Discussion Thread

FE Exam

  • 1.  FE Exam

    Posted 05-28-2019 12:15 PM

    I am taking my FE exam in a month. I've been studying for the last two months: reviewing the PPI manual, NCEES manual, watching FE review videos from Marshal University. I'm about to start on practice exam and various practice problems. 
    Please share anything that would help to prep for the exam.

    What problems to work on? Did you pass from the 1st attempt? How did this certification help you in your career path?

    Azamat Khadikov S.M.ASCE
    Project Engineer
    Denver CO

  • 2.  RE: FE Exam

    Posted 05-29-2019 04:43 PM

    Azamat, taking the FE is certainly daunting at first.  You'll be tested on more knowledge at once than possible ever before in your life!  But don't fret, if you've been paying attention in class, watching concept reviews, doing practice problems, and familiarizing yourself with the equations booklet you'll be fine.  When I took the exam, it was in a more PE format, two 4-hour segments with less exams per year, more content, and it was paper and pencil rather than on a computer.  So unfortunately my experience was a little difference than yours will be.  We were the last group of people to take it in that format before the switch (December 2013).  That said, that review strategy is the same and if you study, you, too, will pass on your first try!

    First is making sure you have a way to study all the different material on the exam and a proper calculator.  The PPI manual and online review courses are a great reference.  Keep at it with those but don't be afraid to seek out more if they don't cover an area to your satisfaction.  For a calculator I prefer the TI-36X Pro but people will debate proper calculators to death.  It's nice to have one with multiple lines and solving features to save your time but the most important thing is that you're familiar with it.

    Next, get used to doing practice problems on a computer, practice like you play.  Make sure you focus on your weak areas but still work on areas you're more confident in.  Practice problems will be where you want to spend most of your time.  Lastly, get familiar with your FE equations book.  You'll be able to use "ctrl+F" to search through it on the exam (I'm told) but you'll want to know what best to be searching to find what you want fast.  Most of the time on the FE is finding the right equation.  Sometimes you may not be sure how to solve a problem but be able to find an equation with the variables you have.  That's most of the FE.

    Passing your FE makes you an official Engineer In Training or EIT.  It's the first step towards your PE.  If you plan to get a masters, you can have the FE waived as part of getting your PE, but I don't recommend that even if you do plan to get a Masters.  It's also good practice for the PE as it may be the last large standardized test you will take until the PE comes around, and there's not getting around that test.  You'll want to take the FE soon after college, or in your senior year (as I did) while all these concepts are fresh.  Don't worry about knowing them all 100%, just enough to be okay in some areas, good in most, and strong in a few.  You may not see them in your work at all and will have less time to study after college once you're working full time.

    Lastly, a study tip I used from an old Math teacher:  when you study chew a SPECIFIC flavor of gum or mints. Something with a unique smell.  Scent is the strongest sense tied to memory, and there's some research that suggests it may help you, and supposedly more sore with mint.  May be more of an "old wives tale" or just the placebo effect but it may have helped me.

    Good luck!!

    James Smith P.E.,M.ASCE
    Design Engineer
    Grand Rapids MI

  • 3.  RE: FE Exam

    Posted 05-29-2019 05:58 PM
    James, thanks for the suggestions. I will definitely follow them. This is what i hear from people who passed the test, "you don't have to do perfect on it, just try to do your best". Obviously one will fail if they take the test unprepared. Will keep studying for now...

    Thank You.

    Azamat Khadikov S.M.ASCE
    Project Engineer
    Denver CO

  • 4.  RE: FE Exam

    Posted 05-30-2019 09:29 AM

    I feel like James said most everything perfectly, so I just wanted to add a few small points.  As James mentioned, if you have an idea where to find the formula you need, you'll already be in good shape, so knowing that handbook is great.  I've been told by the EI's in my office that the search function (crtl+F) was especially useful, but I like James took my test on the pencil and paper format.  

    Next, UNITS, UNITS, UNITS.  If you keep your units straight, you'll likely be able to rule out a couple of answers and often only be left with one that actually makes sense.  So pay attention to what the question is asking for as far as what units the answer needs to be in.  

