Everything You Need to Pass the Electrical Engineering PE Exam

The next PE electrical and computer exam will be held in Fall 2019. To be fully prepared to pass, you should take a few months to plan and build your study materials. Maybe it has been a few years since you’ve taken a serious exam, so you may be a little rusty with studying. Not to worry because we have you covered! Here, you’ll learn what to expect from the exam, the best ways to study, and where you can find helpful materials to study.

What you can expect

The electrical and computer exam is an eight-hour open-book exam, containing 40 multiple choice questions in the four-hour morning session and 40 multiple choice questions in the four-hour afternoon session. The questions require a variety of approaches and methodologies, including design, analysis, and application. The exam features questions on subjects like general electrical engineering knowledge, digital systems, electromagnetics, electronics, control systems, and communications. A breakdown of each category and the approximate number of questions for each can be found here.

How to study for the exam

For this open-book exam, you are allowed to bring bound reference materials, and they must remain bound for the duration of the exam. Loose papers can be bound with ring binders, brads, plastic snap binders, spiral-bound notebooks, or screw posts. As you’re studying, it’s beneficial to organize the information that will be the most important to bring with you.

It is also helpful to create a schedule for your studying. For some subjects, there will be more questions than others, so pay attention to this when you are breaking up your study time. When you organize what you will bring to the exam, remember that sometimes, less is more. Having to flip through potentially hundreds of pages of notes to find an answer will eat into your exam time. When doing practice exams, notice what subjects you are weakest in and focus your materials a little more on those.

Electrical engineering exam materials

To prep for your exam, The National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) offers practice exams, supplied-reference handbooks, and free PDF downloads to aid your studying. The practice exam will also contain 80 questions and will familiarize you with the subjects and layout of the exam. All electrical engineering exam materials can be found and purchased on your MyNEECS account.

On ppi2pass.com, you’ll find exam prep bundles, which include a reference manual, practice problems, practice exams, an NEC quick-card, engineering unit conversions, customizable book tabs, and a scientific calculator. See the bundles here. They also offer a number of a la carte manuals and practice exams.

Hopefully you take these materials and go on to crush the PE electrical and computer exam! Have any other topics you’d like more information on? Drop us an email at info@njspe.org

How to Obtain Your License After Passing the PE Exam

Congratulations on passing your PE exam! Months of learning and studying has paid off, and you’re probably asking yourself, “When do I receive my professional engineering license?” Unfortunately, after passing the exam, obtaining your actual license isn’t as easy as waiting by mailbox.

The process for obtaining your license varies state by state; the following information applies to New Jersey engineers. To find your state’s licensing board process, click here.

At the beginning of your PE exam journey, you should have filled out an exam application, like this. This application was your gateway to be able to take the exam, as the state licensing board must grant approval. Once you’ve passed the PE exam, your application is reviewed again by the state licensing board. Each month, the licensing board members meet to determine who will receive a PE license. The board goes through hundreds of applications at every meeting, meaning it could be a few weeks before your application is officially approved.

Upon full approval, you will receive a License Activation form – the final step to obtaining your professional engineering license. Send your activation form, along with the licensure fee ($80 – check or money order made payable to the State of New Jersey), to:

State Board of Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors
124 Halsey Street, 3rd Floor
P.O. Box 45015
Newark, New Jersey 07101

Once you officially become a professional engineer, you can reap all the benefits of licensure. Like printing business cards with your new title, displaying your certificate on the wall, purchasing a personalized stamp/seal, negotiating a higher wage at work, and joining a professional engineering society, like NJSPE. Learn more about the benefits of joining a professional engineering society here.

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

Pencil-and-paper

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!

Post PE Exam: What to Expect

After months and months of studying, you finally took your PE exam. Whether you felt awesome or just not sure after the exam, you’ll have to do a bit of waiting before you find out your score and next steps towards licensure. There are some important differences between the computer-based exams and pencil-and-paper exams when it comes to the waiting period, scoring procedures, and next steps after you pass or fail.

Computer-based exams

Typically, results for computer-based exams are determined much faster than pencil-and-paper exams; they are usually available seven to 10 days after you take the exam. An email will be sent out with instructions to view your results. Your exam results are reported as pass or fail, with your score being based on the number of correct answers you selected. The good news is your score is not affected by incorrect answers. After the number of correct answers are tallied, your score is then converted to a scaled score, this adjusts for any minor differences in difficulty across the different exam forms. Your scaled score represents your ability level and is compared to the minimum ability level for that particular exam. Since every exam differs, there is no predetermined passing score.

