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PE Exam Success - The 10 Best Ways To Be Prepared

Engineering Professional Guide

PE Exam Success Results Vary Primarily Due To The Use Of Effective Exam Preparation Methods ...

As you are preparing to take an engineering PE exam, it will help to keep these 10 ideas in mind.

1 - Build A Solid Test-Day Resource Library
This one is a must-do. Of all the other 9 PE Exam preparation ideas listed here, this one, in my opinion, is by far the most important.

If you will take the time to:

Collect all the relevant information pertaining to each of the topics shown for your particular test, including:
Example PE Exam problems with solutions
Charts and Tables
Assemble the information into binders.
Devise some method of retrieval to locate information quickly.
Spend a portion of your allotted study time to reviewing and fine-tuning your reference binders.
Your odds of successfully passing the PE Exam will go way up.

2 - Know the Codes
Depending on which PE Exam you are taking, it would be well worth your time to spend time reading through and becoming very familiar with the code - or codes - that are primary to your industry, such as:

Mechanical Engineering - The International Mechanical Code, The International Energy Efficiency Code, and The International Plumbing Code
Electrical Engineering - The National Electrical Code and The Life Safety Code - NFPA 101
Civil Engineering - The International Building Code
Structural Engineering - The International Building Code
Architectural Engineering - The International Codes - Building, Mechanical, Energy Efficiency, and Plumbing - and The National Electrical Code

3 - Know The Format
Most of the PE Exams are 80 multiple choice questions taken over an 8 hour period - 40 questions in the 4-hour morning session and 40 questions in the 4-hour afternoon session.

480 minutes to read the questions, understand what's being asked, find the applicable resource from your test-day resource library, work the problem, and mark the answer on the test page - the Scantron.

That's only 6 minutes per question.
This may seem like a lot of time ... but it's not.

Use some of your preparation time practicing answering questions at the rate of 1 every 6 minutes. This will help you gauge your tempo on test day.

4 - Plan Your Study Time
Whether you have 12 months, 12 weeks, or 12 days - hopefully not 12 days - you can plan your time wisely to maximize the benefits of your study effort. Most likely, you have a job, maybe a family, other commitments, and probably some interests that take time. Sit down with the test outline for your particular PE Exam - found at - and plan out how to cover all the material you need to review in the amount of time available.

Refer back to ideas 1, 2, and 3 above.

Work through the process systematically and you will be successful.

5 - Use The Right Tools
What tools does your industry use to make design easier?

Psychrometric Charts
Bending Stress Tables
Whatever these tools are, make sure you have them on hand in your test-day resource library and be able to use them quickly. The last place to learn to use a tool is when you need it - under pressure.

Also, log onto NCEES.ORG for information on what's allowed into the testing centers and what calculators are acceptable.

6 - Take Sample Tests
Ways to find sample PE Exams:

Search the internet
Search your industry's applicable websites

7 - Work To Your Strengths
As with everything in life, we perform better and are more successful when we are doing those things we have already mastered. Only little gains will be realized trying to learn something new and gain proficiency while under the pressures of a deadline - test day.

As such, take the time to figure out what you know very well. Spend the majority of your time on these subjects. Polish your expertise, gain new insights, practice your skills. This hyper-focus on strengths will give you the confidence you need on test-day to knock out a good portion of the questions.

To help you get started, read idea 9 below.

8 - Get Help On Your Weaker Topics
And for those topics that aren't as engrained as you'd like, use some of your preparation time getting help from someone who is an expert. There are plenty of people who are willing and eager to help you attain your PE. Look for mentors in:

Your current company
Companies you used to work for
Your local professional society
The national professional societies
Local schools, colleges, and universities

9 - Exploit The Odds
Most of the PE Exams - with the exception of the Structural Depth exams - are 80 multiple choice questions taken over an 8 hour period. To pass the exam and receive your PE License, you need to correctly answer 70% of the questions.

That's only 56 right answers - so weigh the odds in your favor!
Take the Electrical PE Exam as an example.

If you have a lot of experience in:

General Power Engineering - Measurement and Instrumentation (7.5% or 6 questions)
General Power Engineering - Special Applications (10% or 8 questions)
Circuit Analysis - Devices and Power Electronic Circuits (9% or 7 questions)
Rotating Machines and Electromagnetic Devices - Rotating Machines (12.5% or 10 questions)
And you can get tutoring in:

Transmission and Distribution - System Analysis (12.5% or 10 questions)
Transmission and Distribution - Protection (10% or 8 questions)
And you spend enough time reading through and learning the codes:

General Power Engineering - Codes and Standards (12.5% or 10 questions)
That totals 59 correct answers - more than enough to pass the PE Exam.

10 - Eat Well And Get Plenty Of Rest
This one is kind of a no-brainer but it never hurts to hear it again. Take the time to adjust your diet leading up to the PE Exam. Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, poultry, fish, nuts, and lean protein. Drink lots of water - at least 1/2 ounce for every pound. So if you weigh 185 pounds that's 93 ounces of water per day or twelve 8 ounce glasses.

Bonus - Prepare For Test Day In Advance
And lastly, begin to assemble all of your test-day resources well in advance of the PE Exam. You will probably want to pack:

Healthy snacks
Drinks - like water
Clothing or jackets that can be taken on or off quickly and quietly
Extra money
Any forms or documents that may be required at the testing facility
Directions to the testing Facility
Hotel reservations - if needed
Your test-day resource library
If you will begin putting these things together in advance, then you won't have to worry about them the night before the PE Exam.

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