Attaining the status of Professional Engineer (P. Eng) ought to be the primary objective for young engineer graduates. Under Section 10(2) of the Engineers Act 1967 (Rev 2015), a Professional Engineer registered with the Board of Engineers Malaysia (BEM) may:

  1. Take up employment which requires him to carry out or perform professional engineering services.
  2. Be entitled to use the title “Professional Engineer”, “P. Eng” or its abbreviation “Ir.” on his name card or any identification to describe himself.
  3. Display any sign, board, card or any device to imply that he is a Professional Engineer.
  4. Use the stamp of Professional Engineer.

Engineers Without Borders, a non-governmental organisation in the United States of America, listed the following top five reasons to want to be a P. Eng:

  1. It impacts human civilisation advancement through specialised skills with high standards for ethics and quality assurance.
  2. It solves the puzzles in everyday life through imagination of creative solutions that he has designed.
  3. The licence opens the door to opportunities. Having the qualification is indication that you belong to a small group of people who are highly desirable to employers or for career advancement.
  4. It represents a certification of trust to the public of your engineering skills. It means you have reached a certain level of competency acceptable to your peers. It means you are able to take more responsibilities and can handle complicated and important tasks.
  5. It also means that, with greater responsibilities and competency levels, you can earn a salary higher than that of a non-P. Eng.

In the nutshell, a P. Eng qualification gives prestige and dignity to an engineer. Having interviewed many candidates, from young graduates to corporate CEOs, over the last 10 years, I have found that many fail because of poorly written essays. Some candidates did well on their experiences and technical reports as well as the oral interview, but they stumbled on the technical and ethics essays.

For the purpose of illustration, I have appended comments from interviewers and reviewers to show the process of evaluating a candidate. There are two interviewers for each candidate. The principal interviewer is a senior engineer with over 10 years’ experience post-P. Eng experience while the second interviewer has over 5 years’ experience post-P. Eng. All failure cases are referred to a reviewer (very senior P. Eng) for a second opinion prior to being tabled at the IEM PI Board. Candidates have a choice to write in either English or Bahasa Malaysia and are given three hours to write two essays.


The following are some comments by the interviewers and reviewers on technical essays.

These comments are typical for all engineering disciplines. Technical essay questions are normally tailored according to the candidate’s working experience. Rightfully, it should not be too difficult to pass if the candidate had gone through sufficient training with solid engineering fundamentals and proper supervision. From the comments above, the following are major problems for the candidates:

  1. Inability to put together thoughts in a coherent manner. Essays were written without clear ideas and direction. Lacked organisation and structure. The irony is that some candidates are able to submit very well-written technical reports but are unable to replicate the same for their essays! Writing an essay under pressure requires a clear mind, unlike preparing reports where candidates have the time to plan and conduct reviews. Nevertheless, candidates must learn to deal with the pressure with proper strategy.
  2. Poor command of language, especially English. Candidates have the option to write in Bahasa Malaysia if they feel their command of English is poor. The inability to communicate properly in either language hampers proper comprehension by the interviewers on the matters being written. Not being able to master a language with proper grammar, spelling, vocabulary and punctuation with reasonable literary flair would render the essay meaningless as it would not convey the thoughts of the writer.
  3. Inability to articulate knowledge to impress the interviewers of their wealth of experience. Essays are found to be too simplistic or merely touching the surface of the subject, without examples, deliberations of facts and not delving into the detailed technicalities of the matter. In universities, engineering students are taught to write assignments, laboratory reports and subsequently, in the course of their work, would have written many technical reports, so they should be able to replicate this during the interview session.
  4. Some candidates cannot put together convincing arguments in their essays because they have not gone through a thorough training process. They may have a sufficient post-graduate working period (minimum three years) to qualify for the interview but if they have been job-hopping, they only spend short periods with each employer. As a result, they will not have gone through the whole engineering project cycle which is commonly between 3 and 5 years. They may have experienced the whole process only in bits and pieces with each employer; this is not holistic or rigorous enough to prepare them for the interview. It is important that aspiring P. Engs find suitable employment and training supervisors to ensure they get proper guidance and supervision.

The intent of the technical essay question is to find out the candidate’s communication skills, analytical and critical mind as well as maturity of thoughts. It is also to gauge the awareness and concerns of engineers in safeguarding public interest in their judgments. The principal interviewer would normally set the question at the end of the oral interview in accordance with the candidate’s training. Typical technical essay questions are listed below.

The term “value engineering” began with a creative, team-based approach which allowed the generation of alternatives to the existing solution. The implementation of Value Management/Value Engineering (VM/VE) in construction project is new in Malaysia.

  1. What are the differences between VM/VE practices compared to the normal roles that have been practised by the construction project management consultant.
  2. Discuss the problems/difficulties you have encountered in implementing it in one of your projects. Describe the solutions that you have taken to overcome these problems.
  3. What are the drawbacks (policy/culture/legal/ethical) in implementation of VM/VE? Discuss your answer by providing examples. What are the liabilities of Value Manager with the implementation of VE in design?

The issues of Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) and humidity have been in the limelight lately. Recent examples of such problems are mould and fungus problems in hospitals.

  1. What are the factors affecting indoor air quality problems?
  2. What are the legislations in Malaysia or Standards that govern the IAQ in buildings? Discuss the relevance of such legislation or standards in relation to current industry practice in Malaysia.
  3. Give a brief methodology of how to diagnose IAQ problems.
  4. Discuss on how you would do to ensure the building you are designing will not suffer IAQ problem during operation.

