This is a long overdue post. After I took my PE exam in April, I had thought to myself " If I pass, I definitely have to write a post about how it is not a difficult to task to pass the PE", but here I am, still not done that. So let me start.
I took my PE first time in October of 2017. I started studying in September, I wasn't sure where to begin from and I only had a month and a half, so I took the School of PE review course. The reason I took this course was, because they really helped me when I was studying for my FE and I had passed FE in my first attempt. But for PE, I wasn't very happy with their classes. I remember the professor who took transmission just read through the presentation. The practice problems were also not up to the mark. I also used Graffeo, as that was the general recommendation and also heard that there were a lot of problems in the April 2017 exam similar to Graffeo. Anyways, so I studied with the help of the SOPE materials and Graffeo, took two Complex Imaginary tests , the main NCEES test, Graffeo exam and the PPI exam.
So when I took the CBTE FE exam, the mock test provided with it was extremely difficult, after taking it , I wasn't sure how I would pass the FE , though I had studied for 4 months, but it was different when I took the PE power mock exam and the other practice tests. All of them were of average difficulty. Some were really easy. Even with only 1.5 months of studying, when I took the NCEES practice exam, I felt confident for the real test since I was expecting the questions to be in par with the practice tests.
Lo and behold, I was in for a BIG SURPRISE, the real exam is not even close to the practice tests. 😡 The real exam was difficult. All those practice exams I took , gave me false hope, as those exams did not have the same standard as the real test. There were those logical questions which you can easily figure out and then there are those concepts which you know is hiding in one of the references, but if you aren't well versed with your references, there is no way you will be able to find all those answers. I had to go through all ( two references I had ) my materials to find the answer.
Lessons Learnt: BEWARE, DO NOT FALL FOR THOSE PRACTICE TESTS THAT'S OUT THERE, THEY ARE NOT CLOSE TO THE REAL TEST.
So two months later when the results came, I wasn't surprised. I enjoyed Christmas and started fresh again in January, joined Engineers Board , started following feeds and advises by previous test takers.
How I did it:
1. Graffeo ( this is a very good book to refresh your concepts), but my book had a lot of errors and I was getting mad because I couldn't understand how they were arriving at certain equations or answers. Then I read in this forum about how Graffeo replies to emails. So I emailed all my questions and I must say, I was very surprised by Graffeos prompt response. This is a very good starter book.
2. School of PE materials: I went through it again. I think I forgot to mention before, the professor who took the Machines class was good. He had taken the effort to go through the basic concepts. I went through the materials and solved every problem. Though personally I dint think there was any questions from SOPE that was close to the real exam, though solving problems did help improve my concepts
3. Wildi: Again, I read about this book through this forum and I must say , this book is really good and came in VERY handy during the real exam. Remember how I mentioned about how I knew those concepts were hidden somewhere , basically it was hidden in Wildi. One of the members had posted about the chapters he read and found useful, I followed that and started placing tabs on pages I though was important.
4. Power system analysis : This book was recommended by one member. It dint help me much during the exam, but apparently it helped some.
5. Art of science of protective relaying: I think two weeks before the exam someone mentioned about this book and how with the change in pattern , the new exam could give importance to Protection. Yes, that member was totally right, as during the second part of the exam this portion was given a lot of importance and they were definitely not easy to solve. This may be one of the reasons why April 2018 exam was considered tougher compared to the other years. So do give importance to this portion. I personally wasn't able to find much help through this book, but if you have the time, do try to understand protective relaying and devices. There is also a free handout by GE which was considered good by some.
5. FE manual: I never used it, but later through the forums I understood a lot of members found this very handy during the first part of the exam.
6. Personal Binder: Like most test takers have mentioned, have your own binder with your formulas, drawings, PDFs( of portions not covered in books). Also tab them, you dont want to spend time looking for them during the test. I also found formula sheet on Engineering Pro guide website, which was helpful.
I started taking practice tests by February mid and tried taking one test per week.
PPI exam: One and Two- Difficulty level- 6
Graffeo : Behind the book exam - Difficulty level -5
Complex Imaginary (1-4): Difficulty level - 3
NCEES practice: This is good, but the difficulty level is 6
Engineering Pro Guide(Full exam) : Difficulty level - 8 This is the best of the lot. I am so glad that I found it. This exam covers a lot. Just doing this exam makes you understand a lot of topics. It covers almost all topics.
So even if the real exam is much more difficult compared to the practice tests, I would say by doing these tests and understanding the solutions will improve your concepts and understanding of the subject.
On the day of the exam:
I was lucky we were given a smaller room to sit in, which means less noise and luckily for me , the seat next to me was empty. Which means more space to keep my books. 😂
Morning session: I went through the questions and I was like " what the hell'. I couldn't understand anything. Anyways the strategy was to do the easy ones first, once I started doing that, I started to gain confidence. Then I went to do the NEC questions, got stuck in some but got most. (TIP: carry the handbook , if you get stuck , the examples and pictures will help you solve some of the question). Next I did the difficult ones. I must say, at first the questions looked tricky, but when read two or three times , you may realize it is actually pretty straightforward.
Lunch: I got my lunch, looked for an empty table and wrote down all the questions I couldn't solve. I think I had 8. This exercise really helped me. I knew where I went wrong and i would say everyone should do that. This will make you confident after the test is over or if not, this will at least help you the next time you write the exam, as you may never know , the same style question could be repeated.:)
Afternoon Session: I don't know what happened here, but this session turned out to be wonderful for me. I started with the first question and I was like ' This is easy', then question 2, 3...it went on and from the 40 questions, I would say at least 30 of those could be answered easily, if your concepts are good. I was stumped by the protection questions, most of which I could only guess. So do spend time understanding protection.
After the exam was over, I let my friend drive while I wrote down all the questions that I couldn't answer, thinking to myself, if I don't pass this time, I don't know what to do next.
On May 24th we got our results and I saw the Green sign. 😄
Also in retrospect, if I were to write the PE again (Thank God I don't have to), for difficult questions , I would give it a try and if I don't get a solution, I will go back to the ones I was confident about , recheck the solution and only then come back to the questions I am having trouble with, as I spent more time than necessary for some hard questions.
This is just my take.
So test takers, do not worry, if you have studied hard, there is nothing to worry.
PS: Make sure you get all those 12 NEC questions right, they will try to trick you by making you think the answer isn't there, but the solution is just hiding somewhere in the bottom