Useful Checklist and an effective test taking strategy for the PE Exam

Passing the PE Exam is perhaps every engineer’s ambition and typically marks the culmination point following years of hard work and schooling.  The stamp, a seal of approval by the powers that be, provides an ego boost and opens doors and many opportunities.  The PE test itself is not easy. Understandably so considering what a PE license represents.  However, as in anything, successfully passing the test will depend on your ability to prepare and  optimize your time adequately during the test.

The following tips have been gathered over the years from PE test takers on what they believed are useful tips and effective test taking strategies.

Check List: Before the exam:

  • Thoroughly study for the exam, take a review course, and/or form a study group.
  • Check with the Board for an Application and current requirements for the exams.
  • Make sure you have an NCEES-approved calculator.
  • Familiarize yourself with your calculator and reference materials.
  • Make sure you are fully rested before the exam.

On the exam:

  • Read all the problems and sort by difficulty.
  • Estimate as much as possible.
  • Make efficient use of the calculator and your time.
  • Keep in mind, if it looks too hard you are not looking at it correctly.
  • Check the answers; make sure your answer is the answer to the question asked.

Common Test taking strategy

On of the most common strategy used by test takes is to carefully go over the test at the beginning and mentally categorize the questions based on what you anticipate to the level of difficulty.  A good classification system would classify questions into:

  1. “easy”,
  2. “will require some work” and “
  3. I don’t know “

Depending on your speed, this should take take no more that eight minutes.  After the classification,  answer the easy ones first making sure that you are answering them as quickly as possible. On the “will require some work” problems, do not spend your time completely calculating the problems. A natural human reaction is to start at the beginning and serially move to the end. You will not have time for that. Check as you are calculating, to see if you have enough information to isolate the answer. For multiple-choice questions, if two answers are correct and there is a selection for “all”, select it and go on. Try not to take the time to prove to yourself all the answers are correct. Use the answers from multiple choice questions to back calculate, this can save you time.  This almost goes without saying buy make sure you answer the right questions by checking the page number on the answer sheet.

At this point, you can go over the  “I don’t know” problems again, and filter the ones that you can quickly work out.  If none appear any easier than before,  analyze each problem differently.  This simply enables you to  have a deeper comprehension of the problem and also enables you to break the problem apart.

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