    Finally, the biggest thing to remember is it's just a test, and if you don't pass, you can take it again.  Although we all want to pass our exams on the first go around, it's not the end of the world if you don't.  And one last little point, although it's not a set percentage, when I took the exam you only needed about 70% correct to pass.  That changes from exam to exam and I'm not sure how it works with the new computer based exams, but you don't have to get an "A" to pass, just enough.  You'll only know your score, other than a pass/fail, if you happen to be the highest score in your state (at least that's how Arkansas is).

    It sounds to me like you're putting in the time and effort to ace the exam, however, so good luck.

    Chase Henrichs , P.E.P.E.,M.ASCE
    Crafton Tull
    Rogers, AR

  • 5.  RE: FE Exam

    Posted 05-30-2019 09:28 AM
    I passed on my first attempt. I started studying with about the same amount of time you have. I followed a study schedule of about an hour a day after work, and 3-4 hours on Saturdays and Sundays. I used the topics from Lindeburg's FE Review Manual (found on Amazon) as my study guide. In my experience, the questions in that book were harder than the actual test. 

    Here are my two biggest pieces of advice:

    1. Buy the NCEES practice exam. It will be the closest material to the test that you can get. I used it as a metric to see which subjects I needed to improve in. I created an excel spreadsheet, categorized each question, and created a table that would give me feedback on what subjects needed more work than others. I would then supplement my studying with other sources to strengthen any weaker areas. I like the NCEES practice exam becuase it gives you topic "weight". For example, I didn't focus so much on the ethics portion becuase I had 2 questions out of 110 and it wasn't as weak of a subject for me. 

    2. Take practice tests as close to the exam environment as possible. Since it is a computer based test, I would do as much as you can with a computer set up. Set up an answer sheet in excel. Use a PDF version of the FE Handbook and get comfortable using CTRL+F to get to various subjects. Set up a timer for the test and your break. Finally, see if you can get an inexpensive dry erase board as they do not provide scratch paper for you to work out problems. 

    You'll find that there aren't many positions in our field that will allow you to advance without licensure. A lot of our work serves a government entity or the public, and these groups usually require a Professional Engineer to approve designs to ensure the safety of the end user. Gaining your EIT certification is similar to beginning an apprenticeship under experienced engineers before "declaring" what you wish to specialize in prior to taking the PE. 

    It sounds like you already have a great start. Good luck!

    Sean Ellis EIT,A.M.ASCE
    Civil Engineer
    Midland TX
    (432) 697-1447

  • 6.  RE: FE Exam

    Posted 05-30-2019 10:03 AM

    I think the previous answers were great but I wanted to give you my experience which I think it was a little unconventional. Tecnically I only studied for the exam the weekend before (I had my exam on a Monday) and I only used a Casio calculator I got for $10 at walmart. The material I studied was straight out of the NCEES manual and equation booklet. Get very familiar with those two, especially the questions (type and how they are asked) as well as what equations are given to you. They will give you "all" equations you need but I think it is good practice to go through some of your class material to dig out some of the easier equations (3 variables) as they are not given. 

    My approach was to get familiar with the exam and how everything is asked and what it is expected rather than the material itself. All they will ask is material you have been tested on and you should be familiar with even if you are not proficient at it. For me (as a non-native speaker) it was more important to understand the exam than the material, I felt confident that I had learned the material and with just a few hours of going back to my notes I would be able to refresh my memory and be ready for the exam, especially since I only really studied the weekend before.

    Lastly, while nicer calculators are great to have, I felt like I was more likely to make mistakes by being able to input a long equation rather than being forced to "simplify" the math and find more efficient ways to solve the problems, hence why I just use a really simple scientific calculator. 

    I would say that this method may not work for you, as we all learn differently but I wanted to give you my experience. As always, make sure you get a good night of sleep (if you can) and get a good breakfast. You can bring snacks to the test center (at least where I took it) and I would encourage you to do so. I know it is a big exam, probably your biggest up to now, but you should be very well prepared from classes and the studying you have done. Just remember to be patient and don't rush through the questions. If you find yourself stuck at a question for too long without knowing what to do, go to the next question and come back to the ones you had troubles with at the end. 

