How Long Does It Take to Study for the PE Civil Exam?
Once you've registered for the PE Civil exam and have chosen a depth section it's time to study. This is probably the most important and time-consuming task in preparing for the exam. The time it takes depends somewhat on your depth section and the type of review course you select. School of PE offers Live Online and Ondemand review courses and depending on social distancing requirements for COVID may offer in-person courses. I chose to study using the Ondemand review course. This was the most flexible and appropriate based on family, career, etc.
To determine how long studying will take, build a critical path schedule working backward from the date of your exam. You'll learn more about this in your review course, but here's a quick crash course. List all of the tasks in order and work backward from the date of the exam. Here's an example (you should determine task durations specific to your situation):
- Purchase reference material - 2 weeks with delivery
- Review course - 8 weeks
- Practice exams - 3 weeks
- Additional study for weaker topics - 2 weeks
- Date of Exam - October 22
Starting with the exam date of October 22, work backward through the tasks above to build your schedule. It will look something like this:
- Purchase reference material - July 6-July 20
- Review course - July 21-September 15
- Practice exams - September 16-October 6
- Additional study for weaker topics - October 7-October 20 (give yourself a break the day before the exam)
- Date of Exam - October 22
Building a high-level schedule like this will give you an idea of how long it will take to study, but there are a few tasks you'll want to drill down into. I recommend having all of your reference material prior to beginning the review course. While this isn't absolutely necessary, it will give you the most time to become familiar with the material. Determine how long it will take to identify, purchase, and have the material delivered.
The review course is specific to the depth section you've chosen. Determine the time commitment it will require to complete this. If you're doing an Ondemand course, you'll have more flexibility, but it will also require more discipline. I recommend finishing each video in a single session during uninterrupted time. For me this took place between 5 AM and 7 AM every weekday before work, and many weekends. Some of my colleagues used 2- to 4-hour blocks right after the workday. Others studied for 8 to 12 hours on the weekends. If your review course is longer or you want to block more time for note taking and solving practice problems, make that task duration longer.
Taking practice exams are an essential part of studying for the PE Exam. I used a 3-week block of time prior to the exam. I took one practice exam every Saturday for the 3 weeks, and used the weekdays in between to review areas I was weak in.
Ideally, your job and life circumstances will allow you to focus on studying for the PE Exam. This isn't always the case. If you aren't able to study as much each day, start earlier by increasing each task duration. If you aren't able to start sooner (and this is the least desirable scenario), be selective about what you focus your study on and overlap tasks. You can get reference material purchased and delivered while starting the review course. Focus on topics you're not as strong in. Take practice exams early to determine where to focus your study. Remember, your goal is to maximize the number of right answers on the PE Exam.
As you can tell, passing the PE Civil Exam takes some early planning and discipline throughout the study process. By starting early, setting expectations with colleagues and family, and being disciplined you will have the best possible chance of passing the PE Civil Exam.