The Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam is a comprehensive test of the knowledge and experience that is obtained in undergraduate education. The FE is the first step to becoming a professionally licensed engineer. This exam is administered by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES), a non-profit organization dedicated to advancing the field of engineering through professional licensure for engineering and surveyors.
According to the NCEES, there are seven disciplines offered for the FE. Currently, the FE is a 6-hour, computer-based exam with 110 questions. Candidates interested in taking the FE should register through the NCEES website. Applicants should check with their state licensing boards to fulfill any additional requirements. Each state has their own fee structure, education requirements, and other licensing guidelines. Typically, most boards require candidates to be attending or have graduated from an ABET engineering program.
ABET stands for the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. ABET is another non-profit, non-governmental organization that accredits post-secondary education programs in applied and natural science, computing, engineering, and engineering technology. According to the ABET website, accreditation is voluntary and provides assurance that a college or university program meets the quality standards of the profession for which that program prepares graduates.
Since this exam is specifically designed to test knowledge and experience gained during undergrad at an ABET accredited institution, students are encouraged to take the exam during their college career. In some instances, this is not feasible. If the exam is not taken during undergrad, it is recommended that students take the FE immediately after graduating. The biggest reason that candidates take the exam during this time is because the material is still relatively fresh in their minds. Candidates are more familiar with the various concepts of the math, science, and engineering courses that are required within the specific engineering discipline.
Other advantages of taking the FE during college are the on-campus resources available to students. Students can utilize libraries and other designated spaces to prepare for the exam with minimal distractions. Students also have a plethora of resources such as instructors, other students, and most importantly professors! The on-campus aspect also gives candidates the option for individualized tutoring sessions that are more difficult to source post undergrad.
Students can also take advantage of group study sessions with other exam candidates. Additionally, preparing for the FE is easier during undergrad because the students are mentally more focused on institutional learning rather than other responsibilities such as having a full-time job. Full-time engineering jobs can be extremely time consuming and diminish the student’s ability to focus and properly prepare for the exam. In some cases, ABET accredited institutions make it mandatory that students take and/or pass the exam. This can be a great motivational tool, but it can also be very overwhelming to students who still have their collegiate obligations. This can undoubtedly lead to extreme pressure causing severe test anxiety. However, the advantages of taking the exam far outweigh the disadvantages.