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Advise on studying- Passed the first time


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#1 Construction PE

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Posted 19 December 2011 - 01:48 PM

Regular girl- passed the exam the first try (than you, God!!) and would like to share what I learned.
Hopefully it will help those of you starting to study.
I wish I knew this stuff from the get go...


1. I first started trying to read the CERM book like a novel. DON'T do this (at least not at the beginning). It is frustrating. Too in depth (which I originally thought would be a good thing) but all it did was make me almost want to quit studying a couple of times and give up on the PE all together. The CERM is a good reference (a GREAT reference) actually, but not a good Teaching tool.

2. Instead, go to this website from Texas A&M university: http://engineeringre...views/index.htm

They have free videos for you to watch on all of the disciplines. They are a bit old, but bear with them, they are VERY worth the time invested.
So what I did is print out the PDFs for the videos. I watched the video for one of the disciplines, for example Geotech. It would take me a couple of days to get through the video. Stop the video, work the problems out step by step along with the instructor, continue until you have completed the video. Then I would spend the rest of the week working through sample problems of that discipline. I had about 3 books of practice problems (one form Lindeburg, one for Kaplan, one directly from NCEES etc). Work as many problems as you can that week for that discipline. Keep the CERM book next to you the whole time. Every table you use, tab it. Keep working more problems until the end of the week. If a problem is ridiculously hard, skip it. You can use your time better by covering more problems first. At the end of your review months you can always come back to do hard problems if you have time.
Next week, Monday & Tuesday spend watching a video on Hydraulics for example. Work Hydro problems the rest of the week. Continue until you have finished all the videos and you will have covered the morning material well (for free!!!).

3. Next move into your afternoon depth portion. For me it was Construction. If this is yours, start with the Rajapakse review book (otherwise skip this step 3). Read this one like a novel, cover to cover. This book is very frustrating because it has lots of grammar mistakes, the drawings look like a kid drew them on the "paint" program, etc. Stick with it though. Try to overlook the little mistakes (which at the beginning will drive you NUTS). Keep going, and tab important formulas etc. This book is pretty easy to work through, and very informative. It will give you momentum on Construction if anything. Momentum is a great thing to have while studying.

4. Then work the companion problems from the Rajapakse practice problem book. By now, you should have all your codes listed on the NCEES list. As you work through the practice problems for your afternoon section, tab your references.

5. When you are done with your afternoon portion study of these books, I would take the "old" NCEES practice problems book (2008). They are much easier than any of the other problems: Lindeburg, kaplan, 6-minute solutions etc are all harder. Anyway, I would recommend to take the 2008 NCEES practice problems (treating it like an exam). Time yourself, make a homemade bubble sheet, whatever you can to make it as realistic as possible. Grade yourself. I got about a 60% on this first try (even after WEEKS of all that studying). That is OK. It just shows you where you need to improve.

6. If you got an earthwork moving problem wrong, I went through a bunch of similar earthwork problems again... not just the one I got wrong. Reinforce the entire TYPE of problem. Continue until you have covered a lot of material for each of the problems you got wrong (as well as the ones you got right but guessed!!).

7. Then take a print out of the NCEES outline and make sure you have covered every line item on it. If you haven't come across any work yet on a specific line item from the NCEES outline, THEN go to CERM book. This book covers it all. Read the section, work their problems.

8. I found at this point in my study timeline that I needed more problems that were similar to the actual exam. I had a lot of problems left in the Lindenburg practice problems, about 20% of the Kaplan practice problems were still unanswered but it was a waste a time to go through those, because they are too hard. I needed more practice problems that were similar difficulty to the exam. I bought a School of PE pdf review. I did every problem on this PDF set. Work as many problems as you can as similar as possible to the NCEES books at this point.

9. Lastly I took the last NCEES practice problems (the new 2011 book) as one final practice exam. Grade it also. Go through any problems you got wrong on this exam in depth

10. Make sure all your references are tabbed. Make sure you get a good rest before the exam. And go in confidently. Try and stay relaxed and pray. That helped me tons and I passed on the first try.

