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A better world through a systems approach

Knowledge Exam 

What are the qualifications to be approved to take the Certification examination? 

No qualifications are required to take the exam except for notifying INCOSE of your intent to take the exam. Before approving you to take the exam, INCOSE will confirm that you are not already a SEP and have not taken the exam more than 3 times within the past 12 months. The fee to take the exam varies. 

How may I find out when and where the next examination is scheduled? 

The INCOSE knowledge exam is offered on demand, online. The knowledge exam is also offered at INCOSE events as posted here:

What reference documents were used to create the examination questions? 
The INCOSE Systems Engineering Handbook is the reference document that was used to create the questions in the certification examination. Review details on which version of the handbook is in use here

How can I get a copy of the reference documents used for the examination questions? 

Copies of the current version of the Systems Engineering Handbook may be obtained from INCOSE. A soft copy may be downloaded free by INCOSE members at . Printed copies may be purchased directly at Wiley

How are examinations prepared? 

INCOSE volunteers create new questions which are “beta tested” as part of ongoing examinations. Successful new questions are used to supplement or replace existing questions in the examination. 

What kind of study guides or practice exams are available for the examination? 

INCOSE’s Certification Program has not created any “study guides” for the knowledge examination. We recommend study of the current version of the INCOSE Systems Engineering Handbook which is the reference document for the certification examination. Study guides and training may be produced by external parties without oversight, review, or endorsement from the Certification Program. 

When may I expect to receive my exam score? 

The computer exam provider will tell you if you have passed the computer examination within minutes after you complete the examination since it is computer scored. If you take the examination on paper, it will take a few weeks before you receive your results via email. 

What is the minimum passing score for the certification exam? 

The passing score for the exam is based on the results of a series of tests that have been performed on the exam itself and is based on the results of over 60 individuals from varying levels of systems engineering experience. The passing score reflects the minimum level of knowledge expected from a satisfactorily practicing systems engineer with at least five years of industrial experience after receiving a four-year bachelor’s degree in a technical field from an accredited institution of higher education. The approach used to establish a passing score is similar to the approach used by State Governments that issue Professional Engineering licenses, and likewise a specific passing score is not published. When you take the certification exam, you will be advised immediately after you complete the computer based exam that you have passed or failed the exam. You will not be given a numerical score. For your guidance, you need to exhibit a level of knowledge similar to what is expected to pass and obtain credit when taking an academic course at a college or university. 

Why do I need to pay a separate fee to take an examination? 

You pay a separate fee to take the certification examination in order to keep the total cost of the certification process down by not having INCOSE serve as an agent in forwarding funds to the Test Organization. Paying the test fee directly is also a more efficient process if you have to retake the examination. 

Do I need to pay an additional fee to retake the examination? 

Yes, you do have to pay a separate test fee each time you schedule the certification examination. 

How long is the examination? 

A two-hour time period is allowed for answering the 120 questions on the computer knowledge examination. The paper exam may be fewer or more questions, and the candidate will be allotted 1 minute per question. 

What kind of questions are on the examination? 

The certification examination questions are currently multiple-choice questions. All correct answers must be selected from the possible answers given to receive credit for answering a question. A typical question may have five possible answers listed of which three are correct. Partial credit is not given for a question. 

Am I permitted to bring material to use during an examination? 

The certification examinations are closed book. The applicant is not allowed to bring any types of reference materials, writing tablets, notes, etc. All devices that might compromise the security of the examination process are forbidden. Computers, cell phones, pagers, and other electronic equipment are not permitted in the test room. The test organization will provide any material/equipment needed to take the examination. 

In what languages are the test offered? 

The test is only offered in the English language. 

What accommodations in taking the test can be made for those with whose native language is not English? 

Applicants with English as a Second Language (ESL) can be given an additional 30 minutes to take the exam. These applicants may also bring a paper English translation dictionary to reference during the exam. Use the INCOSE certification Special Accommodations form to make this type of request. ESL extensions must be requested and justified by the applicant and are subject to the approval of the INCOSE Certification Office. 

What accommodations in taking the test can be made for those with special needs? 

An applicant with special needs must make them known when applying with INCOSE. Use the INCOSE certification Special Accommodations form to make this type of request. INCOSE will do its best to accommodate all requests. 

Can I reschedule the exam with the test center? 

Yes, but you may not be given a refund of your exam registration fee. 


May I count graduate coursework toward the experience requirement? 

No. Experience may be counted from internships, co-ops, or work done outside of coursework. Research and projects done only by students cannot count toward the experience requirements. An individual who is working and also going to school may count his or her work time. Volunteer or unpaid work may also count toward the experience requirement. 


May I submit a generic letter of recommendation instead of having my reference complete the INCOSE reference form? 

No. The references must use standard INCOSE reference forms

When selecting references, should I choose supervisors or co-workers? 

If possible, select one or more current or former supervisors as references because their inputs are given much greater credibility by the review committee than are inputs from your co-workers. Subordinates are never appropriate as references. References must provide their assessments in their own words, and they must describe their knowledge of Systems Engineering that qualifies them to serve as references. 

Do each of the references that I select need to be able to confirm my experience for the full number of years that I need to qualify for certification? 

No. Each individual reference does not have to verify your experience for the entire minimum number of years of experience that you need to qualify for certification, BUT your collective set of references does need to be able to confirm your experience for the entire minimum number of years claimed by you on your application, including any additional years of experience required due to your educational status. If the collective inputs from your references do not cover the entire minimum number of years of experience needed to qualify for certification, the review committee may either turn down your application because you do not meet the minimum qualifications on verified experience or may ask you to identify and contact additional references for inputs to confirm your unverified years of experience. The latter will delay the processing of your application. For example, if your three references all confirm the same three years of your experience, you do not have the minimum number of years of verified experience. If the review committee does not turn down your application, it may request that you identify and contact at least one additional reference who can verify your experience for the additional unverified years that you have reported. Your references should provide their assessments in their own words, instead of or in addition to any "copy-paste" of information from your application.  

Equivalency Programs 

Does a systems engineering certification or degree count toward getting an INCOSE certification?

 INCOSE works with several universities and other certifying bodies to recognize equivalencies or create streamlined paths to INCOSE Certification. Please go to or email for more information. 

I hold SE-ZERT Level C. What is the process for me to be recognized as an INCOSE Systems Engineering Professional? 

Individuals holding SE-ZERT Level C and Level B should work with GfSE to request INCOSE Certification. 

What can I do to get my non-INCOSE certification recognized as equivalent by INCOSE’s Certification Program? 

Certification equivalency is evaluated by INCOSE’s Certification Program Office in response to a request initiated by the other certification’s sponsoring organization. The sponsoring organization should email to start a conversation about equivalency. 

Training Courses 

I would like help with the Certification process. How can I find a training provider? 

The Certification Program does not endorse or oversee any provider, including products of INCOSE chapters and working groups. The Certification Program does maintain a list of known training providers that can be emailed to you. Please visit Training Providers for the most current list. 

I help others with the Certification process. How can I ensure I get the latest information about changes to the Certification Program? 

Updates about the Certification Program are posted on the less formal website: and in the INCOSE Certification groups on LinkedIn. You are also welcome to email the Certification Program Manager with specific questions.