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Planning Your Comeback: Preparing to Retake Your Exam

  • 20 September, 2021

You've been studying for what seems like ages. Exam day rolls around and you leave the testing center feeling confident that you answered all the problems to the best of your ability. All that hard work is going to pay off, you just know it! After a few weeks, though, you receive the results from your exam. To your dismay, you did not pass. Now what? Your first response is likely to be flooded with negative emotions as you think about the time away from your friends and family that you spent instead on exam preparation. You may experience thoughts of shame in sharing with your loved ones that you did not achieve the goal you have been striving towards. You may be frustrated with yourself for not clearing up more time to prepare. One of the most important things to consider upon receiving a failing grade is that you are not the first to do so, and you will certainly not be the last. Engineering exams are designed to be challenging, and even individuals who study for a significant amount of time are not guaranteed to pass. However, a failing grade does not signify the end of your journey to becoming a licensed engineer. Here are a few points to consider moving forward before retaking the exam.

1. Change Study Efforts: Our first suggestion is to reflect on your preparation process and determine where you could make improvements. Did you start studying months in advance and stop studying weeks in advance? Did you study only when you could squeeze it in, or did you create a dedicated study schedule? Did you study at all or did you believe you already knew the material well enough? Understanding exactly what you did to prepare the first time is critical for improving your chances the next time around.

Think about what resources you used to prepare and how you used them. Did you gain familiarity with your NCEES Reference Handbook by working through numerous practice problems? Did you employ content retrieval, one of the most beneficial study tactics, where you quizzed yourself on important definitions, concepts, and equations? We recommend writing down every study effort you made: reading textbooks, watching lectures or YouTube videos, solving practice problems, etc. Then, with this list in mind, you can consider what worked and what didn't and institute new tactics before your next exam attempt.

Planning Your Comeback: Preparing to Retake Your Exam

2. Tweak Test Tactics: Next, consider refining your test-taking methods. You might have studied for months, but with some testing anxiety and nerves added to the mix, everything you learned could have gone out the window. Don't let this happen! Other factors related to your lack of success could include, but are not limited to, taking more time than necessary per problem, not using your calculator, failing to make an educated guess, and/or confusing imperial and SI units.

One strategy one of our previous students recommends is to briefly read every problem at the beginning of the first half of the exam and rank them in terms of difficulty. For example, questions labeled with a 1 would be easier questions that you're confident on. Questions labeled with a 4 would be questions you have no idea how to answer. Start by answering all the questions labeled with a 1, then work your way throughs questions labeled 2, 3, and 4. This way, you will have already answered the questions you're mostly likely to get right before you address any questions you're less familiar with. Once you move on to the second half, you will not be permitted to go back to the first half, so read the questions thoroughly and carefully. Your results will be based on the total number of correct answers. There are no deductions for incorrect answers, so be careful to answer every question. Keep in mind that your exam results will provide a breakdown of how you scored in each category. This will help you determine the areas where you most need to improve on your next attempt.

3. Take an Exam Review Course: Our final tip to help you pass your exam on the next attempt is to consider taking an exam review course with a leading professional education provider like School of PE. Choosing a reputable provider will ensure you receive the teaching and resources needed for success. With more than 17 years of experience helping students pass their professional exams and gain licensure, we have streamlined the resources we provide to facilitate a passing grade on exam day. Our expert instructors generate not only the lectures for our courses but also concise handouts that many of our students noted were integral for exam preparation. If you failed your exam, a review course may be able to provide the missing piece to your preparation efforts.

Preparing for, taking, and passing NCEES exams can be extremely challenging, and for good reason! Engineers are expected to be the best and brightest in order to make integral decisions on design, construction, and repair. Engineering has an extremely low threshold for errors, which explains the detailed and complex journey to becoming a professional engineer. Failing your exam does not mean you should throw in the towel on your dreams of becoming a licensed engineer. Rather, it provides you with a unique opportunity to adjust and improve your exam preparation efforts, and now you'll know what to expect the next time.

Contact School of PE to find out more about how we can help you prepare for your next exam with confidence!

About the Author: Martha Hunsucker

Martha Hunsucker is a content writer for EduMind. She received her BA in English from Stetson University and has experience marketing, copywriting, editing, and blogging. In her spare time, she enjoys reading books by Jon Krakauer (her current favorite author), hiking with her two dogs, and sleeping in on weekends.

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