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Six Steps for Successful NCEES FE Exam Prep

May 3, 2021
Woman sitting at desk in a classroom taking a test image

Deciding to take the NCEES FE exam is a big step. Your time is valuable, so get the most out of your prep time with these six steps.


1. Purchase the NCEES FE Reference Handbook

Get a copy of the NCEES Handbook. Use it alongside your FE Review Manual. You will want to know the sequence of the sections, what data is included, and the approximate locations of important figures and tables in the NCEES Handbook. You should also know the terminology (words and phrases) used in the NCEES Handbook to describe equations or subjects, because those are the terms you will have to look up during the exam. The NCEES Handbook is available both in printed and PDF format. The PDF version includes search functionality that is similar to what you’ll have available when taking the computer-based exam.

PPI Pro Tip:  In order to find something using the NCEES Handbook PDF search function, your search term will have to match the content exactly (including punctuation).

2. Determine Which Knowledge Areas You Need More Help With

Use the diagnostic exams in your FE review manual to determine how much you should study in the various knowledge areas. 

PPI Pro Tip:  You can use diagnostic exams in two ways: before you begin studying to determine which subjects you should emphasize, or after you finish studying to determine if you are ready to move on.

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

3. Make a Schedule Before You Start Reviewing

In order to complete your review of all examination subjects, you must develop and adhere to a review schedule.  

PPI Pro Tip:  Near the exam date, give yourself a week to take a realistic practice exam.

4. Work Through Everything

The NCEES has reduced the number of subjects you are expected to know and has made nothing optional. Keep in mind during your FE exam review that skipping your weakest subjects is no longer a viable preparation strategy. You should study all examination knowledge areas, not just your specialty areas, and that means you study every chapter of your review book.

PPI Pro Tip:  Skip nothing. 

5. Be Thorough

Being thorough means really doing the work. During your FE exam review, be sure to solve each numerical example using your calculator, read through the solution, and refer back to the equations, figures, and tables it references. Reading the instructional text is a “high value” activity. There isn’t much text to read in the first place, so the value per word is high.

PPI Pro Tip:  Everything your review book shows in blue is in the NCEES Handbook, so it has a high probability of showing up on the exam.

6. Complete as Many Practice Problems as Possible

You have less than an average of three minutes to answer each question on the exam. You must be able to recall solution procedures, formulas, and important data instinctively. The best way to develop fast recall is to work as many practice problems as you can find; solve every example in your review book and every problem in the companion practice book. For example, if you’re taking the FE Civil exam, we recommend getting the FE Civil review bundle, which includes FE Civil Practice, as well as the review book, two practice exams, and more. Don’t skip any of them. All of the problems were written to illustrate key points.

PPI Pro Tip:  Develop fast recall by working through as many practice problems as you can find. 

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