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CONSOLIDATED ADVICE THREAD: Env PE Exam

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Hi. I am new here. I looked around most of the forum, I could not find any advice for people taking the Env PE exam. I all I noticed people are saying is that it is tough. If someone could show me a link for websites, programs, or if they took the exam and can spare a few moments to tell me what they did that made them pass, I would greatly appreciate it.

EDIT: THIS HAS BECOME THE THREAD WE HAVE USED, SINCE 2006, TO SHARE OUR COLLECTIVE ADVICE ON THE ENVIRONMENTAL PE EXAM. ONCE YOU HAVE TAKEN THE EXAM, PLEASE COME BACK AND ADD YOUR ADVICE, BEING VERY CAREFUL NOT TO BREAK YOUR AGREEMENT WITH NCEES, USING THE FOLLOWING FORMAT:

Test you took: PE Environmental Engineering

Where you took it:

What books you brought with you:

What books you actually used:

What books did you wish you brought:

General impression about exam and format:

Advice for future test takers:

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I passed the PE Envl last April.

It is a very broad exam. You'll need to know a little about a whole lot of topics.

What I did was buy 101 Solved Problems and use it as a diagnostic as to what's on the exam, and what I knew.

I then studied any textbook, manual, or printout I could on the questions asked in a particular section. I put my personal notes along with photocopies of key tables and charts into binders organized by topic.

With about a month left, I did the PPI practice exams under semi-realistic test conditions, to build up speed and familiarity.

Two weeks before the exam I took the full blown NCEES practice test exam, full exam conditions, all 8 hours in one day.

Then eased back, did a little review, got my references in order, made sure I knew where my motel and exam site where, and went out and passed.

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Actually, I was just thinking that us enviros should get off our butts and start a thread like this in the Environmental section. I will do that in a little while, as soon as I can look up my old "the other board" post so I don't have to re-type stuff that I've probably already fogotten.

And welcome, Mahendra! :wel

The beauty of being a mod is not having to re-type stuff. I'm so glad to have a few new Envls, for a long time I was the only one! -VTE

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Thank you both for the advice. I was afraid you would say that. My concentration in the last several years have been in air, so I have no background in water or waste. I have a feeling I will be spending a lot of time just learning new stuff.

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I found my old post on the "the other board" forum, which I posted under Freon's "Time to Pay Your Dues" thread right after taking the environmental exam in October 2006. I've re-edited it in an attempt to be more helpful and complete:

Test you took: PE Environmental Engineering

Where you took it: Tumon, Guam

What books you brought with you:

- ENVRM

- All the sample question books available - "the other board" & NCEES

- Wastewater Engineering (Metcalf & Eddy)

- Environmental Engineering (Salvato et al.),

- Hazardous Waste Management (LaGrega et al),

- Air Pollution Control (Cooper, Alley),

- Applied Hydrogeology (Fetter),

- Handbook of Solid Waste Management (Tchobanaglous et al.),

- NIOSH pocket guide to chemical hazards,

- 2004 Emergency Response Handbook (DOT/Canada etc.),

- EPA RCRA and CERCLA "orientation manuals",

- the downloaded OSHA regulations and manual excerpts,

- federal regulations: EPA's RCRA regulations (2 volumes),

EPCRA, and DOT Hazmat Transp. regs

What books you actually used: I used all of the books I brought, except for the sample problem manuals and federal regulations. I think I looked in the NCEES practice problems book once or twice, but I can't remember now if I found what I needed there. Mostly I used the ENVRM and a couple of other books. "Environmental Engineering" by Salvato was particularly handy for many subject areas, including a couple of the strange ones. I'd definitely recommend that book, because I can see using it for work. Other books I would recommend are "Hazardous Waste Management" by LaGrega, "Applied Hydrogeology" by Fetter, and (but of course) Metcalf & Eddy. I don't think the Solid Waste book was particularly helpful for the exam, though it is for my work (in fact I've already loaned it out to a colleague, so I'm not sure if I have the title right) and I didn't have enough time with "Air Pollution Control" to really get as much use out of it as I thought I would, though it did come in handy on some of the practice exams. ENVRM actually covers air pollution pretty well, but it's always nice to have something more in depth for background reading. Air sampling methods and equipment are covered nicely by Salvato - though the federal regulations can't be beat, as long as you can find stuff in them (tabs!).

