How to Study for the FE Exam

Fundamentals of Engineering Exam Prep

Passing the Fundamentals of Engineering Exam is the first step in obtaining an engineering license. Graduates who hold a Bachelor's degree in engineering must take the FE exam before they can apply for engineering positions. The only exceptions are for those who hold an advanced degree in engineering and those who have a work experience waiver.

The National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) administers the FE exam in April and October. The test consists of 180 multiple-choice questions and duration of the exam is eight hours. Because the exam is a mental marathon, you must study hard in the months before you take the FE. About 75% of test takers pass on the first attempt. With a combination of content review and speed and endurance practice, you can earn a high score and pass on your first try.

First, become familiar with the content and structure of the FE Exam. The 4-hour morning session of the test has 120 questions covering 12 subjects that include mathematics, chemistry, physics, engineering, computers, and the business and economics of engineering. This part of the exam is common to all test takers regardless of their subfield.

The 4-hour session in the afternoon is the Discipline Specific (DS) portion. The DS exam has 60 questions. You do not have to select a sub-discipline when you register for the test, but you must choose one on test day. The following sub-disciplines are available: civil, electrical, chemical, industrial, environmental, mechanical, or general. Engineering candidates in different disciplines will receive different sets of questions.

After you learn the test format, purchase practice materials for the FE Exam and sub-discipline. On the NCEES website, you can buy books of practice questions and half-length practice tests for the common section and the DS sections. Purchase study guides for several disciplines and decide with DS exam is easiest for you. The Lindeburg series of FE study guides is also an excellent resource.

On exam day, the only resource you can bring into the testing center is a scientific calculator from the list of approved calculators. The administrators will also provide you with a copy of the FE Supplied Reference Handbook. This is available to order on the NCEES website as book or printable PDF. Study the handbook before the exam; this reference is much easier to use during the exam if you have already read it.

Devise a study schedule that you can stick to. Depending on how long you have been out of school, you may need to devote 3 or more hours per week to FE review. Half-way through your studies, take a practice test to gauge your progress.

Do not take FE practice tests too early in your FE studies, save them until you are more prepped. FE practice exams are expensive and it is a waste if you do poorly.

Register for the exam as soon as you know the date you want to take it. You should take it soon after finishing school (or earlier) so that the material is fresher in your mind. The more time that passes between graduation and exam day, the more you will have to study.

Remember that you have 2 minutes per question in the morning and 4 minutes per question in the afternoon. Use this as a guide to pace yourself. Do not spend too long on any one question. Do easier questions first and save the harder ones for the end. This will build up your confidence and help you budget more time for the difficult questions.

One or two weeks before the FE Exam, take another practice test. Remember to time yourself accurately so that you can determine if your pace is too slow or too fast. If you are finishing the test quickly but missing several questions, slow down and focus more. Review questions you answer incorrectly so that you understand the rationale behind the correct answers.

© Had2Know 2010