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PE Civil Exam Details

Everything You Need to Know About the PE Civil Exam! 

The PE Civil exam is an open-book exam in which you will work the breadth section in the morning and one of the five depth modules in the afternoon. The breadth section contains questions from the five areas of civil engineering, while the depth section focuses on a single area of practice. Click on the tabs below to learn more about the exam.

PE Civil Exam Overview

The PE Civil exam is designed to test for a minimum level of competency in civil engineering. It is designed for engineers who have gained a minimum of four years of work experience in their chosen engineering discipline. 

This exam is an 8-hour, open-book exam with 80 questions relevant to civil engineering practices. The PE Civil exam is a breadth and depth examination. This means that examinees work the breadth section in the morning and one of the five depth modules in the afternoon. The breadth section contains questions from all five areas of civil engineering (construction, geotechnical, structural, transportation, and water resources and environmental). The depth section focuses more closely on a single area of practice. There are 40 multiple-choice questions in the morning and 40 multiple-choice questions in the afternoon.

A minimum of 300 hours of preparation for the PE Civil exam is recommended, although some candidates will need more or less time, depending on their individual backgrounds and experience. There is no limit to the number of times you can take the exam.

The PE Civil exam is administered two times a year in April and October as an open-book exam. In 2022, the exam will transition to a closed-book (CBT) exam and be available to take year-round.

Interested in registering for the PE Civil exam? Visit NCEES to learn more.

Construction Exam Details

The average pass rate of a first-time taker of the PE Civil: Construction exam is 61%.

Topics covered include:

Civil Breadth

  • Project Planning 
  • Means and Methods
  • Soil Mechanics
  • Structural Mechanics
  • Hydraulics and Hydrology
  • Geometrics
  • Materials
  • Site Development

Construction Depth

  • Earthwork Construction and Layout
  • Estimating Quantities and Costs
  • Construction Operations and Methods
  • Scheduling
  • Material Quality Control and Production
  • Temporary Structures
  • Health and Safety

For more information on the exam specifications, please visit NCEES.

Geotechnical Exam Details

The average pass rate of a first-time taker of the PE Civil: Geotechnical exam is 66%.

Topics covered include:

Civil Breadth

  • Project Planning
  • Means and Methods
  • Soil Mechanics
  • Structural Mechanics
  • Hydraulics and Hydrology
  • Geometrics
  • Materials
  • Site Development

Geotechnical Depth

  • Site Characterization
  • Soil Mechanics, Laboratory Testing, and Analysis
  • Field Materials Testing, Methods, and Safety
  • Earthquake Engineering and Dynamic Loads
  • Earth Structures
  • Groundwater and Seepage
  • Problematic Soil and Rock Conditions
  • Earth Retaining Structures (ASD or LRFD)
  • Shallow Foundations (ASD or LRFD)
  • Deep Foundations (ASD or LRFD)

For more information on the exam specifications, please visit NCEES.

Structural Exam Details

The average pass rate of a first-time taker of the PE Civil: Structural exam is 63%.

Topics covered include:

Civil Breadth 

  • Project Planning
  • Means and Methods
  • Soil Mechanics
  • Structural Mechanics
  • Hydraulics and Hydrology
  • Geometrics
  • Materials
  • Site Development

Structural Depth

  • Analysis of Structures
  • Design and Details of Structures
  • Codes and Construction

For more information on the exam specifications, please visit NCEES.

Transportation Exam Details

The average pass rate of a first-time taker of the PE Civil: Transportation exam is 70%.

Topics covered include:

Civil Breadth

  • Project Planning
  • Means and Methods
  • Soil Mechanics
  • Structural Mechanics
  • Hydraulics and Hydrology
  • Geometrics
  • Materials
  • Site Development

Transportation Depth

  • Traffic Engineering (Capacity Analysis and Transportation Planning)
  • Horizontal Design
  • Vertical Design
  • Intersection Geometry
  • Roadside and Cross-Section Design
  • Signal Design
  • Traffic Control Design
  • Geotechnical and Pavement
  • Drainage
  • Alternatives Analysis

For more information on the exam specifications, please visit NCEES.

Water Resources and Environmental Exam Details

The average pass rate of a first-time taker of the PE Civil: Water Resources and Environmental exam is 71%.

Topics covered include:

Civil Breadth

  • Project Planning
  • Means and Methods
  • Soil Mechanics
  • Structural Mechanics
  • Hydraulics and Hydrology
  • Geometrics
  • Materials
  • Site Development

Water Resources and Environmental Depth

  • Analysis and Design
  • HydraulicsClosed Conduit
  • HydraulicsOpen Channel
  • Hydrology
  • Groundwater and Wells
  • Wastewater Collection and Treatment
  • Water Quality
  • Drinking Water Distribution and Treatment
  • Engineering Economics Analysis

For more information on the exam specifications, please visit NCEES.

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