Some thoughts on "the other board"'s Environmental Engineering Reference Manual (ENVRM): I feel this book was just cobbled together from the Civil and Chemical Reference Manuals. It would benefit from a serious editing job and some new chapters written specifically for the Env. exam. It is adequate for the water subjects, air pollution, and some of the safety/emergency response stuff. But it is pretty inadequate for hazardous waste and site remediation type stuff. Also, it does not cover contaminant hydrogeology, which would seem to be an easy addition to the groundwater chapter. What I did was write in additional equations at the end of chapters, or in the margins, as I would run into them in the "other" "the other board" books, like Schnetier's 101 solved problems and the 6-minute solutions. I don't know if all states allow that, but it was OK for Guam.

What books did you wish you brought: I had to fly to my exam site, so I had to pick and choose which federal regulations to bring along because my bags had gotten too heavy. Well, it turns out the only federal regulations I needed to reference during the exam were the ones I left at the office. Who knew? Also, I wish I had found some good references on sampling for all different media and contaminants - water, air, and hazardous waste.

General impression about exam and format: Surprisingly, I thought the difficulty was very similar to what was simulated with "the other board"'s pratice exams book. My finish times were identical to the timed practice exam I gave myself two weeks prior. The format is different, of course. The actual exam is much wider-ranging, which I knew it would be. It would be nice if "the other board" could correct that with a new edition of the practice exams that follows the NCEES format more accurately. What was different, though, is that the quantitative questions were easier on the real exam, and the qualitative questions were more difficult.

Advice for Spring test takers: Start studying at least three months prior to the exam. Read everything you can - it's not just the calculations that you need to master! But definitely master the calculations - just focus on the fundamentals - chemistry, kinetics (first order covers most environmental subjects), mass balances (way simpler than it sounds), and the ideal gas law - and by the time you finish practicing, you will be able to solve almost any quantitaive question with nothing more than a quick look-up of the appropriate equation or chemical property. Also, make sure you give yourself a timed practice exam at least a couple weeks before the real thing. It really is helpful, if for nothing else than the knowledge of how you will be able to use your time. For me, I learned that I work plenty fast enough not to have to worry about skipping problems. I had plenty of time to give each problem a thorough attempt before moving on, and I still had plenty of time left to go back to the ones I had problems with, and also to go back and check all my other answers - and still leave the afternoon session early.

Additional thoughts (two and a half months later:) I studied for three months because that's all I had left once I found out whether or not my application to take the exam had been accepted. I was able to put in about 300 hours of quality studying time during that time, which works out to 25-30 hours per week. This was only possible because of my work situation - there just wasn't much happening here at the time, and my boss was very understanding. If I were starting again from scratch, I would recommend 4 months just so you have a little extra time. But, I will say that committing myself "body and soul" to the study effort was what made it possible for me. I set a lofty goal of "acing" the exam, not because I thought I could, but because I wanted to be able to walk out of the exam feeling confident, which I did. Over time, of course, my confidence eroded as I discovered that I had been wrong on a number of problems, mostly qualitative questions that I had to guess on.

I didn't set a detailed schedule, but I did initially give myself 2 weeks for each of the four major exam areas (i.e., 2 months): water and wastewater, air, hazardous and solid waste, and safety/emergency response. My study method was to read a chapter in the ENVRM (skipping the basic math sections and most of thermodynamics), do the example problems myself, and then do the practice problems book for that chapter. After I would finish an entire subject (air, water, etc.) I would do the problems in the "Solved Problems" book as sort of a bring-it-all-together excercize, although some of the problems in there were so far removed from the ENVRM that I sould sometimes be sent off on another studying campaign.

