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Frequently Asked Questions about the PE Exam

Passing the PE is a pivotal step in an engineer’s career. A PE license is mandatory for consulting, owning a firm, stamping and sealing designs, and other activities. Choose your exam FAQ below to find essential information about your exam. If you have additional questions about the PE exam or would like to work with our Customer Support team, just contact us.

PE Exam General FAQs

It is an 8-hour exam. It contains 80 total questions: 40 multiple-choice questions in the 4-hour AM session, and 40 multiple-choice questions in the 4-hour PM session.
The PE Civil exam is the only open-book exam remaining. All other PE exams are now closed-book computer-based exams, commonly referred to as CBT.
The PE exam can be difficult. The exam tests your competency in all aspects of engineering and should not be taken lightly. You should plan on taking several weeks to prepare and study before sitting for the exam. To see the average pass rate of first time test takers during the last exam, click here.
The PE exam tests for a minimum level of competency in engineering. You need a minimum of four years of post-college work experience to be able to sit for the exam.

PE Civil Exam General FAQs

The exam is an 8-hour open-book exam split into the AM—Breadth and PM—Depth sessions. It contains 80 total questions: 40 multiple-choice questions in the 4-hour AM session, and 40 multiple-choice questions in the 4-hour PM session.

The PE Civil exam can be difficult. The exam tests your competency in all aspects of civil engineering and should not be taken lightly. You should plan on taking several weeks to prepare and study before sitting for the exam. The average pass rate for first-time test takers during the last exam was about 63%.

Yes, and you can bring your PPI review materials with you on exam day.

The PE Civil exam tests for a minimum level of competency in civil engineering. You need a minimum of four years of post-college work experience to be able to sit for the exam.

According to NCEES, there isn't a specific pass or fail score. You can view how NCEES scores the exam by visiting here.


The latest pass rates released by NCEES for the PE Civil exam were:

  • First-time test takers: 63%
  • Repeat test takers: 40%

This depends on your exam. The civil exam is a breadth and depth exam. So all of the breadth topics will be similar on each exam, but the depth topics differ by exam. For more information on specifications for your exam, please visit NCEES here.

Can't decide which PE Civil depth section to take? Choosing a depth section is a big decision, particularly if you're unsure of the best route to take. Isaac Oakeson, PE, of Civil Engineering Academy, put together this video explaining how to best choose a depth section when you're not sure what direction is best for you.

 

PE Civil Construction Exam FAQs

The exam is an 8-hour open-book exam split into AM and PM sessions. It contains 80 total questions: 40 multiple-choice questions in the 4-hour AM session, and 40 multiple-choice questions in the 4-hour PM session.
Yes, it currently is, and you can bring your PPI review materials with you on exam day. October 2021 will be the last exam in the open-book format. In 2022, the exam will transition to a closed book Computer-Based Test (CBT) that is available to take year-round. You will not be able to bring any books into the exam. Your only reference will be an electronic reference supplied by NCEES.
According to NCEES, there isn't a specific pass or fail score. You can view how NCEES scores the exam by visiting here.

Pass rates for the last PE Civil Construction exam were:

  • First-time test takers: 61%
  • Repeat test takers: 35%

The PE Civil Construction Depth section of the exam covers the following topics:
  • 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, you can visit ncees.org or view this PDF

PE Civil Geotechnical Exam FAQs

The exam is an 8-hour open-book exam split into AM and PM sessions. It contains 80 total questions: 40 multiple-choice questions in the 4-hour AM session, and 40 multiple-choice questions in the 4-hour PM session.
Yes, it currently is, and you can bring your PPI review materials with you on exam day. October 2021 will be the last exam in the open-book format. In 2022, the exam will transition to a closed book Computer-Based Test (CBT) that is available to take year-round. You will not be able to bring any books into the exam. Your only reference will be an electronic reference supplied by NCEES.
According to NCEES, there isn't a specific pass or fail score. You can view how NCEES scores the exam by visiting here.

