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What to Expect on the Day of the PE Exam

By: Michael R. Lindeburg, PE
April 29, 2021
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In this excerpt from Civil Engineering Reference Manual, author Michael R. Lindeburg, PE tells you what to expect and what to be aware of on the day of your PE exam.

What to Do the Day Before the PE Exam

Take the day before the exam off from work to relax. Do not cram. A good night’s sleep is the best way to start the exam. If you live a considerable distance from the exam site, consider getting a hotel room in which to spend the night. Practice setting up your exam work environment. Carry your boxes to the kitchen table. Arrange your “bookcases” and supplies. Decide what stays on the floor in boxes and what gets an “honored position” on the tabletop.

Use your checklist to make sure you have everything. Make sure your exam kits are packed and ready to go. Wrap your boxes in plastic bags in case it is raining when you carry them from the car to the examination room. Calculate your wake-up time and set the alarms on two bedroom clocks. Select and lay out your clothing items. (Dress in layers.) Select and lay out your breakfast items. If it is going to be hot on exam day, put your (plastic) bottles of water in the freezer. Make sure you have gas in your car and money in your wallet.

What to Do the Day of the PE Exam

Turn off the quarterly and hourly alerts on your wristwatch. Leave your cell phone in the car. If you must bring it, set it on silent mode. Bring a morning newspaper. You should arrive at least 30 minutes before the exam starts. This will allow time for finding a convenient parking place, bringing your materials to the exam room, making room and seating changes, and calming down. Be prepared, though, to find that the exam room is not open or ready at the designated time. Once you have arranged the materials around you on your table, take out your morning newspaper and look cool. (Only nervous people work crossword puzzles.)

Preparing for the PE exam? Test your skills with a free sample quiz. Choose your discipline: PE Civil, PE Electrical, or PE Mechanical.

What to Do During the PE Exam

All of the procedures typically associated with timed, proctored, machine-graded assessment tests will be in effect when you take the PE exam. The proctors will distribute the exam booklets and answer sheets if they are not already on your tables. However, you should not open the booklets until instructed to do so. You may read the information on the front and back covers, and you should write your name in any appropriate blank spaces. Listen carefully to everything the proctors say.

Do not ask your proctors any engineering questions. Even if they are knowledgeable in engineering, they will not be permitted to answer your questions. Answers to questions are recorded on an answer sheet contained in the test booklet. The proctors will guide you through the process of putting your name and other biographical information on this sheet when the time comes, which will take approximately 15 minutes.

You will be given the full four hours to answer questions. Time to initialize the answer sheet is not part of your four hours. The common suggestions to “completely fill the bubbles and erase completely” apply here. NCEES provides each examinee with a mechanical pencil with HB lead. Use of ballpoint pens and felt-tip markers is prohibited. If you finish the exam early and there are still more than 30 minutes remaining, you will be permitted to leave the room. If you finish less than 30 minutes before the end of the exam, you may be required to remain until the end. This is done to be considerate of the people who are still working.

Be prepared to stop working immediately when the proctors call “pencils down” or “time is up.” Continuing to work for even a few seconds will completely invalidate your exam. When you leave, you must return your examination booklet. You may not keep the examination booklet for later review. If there are any questions that you think were flawed, in error, or unsolvable, ask a proctor for a “reporting form” on which you can submit your comments. Follow your proctor’s advice in preparing this document.


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