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13 Things You Must Know Before Studying For The FE Exam

Are you planning on becoming a Professional Engineer (PE)? Then you would need to complete a four-year college degree, work under the supervision of a PE and pass two required examinations. This will finally give you the license to work with any client in the future. In fact, you can even work as a freelance engineer, and here are some of the best tips to freelance as an engineer to help you do so. However, the first step to this is taking the Fundamentals of engineering exam or the FE exam.

As an engineer, you would definitely want to clear the FE exam. But then the question is how will you prep for it perfectly? You don’t want to mess it up, right? So, we’re here to help you with 6 things you ought to keep in mind while you begin your FE exam prep courses.

1. About the exam

The FE exam is a six hour  long test that covers topics like mathematics, chemistry, biology, electrical and computer components, and so much more. To pass the exam you ideally need to score 70 or higher. Generally you would receive your score after 2 to 3 months from the date of the exam. And if you pass, you get a license certification.

2. The structure of the exam

The NCEES FE exam is a computer-based exam and consists of 110 MCQs or multiple-choice questions. These are given over two consecutive sections (discussed in detail below). Every section approximately contains 55 multiple-choice questions that are grouped together depending on the subject, topic, etc. No subject is repeated in two sections. In other words, if a subject appears in section 1, it will not appear in section 2. As these are multiple-choice questions, each question has four possible answers – (A), (B), (C) and (D).

It is important to note that the FE exam is not adaptive. This means that your answers will not be driving the exam. Or in other words, your response to a question will not be influencing the next question. So even if you answer the first five questions based on mathematics correctly, you would still need to answer the sixth question. Another important thing to note is that if you are answering a session, you will not be allowed to view or answer questions in the other session. At times, the FE exam might also include an unknown number of questions known as the pretest items. The answers given in the pretest will not be scored and will not have an impact on your final results. One of the main reasons why NCEES does this is to determine the viability of new questions for future exams.

3.  Time Management

To manage your time properly is a task which should be undergone rightly. The NCEES website doesn’t offer much information about the time. We of course know that you have 5 hours and 20 minutes for 110 questions while you’ll get a break of about 25 minutes. But do you know when you’ll get the break? Do you know how much to spend on the first session and the second one?

Probably there’ll be many who didn’t even have an idea of two different sessions. But here we’ll break down stuff for your easy understanding, leaving you with no surprises while answering the FE exam.

Now, if you analyze, 5 hours and 20 minutes for 110 questions mean that you need to spend 2.9 minutes on each question. But this is not how you’re supposed to work. There’ll be questions that can be solved in a mere 30 seconds, while there’ll be some which will require up to 3 minutes or more.

This exam will just test your fundamentals of engineering, so you’ll find many questions that could be solved in 20-30 seconds. If you do then save your time there so that you can spend up to 4 minutes for the difficult ones.

4. When to flag a question?

Some people review all the questions at the beginning before they even start solving. They then flag questions which they are doubtful of and will proceed with the rest.

Now, this method of reviewing is not recommended. Because going through all the questions will cost you at least 10 minutes which you could have spent in solving 3-4 questions. So, here are 3 cases to help you with when to flag a question.

  • Never Seen the Concept Before: If you find a question covering a concept totally unknown to you, just flag it and move right to the next question. You don’t want to spend your precious time on an unknown concept in which you just have a 20-25% guarantee of getting it correct.
  • Seen the Concept, but lack of clarity: If you find a question that you’ve seen before, but you forget how to go about or if it’s not lucid enough to approach it, attempt it first. Spend 2-3 minutes on that question to see if you’re getting somewhere.
  • You know the solution, but it’s too long: If a solution is known to you if you know which equations to use in that particular question and everything, but if it’s too long, flag the question and come back to it later. With such a course, it’s recommended to leave some more time towards the end, so that you can solve ‘case 3’ first, as you know the solution. Then go back to ‘case 2’ and finally to ‘case 1’.

5. Sessions & Break

●    The First Session

In the first session, you need to spend no more than 2 hours or 2 hours and 20 mins. This is because the 1st session will just involve the basics of engineering like mathematics, ethics, statistics, statics, etc.

●    Break

Many people skip this part of the test and then lose their efficiency in the middle of the exam. Our body is not designed to sit straight and do deep work for more than five hours with no fresh air, water, or food. You don’t have to take a full 25 minutes break, instead, you could go for 10-15 minutes, have some water and a snack to boost your energy and come back again.

