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Understanding the Basics of the PE Exam

To become a Professional Engineer (PE), you must complete two examinations. The first of these is the Fundamentals of Engineering Exam (FE), which most candidates complete during their senior year of college. After passing the FE exam, the final step to becoming a Professional Engineer and earning your license is to pass the Principles and Practice of Engineering exam (PE). Created by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying, the PE exam allows for demonstration of competency in your area of expertise.

What to Expect During the PE Exam

The topics covered during the PE exam can be summarized into 5 basic categories including construction, structural, transportation, geotechnical, and water resources & environmental topics. Candidates who live in California will also be tested on Seismic and Surveying material. To register for the exam, it’s advised that all students submit their application early. Early submission ensures enough time to be approved for the PE exam, as only eligible candidates may take it. In general, the PE exam is only offered once or twice per year at each location per state.

In contrast to the Fundamentals of Engineering Exam, outside reference materials may be used during the PE exam. These materials must be bound in a permanent binding of some sort, such as a three-ring spiral or book. Anything unbound such as lose papers or notes will not be permitted for use during the PE exam. You may write on any reference materials, and sticky notes or flags are permitted as long as they are attached directly to bound pages.

The test is composed of two sections, a morning exam, and an afternoon exam. It’s administered in four-hour blocks, with a lunch break in-between for all applicants, resulting in an eight-hour test day. Results are generally available within 8-10 weeks after the test is completed. Notification of available results will be given via email or through your online NCEES account. It is requested that applicants do not directly contact or telephone the board, as no scores will be given over the phone.

On exam day itself, all candidates must follow the seating instructions assigned by the instructor. Once the PE exam has started, no one will be allowed to enter the room (for security purposes and the validity of the exam). Should you need to use the restroom or leave for any other reason, only one candidate will be allowed to leave the room at a time. No test material may be taken outside of the room. During the final 30 minutes of each PE exam, no one will be allowed to leave or enter the room.

How to Prepare for the PE Exam

Preparing for the PE exam and familiarizing yourself is critical to success on exam day. Through our PE exam review course you will increase your confidence and knowledge needed for a successful score. Preparing for the exam ensures that you are familiar with the material being tested and will be able to perform under pressure. Learn more about preparing for the first step in your Professional Engineer career through our variety of PE exam courses: