In this post (and video above), I discuss a challenge that many engineers struggle with, during the PE exam – NEVES. How can you try to overcome nervousness for the exam and avoid exam anxiety as it can truly cripple you?
It all comes down to practice and preparation…
People often react very differently in pressure filled situations as opposed to situations with no pressure that are very laid-back. If you spend all of your study time just doing problems randomly, without timing yourself, without putting yourself under any pressure, it’s not going to help you when you get to the exam and you’re under the pressure of the clock.
We often see this with athletes, where some athletes are amazing during regular season games. Their statistics are off the charts, however when they get into the playoffs, where the stakes are much higher, they often don’t produce. They can’t handle the pressure.
So in order to handle the pressure of the PE exam, you must practice a lot, but you must do so in a way that replicates exam type situations. Have a colleague, friend or spouse, time you and serve as an accountability partner to watch over your shoulder and make sure that you’re doing the practice problems in a timed setting with all of your materials, just as if you were sitting in the exam. That is the best and probably the ONLY way to help alleviate some of the nerves on exam day. Prepare the way you’ll have to execute on that day.
Another example is public speaking, where not only Engineers but most of the people are terrified speaking in public. Toastmaster International is an organization that trains people to be effective speakers. I was a member myself when I was learning how to speak in public, because I was awful before I joined Toastmasters.
At Toastmasters, they believe in the process of Desensitization. In this process you have to get up in front of an audience time and again, which eventually makes you comfortable and less nervous. Their proven track record shows that it works. They’ve helped a lot of people become really great public speakers.
The same is true in exam taking situations. The more you do it, the more comfortable you become and the less nervous and anxious you will be. I’m not recommending that you just take the PE exam the first time to get comfortable in pressure-filled situations, although it may come down to that, if you’re truly a nervous and anxious person.
However, I do believe that you can work hard to recreate a similar exam atmosphere to help you become less nervous and more focused on exam day because nervousness can be a challenge. No matter how many problems you may have or how technically sound you may be, you still have to pay attention to the nervousness as they can come back to cripple your exams. I hope my recommendation will help to alleviate your anxiety.
I hope you found this week’s article helpful. Remember the 80/20 Rule in YOUR studying efforts and your reference material selection. In upcoming videos I will walk through some more practice problems, but also talk about tackling qualitative problems.
We publish videos weekly on our Pass the PE Exam YouTube Channel. Be sure to visit our page here and click the subscribe button as you’ll get expert tips and tricks each week – 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 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