A couple of other EXTREMELY HELPFUL notes for you:

- I kept 3 ring binders of problems I worked. One for soils, one for structures, one for transpo etc. Every example you work, put it on a new sheet of paper. Stick it in the appropriate binder. Before long you will have a ton of solved transpo problems. Some on vertical curves, some on horizontal curves, some on traffic etc. Group all those problems and divide them with tabs. These binders were a great tool during the exam. I knew that if I got a horizontal curve problem on the exam, and if my mind went blank on what to do, I just had to go to the Transpo binder, the horizontal curve tab, find a similar problem and I would have procedures, formulas etc everything right there. I actually used this quite a bit during the exam. I also put printed out notes from the Texas A&M video PDFs at the front of each appropriate tab in my binders. Also, every formula I used in these solved problems, I put a CERM page number next to.

- Another general note that helped me a lot in addition to my binders were my tabs. I made my own color code. For example, the structural binder was blue, and every tab in the CERM book (and in every other reference) that had a structural table, or a useful structural formula was also blue. Everything geotech was green. Everything construction was red. etc. So I ended up with a bunch of tabs on my references, but in the middle of the exam, if I needed to look something up, I knew I had to focus on only one "type" so instead of looking through 50 tabs, I was focused on the 10 blue tabs only. It gains you a lot of speed.
Use whatever system works for you. But I highly recommend something like this.

- take two of the same calculators with you. Odds are neither will fail, but it buys you peace of mind. This is priceless during the exam.

- buy all the NCEES codes early. I wasn't sure if I would need all of them. So I bought some. As I kept studying some books referenced some codes I didn't have. Then I bought those also. Near the end of my prep time, I ended up with every code the NCEES had listed. But the ones I bought near the end, I hardly knew how to use. If it is on the NCEES list, it is for a reason. I think I used all but 1 of them during the exam. Studying for this thing is a huge investment of time and money. Don't cut your chances of passing because you wanted to save $100 bucks. I am so thankful I had everything with me. When you are done, you can always sell your books and make back about 80%.

Good luck to all of you!! If I can be of any help, email me at PECivilConstruction@gmail.com. This forum was a great help to me. I studied on my own (with no courses). The members here were awesome, and now it's my time to give back.
I also have all my references and binders which I will post in yardsales also.
Good luck!
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#2 ptatohed

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Posted 19 December 2011 - 05:08 PM

CPE,

Congrats! Thank you very much for taking the time to share your insight. Everything you said is great advice. Again, thanks.

#3 darius

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Posted 19 December 2011 - 06:34 PM

I bet is going to be very useful for some fellows. Many thanks for your time.

#4 Jacob_PE

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Posted 19 December 2011 - 06:38 PM

Great write-up, very close to how I prepared.

#5 ACC_HOKIES

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Posted 28 December 2011 - 04:37 PM

I fully agree with your first point. Maybe it's an individual basis thing, but I tried reading CERM as well, and ended up having to take a break myself. It's the only resource I used in the exam room though. Excellent for test day.

It sounds as though the rest of your studying was much more organized than mine. I tried as many practice problems as I could find, in any order, any level of difficulty, and in any amount of time I could scrap throughout the days.

#6 addi

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Posted 04 January 2012 - 02:27 AM

Gratz on passing Construction PE.

I passed the first time (Oct. 2011), but I took a review course. If you are like me and you cannot study on your own, I would suggest spending the money on a course. THe course was only worth it to me because it forced me to study and get me in the correct frame of mind for the test. When I first started studying 4 months earlier, I couldn't study at home. Even going to the library was not much better. I tried reading and then I'd try some problems. I'd go back and forth and just felt like I was not going anywhere. When I first started doing problems, I would finish a single problem in 2 hours. LOL. Talk about terrible.

The key not to give up. Keep going. I would go hard and study 4-5 hours after work. After a few days of this insanity, I would get burned out and not study the next couple weeks. You gotta recognize what your limit is and how much you realistically can absorb.

