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Whatís the best way to study?

Effective studying techniques vary from person to person.The following is a good set of guidelines from Avalon Press.


Where do I start preparing?

The following procedure will be used to develop your study plan:


  1. Sort the list of topics by your knowledge level in your discipline
  2. Select topics for study
  3. Develop a study schedule

Your study plan will consist of a schedule organized by topic. It will take you about 30 minutes to develop a good schedule, but it will reduce your anxiety level and save you hours of unnecessary studying.


  1. Sort the list of topics by your knowledge level

First, review the list of topics in your discipline (Appendix J). Second, rank the topics by your knowledge level. Label the topic that you are most familiar with a "1" and label the topic that you are least familiar with the highest number. For example, if there are 20 topics in your discipline, rank the topic you are least familiar with a "20" and the topic your are most familiar with a "1." Assign ranking numbers to all other topics.


  1. Select topics for study

The next step is to select the topics that you will study. This is easy if you are taking the test in a discipline such as Industrial Engineering, which has 8 problems and you must solve them all. In this case, you will have to study every topic. However, selecting topics is more difficult if you are taking the exam in a discipline such as Electrical Engineering, which has 24 problems and you must solve 8 of them; in this case, you should select the most familiar topics for you.

How many topics should I select to study? A good rule of thumb is to select enough topics to cover at least 12 different problems. Since the NCEES does not specify which topics and problems are covered during each session (morning or afternoon), selecting the problems can be somewhat of a gamble. We found a good target to be studying topics which cover 12 problems.


  1. Develop a study schedule

Now that you have a prioritized list of study topics, you need to develop a study schedule. Your schedule will be the road map to your success. Focus more time on the topics that you are most familiar with and are ranked high on your priority list.

Table 12.3 presents a sample study schedule. In this example, 8 hours per week for 3 months prior to the exam was budgeted for practicing problems. When creating your schedule, you can use the blank form included in Appendix F or a plain calendar.

A practice exam is scheduled two weeks prior to the exam on the same day of the week as the exam. Follow-up of the practice exam is scheduled for the final two weeks prior to the exam. During the follow-up time, rework all problems that were done incorrectly. The practice exam is critical to your preparation.


Practice exam

Why would anyone want to take a practice exam and go through this agonizing process twice? Taking a practice exam will help you realize how many references you need to take into the exam!


By taking the practice exam you:

  • learn how to manage your time during the exam through practice  
  • determine what areas need more preparation  
  • reduce your anxiety during the real exam  

We recommend that you take the practice exam two weeks prior to the exam day. Make sure you take the practice exam under similar conditions. Put yourself in a silent room with no interruptions. One of the best places for this is a quiet library. Keep the same schedule as the real PE exam which is:

How much study time is required?

The amount of study and preparation time required to pass the PE exam is different for each individual. Some can pass the exam with two weeks preparation and others may need six months. The required preparation time depends on the following factors:

  • your understanding of engineering fundamentals
  • your understanding of related topics for your engineering discipline
  • the relevance of your work experience to your engineering discipline
  • the productivity of your study time

Initially, plan to study eight hours per week for four months prior to the exam date. At first this may sound like too much time, but keep in mind that the PE exam will typically cover 10 or 15 engineering topics. After your first month of studying, review your progress. If at this time you feel you should have no problem getting 60% correct, then reduce your study time to four hours per week. If obtaining 60% looks difficult or unachievable, you should maintain studying eight hours per week or more.

Set aside time in your schedule for practicing problems. Avoid studying in front of the TV or at home while you're watching the kids. You need a quiet place where you can concentrate. Go to a library, a bookstore or your office to study if necessary.













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