Discussion Thread

  • 1.  PE Exam Prep Materials - Differences between CBT and Pen-Paper Formats

    Posted 18 days ago
    2022 was the year that many of the PE exams transitioned from the pen-paper format to the computer-based format. One of the biggest changes that accompanied the format transition was that outside materials are no longer allowed in the testing room (goodbye suitcases and wagons full of study materials). The reference handbook and the provided codes/standards/resources are now searchable PDFs.

    With the change in format, have there been changes in the study materials/resources you used/recommended to prep for the exam?

    When I took the CBT PE Civil Transportation exam last year, I wanted to avoid buying new study materials for the CBT exam, especially since a mentor of mine shared all her paper-pen study materials with me. A lot of the practice problems/prep notes referenced the Civil Engineering Reference Manual (CERM) and specific equations within the book. Luckily, my company had a CERM in our library, so I was able to borrow it and use it as a reference to the same/similar equation in the revised PDF NCEES Reference Handbook. At times, I couldn't find a similar equation in the PDF handbook nor the code/standard resources that would be available during the exam. In that case, I assumed that the CERM equation required to answer the practice problem would not be required to answer a question on the CBT exam. If applicable, I also cross-checked this assumption with the list of exam topics provided by NCEES.

    I'm interested in hearing how the change in format has impacted what resources you've used for studying for licensure exams!

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    Madison Anderson, A.M.ASCE
    Kenosha, WI
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  • 2.  RE: PE Exam Prep Materials - Differences between CBT and Pen-Paper Formats

    Posted 15 days ago

    Thank you Madison for facilitating a great conversation about the new PE exam format, and also thank you for sharing your experience. 


    I also had a similar experience in that I took the Water Resources PE Exam and it was also computer-based. The major impact that the new format had on me was on my way of studying really. I was preparing for taking the exam on previous years, and I was using the textbooks I used at school, and some additional web resources, I was building a binder with a summary of equations and concepts. However, when the new format was in place, I changed my studying habit. I began by familiarizing the provided handbook. Fortunately, the company that I work also had the Civil Engineering Reference Manual (CERM) and used that for practice problems. Probably, the only resources where I spent money for the PE were on additional practice problem booklets (from NCEES and other websites) and the Water Resources codes/standards/resources.



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    Armando Esquivel P.E., M.ASCE
    Civil Engineer
    Saint Louis MO
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  • 3.  RE: PE Exam Prep Materials - Differences between CBT and Pen-Paper Formats

    Posted 13 days ago
    Thanks Armando (and Madison for starting this topic)

    Did you feel that any knowledge from resources outside of the searchable PDF were required for the CBT? Such as the codes or standards you referenced?  I took the pen and paper test a few years ago and recall having most of what I needed in the CERM (which I dutifully tabbed out in advance) but I was able to pull a few other bits of info for certain problems from my textbooks that I brought with me.

    I would love to know what form of studying now works best for people taking the CBT so that I can offer better advice to junior engineers I meet in the future. I figure my pen and paper study style wont be quite as applicable now.

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    Christopher Seigel P.E., M.ASCE
    Civil Engineer
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  • 4.  RE: PE Exam Prep Materials - Differences between CBT and Pen-Paper Formats

    Posted 9 days ago
    Christopher,
    That is a great question! I felt like most pf the questions were tailored to be answered by using the provided handbook. However the handbook contains mainly equations. I would recommend for people talking the CBT test version to balance studying between numerical problems and conceptual problems.

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    Armando Esquivel P.E., M.ASCE
    Civil Engineer
    Saint Louis MO
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  • 5.  RE: PE Exam Prep Materials - Differences between CBT and Pen-Paper Formats

    Posted 6 days ago
    Thanks. Sounds like that is one thing that didn't change. I don't think the physical reference manual was much help with concept questions either. However, I did occasionally find something in my textbook that (I think) helped me find the correct answer. Which is the resource that you and future engineers aren't allowed to have.

    Do you have suggestions on how to study concept questions?

    I recall only being able to review the concept questions offered by the NCEES in their tests that they sold. The very nature of a question being conceptual is what makes it difficult to study. Really, it seems like one just needs to be familiar with the fundamentals of each subject if one wants to answer concept questions correctly.

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    Christopher Seigel P.E., M.ASCE
    Civil Engineer
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  • 6.  RE: PE Exam Prep Materials - Differences between CBT and Pen-Paper Formats

    Posted 11 days ago
    Hi Madison,

    ASCE's Continuing Education Department recently hosted an eLearning webinar regarding the PE Exam and our PE Exam Review Courses. The video of the session is now available on-demand and it is free to watch. It may help answer some of your questions listed in your post. In addition, the Breadth section our review course will spend time addressing the exam format, questions, and how to study for it.

    You can located the free eLearning webinar here and our live PE Review offering here. If you have any other questions, please let me know. I'd be happy to arrange a call with you!

    Best regards,
    Marlo Sneddon
    Senior Manager, Education
    msneddon@...

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    Marlo Sneddon Aff.M.ASCE
    ASCE
    Reston VA
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  • 7.  RE: PE Exam Prep Materials - Differences between CBT and Pen-Paper Formats

    Posted 8 days ago
    I was in a similar situation, having acquired study materials from the era prior to CBT exams.  Like you, I did a lot of filtering and cross-examination of what kinds of information would actually be on the CBT exam based on the latest version of the provided Engineering Reference Handbook.  I then purchased a practice exam from NCEES (produced during the CBT era) to help get a sense of the updated test and I would say the actual exam was quite in line with the practice exam in terms of topics and question style.  But biggest thing overall is to really understand what's in that Handbook and how to understand it and use it.

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    Alexander Zickar EI, A.M.ASCE
    Civil Engineer III
    Suwanee GA
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  • 8.  RE: PE Exam Prep Materials - Differences between CBT and Pen-Paper Formats

    Posted 5 days ago
    I passed the PE Civil Water Resources and Environmental Exam in November 2022. I found practice exam books to be the most useful in my studying so I used what I found available in that format.  I think that practice exams also help in preparing for the format of the actual test.  Some of the authors have started updating their books to include a few of the alternative type questions that are in the tests.

    These are the books and resources that I found most useful and recommend to others:
    - NCEES PE Civil Reference Handbook
    - Civil Engineering PE Breadth Exams: 3 Full Exams with Solutions by M. Rashad Islam
    - Water Resources and Environmental Depth PE Civil Engineering Exams: 2 Full Exams with Solutions by M. Rashad Islam
    - Core Concepts for the Civil PE Exam: Breadth and Water Resources & Environmental Depth by David Gruttadauria
    - Four Sample Exams for the Civil PE Exam All Modules Second Edition with Step by Step Solutions by Ruwan Rajapakse
    - Civil PE Practice Exam CBT Breadth (Updated 3/15/2022) by Path the PE Services
    - Engineering Videos Presents Civil Engineering Practice Exam  #1 by Timothy J. Nelson
    - Engineering Videos Presents Civil Engineering Practice Exam #2 by Timothy J. Nelson
    - PE Civil Reference Manual 16th Edition by Michael Lindeburg
    - PE Civil Practice Problems 16th Edition by Michael Lindeburg

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    Ian McKane A.M.ASCE
    Student
    Erial NJ
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