Elaborate on:

  1. The conceptual and detail engineering design of the metering skid for Tanjung XXXXX drilling platform.
  2. Explain the Coriolis meter principles and implication to system design/impact on design.
  3. Elaborate on the impact of design flowrate if it is higher or lower than the recommended design specifications.

Discuss how universities and academicians in the engineering fraternity can assist Small Medium Industries Entrepreneurs (SME) in upskilling and upgrading their capabilities in terms of manufacturing professionalism and quality of product.
If SMEs raise the issue on financial constraints as a stumbling block to implementing “Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP)” principles, how will universities and academicians provide assistance to achieve this?

Explosions in industrial facilities lead to loss of life, financial capital loss and environmental pollution. As you have gained experience in quality control engineering, how would you eliminate such an accident from happening?

What are the challenges of Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) development and operations in the Malaysian civilian environment.

Your institute is going to undertake a group of young electrical engineers to attend a 33/11kV transformer maintenance course. As a trainer, you are required to develop the course for the group. Describe the procedures to develop the course on 33/11kV transformer maintenance.

Your client is desirous to install 500 kW grid-connected photo voltaic system in his building with the intention to sell some of the electricity generated to TNB. Explain the design process, statutory requirements and approval process of the authorities.

As a design engineer, elaborate on the various considerations that have to be taken into account in the design of building structural components with due regards to sustainable construction.
These are typical questions put forward to candidates from various backgrounds, from design, operation and maintenance to academic. In principle, the questions are set to test candidates on (1) general knowledge, norm or common engineering practice of the subject matter, (2) legislations or standards governing the subject and (3) critical appraisals or assessments on current engineering practice.


The main purpose of the Code of Professional Conduct essay questions is to allow candidates to demonstrate their professionalism in discharging their duties. For the ethical questions essay, the most common comments from interviewers and reviewers are:

The Code of Professional Conduct is available from BEM website. Essay questions on the Regulations on Professional Conduct can be accessed from IEM website. There are 13 essay questions which cover the whole spectrum of engineering practice in Malaysia. Candidates are normally required to answer one question closest to their working experience.

From the above, it can be seen that most failures are related to the inability to relate the Code of Professional Conduct to reality. Candidates are either ill-prepared to sit for the interview or lack the capability for story-telling to relate the code to real-life situations. General knowledge and maturity of thoughts are also important to enable a candidate to relate the many circumstances in which one’s professionalism is being tested. Candidates should not only conversant in their technical knowledge, but should also have a general understanding of ethical issues related to the profession.

Some people feel that the Code of Professional Conduct can be taught in universities or at seminars. While this may serve as a good introduction to the Code, the actual test is when graduates are faced with a real-life situation. In a study by Institut Integriti Malaysia in 2017 , it was reported that 35.8% of respondents felt that “Penerimaan hadiah dalam bentuk wang, barangan atau perkhidmatan sebagai balasan atas perkhidmatan yang diberikan” was NOT considered a corrupt practice! This is shocking indeed; it means one out of three young graduates consider accepting gratifications for services rendered as a non-corrupt act.

With all the current world technological sophistication and financial wizardry, young engineers are easily exposed to many compromising circumstances. Therefore, it is insufficient for a P. Eng candidate to merely regurgitate word-by-word the Code of Professional Conduct in his essay without truly understanding the philosophy behind the creation of the Code.


Aspiring P. Eng candidates need to prepare themselves properly before sitting for the interview. Examples mentioned in this article are not confined to young engineers only as even middle-aged candidates have suffered the same fate. Although BEM and the IEM are desirous to increase the number of professional engineers in this country, it has to done with caution as only the deserving, qualified and competent candidates should be passed.

A candidate are given 3 hours to complete the two essays. It is important that he manages his time properly between the two essays. Each essay should have sufficient length with proper legible handwriting. Proper sentence structure must be used and point-form write-ups should be avoided.

Generally, in order to write a good essay, one needs to remember the following essay structure:

  1. A clear introduction with a thesis statement (an answer to the question or a response to the task) and a well-defined structure
  2. Logically structured body paragraphs which include supporting evidence or example.
  3. A clear conclusion which restates your topic and summarises your essay and thesis.

For the technical essay, it is very important that candidates spend some time to gather their thoughts prior to writing the essay. The essay must include examples and elaboration of the examples. Critical appraisal or problem solving would be an added advantage. To aid the preparation, candidates need to also read articles in magazines and journals that are related to his job scopes. A well-read person would likely be able to present better views to the question asked.

As for the ethics questions, candidates need to familiarise themselves with the pre-prepared questions. Most likely, they will be asked to write on a topic closest to their job scopes and experience. As professional ethics is a set of standards defined by the professional community which serves as a guide for behaviour expected in a professional, they should also keep themselves abreast of ethical issues surrounding the engineering profession. General knowledge of financial crisis, project failures, corruption cases, fraud cases as well as government policies are also important to add flavour to the essay. A professional engineer with the prefix “Ir” carries greater responsibilities, so candidates should approach the professional interview with the highest standards expected of them.

The article was written by Ir. Hj. Arul Hisham bin Abdul Rahim. This article was published in magazine “JURUTERA” April 2019 issue.