    Sounds like you are setting yourself for success! I wish you all the luck and please let us know here how it went! I am sure we will all be happy to hear your experience!

    Luis Duque EIT,A.M.ASCE
    Structural Engineer
    Broomfield CO

  • 7.  RE: FE Exam

    Posted 05-30-2019 11:12 AM
    Hi Azamat,

    The FE is an important step in your journey as a Civil Engineer. I personally can't stress its importance because it's actually a requirement where I work. As for what problems to focus on, I would say get a good understanding of the fundamentals of each topic. For example basic cash flow analysis in engineering economics, statics, matrix algebra, and how functions like loops and if statements work in code. 

    If I were to most efficiently use my time with only two months, I'd focus on getting comfortable with the basics of each problem category. It'll allow you to answer most problems and make educated guesses on others. 

    The last piece of advice would be to just practice! Do an actual mock time trial sooner rather than later to get a feel for the time constraint. 

    I personally passed on the 1st attempt but everyone is different. 

    Best regards,

    Paul Lee EIT,P.E.,M.ASCE
    Civil Engineering Associate
    Los Angeles Dept. of Water and Power
    Los Angeles CA

  • 8.  RE: FE Exam

    Posted 05-30-2019 04:44 PM

    I just recently passed the FE first try. I would say, if you are already doing your review through the PPI manual, the next biggest thing after you are comfortable with the review is practice problems. The biggest thing for me about this test was staying calm (I have anxiety issues). The best way to stay calm is being confident, and you can only be confident if you have done the work before hand. This means doing a lot of practice problems without help. No matter how much you struggle, give each problem you do the good old college try without looking at answers. Otherwise, you won't learn from your mistakes or retain the information as well.

    After doing enough practice problems, I would take several practice tests that simulate actual conditions as close as possible. Go to the NCEES youtube page and watch the general process of the test so you can replicate those conditions. That way, you won't be surprised by anything the day of the test. The mock timed test will really help give you a feel for what the test is actually like. I personally didn't run out of time, but I have heard stories of it happening. Time management is a huge aspect of the test as you will want to do the problems you know 100% first then come back later and do the ones you can figure out with a bit of thought. Don't get caught up on questions you have no clue on. A passing score is around a 50-65, but each state requires a passing score of 70 by law, so NCEES takes the passing score (50-65) and curves the test accordingly to a 70. I say this so you know that you can skip questions you don't know and come back and guess if you don't have time. There is room to make some mistakes. The mock timed test really helps give you an idea of what all this feels like. In the case you are taking longer then normal on the test, you won't be panicked or rushed because you know your time targets you set for yourself and what it feels like already.

    If you consider a worst case scenario, where for some reason, a passing score is a non-curved 70, you would want to shoot for an 80. This is because NCEES also throws away 10 questions from the total 110. So in the case 10 questions you go right were thrown away, you would want to get an 80 (i.e. 80 right - 10 thrown away = 70 right). This is a hypothetical and an extreme overestimation though, it is just what I had in my head as a guaranteed passing score while I was going through the test. Honestly though, I wouldn't get too caught up in this stuff as you just want to try your best on every question. It's just something to strive towards even though NCEES unofficially reports that a 50-65 is usually the passing range.

    I will echo what everyone else has already said in that most places require an EIT. It is really the bare minimum for practicing engineers and there is little to no advancement if you don't have one. Depending on what you want to do in your career, most civil's get their PE which allows for more career advancement and opportunities. In order to take the PE exam, there are many requirements, one of which is passing the FE (you can actually wave the FE if you have a Ph.D and 1 year of professional experience or a Masters and 8 years of professional experience in certain states). Another aspect of this is that you aren't really legally aloud to call yourself an engineer until you have your PE (which is really the ability to stamp plan sets). It is to the point where even at my company we use the EIT designation sparingly because it has the word engineer in it, in order to avoid any and all liability issues. So to summarize, I would say this certification is the jumping point for the start of your career and is really a must for any field of engineering.

