FE FAQ's

What's with this “ FE CBT” business? Which exam is it?
Do exam requirements differ from state to state?
What is the format of the exam?
What are the exam topics?
What types of problems will there be on the exam?
How is the FE CBT exam organized?
If I can't solve a problem, should I guess or leave it blank?
Which discipline exam should I take—the Other Disciplines exam or my discipline-specific exam?
When do I decide which exam to take?
What systems of units are used on the exam?
What is the exam's calculator policy?
Do I need a pencil for the FE CBT exam?
May I take my cell phone into the exam with me?
What reference materials may I take into the exam?
Where can I get a copy of the Fundamentals of Engineering Supplied-Reference Handbook?
When should I take the exam?
What's the best way to study for the exam?
Where can I find study materials for the exam?
Where can I find an exam review course?
What are the exam dates?
What are some common misconceptions about the exam?
What should I do if my question isn't answered here?
 



What's with this “FE CBT” business? Which exam is it?

Officially, it is called the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam. Until recently, however, the exam is also referred as both the FE CBT exam and the computerized FE exam. Additionaly, the exam can also be referred to as the Engineer-in-Training (EIT) exam. This name goes back many years, and many engineers still refer to it as the EIT exam. You'll see and hear both names used interchangeably.


Do exam requirements differ from state to state?

Yes, they often do differ from state to state. Click here to find a link to each state board's website and to find out more about each state's FE CBT and PE exam requirements.


What is the format of the exam?

The FE CBT exam is approximately six hours long, which includes a 25-minute break that can be taken between the two sections of the exam. The entire FE CBT exam contains 110 multiple-choice problems which are equally weighted. The entire FE CBT exam is discipline specific, and therefore, there are seven separate discipline-specific exams to choose from, including: Civil, Mechanical,Chemical, Electrical, Industrial, Environmental, or Other Disciplines

Refer to the question What are the exam disciplines? for more information about the exam specifications for your exam section.


What are the exam disciplines (previously referred to as topics)?

The specifications for each exam can be accessed at the NCEES website using the following links. (The links include both the morning and afternoon session specifications.)


What types of problems will there be on the exam?

The problems are all multiple-choice and there are four solution options for each problem. Nearly all problems are unique—that is, there is one problem statement followed by one problem. There may be a few multi-part problems, where one problem statement is followed by two or three problems, but in these cases the solutions to the problems will be independent from one another.


How is the FE CBT exam organized?

The FE CBT exam is split into two sections. Examinees are given a break between the two sections of the exam, but the first section cannot be accessed after the first section is completed.


If I can't solve a problem, should I guess or leave it blank?

No points are subtracted for incorrect solutions, so be sure to leave time at the end of the exam to go back and fill in bubbles for any problems you skipped.


Which discipline exam should I take—the Other Disciplines or my discipline-specific exam?

First, find out whether your state requires you to take the exam for your major or working discipline. Some states do. If not, the choice is yours. You may, however, feel most comfortable taking either the Other Disciplines exam or an exam that focuses on your own field.

Before making your choice, we suggest you evaluate the knowledge areas on each of the discipline-specific FE CBT exams. Refer to the FE exam specifications links on ncees.org exam specifications for each discipline-specific exam. Finally, make your decision based on your level of preparedness and on historical passing rate information.


When do I decide which discipline-specific exam I will take?

You are required to choose which discipline-specific exam and your exam date when you register for the FE CBT exam.


What systems of units are used on the exam?

The FE/EIT exam uses both U.S. Customary (English) units and SI (metric) units.


What is the exam's calculator policy?

The NCEES updates its calculator policy every November. Click here for the current calculator policy.


Do I need a pencil for the FE CBT exam?

You do not need a pencil for the FE CBT exam, since the exam has switched to a computer-based testing (CBT) environment. Your entire exam will be completed on a computer at the testing center you select when you register for the exam.


May I take my cell phone into the exam with me?

You may bring personal items in a clear plastic bag only. Purses and backpacks are not permitted. Permitted items include snacks and nonalcoholic drinks (as long as having them does not disturb other examinees), wristwatches, small clocks (though they must be placed on the floor), government-issued identification (this is required), two straightedges (such as a ruler, scale, triangle, or protractor). In other words, no, you may not take your cell phone into the exam room.


What reference materials may I take into the exam?  

You may not take any reference materials into the exam room. You will, however, be provided with a digital copy of the official NCEES Fundamentals of Engineering Supplied-Reference Handbook  when you enter the exam room. This Handbook contains equations and data that you will need during the exam. It is recommended that you obtain your own copy and familiarize yourself with its contents prior to exam day. You will not be allowed to take your personal copy into the exam room.


Where can I get a copy of the Fundamentals of Engineering Supplied-Reference Handbook?

Some states provide the Handbook to you when you register to take the exam. If your state doesn't do this and you want to obtain a copy of the Handbook before the exam, you can order it here. You will not be allowed to take your personal copy into the exam room.


When should I take the exam?

Ideally, you should take the FE/EIT exam while you are still working on your undergraduate engineering degree, or shortly after you graduate. The longer you wait, the more challenging you will find the exam to be. Most states permit you to take the exam as an undergraduate senior, and some states allow juniors to take it as well.

