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bflem

2013 Oct exam civil/structural

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Hope everyone is doing well. Second time taking the civil/structural exam and did not pass. Just looking for feedback from other folks that took the structural afternoon. Took School of PE course between first and second attempts. Definitely helped for the morning, but not so much for the afternoon. Diagnostic is helpful and it's kind of a no brainer: work more problems and gain more practical design experience at work. Interested to hear what others have to say.



Thanks


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I also took the 2013 Oct Civil/Structural exam and passed first time.



My coworkers swore by School of PE, so I went though that before even trying to pass on my own. The classes were great, and it definitely made the AM portion of the exam verrry easy. However, the PM "bonus" classes that School of PE offered were completely worthless.



Since you have already taken School of PE, I wouldn't worry too much about the AM portion. Simply review the notes provided by them and go over their problems in a span of a week or two before the exam.



Like you have stated, just work on as many PM problems as possible while making sure you know front and back of the problems that you know they are going to ask (moment distribution, virtual work, zero force members, trusses, influence line, etc.).


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I passed Civil/Structural the first time. My thoughts:



  • Buy the Lindeburg book (Civil Engineering Reference Manual). Note: this book contains enough information to cover both the morning AND afternoon sections of every civil sub-discipline. Make sure to figure out where you can stop studying in the non-structural sections. Don't waste any time reading through advanced water/environmental/transportation topics.
  • I took a class through the local DOT and ASCE. The class was most useful as morning section prep... It helped me brush up on topics I never use, and made it easy to figure out where to stop studying in the Lindeburg book.
  • DO EVERY PRACTICE PROBLEM YOU CAN GET YOUR HANDS ON. TIME YOURSELF. Passing this test isn't just about knowledge; it's also about being comfortable with solving test questions within a time limit.
  • If you're having a hard time with the structural afternoon section, I found that old SE-1 practice problems were perfect study material.


I found the morning session to be fun (despite having a very poor civil background) and I thank Lindeburg and my ASCE class 100%.



The afternoon was doable, but there was more of a time crunch. I went through the whole exam and answered every quick easy question I could. Then I went through a second time and answered every question that I knew how to do, but I also knew would be a time sink (all those pesky indeterminate analysis questions). THEN I stressed about the problems that gave me a really hard time.



That way, you spend the better portion of your time working problems that you KNOW, and waste minimal time on the problems that aren't in your wheel house. Work smart, not hard.


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I took the Civil: Structural for the first time and passed.

I didn't have a Civil background, so Water resources, Transportation, etc are all brand new to me. The Civil Engineering Reference Manual really did it for me. No classes, etc. Just went through the ncees practice exam and familiarized myself with the CERM.

I found the exam to be fairly easy, like the NCEES practice exam, and less like the more difficult 6 minute solutions books.

Best luck to anyone who will be sitting again... Patience, keeping your cool, and persistence will pay off!

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Thanks for all the responses. Some good advice. Definitely going to retake either in Apr14 or Oct14.


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I am a veteran of all this exam mamma jamma, and the only advice I can lend you is that you gotta learn it all, bflem. As the saying goes, nuts to soup.


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First of all - keep at it and good luck. Never give up!



I passed it the first time by studying on my own, here's how I studied.



Here's a glimpse of what I posted below...



1) make a schedule


2) know your references and tab out sections you frequently use in practice problems - do not underestimate the importance of this.


3) read the CERM 1 chapter at a time, doing problems for that chapter in the same night. save your DEPTH for last


4) Do depth chapters in the CERM same as in step 3


5) Do NCEES practice test and evaluate your strengths/weaknesses


6) Study ONLY your DEPTH for the last 30 days before the test


7) Retake the NCEES test the weekend before the test


8) Study as much as you'd like the week of the test - I think studying this week is good for keeping info fresh and for confidence by knowing you're prepared.


9) Do not study the day before the test - gather your books and make sure you're packed. Take a 1/2 day at work.


10) Skip problems that you don't know immediately


11) Don't second guess yourself - but double check your work when you are done with the entire test.


12) Don't fret over a problem you don't know how to do - you probably are better off guessing on it and working on other problems.


13) Most of this test is time management, and knowing your reference materials. Most problems are not as difficult as they initially appear - READ CAREFULLY.



