If you have thought about taking the PE Exam, you’ve most likely considered the difficulty. When compared to college exams or even the FE exam, the PE is a whole different animal.

Of course, the PE exam is an extremely important step in any engineer’s career, as professional licensure provides the following:

      Confirmation to employers that you are dedicated and knowledgeable in your chosen field
      Endorsement on your technical engineering skills
      The ability to sign and seal engineering drawings
      The ability to work for both public and private clients
      And more!

Now that we’ve established the importance, back to the question “How difficult is the PE exam?” 

Our answer: The perception of how difficult the PE exam is differs for everyone. Some examinees fly through the PE exam with ease while others may find the exam to be grueling. The typical difference between these two experiences: preparation. Let’s look at two different scenarios to evaluate the differences:

Scenario 1

Bill is an engineering intern at a big, multi-location civil engineering firm. He was in the top percentile of his graduating university class and passed the FE exam on the first try when he was a senior in college. He signs up for the PE exam once he is eligible and prepares by watching 15-minute tutorial videos every other night as a refresher. Bill believes that since he did so well in college and passed the FE exam with ease, he can pass the PE exam without really studying. When exam day comes, he confidently walks into the exam room, sure he will conquer the PE Civil exam.

Scenario 2

Mary has been out of college for about 10 years and is nervous about taking the PE Civil exam. She passed the FE Civil exam with ease, but that was when she was still in college and consistently learning and practicing engineering concepts. Mary decides she needs to sign up for a PE Civil exam review course to help her prepare, as she needs a complete refresher on the topics that will be on the exam (especially in geometrics)! Mary signs up for an exam review course that allows her to begin studying right away and at her own pace, as well as attend live, instructor-led courses closer to the exam. After attending hours and hours of courses specifically angled towards the exam topics, Mary feels she may be able to pass the exam. Although she is still a tad nervous, she walks into the exam room with more confidence than she had before taking an exam prep course.

Although the perception of ease differs between each PE examinee, sufficiently preparing for the exam can be a big determiner whether an examinee passes or not. If you’re wondering how long the average person studies for the PE exam, the average person studies approximately 200 hours! Studying for the exam is extremely important—especially studying every possible exam topic to ensure success. The more one prepares, the most likely they will pass.

Remember our friends from earlier? After waiting weeks upon weeks following the PE Civil exam, results are finally out! As soon as Bill sees an email come from NCEES announcing the news, he hurriedly logs into his MyNCEES account to confirm his suspicions that he passed with flying colors. To his complete and utter shock, Bill learns that he failed his exam.

When Mary receives her notification of exam results being out, she nervously logs into her NCEES account to see if she passed or failed. Although she felt like she did well on the PE Civil exam, the fact that she has been out of school for a while makes her second guess her success. Luckily when she logs in to view her diagnostic report, she saw that she passed! The PE Civil exam review course really helped her prepare for the exam, and she fully accounts her passing to the hours of interactive, online courses she attended.