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Advise on Studying- passed the first time

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#1 Construction PE

Construction PE

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Posted 19 December 2011 - 01:50 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!

#2 Jayman_PE


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Posted 06 January 2012 - 04:42 AM

Thanks Construction PE. Looks like great advice. I am preparing to take the PE for the first time this coming April, and am taking the Construction module. I purchased all of the NCEES recommended references last October and started my study at the beginning of November. I began with MUTCD, then the 6 minute solutions and went through Water Resources, then Transportation, and am now on Geotech. I usually work through each module by starting to work problems, then reading in CERM and Goswami (an excellent book so far, despite containing a few errors). I bought the 2011 NCEES practice construction exam, and based upon your advice, just ordered the 2008 NCEES practice exam too. I will also check out the Texas A&M problems. So far the CERM practice problems (I am on 12th edition) are very time consuming. I might just take the practice exams and use those exam type problems to guide me toward the problems that I do. I work full time in a very demanding job, so my time to study is limited. I've started a tracking sheet to monitor my time, and so far I have put in about 92 hours, and estimate I will need about 300. How much time do you estimate that you put in studying?

thanks again,

#3 yatkins



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Posted 17 January 2012 - 06:34 PM

Use the NCEES practice exam to assess your strong and weak areas, then study primarily out of CERM which contains 95% of the material you need for both Civil AM and Construction PM. Studying from too many books makes it more difficult to find the info you need later. The Lindeburg practice problems are helpful and you only need to be familiar with how to find info in the code books. I studied 80-90 hrs total over 3 months, but everyone will need a different amount of time. I passed first try in Oct 2009.

My advice is don't over-tab and don't use too many books on exam day. Keeping it simple will help you keep composure and focus during the exam. If some other random book that is not CERM has 1 good example problem, just copy that 1 problem and put it in a 3 ring binder. No need to lug the whole book for 1 question. I really believe that having a huge dolly and suitcases loaded with books causes people to panic and feel overwhelmed before the exam even starts.

The construction specific questions like cut and fill, estimating and production rates require problem solving skills, not complicated math, not extensive construction knowledge, not books. Organize your thoughts on paper before pulling out the calculator. As always, write down the units to make sure you've canceled out everything but the units you're looking for.

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