Once I got into it, I discovered that some sections were easier than others. Air, for example, took only a week for me. On the other hand, I spent an entire month on water and wastewater, and damn near lost hope. The other two were pretty much right on schedule, with safety/emergency response (and radiation, noice, etc) taking maybe a week. That left me with about a week to go through the NCEES practice exam, and a few days to brush up on the simplest concepts of econ (don't bother going through the whole chapter - only the beginning), and then I took a full practice exam, timed, and in a controlled environment (a spare studio at a friend's radio station), with 2 weeks left. I passed the practice exa with an 84/100, and felt pretty confident. I spent the last two weeks doing the 6-minute solutions book (not for the enviro exam, but somewhat helpful) and going over subjects I felt shaky on.

The day before the exam I ran through the NCEES practice exam one more time, which only took about 4 hours because I already knew how to work the problems, and then I went shopping and relaxed, had a beer with a fish dinner, and got a good night's rest.

The exam, I felt, was most similar to the NCEES practice exam. Focus heavily on that - in terms of types of questions to expect. Try it out earlier than I did in my study schedule. I felt the heavy emphasis I placed on problem solving helped me get through the quantitative questions with ease. The qualitative questions were another story. It was like you either knew them, or you were off on a wild goose chase through the indices of your references to find something you had never seen before. So in that sense, it was more an excercise in finding out how comprehensive your references are, and how good you are at using an index, because I seriously doubt there's any one person who could possibly have experience in all that I saw on the test. So, I suggest in addition to problem solving, you also read as much as possible, and bring all the books you can.

I hope this helps you, and please feel free to ask questions and hang around. It's lonely being an environmental engineer. :( Right VTE?

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Hi. I am new here. I looked around most of the forum, I could not find any advice for people taking the Env PE exam. I all I noticed people are saying is that it is tough. If someone could show me a link for websites, programs, or if they took the exam and can spare a few moments to tell me what they did that made them pass, I would greatly appreciate it.

Welcome Mahendra!

In general this is what I did:

Began studying approximately 2 hrs every night in early August (for the Oct PE exam) by the reading EnvERM cover to cover and working problems.

I also took a PE exam review class which really helped since I have been out of school for quite a while.

I think the folks on this board should be able to give you a good lisetd text books and reference materials on various enviro topics for studying purposes.

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I studied starting in August trying to hit an hour a night on week days and one day of the weekend. Took off about three days before the exam and put in 8 hours each day. I found the best practice was the "the other board" example tests. There are 300 problems in it. I also looked at the "the other board" reference manual. As far as book I used during the test I primarily used the "the other board" book. I Remember using Fundamentals of Air Quality systems (Noll who was a professor in my grad school) Metcalf and Eddy a couple times, Domenico and Swhartz Physical and chemical hydrogeology once or twice. Hazardous Waste (Watts) once or twice The difficulty of the problems is not hard, its just really broad. If you do the the 300 practice problems and are familiar with your references you will be fine.

Print out the 40 cfr 260 regs and bring it. Should get you an easy quetsion or two. I had to guess on that, but it didn't hurt me.

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I should add to my long-winded post above that I am 16 years out of college, and have a degree in ME - so I had to teach myself a lot of this stuff during the corse of my studies. If you have a degree in Environmental Dengineering, or even Chemical, you might not need to study as much as I did.

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Thank you both for the advice. I was afraid you would say that. My concentration in the last several years have been in air, so I have no background in water or waste. I have a feeling I will be spending a lot of time just learning new stuff.

I'd say I was generally familiar, or had at least seen 2/3 of the exam material previously.

The stuff that was totally new to me was a lot of the federal legislation, OSHA/safety, radiation, noise...stuff like that. Pretty much any occupational questions.

Pretty much anytime I saw "As defined in 40 CFR 123, which of the following must be stored in a closed container."

A. Hazardous Waste

B. Hazardous Substance

C. Hazardous Material

D. Hazardous Stuff

I wanted to go :brick:

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The exam, I felt, was most similar to the NCEES practice exam.