Pass rates for the last PE Civil Geotechnical exam were:

 - First-time test takers: 55%
 - Repeat test takers: 24%

The PE Civil Geotechnical Depth section of the exam covers the following topics:

  •  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, you can visit ncees.org or view this PDF

PE Civil Structural Exam FAQs

The exam is an 8-hour open-book exam split into AM and PM sessions. It contains 80 total questions: 40 multiple-choice questions in the 4-hour AM session, and 40 multiple-choice questions in the 4-hour PM session.
Yes, it currently is, and you can bring your PPI review materials with you on exam day. October 2021 will be the last exam in the open-book format. In 2022, the exam will transition to a closed book Computer-Based Test (CBT) that is available to take year-round. You will not be able to bring any books into the exam. Your only reference will be an electronic reference supplied by NCEES.
According to NCEES, there isn't a specific pass or fail score. You can view how NCEES scores the exam by visiting here.

Pass rates for the last PE Civil Structural exam were:

  •  First-time test takers: 65%
  •  Repeat test takers: 44%


The PE Civil Structural Depth section of the exam covers the following topics:

  •  Analysis of Structures
  •  Design and Details of Structures
  •  Codes and Construction
For more information, you can visit ncees.org or view this PDF.

PE Civil Transportation Exam FAQs

The exam is an 8-hour open-book exam split into AM and PM sessions. It contains 80 total questions: 40 multiple-choice questions in the 4-hour AM session, and 40 multiple-choice questions in the 4-hour PM session.
Yes, it currently is, and you can bring your PPI review materials with you on exam day. October 2021 will be the last exam in the open-book format. In 2022, the exam will transition to a closed book Computer-Based Test (CBT) that is available to take year-round. You will not be able to bring any books into the exam. Your only reference will be an electronic reference supplied by NCEES.
According to NCEES, there isn't a specific pass or fail score. You can view how NCEES scores the exam by visiting here.

Pass rates for the last PE Civil Transportation exam were:

  •  First-time test takers: 70%
  •  Repeat test takers: 39%

The PE Civil Transportation Depth section of the exam covers the following topics:

  •  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, you can visit ncees.org or view this PDF.

PE Civil Water Resources Exam FAQs

The exam is an 8-hour open-book exam split into AM and PM sessions. It contains 80 total questions: 40 multiple-choice questions in the 4-hour AM session, and 40 multiple-choice questions in the 4-hour PM session.
Yes, it currently is, and you can bring your PPI review materials with you on exam day. October 2021 will be the last exam in the open-book format. In 2022, the exam will transition to a closed book Computer-Based Test (CBT) that is available to take year-round. You will not be able to bring any books into the exam. Your only reference will be an electronic reference supplied by NCEES.
According to NCEES, there isn't a specific pass or fail score. You can view how NCEES scores the exam by visiting here.

Pass rates for the last PE Civil Water Resources and Environmental exam were:

  • First-time test takers: 71%
  • Repeat test takers: 46%

The PE Civil Water Resources and Environmental Depth section of the exam covers the following topics:

  •  Analysis and Design
  •  Hydraulics–Closed Conduit
  •  Hydraulics–Open Channel
  •  Hydrology
  •  Groundwater and Wells
  •  Wastewater Collection and Treatment
  •  Water Quality
  •  Drinking Water Distribution and Treatment
  •  Engineering Economics Analysis
For more information, you can visit ncees.org or view this PDF

