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Five Tips for Passing the PE Civil Exam

  • 14 January, 2021

1 - Apply for the exam as soon as you can

I firmly believe that the closer you take the exam to your undergrad/grad school education the more bearable it will be. You'll not only remember more from that one fluid dynamics class you took junior year and never used again, but you're also more trained to study for exams at that stage in your life. You likely have less commitments to kids, spouses, etc. and maybe less responsibility at work. Finally, you may be holding yourself back from higher pay and more responsibility at work if you hesitate to take the exam. Preparing and taking the exam will never be easy but it's worth starting the process as early as you can.

2 - Make a Thoughtful Study Schedule

Make a study schedule that includes time for reading and taking notes on CERGPE Civil Exam Review Guide: Breadth (CERG) and PE Civil Exam Review Guide Depth and also spending time doing practice problems, taking a practice test (or two), and enjoying some intentional down time! A weekend off here or there can be great for mental health or the realistic possibility that you may not stick to the schedule as much as you should. For me this looked like studying for 3 months, with 1 weekend off each month. On the weekends, I would study and take notes from the CERG, and I dedicated two weeknights per week to practice problems. This really helped me to get it all done, while not burning myself out. Doing problems is so very important, so don't skimp on that part!

3 - Use tabs to access information quickly

Use tabs on your notes, codes, and CERG (or whatever references you have). The exam is really broad (not to mention long), so you're not going to memorize everything. You need to be able to find info you need quickly and the best way I've found to do this is to use tabs. Some people print out the index of the CERG so that you're not flipping back and forth a ton, but I found tabs to be the most effective tool for me.

Five Tips for Passing the PE Civil Exam

4 - Take a timed practice test two weekends before the exam

I highly recommend doing this. It's a great way to check where you are with the material, while still giving you a few weeks to study areas you may discover you struggle with. It also helps you make sure you have all the resources you want to have and simulates the test environment. I went into my office and sat in a conference room for an entire Saturday before I took the exam. It was helpful to be out of my apartment and only use my phone as a timer.

5 - Take some time off the weekend before the exam

The test is challenging in itself but one of the most overlooked challenges is the endurance and energy it takes to get through an eight-hour engineering exam. If you've followed the tips above, my #1 pre-exam tip is to go in well rested. Eat good food the week before, get good night sleeps the week before, and rest assured that you don't need to cram. You got this!

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