Pencil-and-paper exams

A majority of the PE exams are pencil-and-paper exams. The results of these\ exams typically take about eight to 10 weeks to be sent out, depending on the licensing board you selected during the registration process. The process for scoring and releasing results for pencil-and-paper exams are similar to computer-based tests (CBT) in many ways. However, there are also some key differences. You should receive an email with instructions for viewing your results, which will be reported as pass or fail, and you are not penalized for incorrect answers.

Unlike CBTs, there is a rigorous process for scoring exams. Each exam undergoes extensive statistical analysis to determine the minimum level of performance required for a passing score. All answer sheets are scanned and a psychometric analysis is performed on a sample of answer sheets to identify any questions with unusual statistics. These questions are then flagged for review by licensed engineers or surveyors. They also take into consideration examinee comments about specific exam questions. If there is an error in a question, credit may be given for more than one answer. When all of the reviews are complete, the answer keys are changed as necessary, and it is time for exam scoring. Answer sheets are typically machine-graded, but there is a percentage of answer sheets that are manually scored and compared to the machine score to ensure accuracy. For a fee, you may request that your exam be manually verified.

If you pass your exam, congratulations! The next steps you should be taking after passing the exam are highlighted in our blog post here.

If you do not pass your exam, don’t be discouraged! For CBTs, NCEES policy allows examinees to attempt an exam one time per testing window and no more than three times in a 12-month period. For pencil-and-paper exams, the number of times you are allowed to take an exam varies by licensing board. View the policy of your specific licensing board here. In the email you receive with your test results, you will also receive a diagnostic report showing your performance for each of the major topics covered on the exam. The next time you take the exam, you’ll be able to crush those hard topics!

If you’re in the waiting period to get your PE exam results, take a deep breath! You’ve studied and gave the exam your best. Whether you pass or fail, you’re now equipped with your next steps to go forth and crush it.

Your Day-of PE Exam Checklist

As the fall 2018 PE exam date crawls near, you may be doing some last minute cramming and starting to think about what you should have with you on exam day. We’ve mentioned this before – the PE exam rules for what you can and cannot have are very strict, so it’s important to spend some time familiarizing yourself with them before exam day. To make things a little easier, here is a checklist you can print out the night before exam day so you have everything you need:

  • Government-issued ID, valid passport, or military ID
  • Printed copy of your exam authorization
  • One calculator
    • Casio fx-115 and fx-991
    • HP 33s and HP 35s
    • TI-30X and TI-36X
  • Non-smart wristwatch
  • Glasses (but leave the case at home)
  • Two straightedges
    • Ruler
    • Protractor
    • Triangle
    • Scale
  • Bound reference materials with no loose papers
  • Earplugs
  • Non-electronic handheld magnifying glass
  • Protein bars, pretzels, candy, or other small snacks
  • Non-alcoholic beverages, such as water, soda, or Gatorade
  • Leave cell phone, tablets, and smartwatches at home or in the car
  • Don’t wear hats or hoods unless it’s for a religious reason
  • Don’t worry about pens, pencils, or erasers

Remember, rules for the PE exam are very strict and are taken very seriously. Preparing what you can and cannot bring the night before will ensure you are in compliance with regulations, making check-in and the exam itself easier. Looking for some more information related to the PE exam? You can check out all our most recent PE exam resources and blogs here.

What to do if you Need to Reschedule your Computer-based PE Exam

If you’re hoping to get your professional engineering license, you should be well on your way to studying and making reference materials for exam day. Being prepared is the best way to ensure you can concentrate on the PE exam and get the results you’re looking for. But what happens if something stops you from taking your exam, such as an injury or death in the family? Unfortunately, these things do happen, and it’s good to know how to proceed if it does.

For those seeking a professional engineering license in chemical or nuclear engineering, don’t think you can just reschedule last minute since the exam is computer-based. Instead, familiarize yourself with the protocol of what’s allowed and what’s not and how to proceed if you can’t make your scheduled exam day.

Cancellations and Refunds

When you cancel your exam, you may not receive a refund if you cancel too close to the exam date. If you cancel more than 48 hours before the exam, you will receive a refund of the NCEES registration fee minus a $50 administrative fee. Cancellations less than 48 hours before the exam will not be accepted.