PE CA Civil Seismic Exam FAQs

It’s recommended that you submit your application for licensure to the Board after you have passed the NCEES Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE Civil) exam. You must schedule and sit for the exam in the quarter following the quarter in which your application and exam fees are processed and approved by the Board.
You can see the specifications and exam topics here.
Once your score is finalized, you will be emailed your exam results. Your exam results report will show a passing designation but no score.
The exam tests the entry-level competency of a candidate to practice civil engineering within the profession’s acceptable standards for public safety. It is administered by the Board for Professional Engineers, Land Surveyors, and Geologists in California. You must pass the PE Civil exam, as well as both the CA Civil Engineering Surveying exam and the California Civil Seismic Principles exam, in order to be licensed as a Civil PE in California.
The exam is 2.5 hours long with 55 multiple-choice questions. It’s a computer-based exam, but you are allowed to bring in as many reference materials as one trip and one box will permit. See prometric.com for the latest guidelines.
The passing rate for the exam is 49 percent. PPI offers an OnDemand prep course to support you in your studies and boost your chances of passing the exam.
You will need to bring your ID, reference materials (see prometric.com) for your exam for the limitations/guidelines on the number of materials you can bring). Make sure you are familiar with all your reference materials and have used them to study with, so you know how to find the information you need in them quickly. This link has the list of suggested reference materials from the Board.

You can bring two non-QWERTY calculators that meet the requirements outlined on Prometric’s website, and you may bring in any two of the following four measuring devices: ruler, protractor, architect scale, or engineer scale. Since the exam is all on the computer, most examinees find a straight edge is sufficient.
You will be provided with pencils and two scratch paper booklets (they must be returned on completion of the exam).
The exam is offered on a quarterly basis.

PE CA Civil Surveying Exam FAQs

It’s recommended that you submit your application for licensure to the Board after you have passed the NCEES Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE Civil) exam. You must schedule and sit for the exam in the quarter following the quarter in which your application and exam fees are processed and approved by the Board.
You can view the exam topics and specifications here.
Once your score is finalized, you will be emailed your exam results. Your exam results report will show a passing designation but no score.
The exam tests the entry-level competency of a candidate to practice civil engineering within the profession’s acceptable standards for public safety. It is administered by the Board for Professional Engineers, Land Surveyors, and Geologists in California. You must pass the PE Civil exam, as well as both the CA Civil Engineering Surveying exam and the California Civil Seismic Principles exam in order to be licensed as a Civil PE in California.
The exam is 2.5 hours long with 55 multiple-choice questions. It’s a computer-based exam, but you are allowed to bring in as many reference materials as one trip and one box will permit. See prometric.com for the latest guidelines.
The passing rate for the exam is 46 percent. Taking a prep course can help you feel more prepared and confident on exam day. Check out prep course options here.
You should bring your ID and reference materials. You can find the limitations and guidelines on the quantity of materials you can bring on the Prometric website. Make sure you are familiar with all your reference materials and have used them to study, so you know how to find the information you need in them quickly. You can see a list of suggested reference materials from the Board here.

You can bring two non-QWERTY calculators to the exam, but they must meet the requirements outlined on prometric.com.
You will be provided with pencils and two scratch paper booklets (they must be returned on completion of the exam).
The exam is offered on a quarterly basis.

PE Mechanical Exam General FAQs

You will have 9 hours to complete the exam, which contains 80 questions.
The PE Mechanical exam can be difficult. The exam tests your competency in all aspects of mechanical engineering and should not be taken lightly. You should plan on taking several weeks to prepare and study before sitting for the exam. The average pass rate for first-time test takers during the last exam was about 74%.
Unfortunately, no. In April 2020, the exam changed to a closed-book, computer-based test (CBT) that is available to take year-round. The exam topics have not changed; however, you will not be able to bring any books into the exam. Your only reference will be an electronic reference supplied by NCEES.
The PE Mechanical exam tests for a minimum level of competency in mechanical engineering. You need a minimum of four years of post-college work experience to be able to sit for the exam.
According to NCEES, there isn't a specific pass or fail score. You can view how NCEES scores the exam by visiting hereThe latest pass rates released by NCEES for the PE Mechanical exam were:
  • First-time test takers: 68%
  • Repeat test takers: 37%
This depends on your exam. The topics on the Power, Electronics, and Computer exams do differ. For more information on specifications for your exam, please visit NCEES here

PE Mechanical HVAC and Refrigeration Exam FAQs

You will have 8 hours to complete the exam which contains 80 questions.
Unfortunately, no. In April 2020, the exam changed to a closed book Computer-Based Test (CBT) that is available to take year-round. The exam topics have not changed; however, you will not be able to bring any books into the exam. Your only reference will be an electronic reference supplied by NCEES.

