PE Exam Retake: Using Your Diagnostic Report

If you failed the PE exam this time around, don’t get discouraged! In the email you received that included your score, you should have also received a diagnostic report. This report indicates what subject areas on the exam you did well or poorly on. Utilizing your diagnostic report gives you a big advantage when trying for your professional engineering license again. In future study sessions, you’ll know exactly what subjects you should be focusing harder on.

If you’re taking a pencil-and-paper exam, your diagnostic report will look like this.

If you’re taking a computer-based test (CBT), your diagnostic report will look like this.

Understanding Your Diagnostic Report


In your report, you’ll notice all subjects from the exam in the ‘Knowledge Area’ column. Each subject corresponds with the number of questions asked related to that subject. The next two columns are your performance in that subject, followed by the average score of passing examinees. The average examinee is indicated by a dashed line, and your score is indicated by a solid line.

For example, in the ‘Mass & Energy Balances & Thermodynamics: Mass Balances’ subject, the sample examinee got three questions correct out of nine. Compared to the average passing examinee, this sample tester did not do so well. For the next exam, he or she will probably study harder for Mass & Energy Balances & Thermodynamics, Mass Transfer, Kinetics: Reaction Rate, and Plant Design & Operation: Process Control.

Computer-based tests

Out of all of the PE disciplines, only two exams are computer-based (nuclear and chemical exams). The example diagnostic report above shows examples of an FE exam and uses similar scoring methods as the pencil-and-paper report. You’ll notice there is a column for knowledge area and number of questions asked, and the comparison of your performance to the average of the passing examinee. However, on this report, your performance is ranked on a scale of 0 to 15. The scaled score adjusts for any minor differences in difficulty across the different exam forms.

Like the pencil-and-paper report, you are able to see where you fall compared to the average passing examinee to determine your focus for future study sessions.


Using your diagnostic report as a study tool will give you an edge for passing the PE exam and get you that much closer to receiving your professional engineering license. For more study tips, check out our blog on how to improve your study sessions. Good luck!

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