Taking the next step in your engineering career can be both exciting and stressful. Preparing for the Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE) exam, like many of your engineering feats, is no walk in the park. Preparing for the exam includes hundreds of hours of studying and, most importantly, making sure you’ve met the right requirements to take the test. The requirements for the PE exam include:
- A four-year degree from an accredited engineering program.
- A passing grade on the Fundamentals in Engineering (FE) exam.
- Completed four years of engineering experience as an engineer-in-training (EIT) under a PE.
If you meet those requirements, congrats! The only thing standing between you and a professional engineering license is the PE exam. The exam may seem daunting, but NJSPE is here to provide you with a checklist to make preparing for exam as simple as possible.
10 tips for preparing for the PE exam
- Register for the exam. On the current NCEES website, there are tests scheduled out twice a year until 2026. Planning ahead will give you a clear deadline for when you should be done studying and will help you set goals.
- Tell your family and friends about what you’re doing. Explain to them why passing the PE exam and obtaining your professional engineering license is important to your career. Additionally, explain the process and what it will take to help you reach your goal.
- Study the exam format and subjects. Understandably, the exam format and subjects are different for each concentration of engineering. For a list of concentrations and exam-specific information, click here. Knowing the format and subjects leaves little room for surprise the day of the exam and will help you focus your studying.
- Read some advice from people who actually took the exam. The internet is full of blogs and forum feeds of professional engineers offering advice for people taking the PE exam. One especially useful blog post is this.
- Purchase PE study materials and join a review class. A review class may not be necessary for everyone. You know yourself and know how you learn best. Undoubtedly, PE study materials and reference books are essential. Rolling into the exam having done no practice problems or review will not be pretty.
- Decide what you are going to study. From studying the exam format and subjects, it should not be difficult to decide what you’ll spend your time on.
- Decide how you are going to study. Will you mostly solve practice problems? Review chapter theory from your own books? Use audio and video products? Attend a prep course? Figure out what will work best for you.
- Create a study schedule. Now that you know what you’re going to study, how you’re going to study, and when your test date is, it’s time to plan. The best way to maximize studying and your chance of scoring a professional engineering license is by staying organized. Allocate time for all of the subjects you want to study.
- Take practice exams. As you near your exam date, take one or more practice exams to evaluate your readiness. Continue to work on your weak subjects. It’s helpful to purchase a practice exam book along with your study materials.
- Assemble your day-of “kit.” Before your exam, make sure you get good night’s sleep. Pack your things needed for the exam: water bottles, energy drinks, snacks, a ruler, a watch, and a set of reference materials. With the exception of the structural exam, each exam is eight hours long. Longform test-taking does not come naturally. Be sure to pack the things you will need to keep your mind sharp and healthy.
Studying for and passing the PE exam is no easy task. If you follow these tips, stay on schedule, and focus on studying, you’ll be walking away from the exam with confidence. Good luck on obtaining your professional engineering license! For more on passing the PE exam, take a look at our FAQ.