    Like Chase mentioned... UNITS! The reference manual has all the conversions you could ever want, but knowing where they are is key to not wasting a lot of time. I remember multiple questions being asked in SI and reporting answers in Imperial. Don't rush and read each question carefully. Navigating the reference manual is very easy on the computer thanks to the find command. However, you will still want to be familiar with where certain sub sections are within each section (e.g. the environmental section is quite packed with information and broken into a lot of different sub sections).

    It sounds to me like you are well on the path to success for the test and putting the work in. I'll tell you I built it up in my head too much and had some severe anxiety about the test. But once I sat down and did the first problem I felt comfortable because of all the work I previously put into studying. Keep doing what you are doing and really focus on your problem areas. I wish you luck!

    P.S. With the work you are putting in, I promise you'll come out of the test wondering why it was so easy. :)

    Grant Warnke EIT,A.M.ASCE
    Waterfront EIT
    Moffatt and Nichol
    Anchorage AK

  • 9.  RE: FE Exam

    Posted 05-31-2019 07:49 AM
    To reiterate what most have said, the best preparation is practice, which it sounds like you are doing.   I teach engineering, and of the students I know who don't pass, I think it's because of their effort into preparation.   Even students who didn't get grades in class, pass because they put the time into studying.   

    I would also like to reiterate someone's comment to PAY ATTENTION TO UNITS.   The FE exam likes to make sure you demonstrate the ability to not only convert units, but use the correct ones in the equations.  There are lots of empirical formulas used in civil engineering, and you must use the correct units with these equations.   The reference manual identifies these units underneath the equations, but you need to be aware of them.  For example, if you have a Rational method problem Q=CIA, they might give you an area in square feet, or square miles, but you need to understand that the Rational formula uses acres.   These are the little details that are important on the exam. . .and by the way, extremely important in practice.

    I would also like to correct something.  James Smith said you can bypass the FE exam if you get your Masters.   While every state has their own standards, I know of no state that has this policy.   If someone knows otherwise, I would like to know to tell my students.   Typically a Master's degree will count as 1 year of the 4 years experience needed, but it does not replace the FE.  I believe some states allow you to bypass the FE if you get a PhD, but that's not the norm.   But always check the requirements of the state in which you expect to take your PE exam.

    Timothy Murphy M.ASCE
    Trine University
    Angola IN
    (260) 665-4216

  • 10.  RE: FE Exam

    Posted 06-01-2019 10:20 AM
    Hi Azamat,

    I can't help but notice your title "project engineer" and your position in taking the FE? If you're working in an engineering office then you're set. The FE exam should be a piece of cake. Just buy/download a lot of FE practice problems and use only the NCEES reference manual as your "reference"...as if you're taking the test. That's all you'll need. No expensive prep class needed  


    Elliot House P.E.,S.M.ASCE
    W.B. Clausen Structural Engineers
    Emeryville CA

  • 11.  RE: FE Exam

    Posted 07-24-2019 02:34 PM
    To each and all who have not yet passed their exam(s) to become P.E.s, please allow me to state
    what stands in the way, it is the 4-letter "F" word!

    This 'F'' word is F E A R.

    Fear that you may fail and "Everyone will know."

    Well, step back and do little recon today.

    Go into the offices of your top managers and executives and look closely at their framed PE licenses.

    Answer these two questions:
    a. How many times did they take the exam to pass?

    b. What was their passing grade?


    So, get over it.

    Now relax, prepare, take the exam, and if you pass it, GREAT!

    If not, reload!

    People don't fail, their experiments do!

    p.s. And don't you dARE ask me!

    William M. Hayden Jr., Ph.D., P.E., CMQ/OE, F.ASCE
    Buffalo, N.Y.

    "It is never too late to be what you might have been." -- George Eliot 1819 - 1880

  • 12.  RE: FE Exam

    Posted 07-24-2019 06:17 PM
    I have created a linkedin group for this topic,
    if anyone is interested to join:
    It is really all about preparing well and not hesitating to re-do the exam.
    Still, I have not done the exam, as I need to wait for the signal by NYS Education Department.
    Kind regards,