4 Best Practices for You to Succeed on the PE Exam


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If you’re preparing for the Principles and Practice of Engineering Examination (also known as the PE Exam) or you’re thinking about it, you are up for quite a difficult task. However, with a bit of strategy and some tips, there is no chance you won’t be able to pass it from the first try. 

As such, today we will discuss a few best practices that can help pave the way to success.

#1: Select the Best Resources

The first step in getting prepared for the PE exam is selecting your study resources. Since there are lots of books, courses, and practice tests out there, it’s important to select the ones that work best for you and your learning pace. 

For instance, if you’re looking for the best prep course, you can find a useful comparison on this page. This way, you can find the prep course that lets you study while also keeping track of your current obligations (job and family). The same goes for any other resources you may want to use – always look for the ones that let you customize the experience. 

While some people may encourage you to keep it light (when it comes to resources) we found it’s helpful to have as many references as possible (within the established budget). It also helps to borrow resources from friends, coworkers, and anyone else who may be willing to help. 

The idea behind this approach is that, as you practice for the PE Exam, you work with these references. In time, you’ll get to know them inside out, and you can decide which ones to carry into the exam (select the most helpful ones). 

Lastly, it’s important to build your resources starting with the most recommended. Each course or discipline will recommend one or two references that comprise most of the information. As you work with these, you’ll get to understand where you need to add more references and why. This way, you don’t overcrowd yourself with resources that contain more or less the same information. 

#2: Practice Exams are Important

A practice exam lets you understand the atmosphere and difficulty of the exam. It also allows you to know which references will be the most useful, which is an important nugget of wisdom on its own. 

In addition, practice exams help you get better at staying focused for several hours in a row. Start with 4h sessions and extend until you are comfortable working for the entire duration of the exam. 

When you take a practice exam, it’s important that you find a quiet place, where no one will disturb you. This may be a bit difficult if there are kids running around, or if you don’t have your partner’s support. As such, before you start preparing, it’s best to have a serious talk with the family and tell them why you will be participating less in daily activities for a while.  

#3: Learn from Others

If you’re not decided on how you want to prepare for the exam (self-study, paid classes, or both), you should spend some time reading about other people’s experience with this. It also helps to talk to the people you know have taken the exam and succeeded. 

This step allows you to understand the massive task you’re about to overtake, and how it’s best to organize your time and resources. You will find a lot of tips and advice on the NCEES website, blogs, and engineering subreddits (these are quite useful) so don’t be afraid to keep digging. 

#4: Have a Strategy 

Since this is a rather lengthy evaluation, it’s important to organize your time and resources in a way that works best for you. 

For instance, most test-takers recommend dividing the questions based on topic and difficulty. As such, you may want to start with questions considered to be mid-difficulty (the ones that pertain to non-code topics) in the first section of the exam. However, if you find yourself stuck and struggle to answer questions in this section, it’s best to move to the next step.

Next, move onto questions pertaining to codes – these are considered easy and should help your brain relax after the first round. This way, you gain a bit of momentum and get into the exam mood before you move on to the difficult section.

By now, you should be down to the last 10 questions or lower, with plenty of time to think and create complex answers. Make sure to identify the questions you’re sure you know the answer to and leave the uncertain ones for last. 

In the end, if time permits it, check your answers and make sure everything is in order. 

Wrap Up

The PE exam can be scary, especially if you have a family to support and a demanding job. It may also be financially-challenging if you really want access to highly-specialized trainers. Still, you don’t have to get yourself in debt over this. Many test-takers managed to study by themselves, following tips like the ones above and investing more in the resources they used. Overall, your success in this exam is dependent on how much you prepare, so make sure to start in advance.