So have you decided that by seeking a Professional Engineer (PE) license, you want to advance your career? Oh, congratulations! The advantages of a PE license still outweigh the months of free time spent training, as previously stated here. In stacks of resumes, CH2desired M’s qualifications are most frequently met by engineers with a PE license.
In your state, you have studied engineering licensing rules, including passing the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) examination in your senior college year, working under the supervision of a PE, and acquiring four years of progressive experience. You have registered for the test. You had your pencils sharpened and took a new notebook. Now it is time to faithfully work to prepare for your test. Where and when are you going to start? (Hint: it is not a choice to learn by osmosis, so take the prep book out from under your pillow.)
Professional engineers design the PE exam to represent the practice of the real world. It focuses on particular topics and the problems are a little more comprehensive. The PE exam is an open book, unlike the FE exam, but don’t let that fool you into thinking that the PE exam is easy! What engineer does a challenge not like? Every year, about 26,000 engineer interns take the PE test, according to NSPE, and the pass rate is usually as a percentage in the low 60s.
Looking to get in on the 60%? Take a look at these 20 research tips from Stephen Heard, Kristin Duda, and Mary Campbell, three of my favorite technical engineers at CH2M:
- “I was advised to study every day for six months before the exam, but in reality, for the three months leading up to the test date, it was closer to every day,” says Stephen, who passed the PE Mechanical Engineering exam in April 2012. “I would recommend solid studying for at least three months, especially if it’s been a while since college.” Likewise, Kristen, an environmental engineer who passed the exam in October 2008, said, “I started studying in June for the October test and stuck to one night per week plus one day per weekend.”
- Establish a routine and try as much as possible to stick with it.
- “Study at work before or after hours if you have distractions at home,” advised Mary, who passed the October 2006 Chemical Engineering test.
- Stephen suggested, “Bring the books to the test that you are intimate with.” A lot of people (especially civilians) showed up with bookcases. During the test, you don’t want to be fumbling through a weird book trying to find an answer that you’re not sure is even there.
- For some helpful reference books on PE, check out Amazon.
- Flag your books with relevant parts so that you can locate them later.
- It is helpful to put laws and relevant training manuals to the test. Mary brought her materials for HAZWOPER and ISO preparation.
- The FE Reference Handbook is available as a PDF free of charge online. It has a lot of useful equations and it would be great to have them with you on the day of the exam.
- With your calculators and reference guides, build “muscle memory” so you don’t fumble during the test.
- Skip your apps. Emphasis on using paper and pencil to work. Here, there are no shortcuts, and the actual test is on paper and pencil.
- The practice tests are mates of yours! Stephen worked through two practice examinations: one that came with his guide book for PE and the official test for NCEES practice. “He said, “In terms of complexity, the NCEES practice exam was very practical. The exam for the PE reference book practice was hellish and much tougher than what I faced on the day of the examination.
- Practice concerns by hand. Kristen said, “Spending a full day writing for the exam was one of the craziest things!” After spending all day, every day on my laptop, I was so out of practice! ”
- Work out as many issues with practice as you can. Do all of the examinations in the workbook and then the practice examinations.
- “Mary said, “Just like in college, I had a notebook and pencil and just wrote it down (it was truly refreshing after 8-9 hours being behind a computer).
- You most certainly won’t find the solution in a textbook for the ‘practical’ questions – you either know it or you don’t. “I clearly remember a question about the best type of meter to be sampled at a landfill,” Mary commented. I had never done this sort of sampling, so I remember hopelessly leafing through my waste textbook.
- Other individuals planning to take the test and individuals who have completed the PE are most possibly the best free tools, so inquire around.
- Many universities have free courses for PE training. At the University of Arkansas, Stephen took a few, and they helped him set his mentality for planning and learning.
- Make sure that you bring a watch of your own. Don’t think they’re going to have a room clock. “I still have the $6 watch I purchased at the pharmacy during lunch between sessions,” Mary said.
- Remember supplies such as a clock, a new calculator, and replacement batteries.
- Make sure you know where the test is heading (how to get to the room itself).
So take a deep breath, open a book by cracking and start following some of these suggestions. You will survive the day either way — I promise. Your fellow engineers have all done it, and you will, too.