●    The Second Session

After the break, you’ll be introduced to the second session including about 55 questions covering topics from your field of interest. So, suppose you’re answering FE Civil then the questions would cover fluids, structural analysis, and design, hydraulics and hydrology, etc.

Here you’ll require to spend about 2-6 mins per question. Do not exceed more than 6 minutes, if you do then you’re just probably overthinking. Keep it simple as this exam is just to test and review your basics of engineering.

6. Alternative Item Types or AITs in the FE Exam

Now that you have a better understanding of the structure the next step to understand what AITs are. AIT questions have around the same level of difficulty as multiple choice questions. It is important to note here that there are no fixed number of AIT exam questions. In addition to this, there is no predefined percentage or weight of any one type of AIT question in the exam. Let’s have a look at some of the types of AIT questions that could be included in the exam.

Multiple choice questions

  • As discussed earlier, there will be 4 answer options to every question
  • If you are unsure of what the answer is, you can always make an educated guess. There are no negative markings for an incorrect answer.

Multiple choice: all that applies

  • In this format of a multiple choice, you can select on all the correct answers.
  • You need to be sure to select all correct answers. Since there is no partial credit, you must make the most of these kind of questions.
  • In case you are doubtful of the answer, you can always deselect it.

Point and click: hotspot or mark the location

  • In such a format, you would be required to click on a single target, hotspot location, etc. and place it on the base image to show the correct location or area.
  • In the event that you are unsure of the answer you clicked on, you can always click again to deselect it or click on another preferred answer.

Drag and place or drop

  • These kinds of questions would ask you to sort, rank, order, label items, etc.
  • While answering such questions, be careful if all of the answer options are required to be rearranged, sorted, ranked, etc.
  • Once you are sure of which answers are to be moved, then click and drag it or place it in that particular order.
  • If you are unsure of the positing of the answer, you always drag and drop to rearrange, or move it back to its original place.

Fill in the blanks

  • Questions like these usually give you instructions on what is to be done. So you are required to read the specifications carefully. For example, it could state the decimal places required for your numeric answer.
  • To do this first complete solving the question and the round it off to the required decimal places as stated in the question.
  • Refrain from entering the unit of measurement for your numerical answer
  • Also remember that you must not spell out your numerical answers
  • In case you change your mind, delete your previous answer or blank it out before you enter your new answer.

Case Study

  • A case study can include any format or a mix of question formats like multiple choice, hotspot, fill in the blanks, or even drag and drop
  • You will be allowed to click on tab similar to browsers to view the case study
  • You can also move back and forth between the case study scenarios and other resource documents provided.

7.  Your FE exam is unique

The most important part to remember is that each FE exam is unique. This means that the exam that you will take will not be the same for the person taking the exam beside you. NCEES has said that the CBT (computer based test) system randomly chooses different and equivalent questions from its database for each examinee using a LOFT algorithm better known as a liner on the fly algorithm. Therefore, each examinee will have a unique exam of equivalent difficulty, so don’t even bother looking into your neighbour’s screen as it will be a waste of time.

8. Calculators

If you visit the NCEES website, you’ll find that they have given a calculator policy wherein only 3 types of calculator models are acceptable during the exam. Out of these, Ti-30X Pro is the most recommended one as it incorporates functions like standard deviation and matrices, thus saving you a lot of time.

9. Exam Specifications

It is very vital that you read all the requirements, including the registration time, documentations needed, and the kind of calculators that are accepted, lest you forget to carry something as crucial as your ID. It’s imperative to go through the specifications in order to develop a strong strategy to get maximum points in the FE exam. You can visit the NCEES website and go to the ‘Exam Specifications’ section, wherein you’ll find specifications in different disciplines.

Even though advanced tech graphic calculators are not allowed, you can check out the list of those accepted on the NCEES website. Once you have the list, look up the features set that each of those calculators provides like the processing time, determinants, integrals, calculations without conversions, storage for common constants as variables, etc. You must learn the usage of such functions to increase speed and accuracy. Additionally, remember that the specifications lay down the ratio of subjects that will be covered in the exam. This will help you a great deal in your FE exam preparations, and so, you must make it a point to read it over.

