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Achieve Your Engineering Career Goals with the Time You Have Now

By: Josh Ogle, PE, SE
September 28, 2020
This is a time of uncertainty, but one thing is for sure—it’s a great time to start the studies that will lead you to your goal of becoming a licensed engineer.

Wherever you currently are in your exam studies, here are a few ways you can use the time you have now to work towards your future goals.

How to Prepare for Engineering Licensure Now

Gather your study materials.

First off, if you have not already gathered your study materials, now is a good time.

If money is tight, you can make do with the textbooks from school or materials you have already collected over the years. An alternative to buying a new set of materials from PPI would be to borrow materials from a co-worker. If the materials are an older edition than the current one, please be aware code references might not be up-to-date like the latest editions available, and there may be changes in the format or content of the materials.

No matter what exam you are preparing to take, there are free resources online which explain the concepts on the exam. If you need help finding some of those resources, do a quick Google search, or reach out to me, and I can help direct you.

Familiarize yourself with the study materials.

Once you have purchased your materials, it is time to start getting familiar with them. This includes tabbing and highlighting.

The more time you spend navigating your materials now, the more time you will be able to save during the exam. The exam you are taking is a test of your time management and ability to answer questions in the time given. You are smart enough to answer the questions that are presented, but if you run out of time, then you cannot get any points. I always tell my students that any time you spend tabbing and highlighting is time well spent. Think about it. If you can save 1 minute, 30 seconds, or even 15 seconds per question, how much time do you save yourself over the entire exam?

Put together a study plan.

Before you get too far in your quest to familiarize yourself with your materials, you could benefit from putting together a study plan.

Schedule some time to review, tab, highlight, work through practice problems, and go through a practice exam. If you want to put your own study plan together, there is nothing stopping you, and better yet, it is free. You can type something out on the computer or write something using a pen and paper. This study plan can help you understand how many days or hours you have available to study and how many topics to cover during that time. By putting a study plan in place, you can be focused on your efforts and stay on schedule.

Thinking about taking the FE exam? Download the Preparing for the FE Exam eBook.

Work through practice problems.

The most important portion of your study time will be the time you spend working through practice problems.

The more exposure you have to different types of problems, the more equipped you will be for that same type of problem or concept when it shows up on the exam. The practice problems you can use will come from the materials you collected at the beginning or the free resources you can find online. These books of practice problems will help you hone your knowledge.

PPI has you covered with practice problems, but do not neglect the semi-free practice problems that are present as “example problems” in your reference manual or school textbooks. These can help those who are on a budget, as well as give you more exposure to difficult topics. This is not guaranteeing you will understand every single problem on the exam, but it does help you to prepare you for concepts you do not know and quickly address problems with concepts you do know.

Take a practice exam.

After taking enough time to go through enough practice problems, there will be a need to evaluate your progress before the exam. You can evaluate yourself by taking a practice exam in a realistic environment and timeframe.

By taking a practice exam, either an official practice exam for your specific exam or a PPI practice exam, you will see what areas you need to improve. Taking it within the same time constraints and the environment as the real exam might help you realize the area you need to improve is time management. In that case, refer to my previous comments about getting to know your materials. If the areas you need to improve are concepts, then use the materials you have to practice and brush up on the topic.

You Can Do This

The last thing to remember is that you can do this!

The licensure exam is not something to joke about. It is tough, but you are tougher. The exam is hard, but you are smart, and you can do hard things. For some, it may take a few times. For others, it takes a single time. I failed one of my own exams to become licensed, but I dusted myself off after my failure and returned to crush my exam with a new sense of vigor.

Regardless of your path, at the end of the day, you are achieving your goal and that is all that matters. You can do this! Now is the time to start your journey!

If you have any questions specifically about the FE Civil, PE Civil, or SE exams, please reach out to me ( For a list of exam prep materials for the FE, PE, or SE exams. I personally recommend from PPI—check out this webpage.

Keep on keepin’ on. Life’s a garden…dig it!

—Josh Ogle, PE, SE


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