I agree. If you are a first time taker and want to know what the PE exam is like, buy the NCEES practice exam book. It's the same format and the same level of difficulty.

As you browse thru it, you'll find that the problems are rather simple. You just need to know how to solve them, but in overall difficulty, they're not that bad. Remember, the biggest enemy is that you are working against time.

I feel that bringing your entire engineering library to the test is kinda pointless. Like I said, you're working against time so you don't have time to browse thru many books/manuals. 80% of the time, I just use the Lindeburg book. O yea, don't forget to make a mini booklet of the index section for the Lindeburg book and the unit conversion factor. So you don't have to keep flipping back and forth.

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I couldn't disagree any more with what you said.

I found the NCEES practice exam to be much harder than the real deal. The PPI sample exams were closer in my opinion.

I didn't use the ENVRM much at all. Just to pick values out of tables, and to get a few definitions. I brought every textbook I used during my review and used all of them save for one or two.

I found the breadth of the exam was worse than the time constraints.

I guess this shows there's more than one way to skin a cat though. :D

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AWSOME! You guys are great. Thank you so much for the info. I am sure I will have a million question throughout the next few months, so I will make sure to post them.

One quick question I have, I bought the following lecture DVDs, and wanted to know if anyone has bought them. I have a feeling that I am one of the "first" to get them since they were not available until Sep 2006.

http://www.ncsu-engineering-resources.com/...=8&CatID=99

Also, do you guys know anyone who relied exclusively on the "the other board" material and nothing else and managed to pass?

Edited by Mahendra

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Do you mean did anyone only take the ENVRM into the test and pass? I have no idea but I wouldn't recommend it. I think it may be possible if you are knowledgeable on the stuff the ENVRM doesn't cover well (site assessment & remediation, haz waste, sampling).

If you mean did anyone just study for it without any DVDs or coursework, well that's what I did (and I imagine quite a few others) - the ENVRM and practice problems books guided my study effort, but I bought/borrowed/downloaded (but never stole!) several other references to fill in the gaps, so to speak (even in the sections that ENVRM covers adequately).

That DVD course sounds good. I probably would have bought it if I had known about it. I was determined to not do this again.

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If you mean did anyone just study for it without any DVDs or coursework, well that's what I did (and I imagine quite a few others) - the ENVRM and practice problems books guided my study effort, but I bought/borrowed/downloaded (but never stole!) several other references to fill in the gaps, so to speak (even in the sections that ENVRM covers adequately).

Yep!

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I used the new NC State University Environmental PE Review Course as part of my preparation. It was released in September 2006 in DVD format and replaced the older version which was in VHS format. I used it to study and passed on my first attempt. A colleague of mine used the VHS version and passed on her first attempt as well. I highly recommend it. I am selling my copy on ebay.

It is listed on Ebay here with a more detailed description:

EBay

Here is a link to the NCSU web site:

NCSU Web Site

Here's my strategy....after completing each lecture series, I solved practice problems relating to that specific lecture. I then bound all my solved practice problems in a 3-ring binder organized them by topic. On the first page of each section, I wrote down key equations and page references to applicable reference text books. Not very exciting, but it seemed to work.

Good Luck

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Frankcal,

Thank you for the response. I am doing almost the same thing you are doing, but I do have some more questions if you do not mine.

Could you please let me know if you read the ENV Manual ahead of time to prepare before seeing the lectures or you just used it as reference? I am having trouble with the Manual since it is so dull and I am not getting much out of a chapter unless I use it exclusively. Do you think just being able to answer the questions on the Solved Problems book, and marking the equations is sufficient preparation or did you also use the Practice Problem for the ENV?

I know there is no easy way in passing the test, I just have trouble focusing sometimes when I read long technical material. I had this problem too when I studied for the FE test last October, but somehow I managed to pass.

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Frankcal,

Thank you for the response. I am doing almost the same thing you are doing, but I do have some more questions if you do not mine.