Much of what the exam covers is basic information that you learn your first two or three years of undergraduate engineering education. The more time that passes after having learned these basics, the easier it will be for you to forget them.

If you missed the opportunity to take the exam as an undergraduate, however, don't despair. Many engineers take the exam well into their careers and pass on their first attempt. With the right review, you will too. Visit our review courses pages or feprep.com for more information.


What's the best way to study for the exam?

The advice given by recent examinees is virtually unanimous: work practice problems, find out where your weaknesses lie, study those areas, and then work more practice problems. PPI has materials available to help you prepare. Many of PPI's new products are available on feprep.com.

Taking a timed practice exam (or a partial exam) should be an essential part of your preparation. This not only gives you more practice solving problems but also lets you find out how well you perform under pressure. For additional practice working problems or taking timed exams, check out PPI's new FE CBT website: feprep.com.


Where can I find study materials for the exam?

Reference manuals, sample exams, software, videos, and more materials to help you prepare are available from PPI.


Where can I find an exam review course?

PPI offers a number of FE CBT Review Courses. Click here for more information.


What are the exam dates?

In 2014 and beyond, the exam format will change to a computer-based  test (CBT) format.  Additionally in 2014, the FE CBT exam will be available for you to schedule every two out of every three months.  See below for more details. 

 

 

2014

  • January – February 2014 (open enrollment)
  • April – May 2014 (open enrollment)
  • July – August 2014 (open enrollment)
  • October – November 2014 (open enrollment)

Note: no exams will be available during: March, June, September, or December of 2014.

 

2015

  • January – February 2015 (open enrollment)
  • April – May 2015 (open enrollment)
  • July – August 2015 (open enrollment)
  • October – November 2015 (open enrollment)

Note: no exams will be available during: March, June, September, or December of 2015.


What are some common misconceptions about the exam?

Misconception #1: It's possible to get copies of actual FE/EIT exams to study.
Fact: The FE/EIT exam has been a secure exam for many, many years. Although the NCEES has published sample problems to illustrate the exam format, there are no complete past exams available from any legitimate source.

Misconception #2:
The FE/EIT exam is biased toward some disciplines.
Fact: There are hard topics for everyone, but there is no intentional bias built into the exam format. Electrical engineers struggle with mechanics of materials; civil engineers struggle with thermodynamics; and mechanical engineers struggle with electricity. Everyone struggles with control systems. There is, however, little or no difference in passing rates among the different disciplines.

Misconception #3:
The FE/EIT exam is very difficult.
Fact: Problems on the exam are quite basic, and an adequately prepared examinee should have no trouble whatsoever passing the exam. There are no long, complex, or tricky problems. There are no proofs or derivations. The passing rate for the exam speaks for itself.

Misconception #4: I've been out of school too long to take this exam. I've forgotten everything.
Fact: While it is true that it is easiest to take the FE/EIT exam when you are still in school, a substantial fraction of the examinees have been out of school for five or more years. Engineers with 10 or more years of work experience routinely take the exam and pass (with preparation).

Misconception #5: I'd have to study for a year to prepare adequately for this exam.
Fact: With targeted review materials, the average “zero-to-full-preparedness” time is about four months.

Misconception #6:
The FE/EIT exam has proofs, derivations, lots of higher-level math, and problems on non-engineering subjects such as accounting, economics, and psychology.
Fact: There are no proofs or derivations on the exam. The need for higher-level math of all types is limited to a few (i.e., less than 10) problems. The only subjects you'll find on the exam are engineering, mathematics, chemistry, physics, computers, engineering economics, and ethical behavior.

Misconception #7:
I never had a course in thermodynamics (or dynamics, or electricity, etc.), so I'm doomed.
Fact: Many people who graduate with bachelor of science degrees in engineering do so without having taken one or more of the core engineering courses. Because you have to solve fewer than 50% of the problems on the exam correctly to pass, there is plenty of room for you to skip problems in areas you are unfamiliar with.

Misconception #8:
I don't need to prepare for the FE/EIT exam.
Fact: To pass the exam, you must know the subject material, and you must also be familiar with the NCEES Handbook. You must be capable of solving problems quickly and under pressure. And, to avoid over thinking the problems and making the exam more difficult than it actually is, you must have exposure to the types of problems on the exam. Everyone needs to prepare for the FE/EIT exam in one way or another.

Misconception #9:
Only civil engineers need to take the FE/EIT exam to advance their careers.
Fact: To get your PE license, you need to pass the FE/EIT exam first. The need to have a PE license is a function of your career and professional responsibilities, not necessarily your field or discipline. For example, all engineering consultants need PE licenses, regardless of their field. An increasing number of government and industry positions also require a PE license. Even when immediate job opportunities may not require licensing, future opportunities may. So, because it is easiest to pass the FE/EIT exam while you are in school or just after graduation, it makes sense to go ahead and get that step out of the way.

Misconception #10:
The FE/EIT exam is an open-book exam.
Fact: The exam was once open book; now it is not. It is a “limited reference exam,” which means that during the exam the only reference material you can use is the NCEES Handbook. You can't bring any reference books into the exam.


What should I do if my question isn't answered here?

For anecdotes and tips about the FE CBT exam, refer to our advice from previous FE/EIT examinees.

There are more FE CBT exam FAQs available here.

For unresolved questions about exam licensing and accreditation processes visit NCEES.org.

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