Rescheduling

The rules are different for testers wishing to reschedule their exams. If you reschedule, you must pay a rescheduling fee. However, those who reschedule 24 to 48 hours prior to the exam time must pay a higher rescheduling fee than the others. No rescheduling will be accepted 24 hours or less before the exam.

Exceptions

There are a few exceptions to the cancellation and refund rules. You may reschedule without a fee or cancel and receive a full refund for the following reasons: illness to yourself or immediate family member, death in the immediate family, disabling traffic accident, court appearance or jury duty, or military duty. To be eligible for these exceptions, you must provide written documentation within 14 days following the exam. Please note: if there’s inclement weather but the test site is still open, everyone is still required to attend – no exceptions.

Where to Cancel and Reschedule

If you wish to cancel or reschedule your computer-based exam, log in to your MyNCEES account and follow the instructions. The funds will be issued to your credit card within seven to 10 business days if you qualify to receive them.

We hope you don’t have to reschedule or cancel your computer-based PE exam. But if you do, hopefully this information can point in you in the direction of what to do and what to expect. Are you a professional engineering license hopeful looking for more great information about the exam? Check out this page.

How to Nail Check-in the Day of your Professional Engineering Exam

If you’re like most people, making sure you have everything you need to check-in and sit for the exam can be as stressful as worrying about acing the exam itself. While the check-in instructions can slightly vary based on your test location, here are the main things you need to have prepared on the day of your professional engineering exam:

  • Exam authorization – this is emailed to you about two weeks before your exam day, and it is very important! When you receive it, review it to ensure your name is spelled correctly, you have the proper test site, and the test date is correct. If there are any errors, contact the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying immediately to remedy it. The authorization will also include instructions for what to do when you arrive to the test location. Please print and bring this authorization with you on the day of the professional engineering exam, because it is necessary for check-in. Forgetting it could delay or cancel your check-in.
  • Identification – to be clear, not all identification is appropriate for checking in to the professional engineering exam. You must have one of the following: a government-issued identification that was provided by the country you are testing in, a passport from your country of citizenship, or a U.S. military ID. These identification items include a clear picture, date of birth, name, signature, and expiration date. If any of those pieces are missing, your ID will not be accepted, and you will be turned away from taking the exam.

The information on your exam authorization and your provided ID must match. That means if you got married and recently changed your last name, both documents must have either your new last name or old last name. No exceptions.

Once your authorization and ID are checked, the proctor will show you your assigned seat and ask you to turn over any prohibited items, and then you’re all set to take the exam. Have any questions? Drop us a line at info@njspe.org

Big Things to Avoid on your PE Exam Day

The PE exam is designed to test how professional, ethical, and knowledgeable an engineer is before they receive the distinction of professional engineer. Because of how important this distinction is, it should come as no surprise that the exam is taken very seriously. If you are unfamiliar with the important things to steer clear of when it comes to the PE exam, the following actions will result in either rejection from entering the test area, ejection from the test area, and/or invalidation of exam results with no refund:

  • Arriving late to the exam (no one will be admitted into the test area once the exam instructions are given)
  • Failing to provide government-issued identification or printed exam authorization
  • Having a cell phone, smartwatch, tablet, or other electronic device in the test area
  • Having any device with recording capabilities in the test area, including tape recorders, cameras, video cameras, and similar items
  • Using loose leaf paper, notepads, or unbound reference materials during the exam
  • Cheating off or looking at another tester’s answer sheet or notes
  • Talking to or working with another tester during the exam, whether cheating or not
  • Using a non-approved calculator during the exam
  • Using any writing instrument or eraser other than the utensil provided to you at the test site
  • Pulling pages out of your exam booklet or reference materials
  • Leaving the exam area without receiving approval from the proctor
  • Beginning the exam prior to when the instructor tells you to
  • Continuing to work on the exam after the proctor asks you to stop
  • Writing on anything other than the exam booklet or answer sheet provided to you
  • Violating any instructions given to you at the test site or outlined in the information provided to you when registering

Failure to comply with these guidelines will result in dismissal from the exam or rejection from entering the exam area with no refunds given. If you are found with any restricted items during the exam, the item will be sent to the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying for investigation. Depending on how serious the infraction is, further action may be taken.

At the New Jersey Society of Professional Engineers, we want to ensure you succeed! Please pay close attention to these exam no-nos, and remember: if you are unsure about whether an item is allowed into the test area, always ask for permission beforehand. If you’re looking for some more helpful information about the PE exam, check out this blog.

