is 4 November 2022.

    Learn about the past work of INCOSE Interns at the INCOSE Internship page
  • Upcoming Presentations about INCOSE Certification

    by Courtney Wright | Oct 21, 2022
    INCOSE Certification's most recent intern, Mrunmayi Joshi, ASEP, and the Certification Program Manager, Courtney Wright, CSEP, will be giving several online presentations about INCOSE Certification in October and November.

    On October 28th and 29th, Certification will be featured in the New England Fall Workshop. Joshi will present "Impact of INCOSE Systems Engineering Handbook Update on Certification Process" at 10am Eastern on October 28th. She and Courtney will present "INCOSE Certification Program as a System of Systems" at 3:30pm Eastern. On October 29th at 1pm Eastern, Renee Steinwand, ESEP, and Courtney will host a tutorial on "How to Apply for ESEP."

    On November 9th, at 8pm Brasil time, Joshi and Courtney will join Raquel Hoffman, CSEP, in a Certification webinar presented in Portuguese and English.

    INCOSE Certification representatives will attend the INCOSE International Workshop, EMEASEC Workshop, and INCOSE International Symposium in-person for similar presentations and tutorials.

    These and other INCOSE Events are posted on INCOSE's LinkedIn page and the Events page on the INCOSE website