The PE Exam is so broad, so random, and so unpredictable that it needs a different approach. Instead of wading through many big fat books, this article shows how preparation should be comprehensive but focused. It stresses the importance of practice.
Pass the PE Exam by preparing cleverly. Those old college methods won’t work here!
The fundamentals of engineering exam is likely the only exam that we’ll have taken that takes 8 hours. If we passed first time, we at least have that preparation. However, the exam format is so long and so unusual that we really need to prepare. The best way to get into the right approach to the PE Exam is practice. This kind of preparation is quite different from content preparation. Given enough time and a good library, we could all get a passing grade. But what about 6 minutes per question? This means our content preparation has to be thorough and we must practice jumping from mini question to mini question. The best way to prepare kind be likened to marathon running preparation. Fitness gurus tell us that we need to be running 18 miles to be able to run a 26-mile marathon. Similarly, if you have sat down to an uninterrupted two-hour session maybe three or four times, you’ll be ready to tackle the actual PE Exam with confidence.
So here’s my prescription. When you’ve covered the content and are ready to tackle the majority of problems, set aside some completely quiet time. The home can be full of distractions with family, phones, and doorbells. If you want to simulate the exam experience at home, set yourself up without distractions. Turn off your computer. Better yet, try these trail runs at 9AM and 1PM. Our body clocks are all different. Some of us warm up by midday. Others are ready early and fade. Pick your weaker time and set up your practice.
If you can’t isolate yourself at home for 2 hours, the public library is a good environment, because there will be other people in the background, and you’ll less likely to be distracted. Stay away from the children’s section.
Take your problem exams into your practice space without the solutions – just the questions. Twenty questions gives you a two-hour shot. Don’t peek at the questions ahead of time. When you go through the exercise you’ll experience the irritation of not quite understanding a problem. You’ll get to spend 10 minutes on one problem and two minutes on another. You’ll know what it’s like to go back to a problem and change your answer. You’ll know what it’s like to scribble your calculations in a way that won’t earn “partial credit”.
When the 120 minutes are over, take a break. Then go through the solutions in detail and reflect on the answers you modified, and how you felt as you took each problem. If you got 14 right, you’re in great shape because it loosely indicates that you’re at a passing level. If you’re under 14, don’t fret. Simply take a day or so off and repeat the process. Take time to review problems you got hopelessly wrong to prepare you for the next test. Remember, knowing what you don’t know is as important as knowing your strengths.
So, what’s the best way to prepare for the PE exam format? Practice, practice, and practice – but only after your content preparation is done.