How to know if you are Eligible for PE Exam Special Accommodations

If you’re hoping to become a New Jersey professional engineer, the biggest obstacle in your way is the PE exam. When you register to sit for the exam, you will see a section regarding special exam accommodations. This is for people who have a special circumstance that requires a different test date, different test location, specific item typically not allowed in the test environment, and other unique accommodations. There are three situations where you may request special accommodations for the PE exam when you provide the proper documentation:

  • Disabilities – individuals with disabilities outlined in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) may request the accommodations suited for their needs. This includes anyone with a physical or mental impairment that limits the ability to complete major life activities. You can learn more about requesting ADA accommodations here.
  • Military – active-duty members of the U.S. Armed Forces are also eligible for special accomodations. You may request to take the exam in a separate state rather than the one you are applying for licensure in, particularly if it’s where you are stationed or serving. Proof of active-duty status is required.
  • Religious – if you are a member of a religion where you observe the Sabbath, you may request to take the PE exam on a different date. However, documentation from your specific religious official must be submitted.

These special accommodations must be requested ahead of the scheduled exam date. Once you request the accommodations, you will receive an email with instructions on how to proceed. If you are unsure if you qualify for receiving special accommodations, email the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying at accommodations@ncees.org. Don’t let anything stop you from becoming a New Jersey professional engineer!

7 Scientifically Proven Ways to Improve Your Studying

From standardized tests in grade school to pulling all nighters for final exams, as an engineer, you’re no stranger to studying. Just when you thought you’d broken the shackles of long-form studying, along comes the PE exam. The PE exam is a whole different ball of wax, consisting of 80 questions over an eight-hour period. For specific exam information on each engineering discipline, click here. By taking and passing the PE exam, you can take your career to new heights and explore your options for New Jersey engineering memberships. Follow these study tips to ensure you ace the test!

Seven ways to improve your study sessions:

  1. Get your cardio on. Exercise is always good for your body, but when it comes to studying, exercise is extremely beneficial for memory, attention, information processing, and problem solving. Exercise increases the levels of an important brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which aids in the growth of brain cells, mood, and learning. It also releases hormones, such as serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. Getting your heart rate up for just 20 minutes a day can be beneficial.
  2. Try some classical music. University of Dayton researchers found that fast-tempo background music increased cognitive performance. In the study, participants listened to clips of Mozart pieces. Results determined that the background music increased speed of spatial processing and the accuracy of linguistic processing. This study only experimented with instrumental music, so try something without lyrics!
  3. Write down/print your study material. Research suggests traditional print materials have the upper hand when it comes to studying. A psychology lecturer found that students required more repetition to learn new material if they were reading on a computer screen versus reading printed material. Plus, as you’re writing a study guide or flashcards, you’re processing the information better!
  4. Take breaks to destress. Stress is never good, especially when it comes to learning. UC Irvine researchers found that stress lasting even just a few hours can engage hormones that disrupt the process of creating and storing memories. Study breaks are always beneficial, and during these breaks, it’s a good idea to exercise or take a few deep breaths to lower your stress level. Study breaks are recommended after every hour of learning for at least 15 minutes.
  5. Review before bed. Studying while you’re tired can actually help your brain retain higher concentrations of new skills. The term for it is sleep-learning. The memory-consolidation process does its best work during slow-wave sleep, so reviewing study materials before bed can help your brain learn while you’re sleeping!
  6. Practice teaching the material. Research has shown that students have better memory and recall abilities when they learn new information with the expectation of having to teach it to someone else. Learning material with the intent to teach ensures the material is actively understood and stored away in memory. Plus, the act of reviewing your studying materials out loud, as if you’re teaching someone, aids in understanding by working out problems in real time.
  7. Prevent the “curve of forgetting” with interval studying. The “curve of forgetting” is essentially this: the first time you hear a lecture or study something new, you retain up to 80 percent of it – if you review the material within 24 hours. After a week, you may retain 100 percent of the same information after only five minutes of review. Scientists agree this type of interval studying (as opposed to cramming) is best. Rather than waiting a week before the PE exam to review that new topic you learned three weeks ago, try reviewing it closer to when you learned it.

The next PE exam date is October 26, so try out these tips for creating a study schedule to help you stay on track, and get the most out of your exam materials to ace the test.

A PE license opens many doors to new opportunities, and when these opportunities start popping up, having a New Jersey engineering membership at NJSPE can help. By following these study tips, you’ll have the upperhand and will crush the PE exam. Happy studying!

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