In this article (and video above), I cover 7 top tips that will help FE exam takers to pass the FE exam. While taking the FE exam you’ll likely get stuck on a problem that you will find difficult to solve. It happens to everyone.
The answer, or the equations that you will need to find the answer, can’t always be found in the supplied reference handbook, and the use of a calculator may not help for some of these problems. Also, the problem may be the kind where it is not easy to eliminate certain answers to make a calculated guess. So, here are seven tips for FE exam takers to use during their exam to attempt to solve these difficult problems.
1. Spend an Average of 3 Minutes per Question
The exam is six hours long, but that six hours includes an eight-minute tutorial, a twenty-five minute break, and a brief survey at the end of the exam. So, the total time you’ll have to actually answer the exam questions is five hours and twenty minutes. If you do the math here, that gives you slightly less than three minutes per question (yes three), and of course, you may work through the questions (during the exam) in any order you like. Also, if you want to go back and check your answers before you submit the exam for grading (and you have time to), you may. However, once you submit a section you are not able to go back and review it.
2. Focus is Key
When you start a section of the exam, look over all of the questions and categorize them based on the subjects you are strongest and weakest in. Tackle the ones you are confident about first, and in an organized and efficient way. How you prioritize your time and your focus related to answering the questions is key to completing the FE exam efficiently. In fact, we have an entire video on this approach which you can see here.
3. Remember That You Don’t Have To Solve Every Problem on the Exam
Once you have sorted the questions and answered the ones you could, remember that you don’t need to solve every problem on the exam to pass. In the past, many engineers have passed this test with a score of only 50 percent. Again, the best way to solve the highest number of problems in the least amount of time is to focus first on the questions you know you can answer. This way, if there are a few questions that you don’t get to, they are likely ones that you would have struggled to get correct, anyway.
4. Use Your Calculator as Much as Possible
We all tend to make mistakes, unintentionally of course. It is better to be on the safe side and use the calculator to solve problems rather than entirely relying on your own manual calculations. Not just for the accuracy of the calculations, but also for the speed with which you can complete solving the problem. Even if you know how to solve particular math and statistics problems you should try solving them with your calculator as often as possible, and remember, make sure that your calculator is one of those that is approved for the exam You can find the list of approved calculators at ncees.org/exams/calculator.
5. Make an Educated Guess if Needed
As I mentioned earlier, there will inevitably be questions that you can’t answer, and these questions might take a lot of time to complete. Making an educated guess on questions that are taking longer than three minutes is the best approach. Don’t skip a question in fear you won’t get the right answer. You won’t be penalized for wrong answers, and this is an important point to remember, you won’t be penalized for wrong answers. Answer these difficult questions with educated guesses, but again, make sure you are completing all of the questions that are “easy” for you first.
6. Don’t Confuse Imperial and SI Units
The FE exam uses both Imperial and SI units. Ensure you are familiar with both. The most embarrassing and frustrating way to fail the exam is by using the wrong units. Doing so could make it difficult for you to get motivated to retake the exam.
7. Don’t Panic
The FE exam in itself is stressful, don’t add to that stress by worrying about every little detail. Being late, bringing the wrong materials or experiencing a case of panic all cause stress, and this stress has caused many to fail the FE exam. One way to avoid panic and stress is to prepare for the exam properly, and create a checklist of everything you need to bring to the exam and run through that checklist the night before the exam when you pack.
There you have it. If you can follow these 7 tips for FE exam takers during and leading up to the exam, you will be on your way to passing the PE exam.
I hope you found this week’s article helpful. In upcoming videos, I will answer more FE Exam questions and run through more practice problems. We publish videos bi-weekly on our Pass the FE Exam YouTube Channel. Be sure to visit our page here and click the subscribe button as you’ll get expert tips and tricks – to ensure your best success – that you can’t get anywhere else. Believe me, you won’t want to miss a single video.
Lastly, I encourage you to ask questions in the comments of the videos or here on this page and I’ll read and respond to them in future videos. So, if there’s a specific topic you want me to cover or answer, we have you covered.
I’ll see you next week.
Anthony Fasano, P.E.
Engineering Management Institute
Author of Engineer Your Own Success