Preparing for the October PE Exam

2021 Examination Dates: October 21 -22, 2021

The exams offered in October are:

The exam administration will take place over two days—Thursday, October 21 and Friday, October 22. All exam site locations are currently proceeding with reduced capacity restrictions in place. Changes to state and local requirements that further reduce capacities for groups and events may impact the number of examinees that are able to test at a specific site.

View the October 2021 exam site procedures regarding COVID-19 here.

Taking the next step in your engineering career is 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:

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 help!  

Provided below is an easy to follow checklist that will make preparing for the exam as simple as possible.


  1. Register for the exam. On the current NCEES website, there are tests scheduled out twice a year until 2026. The 2021 examination date are October 21- 22, 2021. Planning ahead will give you a clear deadline for when you should be done studying and will help you set goals.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Read 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.
  5. Purchase PE study materials and join a review class. Undoubtedly, PE study materials and reference books are essential. Rolling into the exam having done no practice problems or review will not be pretty. You can purchase exam prep materials here. A review class may not be necessary for everyone. You know yourself and know how you learn best. 
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. Assemble your day-of “kit.” Before your exam, make sure you get a 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! 

Next Steps After Passing the PE Exam

Congratulations to all the young engineers who made it through years of studying, training, and working to finally pass the PE exam! For many, this time can spark anxiety in new professional engineers wondering, ‘what should I do next?” If you are wondering how to best put your PE exam results to use, let the New Jersey Society of Professional Engineers help guide you.

  1. Submit your results to the New Jersey state board to obtain your license. A professional engineering license comes with a host of benefits for engineers, so this is an important step. Licensed engineers can sign, seal, and submit engineering plans to the public. Licensure also helps to ensure career adaptability, get a job in education, the government, public sectors, and more.
  2. Show off your new designation. Be sure to include your new designation where ever necessary (and possible!). Include PE on business cards, email signatures, job applications, and more. Be sure to note the state where you received your license, which for most members of the New Jersey Society of Engineers, is New Jersey.
  3. Request a wall certificate for your office or home. A wall certificate is an important way to show to clients that you have the skills and experience for the job. Once you request your wall certificate, it should arrive in a few weeks after passing the PE exam. Often there is a small fee associated with receiving the certificate.
  4. Get your stamp/seal. As previously mentioned, engineers can only sign, seal, and submit plans after becoming licensed. A stamp/seal helps to show your authority within the industry and proves your status as a professional engineer. There are no strict guidelines with stamp/seal design, but they must be round, include the phrase “professional engineer,” your name, license number, and the state where you are licensed.

Passing the PE exam is an exciting time for young engineers. By following these steps after receiving your result, you will be making the most of your new designation. Another great way to boost your career as an engineer is to join professional engineering associations such as the New Jersey Society of Professional Engineers. 

Check out the awesome benefits of joining NJSPE >>

PE Exam Prep Resources

Need some last-minute PE exam study resources? You’ve come to the right place. Making it to the PE exam in and of itself is a feat. Once you get past this next milestone you’ll officially be a professional engineer, as long as you pass the exam! Use these PE exam prep materials to better your chance of getting a passing grade:

NCEES exam prep

The National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) develop and administer the PE exam, so why not take a page out of their book to get study materials from them? NCEES offers practice exams for all of the different concentrations. These practice exams include questions from past exams and it’s the same format, style, and level of difficulty as the actual exam. 
Learn more >>  

PPI practice materials

The National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE) features PPI on its website for exam review and preparation. PPI is part of the Kaplan Professional family, so you can be sure you’re getting top-quality PE exam prep materials. PPI offers resources in a variety of formats as well including print, digital, eTextbook, eLearning, and video.
Learn more >>

School of PE prep courses

School of PE has been offering PE exam review courses since 2004 and all of their instructors are professional engineers and have experience teaching. School of PE offers a variety of ways to learn: on demand, live online, and in-person (COVID-19 permitting). Whichever avenue you sign up for, you’ll be able to access School of PE’s online Study Hub to stay organized in your preparation. 
Learn more >>

PE exam prep guide from Engineering Management Institute

This guide on was posted in 2014, but the information for helping you pass the PE exam is still relevant! This isn’t a study packet or a pre-test, it’s a guide for how you should be studying from someone that actually took the exam. The post explains strategies for studying efficiently and organizing your study material for success. We recommend you give it a read!
Learn more >> 

If you’re taking the exam this October, good luck! If you’re reading this and you’re not taking it until next year, use as much of these resources as you can to maximize your chance of success.

