The Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam is generally your first step in the process to becoming a professional licensed engineer (P.E.). It is designed for recent graduates and students who are close to finishing an undergraduate engineering degree from an EAC/ABET-accredited program.
Since the FE exam is such a critical part of an engineer’s career path, AES interviewed its team of Intern Engineers who have passed the exam, and asked them about their experience preparing for and taking the exam. They shared their top study tips, testing guidance, and words of advice.
Don’t delay. Try to take it immediately after graduating. If your school offers a training course or practice exams, take advantage of it.
“I spent an extra summer taking a course at Clarkson for the FE then took the test right after. The course covered everything from middle school math to in-depth engineering concepts, and was very well put together.” Dan Galy, Intern Engineer
Review. Read all the literature, go back to the fundamentals, and do all the practice exercises. Use the exam book to review knowledge areas and identify your weak spots.
“The test can be overwhelming at first. Go in with the mindset that it’s a marathon and not a sprint. If you dedicate the time to preparing and know your way around the material, the exam becomes a lot less intimidating.” Jacob Jacques, Intern Engineer
Stay disciplined. Set a schedule and goals for yourself. Stick to a consistent studying schedule, and know what topics you will study every week.
“Set a study schedule and stick to it.” Erik Falkengren, Intern Engineer
Find a study time that works best for you, and you are the most focused.
“I am a morning person, so I would come in early and study for an hour before work.” Taylor Trombley, Intern Engineer
Become familiar with the reference book they provide with the exam. Knowing where and how to find the information needed to answer a question is critical.
“Learning your way around the reference manual can save you on a lot of questions. When you’re studying, use it on every question, whether you need it or not.” Jacob Jaques
Know how to use all calculator functions.
(Enough said about that.)
Take as many full length practice exams as possible, and practice timing yourself to get used to the pace of the exam. Mentally train yourself to test for 5hrs 40min, which can be very taxing if you’re not ready for it.
“Not taking full practice exams would be like training for a marathon by only jogging 20 minutes a day – you’ll be hurting at the end of that race!” Paul Ford, Intern Engineer
While you’re taking the exam, keep track of your time.
“Set a time limit on the first section where you will end your morning session, and another on how long you plan on reviewing your section and questions, prior to ending the section.” Erik Falkengren
Focus on topics where you are the most confident, and skip any question you do not know – you can simply return to it as long as you do not end your section. Do the easiest and obvious first, return to any you think you know and can work out easily, return again to the most difficult questions.
“It was a journey for me to pass, that’s for sure. With enough determination anyone can pass it if they put in the time and effort.” Paul Ford
Plan for afterwards.
“The exam is long so having a restaurant figured out for when you’re finished, is key.” Taylor Trombley
And one last bit of advice: as challenging as the exam is, you never know unless you try.
“I delayed taking the exam for several years for a lot of reasons, but the main one was that I thought I wasn’t ready. This continued all the way up to the exam, but I knew I at least had to try. I still didn’t think I did that well, but lo and behold, I passed. So, I think the big lesson is “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take” – Wayne Gretzky – Michael Scott – Quinn Rufa. At least attempt the exam earlier than I did, and you will know where you are weak. After you pass, champagne is necessary.” Quinn Rufa, Intern Engineer