I recently passed the Environmental PE Exam on my first attempt in April 2017. Below are a few notes which may be helpful to future test takers:
Test you took:
PE Environmental Engineering
Where you took it:
MD What books you brought with you:
PRIORITY LIST – Books/notes that I referenced through the exam and couldn’t have done without.
An index made covering all topics/target words leading me to the appropriate page of each and every reference I used. It probably took me 20-30 hours just to put it together but it was time well spent. It was a 11 x 17 binder, color coded, for different sections, which was useful in finding out where to look for during the exam. Use it often during the prep to familiarize yourself with it and fine tune it to add topics as required.
School of PE Notes and associated solved questions
Wastewater Engineering: Treatment and Resource Recovery, 5th Edition – Metcalf & Eddy/AECOM
Air Pollution Control, 4th Edition – Cooper and Alley (Great technical text, another must-have text)-This book is fantastic. I would suggest solving the problems at the back of the book as well to get a firm grip on the concepts.
Treatment and Resource Recovery, 5th Edition – Metcalf & Eddy/AECOM
Hazardous Waste Management, 2nd Edition – Lagrega
Engineering Unit Conversions, 4th Edition – Lindeburg-Probably the book I used the most. Fantastic resource!
ENVRM, 3nd Edition – Lindeburg-Decent enough book, but not as helpful as I hoped it would be before I started preparation
SECOND LIST– Resources that assisted me on multiple questions
Intro to Environmental Engineering, 5th Edition – Davis & Cornwell
Practical Design Calculations for Groundwater and Soil Remediation, 2nd Edition – Kuo
Environmental Law Handbook-Got me a couple of questions so I was chuffed I purchased this
· Water Supply and Pollution Control / Edition 8 by Warren Viessman Jr., Mark J. Hammer, Elizabeth M. Perez, Paul A. Chadik
· NCEES PE Environmental Sample Questions and Solutions, 2011
NCEES PE Civil: Water Resources and Environmental Practice Exam-Very under-rated. I would highly suggest answering the relevant questions as part of the preparation
THIRD LIST – Resources used to answer an obscure question
NIOSH Pocket Guide for Chemical Hazards – Dept. of Health & Human Services
· Environmental Sampling and Analysis: A Practical Guide-Keith, Lawrence H. (Helped me answer one question I wouldn’t have found anywhere else)
· NCEES FE Reference Handbook-Didn’t use it though
What books you actually used:
Almost all of them at various times during the exam. I highly recommend familiarizing yourself with all the books prior to taking the exam and tabbing/marking them up.
What books did you wish you brought:
None General impression about exam and format:
As a wastewater engineer, I thought the morning was a breeze. I was unsure about maybe 3-4 questions. The conceptual questions can be whacky but the right resources should tide you over. The solid waste questions had to be read and re-read closely to decipher what was being asked. Once I figured that out (only applicable to some questions), I could trot through them. I didn’t have time to check my answers, but I wasn’t grasping for time as well. I paced myself well and skipped a question if I didn’t know it and came back later to it. If I couldn’t solve it or I knew it was a dead end question, I guessed.
The afternoon was more challenging. There were a few questions (4-5) that weren’t (at least to me) spelt out properly and were not clear in what they were asking. I cannot emphasize it enough, but please read the questions carefully and if you must make a guess, use your knowledge but also intuition. I over analyzed a few conceptual questions that I shouldn’t have which resulted in at least 2 mistakes I could have avoided. All in all, keeping the pace and thinking through the questions should get you through as long you have put in the right preparation and questions aren’t downright very tough. Overall, I felt that the exam was a little easier (definitely the first section) than the NCEES sample exam. Advice for future test takers:
I have three technical tips for those taking the exam in the future:
1) If you require structure and solid study material, I would recommend the School of PE. They in no way cover all that would be asked on the exams, but they try and do a thorough job of covering most aspects of what maybe on the exam. I took their online course (I started in early Jan so used their Fall pre-recorded lessons-but the material even for the Spring prep is very similar). Some instructors are great, and the notes for the most part, are comprehensive. Not that taking this course means you wouldn’t have to familiarize yourself with other reference material, but it gives an outline, good practice questions and a structure to your preparation. 2) Practice as many questions as you can (School of PE, Practice Exams, and Cooper/Alley back of the book questions). I thought that the PPI practice questions were way harder than any I have come across, so don’t feel disheartened if you can’t solve those, since they are tough. Keeps your brain active though, if you have run out of practice questions. Familiarize yourself with all the resources and tab them during your prep. I delayed tabbing one or two books till the last month and spent some time I could have saved.
3) Stay calm during the exam. If meditation/breathing helps you during or before the test, do that. Do not let nerves get the better of you at any time during the exam as that may hinder your ability to think. The test is challenging so staying in control helps immensely. Thoroughly read the questions and try not overthinking (easier said than done, but if you can, you may save yourself the grief of realizing you missed easy questions!) Have snacks/water/gum on you and use the restroom prior to starting the test so you do not lose those precious few minutes.
The advice here from past test takers helped me get organized. I would suggest starting preparing at least 105 to 120 days in advance. Get the administrative tasks of registering etc. out of the way before beginning prep as it will help you stay focused. Take breaks as required and do not let this suck the life out of you. I took a week’s break away from books between my preparation and it helped me rejuvenate. Having a solid work life balance is under rated and I realized that it helped me immensely during this time.
For the exam itself, pick a strategy that suits you and do a dry run of the same during the practice run. Time yourself and retake the test if you feel weak on certain concepts. Practice, practice and practice! Good luck!