According to NCEES, there isn't a specific pass or fail score. You can view how NCEES scores the exam by visiting here.

The last reported pass rates for the PE Mechanical HVAC and Refrigeration exam were:

  • First-time test takers: 75%
  • Repeat test takers: 58%
The PE Mechanical HVAC and Refrigeration exam covers the following topics:

  • Thermodynamics
  • Psychometrics
  • Heat Transfer
  • Fluid Mechanics
  • Energy/Mass Balances
  • Heating/Cooling Loads
  • Equipment and Components
  • Systems and Components

For more information, you can visit ncees.org or view this PDF.

PE Mechanical Machine Design & Materials Exam FAQs

You will have 8 hours to complete the exam which contains 80 questions.
Unfortunately, no. In April 2020, the exam changed to a closed book Computer-Based Test (CBT) that is available to take year-round. The exam topics have not changed; however, you will not be able to bring any books into the exam. Your only reference will be an electronic reference supplied by NCEES.
According to NCEES, there isn't a specific pass or fail score. You can view how NCEES scores the exam by visiting here.

Pass rates for the last PE Mechanical Machine Design and Materials exam were:

  • First-time test takers: 75%
  • Repeat test takers: 39%

The PE Mechanical Machine Design and Materials exam covers the following topics:

  • Basic Engineering Practice
  • Engineering Science and Mechanics
  • Material Properties
  • Strength of Materials
  • Vibration
  • Mechanical Components
  • Joints and Fasteners
  • Supportive Knowledge
For more information, you can visit ncees.org or view this PDF

PE Mechanical Thermal & Fluid Systems Exam FAQs

You will have 8 hours to complete the exam which contains 80 questions.
Unfortunately, no. In April 2020, the exam changed to a closed book Computer-Based Test (CBT) that is available to take year-round. The exam topics have not changed; however, you will not be able to bring any books into the exam. Your only reference will be an electronic reference supplied by NCEES.
According to NCEES, there isn't a specific pass or fail score. You can view how NCEES scores the exam by visiting here.

Pass rates for the last PE Mechanical Thermal and Fluid Systems exam were:

  • First-time test takers: 69%
  • Repeat test takers: 48%

The PE Mechanical Thermal and Fluid Systems exam covers the following topics:

  • Basic Engineering Practice
  • Fluid Mechanics
  • Heat Transfer Principles
  • Mass Balance Principles
  • Thermodynamics
  • Supportive Knowledge
  • Hydraulic and Fluid Applications
  • Energy/Power System Applications
For more information, you can visit ncees.org or view this PDF.

PE Electrical & Computer General Exam FAQs

The exam is an 8-hour open-book exam split into AM and PM sessions. It contains 80 total questions: 40 multiple-choice questions in the 4-hour AM session, and 40 multiple-choice questions in the 4-hour PM session.
The PE Electrical exam can be difficult. The exam tests your competency in all aspects of electrical engineering and should not be taken lightly. You should plan on taking several weeks to prepare and study before sitting for the exam. The average pass rate for first-time test takers during the last exam was about 64%.
Yes, and you can bring your PPI review materials with you on exam day. Starting in 2021, the exam will change to a closed-book, computer-based exam.
The PE Electrical exam tests for a minimum level of competency in electrical engineering. You need a minimum of four years of post-college work experience to be able to sit for the exam.
According to NCEES, there isn't a specific pass or fail score. You can view how NCEES scores the exam by visiting hereThe latest pass rates released by NCEES for the PE Electrical exam were:
First-time test takers: 60%
Repeat test takers: 30%
This depends on your exam. The topics on the Power, Electronics, and Computer exams do differ. For more information on specifications for your exam, please visit NCEES here

PE Electrical & Computer Power Exam FAQs

You will have 8 hours to complete the exam which contains 80 questions.
Unfortunately, no. In December 2020 the exam changed to a closed book Computer-Based Test (CBT) which is available to take year-round. The exam topics have not changed; however, you will not be able to bring any books into the exam. Your only reference will be an electronic reference supplied by NCEES.
According to NCEES, there isn't a specific pass or fail score. You can view how NCEES scores the exam by visiting here.