I took the Geotech. section. I read through all the threads on this forum on what books to get. I got:

Principles of Foundation Engineering, 7th Ed. by Das
Principles of Geotechnical Engineering, 7th Ed. by Das
Geotechnical Engineer's Portable Handbook by Day (Was useless. Never used it)
Lindenburg CERM
Binders of each subject from School of PE course
NCEES practice exam
Dictionary

I would look at the NCEES syllabus and start reading the topics in the Das textbooks. The textbooks has so much theory. I don't know if it makes any sense to read or just to do problems til you drop. I tried reading and understood maybe half the theory and then I would try to do example problems. For me, I forgot everything and Geotech wasn't my strong suit (honestly, I really don't have a strong suit, lol), so reading the textbook did help.

The biggest help for me was the practice exam. This helped me realize one big mistake I was making. I wasn't reading the questions carefully. People have mentioned this before too. YOU HAVE TO READ EACH QUESTION EXTREMELY CAREFULLY. Read it two, three, or four times.

The course helped to an extent. They give you a ton of information (I was always falling asleep at the end of each lecture, which were 8 hours long). Can you pass without a course? If you can study on your own, this answer is YES. I am not that person.

The CERM is key for the morning part. I basically used the CERM like one would use a dictionary to look up a word they don't know. When I first started studying a few years before I took the test, I wasn't getting anywhere. When I finally got accepted to take the test, I tried studying CERM and used the Lindenburg practice problems. I wasted so much time. Those problems were way too hard.

I dabbled in the 6 min. solutions. Did maybe 20 questions.

As you can see, I was all over the place. The course def. put me back on track and gave me a refresher on each discipline.

When the test day came, None of the test questions made sense. But after calming down a bit and rereading each question several times, the questions started making sense and everything wasn't as bad as I initially thought.

Another key point about the test is to be very well rested. I took a whole week off. I studied my butt off the last week, but I took the last day off before the test. Don't even think about the test the day before. Well, at least I was able to pull through like this. Good luck

#7 ptatohed

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Posted 07 January 2012 - 08:19 AM


Regular girl- passed the exam the first try (than you, God!!) and would like to share what I learned.
Hopefully it will help those of you starting to study.
I wish I knew this stuff from the get go...

...The CERM is a good reference (a GREAT reference) actually, but not a good Teaching tool.

Good post about how you prepared for the exam. Everybody's skill set and study needs are different. Looks like you found what worked for you. My prep was markedly different, but it worked for me.

One thing that caught my eye in your post was the portion I put in bold in the quote above, and I've seen similar comments about trying to learn from the CERM. I agree that the CERM is a good reference. But, I don't understand why people try to use it as a teaching tool. It's a Reference Manual (the "RM" in CERM), with applicable explanations included. To my knowledge, it was never intended to be either a textbook or a study guide, and most people shouldn't try to use it as such. So, while it's a good thing for people to be familiar with the CERM in order to quickly find and verify equations and such during the exam, they shouldn't think that they can quickly or easily learn "fill in subject here" from it in the couple of weeks before the exam. They spent 4+ years in school and 4+ years in the field to learn that material. If they need more than a basic review of the material they already learned, they should probably find other resources to help them prepare for the exam.


Wow, I have never met anyone so passionately against using the CERM to learn from. ;) However, it's not a book of only equations. It does cover many topics in detail and provide information on how to solve related problems. Even things not learned in school or on the job. The CERM (and the All-In-One) is the only book I used to study (dare I say "learn" from?) for the AM, and the CERM + required NCEES-listed references for the PM (Transpo). Personally, I wouldn't go as far as saying that one couldn't or shouldn't learn from the CERM.

#8 vastavikta

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Posted 11 January 2012 - 04:12 PM

Good post. I have one questions, when you say 'buy all NCEES codes", what exactly do you mean by "NCEES Codes"?. I did not come across anything called as a NCEES codes. Please reply at the earliest.

Thanks.