Things I'm glad I did:


  • Got familiar with my references which helped me manage my time well during the test - I was not rushed
  • Skipped studying things like continuous beam analysis and indeterminate structures - almost all the questions on these subjects can be determined using statics and logically eliminating answers on the test
  • Read the CERM cover to cover - it helped a lot in the morning. It was easy IMO.
  • made a schedule - it made me at ease knowing that I covered it all
  • tabbed out my references
  • saved my depth for last - I probably spent the last 45-60 days before the test, studying ONLY my depth. It was fresh in my mind. The afternoon test is not easy.
  • did not get overwhelmed by questions that were not in my subject.
  • Did and re-did the NCEES test. its more realistic than the 6 minute solutions and the other practice tests. They destroy your confidence

What I'd do different:



  • Get to know ASCE7 more - the vast majority of the questions relating to a reference book were referencing ASCE7
  • Don't spend as much time in AASHTO - they only asked 1 bridge question (which sucked cuz I'm a bridge engineer)
  • I wouldn't spend as much time in the non-Depth sections. I found the morning portion very easy - I'm not lieing when I say that I may have got 95% in the morning session. There are a ton of easy points to gain in these sections. I'd still do each chatper in the CERM, but I would do more than 1 chapter a day in some subjects. They are simply too in-depth than what's needed.
  • I wouldn't spend as much time doing Masonry Problems
  • I wouldn't spend as much time doing Prestress concrete problems
  • Read more carefuly during the afternoon session - fatigue was an issue
  • Be more mindful of time in the afternoon - again, the problems are hard, and I caught myself going down bunny-trails that wasted time.



Here are more details....


  • I made a schedule so that I could do one chapter a day (including weekends) in the CERM. Allotting an extra 45 days or so at the end so I can focus on things I have issues with. I STRONGLY believe in a schedule - it organizes your preparation and gives you confidence that you covered everything.
  • Gather ALL of your references that are suggested on the test. Tab all of them out in a way that makes sense to you. Time management is HUGE on this test.
  • I went through the CERM, doing one chapter a day from front cover to back. BUT I skipped my DEPTH portion of the book (structural)
  • I read every page and did practice problems on each section the same day - this sometimes took 3 hours per night (i'm not kidding)
  • At the end of a major section (geotech, fluids/hydro, construction, etc.) I took a day or 2 and did practice problems from each chapter to reinforce the chapters I just studied.
  • After completing all of the CERM, except for my DEPTH, I went back to my Depth and did one chapter a day, plus problems, just like before. I did it this way because I wanted all of the DEPTH info fresh in my mind.
  • Once the CERM was completed, I ended up with about 30 days before the test, I originally alotted 45 days, but we all miss a few here and there, or take 2 days to cover a huge chapter.
  • After the CERM was done DO THE NCEES PRACTICE TEST!!! This gives you a great barometer of what your strengths/weaknesses are. That way you'll know how to best study for the next 30 days. Evaluate the test after you're done. This SHOULD be a confidence booster, as the NCEES test is not that difficult. DO NOT DO ANY OTHER PRACTICE TESTS - they are too hard and will kill your confidence.
  • I used those 30 days to do practice problems in my DEPTH over and over and over again, focusing on my weaknesses from the NCEES practice test, but still covering other topics I was strong on as well. I did practice problems from 6 minute solutions. THeyre tough, but they'll prepare you. I had to cheat and look at answers to get clues frequently.
  • The weekend before the actual test, I re-did the same NCEES test I took 30 days earlier. Some of it was review, but you should see improvement.
  • I studied the week of the test - some people don't but I found that my confidence was shaken if I didn't study, so I studied only to keep myself at ease. I wanted to overprepare
  • I specifically did questions that made me use references that I don't use at work - like ASCE7, IBC, WOOD manual, Masonry, etc.
  • I know you're not supposed todo this, but the day before the test - I did briefly study some random topics that popped into my head - because I felt more comfortable knowing i looked at it incase it came up during the test (it didn't). Relax.
  • During the test I relaxed, skipped ANY problem I didn't know how to start. In the morning I ONLY did structures problems to build my confidence. I made THREE passes through the test. Doing only ones I know, ones I think I know, and Ones I have no idea. By the end of the test, I only had to flat out guess on about 3 problems.



I could go on forever...

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First time civil structural taker, passed.



Tips for afternoon session going forward (without breaching NCEES non disclosure)



1. Spend some time learning ASCE7 - Loading, Wind, Snow, and Seismic (ELF) - Spend 90% of your time on those main chapters


2. Know AISC 13th edition like the back of your hand. You should be familiar how to use every single design table in the book as well as all the design specification sections in the back. The test did touch on at least 1 "uncommon" topic, but not required to know all of this to pass.


3. Know ACI like the back of your hand including the dreaded Appendix D.


4. AASHTO is not required to be familiar with.


5. Masonry is not required to be too familiar with due to the extents of time it will take to study to be able to answer most the questions. I'd learn the basics of masonry design to give yourself a chance on a gimme question if they give ya one.


6. Know the fundamentals of structural engineering determinate analysis. If you miss one of these questions you don't deserve it.


7. Know the 3 most common and simple indeterminate analysis techniques and come with examples. Moment Distribution Method, Portal Frame Method, and Know how to solve simple beam problems that are indeterminate by 1 support only. (Removal of support taking ratios of deflections). These are the three methods I studied. Leave indeterminate stiffness matrix analysis alone.


