A Professional Engineer or a PE is someone who commands respect among their peers and signals employers they are prepared to take on complex responsibilities. It’s also a title that signifies a hard-working person, who went through several years of school and work experience to get where they are.
Still, like most exams, the Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE) exam comes with a lot of stress and anxiety. But, if you are well-prepared, you pre-exam jitters will go away the moment you see the subjects and get into the “solving problems” mode.
So, if you feel a bit uneasy about your upcoming exam, here are three tips to help you prepare.
1. Organize your Actions
It’s important to take a few hours and prepare your studying sessions and schedule everything out in advance. This becomes even more crucial if you’re also going to work and have a family to take care of.
Quick note: Don’t let the studying for the last minute! Even though you have the knowledge and experience of previous years of study and work, this is still an exam that requires time and dedication.
Start with setting aside at least 1h each day for studying sessions. Also, divide your resources according to the material you need to study. It will be easier to tackle everything if you divide it into smaller steps.
2. Use Varied Resources
If you are currently employed, you may have the opportunity to borrow some codebooks from your office. Just talk to your managers and let them know you are preparing for the PE exam. You may get some free time as well and some companies also offer to help with the fees (even though it’s just a partial reimbursement).
Besides books, there are also some Professional Engineer (PE) courses you can take online. These are prep courses designed to help candidates to the PE exam. Such a course will help you identify your current preparedness level, your weaknesses, and your strengths.
In addition, there are other online resources you can use such as the NCEES website, engineering blogs, and subreddits.
3. Simulate the Exam Experience
It’s important to get used to the exam’s atmosphere, and nothing can do it better than practice exams.
This is an 8-hour exam, administered in pencil-and-paper format, that requires a lot of focus and stamina. As such, it’s important to practice focus for long periods of time, to build your mental capacity.
It’s also important to start slow and work up from there. Start with 4-hour practice sessions (make sure no one disturbs you during this time), with all the materials you would be allowed during the exam.
At first, there’s a high chance that you’ll get low scores. This is normal, especially since you are focusing on building stamina and getting used to the reference materials. Still, as you will take more practice sessions, you should see a dramatic improvement in both resistance and score.
Bonus: Have a Strategy
Given the time, the number of questions, and their degree of difficulty, it’s crucial to have a strategy during the actual exam. This will help you stay focused and measure your progress throughout the entire experience.
Most people who took the exam recommend these steps:
- Answer as many non-code as you can within the first third of the exam
- Next, move on to questions that pertain to codes – since you don’t have to do any complex calculations, this can be a nice break for your brain
- Start digging into those tough questions (there should be only a few left by now). Since you’ve already answered most questions, you should be more relaxed and confident now.
- Review your work and make sure you’ve given your all.
The PE exam is indeed difficult and draining, but it’s also worth it as it opens the door to better-paid jobs that bring more challenging projects your way. It’s also a way to prove yourself you’ve got what it takes to stand out from the crowd and be a great Professional Engineer!