Scenario: You walk into your first PE exam. Although you're a little nervous, and perhaps a bit queasy, you still feel like you're ready to dominate the next 8 hours. You've brought a suitcase of your reference materials, brought your brand-new approved calculator that arrived at your doorstep yesterday (perfect timing), and made sure you stayed up until 2 a.m. to ensure that you went over every last detail in your notes before going to sleep.
About halfway through the exam, you realize that you're starting to lose energy. “How am I going to make it through the next four hours?” you think. You've completed 40 questions, and although you spent around 15 minutes trying to figure out how to do a specific problem on your calculator, you feel like you can't be too behind. Once you only have 30 minutes left in the exam, you start to panic. You have 10 questions left and have no idea how you will have enough time to finish them all.
The above scenario is representative of many examinees who made a few vital mistakes during their last-minute exam preparation.
Are you getting ready to take a PE exam, whether it be a CBT in the next few weeks, or a pencil and paper exam next October? As you prepare, it's important to understand best practices for taking an NCEES exam. As an exam review course provider, we get the chance to talk to many students who have taken the exam before, many who have shared their biggest regrets while taking their chosen PE exam. Whether you are taking the PE exam for the first time or second time, we've listed some of the most common mistakes below. Check them out to ensure that you will avoid them all when taking the PE exam, which will increase the likelihood of you passing!
1. Spending too much time on a question
Many first-time exam takers of the PE exam may have issues with time management. On a typical PE exam, an examinee is given 8 hours to complete 80 questions. So, each question generally should get 6 minutes dedicated to it. If you find yourself struggling with a question, simply skip it and move on to the next question and come back to that question later. A great way to manage your time is to bring a stopwatch (make sure to turn the sound off) or wristwatch to the exam to keep time with.
2. Not getting enough sleep
It’s completely understandable that many people want to cram the night before an exam. As tempting as that may sound, staying up too late will be detrimental to your exam performance. If you don’t get enough sleep, after a few hours of taking the exam, you’ll most likely run out of stamina and will not be able to think clearly as needed. The night before the exam, make sure to get 7-8 hours of sleep. Feel free to look over your notes and reference materials an hour or two before going to bed, as this will help with memory consolidation.
3. Getting caught up in your confidence
This tip is extremely important and following it can be a clear line of passing versus failing the PE exam. Even if you were a straight A student in school and have a great grasp on a majority of engineering concepts, taking the time to prepare for each topic that is on NCEES’ exam specifications will help refresh things you may have forgotten otherwise. Trust us, if you think you can pass the PE exam without studying, chances are you are wrong. Taking an exam review course that covers every topic is a great strategy to make sure you feel comfortable with every possible topic that may appear on the exam.
4. Packing too many reference materials
Yes, NCEES allows you to bring suitcases full of reference materials for pencil and paper exams. Should you do it? Maybe, maybe not. It all truly depends on your organization of your binders and books so that you don’t spend valuable time during the exam trying to find something in your reference materials. Our suggestion: print out organized, consolidated notes written by our PE instructors, which will provide you everything you need to reference during the exam.
5. Not learning how to use your calculator
We get it- some people have favorite models of calculators which may not be on NCEES’ approved calculator list. Make sure to look at the approved list a few months in advance of taking your exam so that you can not only ensure you get an approved model in time, but also so that you can learn how to use that calculator. Not sure where to start when learning how to use a new calculator? Finding a free calculator training tutorial should do the trick!