Could you please let me know if you read the ENV Manual ahead of time to prepare before seeing the lectures or you just used it as reference? I am having trouble with the Manual since it is so dull and I am not getting much out of a chapter unless I use it exclusively. Do you think just being able to answer the questions on the Solved Problems book, and marking the equations is sufficient preparation or did you also use the Practice Problem for the ENV?

I know there is no easy way in passing the test, I just have trouble focusing sometimes when I read long technical material. I had this problem too when I studied for the FE test last October, but somehow I managed to pass.

My advice is to not waste your time reading the ENV Manual if you watch the DVD lecture series. You must learn how to solve problems. When solving practice problems, I suggest understanding the solution to the problem at hand - many times the given solutions are simplified and they skip steps. This may involve some extra reading, but it will be focused. For example, when you're solving an ideal gas law problem, understand the various values and units of "R" and when to use them, and make sure you know where to find help next time you come across a similar problem. I did solve practice problems from the ENV solved problems book.

Hope this helps.

Frank

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I used the new NC State University Environmental PE Review Course as part of my preparation. It was released in September 2006 in DVD format and replaced the older version which was in VHS format. I used it to study and passed on my first attempt. A colleague of mine used the VHS version and passed on her first attempt as well. I highly recommend it. I am selling my copy on ebay.

It is listed on Ebay here with a more detailed description:

EBay

Here is a link to the NCSU web site:

NCSU Web Site

Here's my strategy....after completing each lecture series, I solved practice problems relating to that specific lecture. I then bound all my solved practice problems in a 3-ring binder organized them by topic. On the first page of each section, I wrote down key equations and page references to applicable reference text books. Not very exciting, but it seemed to work.

Good Luck

Auction for NCSU environmental review course ends tomorrow.

EBay

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bump. If anyone took the 100-question environmental exam, this would be the time to give your advice, whether you passed or failed.

Plus, it's been so lonely in the environmental forum.....

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Dleg:

I took the 100 question ENV exam this April and glad to say that I passed on my first try. My preparation time was about 3-4 months with about 10 hours during week days and 12 hours on the weekends until the last few weeks. I used the ENVRM and other "the other board" material, but I had to add Metcalf & Eddy to the repertoire for wastewater engineering. I found the NCEES sample exam to be a bit easier than the 3 practice PE exams from Lindeburg. I actually tried to simulate the conditions for practice exams (timing, ref material etc.). My buddy and I took the School of PE Env course review, but it turned out to be a waste of effort since they just skim the surface. The course is fine for CE exam with Enviro depth, not for hardcore ENV exam. Towards the end I was comfortable with everything except the Air and Haz waste since these two areas have so much to do with regs that its virtually impossible to master it all.

Just my 2 cents. Good luck to all preparing for this exam in the future.

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My buddy and I took the School of PE Env course review, but it turned out to be a waste of effort since they just skim the surface.

I would be asking: What the floc ??!!! :D

JR

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I guess I was asking for that one. But truly it did feel like it! :poop:

I would be asking: What the floc ??!!! :D

JR

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I took the environmental exam for the first time in April and passed. I studied during the weekday evenings and on the weekends by doing the problems in the ENVRM problem book. I found the water and wastewater problems to be the easiest, but I work in the wastewater industry and I am currently pursuing my master's degree in environmental engineering, so that is probably why they were easy for me. I struggled with some of the air problems while studying for the exam. Thankfully the air problems on the exam were very similar to the problems presented by Lindeberg. Basically, I thought that any problem that required the use of a calculator on the exam was similar to the problems covered by Lindeberg. I feel that if you put your time into studying and do all the problems in the problem guide that accompanies the ENVRM, you will pass the exam. Good Luck to anyone considering taking this exam!! :multiplespotting:

