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What You Need to Know about the PE Mechanical CBT Exam

October 7, 2020
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In April 2020, the NCEES PE Mechanical exam transitioned from paper-and-pencil format to computer-based testing (CBT).  If you are planning to take the PE Mechanical exam in 2020 or later, you’ll want to make sure you are prepared for the changes. Read on for a list of everything you need to know about the new PE Mechanical CBT exam.

1. You’ll be able to choose your exam date.

If you take the CBT version, you will have more flexibility when it comes to the date of your exam. No longer will you be restricted to taking it on specific dates in the spring or fall. After you’re authorized to take the exam, all you need to do is log in to MyNCEES to schedule it. You can take the exam one time per testing window (a specific 3-month period), and no more than three times in a 12-month period.

2. Your exam will be given at a Pearson VUE test center.

When you register for your exam on MyNCEES, you’ll be able to choose a Pearson VUE testing center where you’ll take the exam. Make sure you review the test center rules and regulations. The only items you’ll be allowed to take into the exam room are the ID used during the admission process, the key to your test center locker, an NCEES-approved calculator, a booklet and marker supplied by Pearson VUE, eyeglasses (no case), a light sweater or jacket, and items on the Pearson VUE Comfort Aid List. You’ll also need to bring your appointment confirmation letter, but you won’t need it in the exam room. You will no longer be able to take in your own books or notes to use during the exam, as was allowed in the pencil-and-paper version. Instead, you will have access to the appropriate NCEES reference handbook as a searchable PDF on the screen alongside the exam.

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

3. A linear-on-the-fly (LOFT) algorithm will be used to create your exam.

No two exams will be the same, but all examinees will complete the same number of questions on the same major topics. Each examinee will have a completely unique exam, assembled by an algorithm designed to present an equal number of questions on the same topics at the same level of difficulty.

4. Question formats will consist of multiple-choice and alternative item types (AITs).

Most questions on the exam will be in multiple-choice format. The ones that aren’t multiple-choice will be presented as an alternative item type (AIT). Examples of AITs are “multiple correct,” “point and click,” “drag and drop,” and “fill in the blank.” You can find detailed information on each AIT on the NCEES website here. No partial credit will be given for any question, as all questions will be scored as either “correct” or “incorrect.”

5. Results will be available 7–10 days after completing your exam.

When your results are ready, you will receive an email notification. You will be able to log on to MyNCEES to see your results. All results will be either “Pass” or “Fail.” If you fail, NCEES will provide you with a diagnostic report showing your performance for each of the major topics covered, so you can easily identify the areas where you need more practice.


Being able to take the CBT version of the PE Mechanical exam is a big plus in the eyes of many examinees. If you choose to take the CBT exam, you will be able to schedule your own exam date and receive your results much faster. There are many upsides to taking the pencil-and-paper exam, as well, including the opportunity to utilize your own books and notes in the exam room. Regardless of which option you choose, make sure to carefully review all the information provided by NCEES about your exam. Ready to start preparing? Learn more about PE Mechanical review materials here.

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