How to prepare for PE Civil exam in 2021

Articles > How to prepare for PE Civil exam in 2021


The Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE) exam is conducted to measure a minimum amount of proficiency in a certain discipline of engineering. This exam is for those who have completed four years in a particular discipline of engineering and have attained professional work experience in that field. The format of the exam is such that it consists of 80 questions and the time given to attend those questions is 8 hours. Moreover, it is held twice a year in April and October in the pencil-paper format. Most such exams are currently offered in pencil-paper format, but some PE exams are directed year-round with the help of computer-based testing. 

This exam is conducted in two halves i.e., The first half consists of questions from all the five regions of civil engineering and the second half consists of questions from any one area of practice. The specifications and standards of this exam are updated 6 months before the exam administration. Updates for this exam, which is to be conducted in April, will be posted in November, and updates for this exam, which is to be conducted in October, will be posted in May. While filling out the form for this exam, you will be asked to select an afternoon module based on which scoring will be done. Given below are the five specializations in the field of Civil Engineering:

The results of this exam are declared 8–10 weeks after the exam administration to the licensing boards. The notification will be done based on the candidate’s state via online mode, through the candidate’s MyNCEES account, or will be notified via postal mail from the candidate’s state licensing board. The fees required for this exam vary from state to state or as per the foreign location. Depending upon the candidate’s place of registration, fees may be paid directly to NCEES, the state licensing board, or the designer of the board. 

This exam is an open-book exam where the candidate is allowed to bring reference materials that must remain bound during the exam. In the case of loose paper, it may be bound with ring binders, brads, plastic snap binders, spiral-bound notebooks, or screw posts.

Staples is not permitted inside the examination hall. Sticky notes and flags are permitted only when attached to bound materials. 

NCEES also provides mock tests to familiarize themselves with the exam format. These tests consist of questions that are based on past years and questions written just for study materials to provide extra practice. 


Understanding the exam

It may be perceived as a tough exam but if planning is done properly for the preparation of this exam, then it is not a tough journey at all. Even when questions are easy, many students tend to make silly mistakes which causes them to lose marks. Silly mistakes can be made in putting units, not reading the question properly, or rounding off the answer which leads to the selection of incorrect options for the answers. 

One of the reasons for the difficulty of the exam is that sometimes there is only one acceptable approach to a problem that can only be found in a codebook. In such a situation if a candidate doesn’t bring that codebook or reference material then the candidate may end up in trouble. This happens mostly in subjects like transportation, structures, and geotechnical.  

In some cases, the problems are difficult as it involves extra procedures to get the required information. The ability to interpret and make judgments for a better approach towards the solution to the problem will make scoring easy. Hence, adequate practices are required to tackle such tricky questions to get answers quickly.

Listing out important points

It is important to focus on important topics in order to excel in exams. Students should approach smart work and not hard work as smart work facilitates ease of management in studies. Students can manage gracefully both the PE Civil exam as well as college exams. Some of the tips are -



No exam is tough or easy. It is solely dependent on the candidate's preparation technique, hard work or smart work, planning, and a better understanding of one's weaknesses and strengths. If preparation is done beforehand then it is easy to excel in any exam. Rarely is the possibility of some students excelling in such exams with preparation just before the exam. This exam should be taken seriously as it decides the destination of the candidate’s interest to pursue a branch of interest. With good preparation and applying such beneficial techniques, one can come out with flying colors and become the best civil engineer on whom the world is looking up to.









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