8. Wood design by NDS is very easy once you learn it so in my opinion if they give you any of these questions they are gimmes as long as you can effectively navigate the NDS manual.


9. Know the fundamentals of structural engineering stress analysis. You best friend is P/A +/ Mc/I. If you know nothing else know that one.


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@sabre493 & engrstructural11, Thanks for the good advice. Gonna hit it hard for April. It has been suggested to take an easier afternoon session. Can't do that. Figure if you're going to practice a discipline you ought to be able to pass that disciplines exam.



@porta john, Ha. very funny. See you at work on Monday.


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First time civil structural taker, passed.

Tips for afternoon session going forward (without breaching NCEES non disclosure)

1. Spend some time learning ASCE7 - Loading, Wind, Snow, and Seismic (ELF) - Spend 90% of your time on those main chapters

2. Know AISC 13th edition like the back of your hand. You should be familiar how to use every single design table in the book as well as all the design specification sections in the back. The test did touch on at least 1 "uncommon" topic, but not required to know all of this to pass.

3. Know ACI like the back of your hand including the dreaded Appendix D.

4. AASHTO is not required to be familiar with.

5. Masonry is not required to be too familiar with due to the extents of time it will take to study to be able to answer most the questions. I'd learn the basics of masonry design to give yourself a chance on a gimme question if they give ya one.

6. Know the fundamentals of structural engineering determinate analysis. If you miss one of these questions you don't deserve it.

7. Know the 3 most common and simple indeterminate analysis techniques and come with examples. Moment Distribution Method, Portal Frame Method, and Know how to solve simple beam problems that are indeterminate by 1 support only. (Removal of support taking ratios of deflections). These are the three methods I studied. Leave indeterminate stiffness matrix analysis alone.

8. Wood design by NDS is very easy once you learn it so in my opinion if they give you any of these questions they are gimmes as long as you can effectively navigate the NDS manual.

9. Know the fundamentals of structural engineering stress analysis. You best friend is P/A +/ Mc/I. If you know nothing else know that one.

Yes.

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Most all of the responses here are people that passed the first time... it took me three tries to pass civil/structural and as a result I have a somewhat different perspective.



Each exam is different and the area of civil structural is very broad. For afternoon questions, don't just study the areas you were weak in, it's likely that the types of questions will be completely different next time. This is also a great reason for not giving up; another exam means another chance that the questions will play to more of your strengths instead of weaknesses.



Spend time studying the fundamental design philosphies and methodologies, and less time studying obscure topics.



Having a few references that you know very well is much more valuable than a lot of references that are unfamiliar. If you're not familiar with wood, masonry, prestressed concrete, or earthquake codes, it's not worth bringing them with you to the exam because you'll waste time floundering through them. Those few questions are often more "philosophy" style questions anyway and are better served with an application of basic engineering/material science principles.



The IBC is worth having, even if you don't know it well, because it is relatively easy to find answers in it using the appendix or index.



A good materials science book on concrete can serve you well because ACI doesn't have much discussion about philosophy... like why certain additives are used vs. others or the purpose of some of the construction methodologies.



If you see a design or analysis question that seems very complicated, it is likely something that can be solved quickly using a simplified methodology, e.g. the steel manual's many connections design tables.



I disagree with the comments about indeterminate analysis. I think you only need to be very confident with determinate analysis... be good at isolating members using method of sections, find the stress and have a good rule for knowing whether it is tension or compression. (I prefer, "always draw the force in tension, if it comes out negative, it's in compression")


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In addition to what other have said, I found having the index to the CERM printed out separately and bound together was critical in passing the exam. I can't remember exactly where I found the .pdf but it looks like you can download it from the ppi website: http://ppi2pass.com/CERMI13/



As far as studying goes, I broke my time out pretty closely based on the NCEES exam guidelines, I'm sure you used this before but figured I'd post the link just in case: http://cdn2.ncees.co/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/PE-Civ-Structural-Apr-2008_with-1404-design-standards.pdf



I also found this website very helpful and cheap, it doesn't cover everything but is clear and definitely helped me: http://engineeringvideos.net/



One more thing I think would have helped me be more comfortable would be getting more familiar with the different codes and knowing where to find certain requirements. I was pretty familiar with the AISC 13th edition but was very rusty on the rest. Like others have said I wouldn't spend too much time the last few days studying but definitely would make sure you get your books tabbed, organized and briefly review all your topics.



I passed the first time around but was not confident that I did. I found the morning pretty easy mostly since I took a review course at Rutgers and think I got close to if not all the questions right. I was able to answer 3/4 of the morning questions in 1.5 hrs. which left 2.5 hrs. to figure out the others using the CERM. The afternoon was a different story and I was scrambling! I even kept all my books out in anticipation of failing so I could start studying again as soon as I got the results. Such a relief to Pass!



Good luck and don't give up! You've got 4 months to study for April so get after it!


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