How to prepare yourself for incoming PE exam?
What you will need
Calculator – Make sure you have an approved calculator. NCEES has a very specific list of calculators that you can use. From their website:
Casio: All fx-115 models. Any Casio calculator must contain fx-115 in its model name.
Hewlett Packard: The HP 33s and HP 35s models, but no others.
Texas Instruments: All TI-30X and TI-36X models. Any Texas Instruments calculator must contain either TI-30X or TI-36X in its model name.
Get one early and use it for your homework. That way you will be familiar with it come test time.
Spare calculator or set of batteries – Just in case
Some snacks – Make sure they don’t make any noise. The proctors will ask you to pre open any snacks in plastic wrappers that may make noise.
Packed lunch – We only had about 45 minutes for lunch, and there weren’t very many places nearby to eat. Packing your lunch can ease the stress a little and also give you more time to review for the next part of the test.
The test itself
The test is not easy. You can pass it, though.
The test is in two parts. The morning session has 120 questions and you have 4 hours to complete it. That gives you about 2 minutes per question. It covers general engineering knowledge. Here’s a list from the NCEES Supplied-Reference Handbook of the areas covered on the morning session and the approximate percentage of questions on that subject:
Mathematics – 15%
Engineering Probability and Statistics – 7%
Chemistry – 9%
Computers – 7%
Ethics and Business Practices – 7%
Engineering Economics – 8%
Engineering Mechanics (Statics and Dynamics) – 10%
Strength of Materials – 7%
Material Properties – 7%
Fluid Mechanics – 7%
Electricity and Magnetism – 9%
Thermodynamics – 7%
The questions are short and for the most part just cover the basics of the subject. The Supplied-Reference Handbook includes a breakdown of specific things in each section that you should be prepared for.
The afternoon session has 60 questions and is 4 hours long. Four minutes per question. You get to pick the afternoon test. I highly recommend that if you are a civil engineering major that you take the civil engineering exam in the afternoon. I found the questions very similar to what I saw in class. However the choice is up to you. If you don’t want to take the civil engineering exam then I would recommend the general engineering exam in the afternoon. You are given a thick book with all of the different tests in it. If you still haven’t decided by the time you get to the exam then quickly skim through the civil and general exams and see which one will be easier for you. Remember you can only pick one and you have to do all of the questions in the one you pick. No mixing and matching.
Below is a list of what is in the CE exam and the approximate percentages:
Surveying – 11%
Hydraulics and Hydrologic Systems – 12%
Soil Mechanics and Foundations – 15%
Environmental Engineering – 12%
Transportation – 12%
Structural Analysis – 10%
Structural Design – 10%
Construction Management – 10%
Materials – 8%
If you choose the general exam in the afternoon it will contain the same basic subjects as the morning exam just in much more detail.
Get there early. You will not be allowed in if you are late. Follow all of the rules. Even the ones that you wouldn’t normally have to follow for a final exam in a class. The proctors take the exam very seriously and so should you. Several people get kicked out every time for breaking the rules.
Have your ID and your paperwork ready
If you think you might get cold then bring a jacket
Listen to what the proctors say
But use all of the available time
When you have about 5 minutes left guess on all of the rest – pick a letter and stick with it.
Read the questions and answers carefully – you thing that you will see a lot is “pick the one that most nearly matches” your answer. Sometimes that may mean that none of them are close but one of them is closer than the other. For example, say you do the calculation and the answer is 53. The answers to choose from are 0, 100, 200, and 300. None of them really seem to fit, but 100 is “most nearly” the same because it’s the closest to 53.
Make sure you do it their way – They may tell you to use a certain method. Then in the answers they will have the correct answer as well as the answers that you would get using other methods. So if you use the wrong method you will still find the answer on the list but will get the question wrong because you didn’t use their method.
Registration for the October exam is open already in some states and will be opening soon in others. The last day for registration is September 4th. Though, that may vary by state. Don’t wait until the last minute. Good luck for those getting ready to take it.
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