Writing a CDR – Secrets of Success

Preparing competency demonstration reports (CDRs) required by Engineers Australia for qualification assessment for engineers migrating to Australia baffles everyone.

People writing career episodes go into a state of mind-numbness at the seeming complexity of the task. They forget basic principles of report writing.

Let’s have a look at basic report writing.

Report Writing 101

The fundamentals of writing any report are:

  • understand the purpose of the report

  • provide the reader with the information they want

  • write in a language and style that the reader wants and will understand

  • Here is how these basic principles apply to writing career episode reports for a CDR application.

    Purpose of the career episode reports

    The purpose of the episode reports in a CDR is to demonstrate to Engineers Australia you can apply you knowledge and skills at a level of a professional engineer, technologist or associate. The occupation you have nominated for immigration purposes

    In Engineers Australia language – demonstrate your competencies.


    Providing detail of what you have done to show the Engineers Australia assessors you have the competencies given in the elements and sub-elements for the discipline and level you are applying for recognition as. These competencies are listed in the Appendices of the Engineers Australia Migration Skills Handbook.


    • what the company you were employed by has done
    • the size and market position of your company
    • the technical details of the project or job you have done
    • how well you were respected or your status
    • your unsubstantiated claims of skills or knowledge

    Before you select a topic for a career episode and start writing, read and study in detail the Engineers Australia competencies.

    Provide Engineers Australia the information they want

    Engineers Australia want details.

    • Details of YOUR thought processes and actions
    • Evidence of your actions and the results
    • Details related to the competencies
    • Details for all sub-elements of all elements of all competencies

    It is not enough to say ” We overcame a number of problems” Provide details, such as. “After initial test of the prototype, the rate of response was outside the tolerances required in the design specification. I analysed the circuit design and could not identify a design error. I then devised a series of tests to identify the cause. The tests were selected to isolate the effects of the different input parameters and the operating environment. I identified that an input transducer was being affected by vibration. I researched catalogues and replaced the transducer with a more robust component. I redesigned the control circuitry to accommodate the characteristics of the new components. I retested the system and it worked within specification.( PE 2.1)

    You must be able to relate every paragraph in you CDR to a competency element.

    If you look at the competencies required in competency element PE 2.1 for professional engineers you will see there are four sub-elements  To claim the element you need to give evidence of actions which tell of things you have done to meet every sub-element. In brief for PE 2.1 the sub-elements are about assessing assumptions, original analysis,  multidisciplinary factors and relating cause and effects.

    Analyse each paragraph to be sure it provides the assessors with evidence of things you have done to demonstrate you have all the competency elements and sub-elements.

    Write in the language and style that Engineers Australia want

    There is the English language, the Australian language, and Engineers Australia language. The Engineers Australian “dialect” for writing career episode reports is a prescriptive writing style. It has the following characteristics:

    • It is personal. The most frequently used word must be “I”
    • It is active. I planned, I calculated, I measured, I obtained feedback, I researched – I did it my way.
    • It is simple and clear
    • It is full of facts and detail – THERE SHOULD BE NO UNSUBSTANTIATED CLAIMS
    • Everything relates to engineering competencies

    Many of your career episodes will be working as part of a team. That is fine. You need to demonstrate you can interact and provide leadership and obtain support in a team. Your episode must clearly write about what you did as part of the team. “I prepared the technical scope for the supply of a new heat exchanger…..”

    What is an unsubstantiated claim ?  It is simply a claim with no evidence: for example  ” I developed a good working relationship with the production team.”  You need to add evidence of the actions you took to develop this relationship to turn it from an assertion into evidence. This could be done by adding ”…..by providing written progress reports, holding weekly meetings, and getting their feedback on proposed design modifications.”

    With every sentence you write, ask this question – “Do these words tell Engineers Australia about something I have done personally; actions which show them I have applied part(s) of elements of a competency?”

    Don’t tell Engineers Australia what you know or how clever you are, tell them what you have done. This provides proof you can apply your knowledge: you have the competencies they are looking for. Engineers Australia assess your knowledge and skills from what you have done.

    ©Ian Little. All rights reserved, no part of this may be reproduced without permission rights from the publisher. Contact us www.tribuslingua.com.au