Pass rates for the last PE Electrical Power exam were:

  • First-time test takers: 58%
  • Repeat test takers: 39%

The PE Electrical Power exam covers the following topics:

  • General Power Engineering
  • Circuits
  • Rotating Machines and Electrical Power Devices
  • Transmission and Distribution (High, Medium, and Low Voltage)
For more information, you can visit ncees.org or view this PDF

PE Electrical Electronics, Controls, & Communications Exam FAQs

You will have 9.5 hours to complete the exam (8.5 for actual exam, 50 minutes for break, 10 minutes for tutorial/nondisclosure agreement) which contains 85 questions.
Unfortunately, no. The exam has changed to a closed book Computer-Based Test (CBT) which is available to take one day a year. The exam topics have not changed; however, you will not be able to bring any books into the exam. Your only reference will be an electronic reference supplied by NCEES.
According to NCEES, there isn't a specific pass or fail score. You can view how NCEES scores the exam by visiting here.

Pass rates for the last PE Electrical Electronics, Controls, and Communications exam were:

  • First-time test takers: 62%
  • Repeat test takers: 22%

The PE Electrical Electronics, Controls, and Communications exam covers the following topics:

  • General Electrical Engineering Knowledge
  • Digital Systems
  • Electromagnetics
  • Electronics
  • Control Systems
  • Communications
For more information, you can visit ncees.org or view this PDF

PE Chemical Exam FAQs

Your exam appointment at a Pearson VUE test center will last 9 hours. You will have 8 hours to complete the 80-question exam. Also included in your 9-hour appointment is a tutorial and a scheduled break.
The PE Chemical exam can be difficult. The exam tests your competency in all aspects of chemical engineering and should not be taken lightly. You should plan on taking several weeks to prepare and study before sitting for the exam.
Unfortunately, no. In 2018, the exam changed to a closed-book, computer-based test (CBT) that is available to take year-round. The exam topics did not not change; however, you are not able to bring any books into the exam. Your only reference is an electronic reference supplied by NCEES.
The PE Chemical exam tests for a minimum level of competency in chemical engineering. In most cases, you need a minimum of four years of post-college work experience to be able to sit for the exam.
According to NCEES, there isn't a specific pass or fail score. You can view how NCEES scores the exam by visiting hereThe latest pass rates released by NCEES for the PE Chemical exam were:
  • First-time test takers: 68%
  • Repeat test takers: 32%

The PE Chemical exam covers the following topics:
  • Mass/Energy Balances
  • Thermodynamics
  • Heat Transfer
  • Chemical Reaction Engineering
  • Fluids
  • Mass Transfer
  • Plant Design and Operation
For more information, you can visit the ncees.org or view this PDF

PE Environmental Exam FAQs

Your exam appointment at a Pearson VUE test center will last 9 hours. You will have 8 hours to complete the 80-question exam. Also included in your 9-hour appointment is a tutorial and a scheduled break.
The PE Environmental exam can be difficult. The exam tests your competency in all aspects of environmental engineering and should not be taken lightly. You should plan on taking several weeks to prepare and study before sitting for the exam. 
Unfortunately, no. In 2019, the exam changed to a closed-book, computer-based test (CBT) that is available to take year-round by appointment at Pearson VUE test centers. The exam topics did not not change; however, you are not able to bring any books into the exam. Your only reference is an electronic reference supplied by NCEES.
The PE Environmental exam tests for a minimum level of competency in environmental engineering. In most cases, you need a minimum of four years of post-college work experience to be able to sit for the exam.
According to NCEES, there isn't a specific pass or fail score. You can view how NCEES scores the exam by visiting hereThe latest pass rates released by NCEES for the PE Environmental exam were:
  • First-time test takers: 65%
  • Repeat test takers: None