#9 addi

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Posted 17 January 2012 - 02:57 PM

If you go on the ncees website, they will give you a list of codes that will be pertinent for the discipline you are taking. Pay attention the the edition they list. It's not always the newest one

#10 Illini86

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Posted 20 January 2012 - 01:38 AM

i thought you couldn't take in worked problems from a practice problem book, but you wrote them all down and just put them in a binder??? you did the ncees practice tests, worked them all out and then brought in the worked problems into the exam in a binder too??

so why doesn't everyone just rewrite all the problems from a manual and then search for them during the exam????

i thought that that wasn't allowed

#11 ptatohed

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Posted 20 January 2012 - 01:59 AM

i thought you couldn't take in worked problems from a practice problem book, but you wrote them all down and just put them in a binder??? you did the ncees practice tests, worked them all out and then brought in the worked problems into the exam in a binder too??

so why doesn't everyone just rewrite all the problems from a manual and then search for them during the exam????

i thought that that wasn't allowed


Every state has different rules. Here in CA you can bring in bound, worked out, hand-written problems. Trust me, you still need to know your stuff, having a binder of solved problems won't pass the exam for you.
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#12 Illini86

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Posted 20 January 2012 - 02:41 AM

i was just asking...dont think we can do that in illinois....

#13 ptatohed

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Posted 20 January 2012 - 08:49 PM

i was just asking...dont think we can do that in illinois....


You're right. I think I have heard others say that about Illinois.

Don't worry. I didn't use solved problems for the 8-hour, Seismic or Survey. You'll do fine without them.

#14 analoggurl

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Posted 31 January 2012 - 03:52 PM

That was extremely helpful! Thank you for sharing your studying tips and organization method.

#15 dastuff

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Posted 02 February 2012 - 01:14 AM

In my opinion (and everyones studying habits vary), reading through the CERM really helped with the morning section. I went through the applicable chapters, studied the equations, figured out what tables I could use as shortcuts, and any variable I couldn't figure out right away I'd right in the margin right next to the equation where to get it (this helped me immensely during test time when your brain is all a fluster). I also tabbed all my books by color (although structural for me was yellow :) ).

For the afternoon section, problems problems and more problems. This worked very well for me but may not work for everyone.

For seismic design I studied Hiner.

And for surveying I read Cuomo.

#16 Construction PE

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Posted 10 February 2012 - 02:30 PM

Hey guys, I am the original poster of the tips on how I passed... I still have all my binders with TONS of solved problems, tabbed, and referenced back to CERM. I have one for Geotech, Structures, Transpo, Construction (just as described above). I figured I would offer them in case anybody is interested in them.
I will give you a binder for free- If you buy one of the reference books I have left: http://engineerboard...l=&fromsearch=1
Trying to get rid of them :)
Thanks!

#17 Construction PE

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Posted 10 February 2012 - 02:32 PM

PS- Please email me at: PECivilConstruction@gmail.com (instead of here)... I don't log on nearly as often anymore since I passed (praise God)!!

#18 #gopack

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Posted 15 February 2012 - 04:07 PM

Does anyone know of any other free review videos like the Texas A&M series listed above?

2. Instead, go to this website from Texas A&M university: http://engineeringre...views/index.htm



#19 ptatohed

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Posted 16 February 2012 - 12:36 AM

Does anyone know of any other free review videos like the Texas A&M series listed above?

2. Instead, go to this website from Texas A&M university: http://engineeringre...views/index.htm



There is this one: http://www.engineeringvideos.net/ (Nice but Transportation is missing, CA Survey is included but not CA Seismic and there is an extraneous "Optimization" category not on the exam (that I know of)).

The one already discussed: http://engineeringre...ws/PEreview.htm (Nice but aging, topics don't match the current PE exam format and codes/standards are outdated)

There are some here: http://nptel.iitm.ac...hp?branch=Civil Click Civil Engineering. (Seems ok but some of the videos/materials are burried and not easily grouped together)

That's all I know of. Anyone else?




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