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I took the environmental exam for the first time in April and passed. I studied during the weekday evenings and on the weekends by doing the problems in the ENVRM problem book. I found the water and wastewater problems to be the easiest, but I work in the wastewater industry and I am currently pursuing my master's degree in environmental engineering, so that is probably why they were easy for me. I struggled with some of the air problems while studying for the exam. Thankfully the air problems on the exam were very similar to the problems presented by Lindeberg. Basically, I thought that any problem that required the use of a calculator on the exam was similar to the problems covered by Lindeberg. I feel that if you put your time into studying and do all the problems in the problem guide that accompanies the ENVRM, you will pass the exam. Good Luck to anyone considering taking this exam!! :multiplespotting:

I agree. Most of the numerical calculations on the April 2007 exam were similar in topic to the questions provided by Lindeberg. I also used all of the sample questions I could get my hands on. However, as for the not calculation questions, you just had to have the right references. I definitely recommend printing off the online references listed in Lindeberg. Definitely a huge help. Hopefully I will know shortly how helpful. Still awaiting the results in Maryland... :please:

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I just took the Environmental PE exam for the first time in April 2007, and passed.

Here is what my studying consisted of:

I thoroughly went through Introduction to Environmental Engineering by Davis and Cornwell. (The link is for the 6th edition—I had the 5th). This consisted of reading the text and doing every example problem in the text with the solution covered up. I spent most of my time on the water and wastewater. I had less time to study for air and hazardous waste.

I then skimmed the ENVRM book, and tabbed the relevant sections. I printed out the index for the ENVRM book from the "the other board" website and put it into a little folder to "bind" it. This was extremely helpful and saved a lot of time.

For the exam, I brought in a copy of the following:

  • Introduction to Environmental Engineering by Davis and Cornwell
  • Wastewater Engineering: Treatment, Disposal, Reuse by Metcalf & Eddy
  • Chemistry for Environmental Engineering by Sawyer & McCarty
  • Unit Operations and Processes in Environmental Engineering by Reynolds and Richards
  • Applied Hydrogeology, by Fetter
  • Hydrology by Watson and Burnett
  • Theory and Practice of Water and Wastewater Treatment by Droste
  • Water Supply and Sewerage by McGhee
  • Water Quality & Treatment by AWWA
  • Hydraulic Engineering by Roberson
  • 2004 Emergency Response Guidebook
  • NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards
  • Chemistry: Matter and Its Changes by Brady & Holum

I also brought in two identical TI-36X Solar calculators and a ruler. The ruler was taken from me before the exam. I ended up using my registration card for a straightedge.

I packed all of my books into two Staples paper boxes, and brought them in with a collapsible hand cart. All of my books were stacked spines up, so I could easily pick out any book I needed. Boxes were not allowed on the tables. I also brought in a water bottle and some Advil. I needed both in the afternoon. Also, while I used just about every book I brought in, I mostly relied on the ENVRM and the Davis and Cornwell book.

When I took the exam, I felt weakest on air and toxicology (no surprise—I have no background in these topics and didn’t spend nearly as much time as I should have studying them). The ENVRM treatment of these topics was pretty good, evidently enough to get me through the exam. On the other hand, the ENVRM treatment of hazardous waste was completely inadequate. I do have some background in this topic, but I didn’t have any references available to bring with me. If I had been required to take the exam again, I would have studied all of these topics more thoroughly, including obtaining some additional textbooks. I also would have brought in a statistics book.

All in all, though, I felt rather iffy about the exam. While most of the problems seemed pretty straightforward, I really felt like I hadn’t studied nearly enough. Plus, it’s been about 8-10 years since I had any coursework on this stuff. I fully expected to be taking the exam again, and had even started thinking about a study schedule to retake the exam next Spring. Even if I hadn’t passed, however, having seen the exam I was confident that I was capable of passing the exam if I’d put in more study time.

(This is pretty much par for the course for me, though. I’m a procrastinator, and put off studying until the week before the exam. I did take off the whole week from work, though, and got in about 50 hours of studying.)

This worked out for me for the FE exam, too. My whole study regimen consisted of just three full days of solid studying. I passed that the first time, too, which was pretty amazing, considering that I was 12 years out from my undergraduate graduation at the time. On the other hand, I’d been teaching college-level chemistry and physics for seven of those years, which helped tremendously.

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