The PE Environmental exam covers the following topics:
  • Water
  • Air
  • Solid and Hazardous Waste
  • Site Assessment and Remediation
  • Environmental Health and Safety
  • Associated Engineering Principles
For more information, you can visit the ncees.org or view this PDF.

PE Control Systems FAQs

You will have 8 hours to complete the exam, which contains 80 questions.
The PE Control Systems exam can be difficult. According to NCEES, 67% of first-time test takers pass. The exam tests your competency in all aspects of control systems engineering and should not be taken lightly. You should plan on taking several months to prepare and study before sitting for the exam.
The PE Control Systems exam tests for a minimum level of competency in control systems engineering. In most cases, you need a minimum of four years of post-college work experience to be able to sit for the exam.
The PE Control Systems exam covers the following topics:
  • Measurement
  • Control Systems
  • Final Control Elements
  • Signals, Transmission, and Networking
  • Safety Systems
For more information, you can visit the ncees.org or view this PDF

PE Metallurgical and Materials FAQs

You will have 8 hours to complete the exam, which contains 80 questions.
The PE Metallurgical and Materials exam can be difficult. According to NCEES, 69% of first-time test takers pass. The exam tests your competency in all aspects of metallurgical and materials engineering and should not be taken lightly. You should plan on taking several months to prepare and study before sitting for the exam.
The PE Metallurgical and Materials exam tests for a minimum level of competency in metallurgical and materials engineering. In most cases, you need a minimum of four years of post-college work experience to be able to sit for the exam.
The PE Metallurgical and Materials exam covers the following topics:
  • Structure
  • Properties
  • Processing
  • Performance
For more information, you can visit the ncees.org or view this PDF

PE Industrial FAQs

You will have 8.5 hours to complete the exam, which contains 85 questions.
The PE Industrial exam can be difficult. The exam tests your competency in all aspects of industrial engineering and should not be taken lightly. You should plan on taking several weeks to prepare and study before sitting for the exam.
The PE Industrial exam tests for a minimum level of competency in industrial engineering. In most cases, you need a minimum of four years of post-college work experience to be able to sit for the exam.
The PE Industrial exam covers the following topics:
  • Systems Engineering
  • Facilities Engineering and Planning
  • Operations Engineering
  • Work Design
  • Quality Engineering
For more information, you can visit the ncees.org or view this PDF

PE Nuclear FAQs

Your exam appointment at a Pearson VUE test center will last 9.5 hours. You will have 8.5 hours to complete the 85-question exam. Also included in your 9-hour appointment is a tutorial and a scheduled break.
The PE Nuclear exam can be difficult. According to NCEES, approximately 58% of first time test takers pass. The exam tests your competency in all aspects of nuclear engineering and should not be taken lightly. You should plan on taking several months to prepare before sitting for the exam.
The PE Nuclear exam tests for a minimum level of competency in nuclear engineering. In most cases, you need a minimum of four years of post-college work experience to be able to sit for the exam.
The PE Nuclear exam covers the following topics:
  • Nuclear Power Systems
  • Nuclear Fuel Cycle
  • Interaction of Radiation with Matter
  • Nuclear Criticality/Kinetics/Neutronics
For more information, you can visit the ncees.org or view this PDF

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Qualifying to Take the NCEES PE Exam
Make sure you've completed these steps for PE exam qualification. Learn more about the requirements for the PE exam.
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About the NCEES PE Exam, or Professional Engineer Exam
The PE exam is a great way to improve your career prospects. Learn about the PE exam, including exam format, subjects, and more.