Select your discipline and you’ll be shown the different subjects which will be covered in the FE exam. They’ll also provide you with a breakdown of the number of questions from each subject. Thus, you can strategize well now.

10.            FE Manual

Now that you have access to the handbook, you would see that it includes a lot of math problems. So it’s better that you get a copy of the NCEES Formula book. You can find this on the official website and download it for free. This book consists of virtually every formula that will prove helpful to you. Once you get a copy of this book, you must make yourself familiar with the layout of the formulas and how it is used. Doing this exercise helps you save time in the exam as you would very well know what pages the formula that you need are on and do not need to waste time flipping through. It’ll be really handy during your FE exam prep courses.

Additionally, these formulas will be of great use to you. If you are attending lectures to prepare for FE civil exams, many professors use this formula book to set tests and quizzes. Similarly, if you take up online practice tests, you can make use of this formula book and have real-time experience. So first, make sure that you understand a concept. Once you are confident about that, focus on how to use that concept into a calculation and which formula is to be used from the book.

Moreover, this manual will be available electronically as well while answering the FE exam. So, it’ll be good to get accustomed to it and be familiar with the equations.

11.           Attending online FE prep courses

Registering for FE exam preparation courses is another great way to prepare for the exams. You can find many FE prep courses online for Chemical, Civil, Electrical, Environmental, Industrial, Mechanical, and more. You can also find comprehensive online lectures, instructor-led practice sessions, real-time exam experiences, reference notes, and so much more. All of these will help you grasp and have a deeper understanding of even the difficult subjects. Additionally, you can also register for courses that are designed around NCEES exam specifications so that you can study and test yourself on the topics that are likely to appear in the actual exam.

12.           Purchase practice tests

Practice tests are a great way to gauge your understanding of topics and areas of improvement. However, there are not many high-quality practice tests for FE Civil exams for free. You can easily access and purchase these practice tests from the NCEES official website. These practice tests are priced at $29.95 each and consist of 100 questions along with the solution set. It might seem a little pricey, but if you are serious about passing the Fundamentals of Engineering exam and earning a professional engineering license, then this can prove to be a great study tool. When you purchase a practice test, you can get a fair idea of how well-prepared you are and still have enough time to work on topics that require improvement.

13.           Find and access the right resources

What matters while preparing for your FE exam is to have access to the right resources. But if you are a student If you are on a very tight budget, you can find many free and low-cost online resources as well as courses that would also cover all the topics and offer additional free resources for practice. In fact, you can also find PDFs to these resources and make the most of it. Here is a small list of the best free online resources


  • This is free online course by coursera and Georgia Tech
  • You can access the lectures for free but you would need to pay an amount of $50 to access the assignments and quizzes.
  • The course is self-paced and available only for FE Civil and FE Mechanical exams.

Marshall University

  • This is a YouTube channel that has 12+ videos from a group of instructions at Marshall University.
  • With around 16 hours of instruction this channel helps you prepare for the FE Civil exam.

University of Colorado

  • The courses offered by University of Colorado – Boulder are quite organized with a collection of videos and problem questions.
  • However, this is only available for FE Chemical exam

Texas A&M

  • This course consists of 45+ videos on Youtube and are therefore, self-paced.
  • However, the learning materials are available only for FE Civil exams.

EITE or Engineer in Training Exam

EITE is another such YouTube channel with self-paced resources of 85+ videos and calculator tutorials.

Daily FE exam

  • This is another free learning material available on YouTube.
  • There are about 34+ video resources.

On the other hand if you are willing to invest a good amount to get the best online resources out there, then here is a list you just cannot miss!

School of PE

  • The courses are priced within the range of $1000 to $1300.
  • You can access live web-classes as well as self-paced classes.

PPI 2 Pass

  • PPI or Professional Publication Inc. offers courses priced between $1260 to $2200 depending on the kind of exam material you are looking for.
  • You can access live web-classes as well as self-paced classes.


  • This is another great platform that offers online learning materials priced between $550 to $1100.
  • You can also access live in-person classes or the self-paced classes

You can also check out many other educational platforms here which will help you enhance your skill.


Passing the FE exam is a must! Get hold of the right resources, have the right attitude, and get practicing. Passing the FE Civil exam is not that difficult. So head over to the NCEES website and download all required practice papers, reference books, notes, and study material that you need today!

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