In this article (and video above), I take a deep dive into the world of the PE Civil Exam, specifically tackling those pesky conceptual questions that can leave even the brightest minds scratching their heads.
The PE Civil exam has two components: the breadth session and the depth session. While everyone tackles the same breadth questions, YOU choose your depth topic. Options range from geotechnical and transportation to water resources, environmental, structural, and construction.
Conceptual questions are the real deal here. They don’t require extensive calculations; instead, they test your grasp of the subject matter. They’re speedy if you know your stuff but might trip you up if you’re less familiar. Expect these questions mainly in the breadth session, but the depth session may throw a few curveballs as well.
Here Are 4 Tips for Acing These Conceptual Curveballs:
1: Become a Generalist
You don’t need to be a wizard in every topic, but a general understanding is key. Know the basics, like distinguishing between clay and sand or understanding critical path construction schedules. These fundamentals will be your lifeline.
2: Use High-Level Reference Materials
There are a number of high-level reference materials available that can be helpful for preparing for the PE Civil exam. These materials can provide you with a good overview of the topics covered on the exam, as well as help you to understand the underlying concepts.
3: Know Your Definitions
Civil engineering has its own language, and you might encounter unfamiliar terms. Conceptual questions often require you to define key terms. It is important to know where to find definitions for these terms, such as in the NCEES PE Civil Reference Handbook.
4: Time Management
Time is your most valuable resource. If a conceptual question feels like a roadblock, don’t get stuck. Read it, move on, and let your subconscious work on it while you tackle other questions. Come back later when your mind has had a chance to process.
It is also important to practice answering conceptual questions. There are a number of practice exams and review courses available that can help you to prepare for the PE Civil exam, like PPI, A Kaplan Company. By practicing answering conceptual questions, you will become more comfortable with the format and types of questions that you can expect to see on the exam.
Remember, every question carries equal weight, and there’s no penalty for incorrect answers. Make sure you tackle every question before the clock runs out. You’ve got this!
This Episode Is Brought to You by PPI
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I hope you found this article helpful. In upcoming articles, I will solve some more PE exam practice problems and answer other questions from our subscribers. Pass the PE Exam videos will publish weekly, so be sure to click the subscribe button so you don’t miss something that could make a substantial difference in your exam result.
Lastly, I encourage you to ask questions in the comments of this video, 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… on Pass the PE Exam
Anthony Fasano, P.E.
Author of Engineer Your Own Success