How I passed my PE Mechanical exam: schedule, materials, improvements, and surprises!Articles > How I passed my PE Mechanical exam: schedule, materials, improvements, and surprises!
I took the Mechanical PE Exam (Fluids and Thermal Systems) on October. To give some context it took me 14 years of working to find the time and relevant experience (with PE references) before I took the exam. So to put it mildly I was way out of school and don't perform these calculations on a day to day basis.
My initial goal was to study 300 hours, from what I understand that's a guaranteed pass. As you can imagine the goals dropped from 300 to 200, then whatever I could cram in. I ended up studying 150 hours right up to the night before the exam. I started studying a couple weeks after I was notified that I was approved to take the exam (approximately 14 weeks before the exam) I tracked my hours diligently and kept reprojecting how many hours a week I needed to study to meet my goals. Don't get bogged down studying any one section, I spent WAY too much time on combusiton considering at best there's two questions.
I did stay in a hotel local to the exam the night before, which reduced the stress level as I was very unsure of the traffic situation on that commute.
I enlisted in the testmaster's online class for PE prep. Super expensive but I was going to give it my all on my first shot. With my schedule I couldn't commit to an in person class but loved the online lecture format; hit pause and take notes, rewind to hear that again, stop if I'm tired and I'll pick this back up tomorrow. It's a great overview of all subjects and was a great place to start when you haven't seen these subjects in 10+ years. However it comes up short in your focus areas; Thermo and Fluids. I went through the practice problems in Lindeburg's big book of practice problems for those focus areas. I did every problem in Fluids and power cycles and felt pretty prepared on those accounts.
The exam book that NCEES was a good reference to demonstrate how detailed some of the questions can get. I recommend that.
I also copied the entire appendix of the Lindeberg book, bound it, and used it while studying and in the test to save me from flipping that 10lb book back and forth, back and forth. I could have the steam tables open and in front of me the whole time. The guy next to me in the test didn't have the same consideration as he was slamming his big heavy civil books every two minutes.
You go through 100's of practice problems and I didn't reference any of them even once in the exam. Seems like a waste of time wading through problems to find one that looks like the one in front of you. I referenced my notes that I took during the testmaster course and while I did practice problems. AS well toastmasters gives you a great reference book for the class.
I was already brainstorming for the next time I took the test if it came to that; I would create a "Cheat Sheet" or two for every subject area. With all the formulas and clues I needed to solve that particular type of problem. And I would write everything I needed (to include the needed properties of water, air, and steam or what chart to find the properties) on every single page if it came to it. Plus, in the process of assembling that page and using it, you'r really studying to problems and processes.
Things that surprised me (but maybe shouldn't have):
You MUST use the pencil they provide you for everything.
You must show them all calculators you intend on using for the exam, no pulling your back-up out of your bag later. I was advised to bring a 2nd calculator, because, hey, sh*t happens. Call it cheap insurance. In school I saw a fellow student ask the professor for batteries in the middle of a thermo final, needless to say he was completely screwed. Since that day I always had an extra calculator and extra AAA's in my backpack.
I'm confused about the food policy, they say no food but I saw people munching. I brought water and didn't have a problem.
Don't be late! In the morning or after lunch! One minute late they will not let you in, I watched it happen.
That last minute goes FAST! When they say one minute, you just need to start wildly filling in empty bubbles without reading the question. in the afternoon I made a light tick mark on my best guess and said I'd go back to it if there was time. In the last minute any of those outstanding tick marks got bubbled in.
Bring and use foam earplugs. Some of your fellow engineers are bit eccentric, squirrley, and distracting.
I did a quick check on my pace every hour. After 2 hours I should have half the questions bubbles, after 3 I should have 30, etc.
I used the recommended 2 pass method. Go through once and mark each question; 1. I know this, 2. I kinda know this, and 3. WTF? And work them in that order.
Don't be an idiot, leave the phone in the car.
I took the test on October 30th and received the results on December 11th. I got an 80. Woo-Hoo!
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