The Plant Operator Selection System (POSS) examination is maintained by the Edison Electric Institute, a trade organization founded in 1933 which represents all U.S. investor-owned electric companies. The EEI maintains several different test batteries which focus on skill areas related to energy industry jobs. The POSS focuses on skills relevant to positions in power plant operation. These skills include reading comprehension, mechanical concepts, mathematical usage, spatial ability ("assembly"), and interpreting tables and graphs.
Function of the Test
The POSS is administered as an employment test by individual utility companies. It is not administered directly by its creator, EEI. Utility companies use the examination to measure job applicants' aptitude in skill areas relevant to positions in power plant operation. Because the POSS is administered by individual utility companies, the EEI does not report the number of people who take the examination each year or how well these test takers perform. However, the EEI represents hundreds of companies and organizations across the United States which together employ more than 500,000 people, so the POSS is likely taken by several thousands of job applicants per year.
The POSS is administered by individual utility companies as part of each company's job application process. As such, the conditions and regulations for the examination vary widely. Some standard policies exist, however. EEI states that test takers must bring photo identification to any EEI employment examination. Furthermore, test takers are not allowed to bring a calculator or dictionary; all materials required to take the test are provided by the test administrator. The combined time limit for all sections of the full examination is 76 or 86 minutes, depending on whether the short form or the long form of the Mathematical Usage test is administered. However, given the extra time taken for instructions and for short pauses between sections of the examination, actual exam time is a bit longer.
Other test regulations vary from company to company. For example, Southern Company states that job applicants may retake the examinaton every 45 days if invited to do so, while Duke Energy specifies a 90-day waiting period before a retest. Job applicants should contact their prospective employers directly to inquire about test dates and locations, retesting policies, and possible fees related to taking the POSS.
There are no standardized accommodations for test takers with special needs, but most companies which offer the POST state that they will provide appropriate accommodations upon request. For example, CenterPoint Energy states that "[i]n accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), if you have a disability that you feel may require special arrangements to take a test, please let us know at the time you are invited to a test session."
The POSS test has a total of 230 multiple choice questions having to do with five major topics: Reading Comprehension; Mechanical Concepts; Mathematical Usage; Spatial Ability; and Tables and Graphs. Testing time should take about an hour and a half to complete all 230 questions.
The POSS test is administered in the form of a paper and pencil exam. Testing takes place and is administered where individuals are applying for jobs.
- Sample Mathematical Usage questions
- Use the following information to answer questions 1-18
- If none of the answers listed are correct, select answer e, N for none of the above
- 6 kilograms = ? pounds
- A. 2.205
- B. 6,000
- C. 15.24
- D. 13.23
- E. N
- 2 miles = ? kilometers
- A. 1.609
- B. 3.218
- C. 1.243
- D. 2.486
- E. N
- 5 feet = ? centimeters
- A. 12.7
- B. 23.6
- C. 152.4
- D. 60
- E. N
- Sample Reading for Comprehension questions:
- Use the following passage to answer questions 1 and 2
- Comets are bodies that orbit the sun. They are distinguishable from asteroids by the presence of coma or tails. In the outer solar system, comets remain frozen and are so small that they are difficult to detect from Earth. As a comet approaches the inner solar system, solar radiation causes the materials within the comet to vaporize and trail off the nuclei. The released dust and gas forms a fuzzy atmosphere called the coma, and the force exerted on the coma causes a tail to form, pointing away from the sun. Comets are bodies that orbit the sun. They are distinguishable from asteroids by the presence of coma or tails. In the outer solar system, comets remain frozen and are so small that they are difficult to detect from Earth. As a comet approaches the inner solar system, solar radiation causes the materials within the comet to vaporize and trail off the nuclei. The released dust and gas forms a fuzzy atmosphere called the coma, and the force exerted on the coma causes a tail to form, pointing away from the sun.
- What does the passage claim distinguishes comets from asteroids?
- A. The make-up of their nuclei
- B. The presence of coma or tails
- C. Their orbital periods
- D. Their irregular shapes
- According to the passage, what makes up the coma?
- A. released dust and gas
- B. a meteor shower
- C. asteroids
- D. rock
- Sample Assembly questions:
- In this portion of the exam test takers need to figure out how an object would look after being properly assembled. The first picture in each problem displays all the parts that need to be assembled. The next five illustrations display five different methods of assembly, four of which are wrong, and one of which is right. Every part has at least one letter marking it; some have more than one. Each letter represents a place on the assembled part. Some letters are also shown that correspond to unseen areas. These are displayed with a dotted line that points to the side underneath, or the unseen area.
- Sample Mechanical Concepts questions
- If ball 1 and ball 2 are of equal weight and moving at the same speed, in which direction (A, B, or C) will ball 1 tend to go when it collides with ball 2 at point X?
- In which direction (A or B) will pulley 4 spin if pulley 1 is spinning counter-clockwise? (if none, mark C)
The POSS comprises 202 questions or 230 questions depending on whether the short form or the long form of the Mathematical Usage test is administered:
|Distribution of questions on the POSS exam|
|Spatial Ability (Assembly)||20 questions||10 minutes|
|Mechanical Concepts||44 questions||20 minutes|
|Tables and Graphs Part I||60 questions||5 minutes|
|Tables and Graphs Part II||24 questions||4 minutes|
|Reading Comprehension|| 5 reading passages
+ 36 questions
|Mathematical Usage (short form)||18 questions||7 minutes|
|Mathematical Usage (long form)||46 questions||14 minutes|
|Total||202 or 230 questions||76 or 86 minutes|
Candidates' results on the five sections of the POSS are combined into a single Aptitude Index Score which is reported on a scale ranging from 1 to 15. This Index Score is used to predict a candidate's probability of succeeding in a given position.
EEI does not clearly report whether there is a penalty for guessing on the POSS. However, they suggest that test takers make educated guesses on difficult multiple choice questions, which implies that guessing is not penalized. EEI also does not report exactly how the Index Score is calculated, so it is not clear whether one section of the exam may be weighted more heavily than any other.
Because the POSS is an employment exam designed to measure candidates' aptitude for a wide range of jobs, there is no single "passing score." Individual companies are free to set their own score cutoffs for a given position, and due to the competitive nature of the job application process, successful performance on the POSS does not guarantee employment.
Answers to Sample Questions
Mathematical Usage: 1;D 2;B 3;C Reading Comprehension: 1;B 2;A Assembly questions: 1;2 2;3 Mechanical Concepts: 1;A 2;A
- About EEI October 18 2014
- Plant Operator Selection System Online Brochure October 18 2014
- EEI's Employment Test Batteries October 18 2014
- Industry Employment Testing October 18 2014
- Test-Taking TipsOctober 18 2014
- Practice Tests: Plant Operator October 18 2014
- Southern Company Employment Testing October 18 2014
- Duke Energy Employment Tests October 18 2014
- Center Point Energy: EEI Testing October 18 2014