What You Need to Know About the October PE Exam

As many of you reading this probably know, this year’s April PE paper-and-pencil exam was canceled due to COVID-19. About 16,000 examinees were impacted. To accommodate these examinees, the format of the upcoming October 2020 exam has been modified. Read on to see what has changed for the upcoming PE exams.

The biggest issue for the upcoming PE exam has been testing center capacity. Back in May, Pearson VUE began to open temporary testing centers across the country to increase capacity. Overall capacity has been reduced to maintain social distancing requirements, which isn’t great news for the 16,000 examinees that we’re forced to reschedule their exams and the examinees that were originally planning on taking the test in October. If you are impacted by reduced capacity requirements, you should have received a notification email from Pearson VUE. 

In October, most testing centers will require examinees to bring their own face masks for admittance. Each state is different, so please make sure you check in with your testing center to confirm specific requirements prior to testing! 

See exam site procedures for October exams below:

October 2020 exam site procedures regarding COVID-19

To help ensure the health, safety, and welfare of examinees and proctoring teams, NCEES is implementing the following measures for the October 2020 exam administration.

Examinees must review and satisfy the following requirements before being admitted to an exam site. No one will be admitted to the exam site if they have met any of the COVID-19 qualifications listed below.

  • Tested positive for COVID-19

UNLESS symptom-free and fever-free for at least 72 hours without the use of fever-reducing medicine AND at least 14 days have passed since your last exposure, or you have received two negative COVID-19 test results in a row, 24 hours apart.

  • Experiencing (or have experienced) one or more associated symptoms the last fourteen (14) days: shortness of breath, cough, fever, chills, sore throat, loss of smell

UNLESS you have been symptom-free and fever-free for at least 72 hours without the use of fever-reducing medicine.

  • Live with or have had close contact with someone who has confirmed or suspected COVID-19

UNLESS at least 14 days have passed since your last exposure.

  • Have been or are currently under home quarantine or centralized observation by government or healthcare authorities

UNLESS at least 14 days have passed since your quarantine or centralized observation has been lifted by the government or healthcare authorities.

Examinees who meet the above conditions on exam day and are admitted to the exam site must agree to follow the below guidelines on exam day.

  • Examinees will be seated alone and properly distanced from other tables.
  • Examinees and proctors are required to wear face masks at all times.
  • Examinees must practice social distancing at all times.
  • Examinees will be allowed to have hand sanitizer and wipes, extra face coverings, and disposable gloves in the exam room; they must be placed on the floor during the exam.

New information is evolving every week when it comes to COVID-19 and requirements for the PE exam. Stay up to date with the newest information by monitoring your email with updates from Pearson VUE and keep an eye on the latest information about testing from NCEES.

A COVID-19 and PE Licensure Update

Due to increased health concerns and state-mandated stay-at-home orders, the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) has canceled the April 2020 paper-and-pencil PE exam. This has impacted about 16,000 examinees. To accommodate these examinees, dates have been added for October 2020. 

New dates for the PE exam are as follows:

Thursday, October 22, 2020
Civil: Geotechnical
Civil: Transportation
Civil: Water Resources and Environmental
SE Vertical Forces Bridges
SE Vertical Forces Buildings

Friday, October 23, 2020
Agricultural and Biological Engineering
Architectural Engineering
Civil: Construction
Civil: Structural
Control Systems
Electrical and Computer: Computer Engineering
Electrical and Computer: Electronics, Controls, and Communications
Electrical and Computer: Power
Metallurgical and Materials
Mining and Mineral Processing
Naval Architecture and Marine
SE Lateral Forces Bridges
SE Lateral Forces Buildings


Will my April registration roll over to the October exam? 
No! Registration for the October 2020 pencil-and-paper exam will open at 10:00 a.m. EDT on June 1, 2020 and close at 3:00 p.m. EDT on August 20.

Will my money be refunded for the cancelled April PE exam?
Yes! Examinees who are registered to take an exam in April 2020 are receiving a full refund of fees paid to NCEES. 

What about the computer-based tests?
Pearson VUE, which administers NCEES computer-based exams, closed its professional test centers and will remain closed until conditions are deemed safe to reopen. If you have been impacted by this closure, you are able to reschedule your exam without paying a rescheduling fee.

PE Licensure Updates

2020 license renewal deadlines are officially pushed back until June 30, 2020. Renewal applications are all by mail this year. They were mailed out in February 2020 and will NOT be available online! The renewal grace period has been extended as well between July 1 and July 31, 2020. 

Stay updated with NJSPE! Become a member today and you’ll receive member benefits like the latest news impacting the industry, discounted continuing education courses, and more. Become a member today >>

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, 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

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


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.

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