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abell8418

CA PE CIVIL - ALL THREE AT ONCE

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For those who are or have taken the California Civil PE Exam, did you take all three exams in one exam cycle, or split them up?  

If you took them all at once, what was your experience?  Would you recommend it?

If there is a similar post to this, please direct me there.

Thanks

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if you do you will have one sore butt and neck.  

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if you do you will have one sore butt and neck.  

Sounds like a fun night.

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9 hours ago, abell8418 said:

For those who are or have taken the California Civil PE Exam, did you take all three exams in one exam cycle, or split them up?  

If you took them all at once, what was your experience?  Would you recommend it?

If there is a similar post to this, please direct me there.

Thanks

People have done it.  But the average is 3 exam cycles to pass the 3 exams.  Unless you have a compelling reason (and the sincere motivation/dedication) to study for more than one exam in one cycle, I'd recommend you space them out.  I planned for and passed each exam consecutively:  Oct - Apr - Oct.  Good luck. 

 

P.S.  Back in my day it was pay one price for 1 or 3 exams, so I actually did take 3 exams at once (passed 1), then 2 (passed 1), then 1 (passed). 

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I took all three at once... we'll see.

The main thing that I think helped, or at least my strategy was and I felt it was fair, is I took a Seismic Review Course by Hiner (recommended!) since I didn't know jack about ASCE-7/CBC/IBC and codes and that stuff is a bear to try to parse on your own.   I also signed up for the Seismic Exam ASAP at the earliest date so it was as close to being fresh in my mind since the class ended relatively shortly before the exam. That way I could put all the seismic stuff behind me and focus on the PE exam itself. I also took a week off of work before the PE just to sit down, tab things and study. I should have studied more for the PE though but it wasn't that bad.

I also scheduled the Surveying on the last possible day (Nov 6) so it gave me a week to bunker down and study for the Surveying without any worries since all the other exams were done. I think a review course might have been helpful but the exam itself isn't that hard, it's just they throw a lot of BS long ass questions at you in such a short amount of time that if you don't know literally law of sin/cosines/trig/similar triangle/horizonal/vertical curve shortcuts at t the tip of your brain then it's nearly impossible to finish (I still had to guess on at least 5 of them just from time alone) despite if I sat down at a desk and worked at them I could have easily reasoned through it just fine.

 

tl:dr--If you want to do all three:

- Take a seismic course. Sign up for seismic exam at the EARLIEST DATE POSSIBLE while it's fresh in  your brain

- Take a week off work (if viable) to study for PE just before. 

- Take Surveying Exam LAST DAY POSSIBLE so you have as much time to sit all the PE/Seismic jungle out of your mind and focus on just surveying concepts/problems.

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1 hour ago, Liquefaction said:

I took all three at once... we'll see.

The main thing that I think helped, or at least my strategy was and I felt it was fair, is I took a Seismic Review Course by Hiner (recommended!) since I didn't know jack about ASCE-7/CBC/IBC and codes and that stuff is a bear to try to parse on your own.   I also signed up for the Seismic Exam ASAP at the earliest date so it was as close to being fresh in my mind since the class ended relatively shortly before the exam. That way I could put all the seismic stuff behind me and focus on the PE exam itself. I also took a week off of work before the PE just to sit down, tab things and study. I should have studied more for the PE though but it wasn't that bad.

I also scheduled the Surveying on the last possible day (Nov 6) so it gave me a week to bunker down and study for the Surveying without any worries since all the other exams were done. I think a review course might have been helpful but the exam itself isn't that hard, it's just they throw a lot of BS long ass questions at you in such a short amount of time that if you don't know literally law of sin/cosines/trig/similar triangle/horizonal/vertical curve shortcuts at t the tip of your brain then it's nearly impossible to finish (I still had to guess on at least 5 of them just from time alone) despite if I sat down at a desk and worked at them I could have easily reasoned through it just fine.

 

tl:dr--If you want to do all three:

- Take a seismic course. Sign up for seismic exam at the EARLIEST DATE POSSIBLE while it's fresh in  your brain

- Take a week off work (if viable) to study for PE just before. 

- Take Surveying Exam LAST DAY POSSIBLE so you have as much time to sit all the PE/Seismic jungle out of your mind and focus on just surveying concepts/problems.

After receiving the confirmation when are you able to register with NCEES for the 8 hour exam? Also, when can you sign up for the Seismic and Surveying?

Did you self-study and any tips to study?

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Taking all three is definitely more viable now (with CBT that you can schedule over the several week window) than it was in the past (taking all three tests back to back in the same weekend).

If you choose to go for all three also suggest scheduling the seismic exam and survey exams at the opposite ends of your window, with the 8hr in the middle. That way you can spend about a week focusing on each test individually before taking it. It's a big help.

As far as study tips, IMO, the challenge of the 8hr test is knowing the breadth of your references -- if you don't have a pretty good idea how to start solving a problem, you need to at least know where to look in each reference. The challenge of the CA survey and seismic exams is beating the clock -- lots of problems in not very much time. The depth of the questions is adjusted accordingly, but it's important to focus on time management and good exam taking strategy for those two tests in particular.

(My personal experience is that for engineers with structural backgrounds, taking all three is easier since we were already exposed to a good bit of seismic and hopefully some survey in school. Especially if you are learning seismic design for the first time, tackling all three tests at once is more difficult).

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On 11/17/2015, 7:42:54, Superlaker24 said:

After receiving the confirmation when are you able to register with NCEES for the 8 hour exam? Also, when can you sign up for the Seismic and Surveying?

Did you self-study and any tips to study?

Uh, registering for the 8 hour isn't important since it's a fixed day but it's like 10 weeks after getting the notice or something, I honestly forgot.  I was allowed to register for Seismic/Surveying on Aug 24 and earliest date is Oct 20th. So 2 months before the first exam date I think is typical.

I took a Seismic Course, which I think is incredibly helpful unless you're a structural engineer and do all that ASCE-7/CBC fun stuff already. Trying to learn that on your own would be a bear.

I self-studied for PE and Surveying though.  As Lomarandil said, knowing where to look things up is very important for the PE. Time isn't a big deal and I finished early-ish on those. Honestly you could finish the PE afternoon and morning exams in 2.5 hours if you really knew your stuff. But if you don't know where stuff is you might be screwed. I recommend printing out the List of Topics that NCEES has on their site and going through and studying up on each topic.

For example, under Hydrology Topics there was a bunch of Runoff, Detention Basin, SCS Graphical/Rational method and all this stuff I never heard of before. So I downloaded a "Highway Hydrology" handbook by FHWA, bound it (so I could bring it into the exam) and studied teh hell out of those topics. I also used the CERM to study topics but honestly it's not quite as helpful and not a good study tool.  The hydrology thing saved my ass since there were at least like 3-4 questions that were pretty much straight out of what I studied from the Highway Hydrology (but the CERM lacked the detail so) book on those topics and I think I nailed each one confidently

I also had a similar transportation handbook that was helpful (but there were only a few anyways) that I had printed and studied relevant topics and tabbed anything of interest (like speed, esal).
Also while I was doing this, I wrote my own cheatsheets and put them in a binder for various topics so it helps reinforce it in your mind and it makes a very quick go-to reference.

The thing to do to study is really just do practice problems after problems. Even if a number of them aren't relevant, it will show you deficiencies and what you need to brush up and tab or know to reference/look-up if a similar problem arises. I actually felt like the writers of PE exam made sure that none of their questions could be quickly answered by looking it up in the CERM, intentionally, so really have some handbooks that are readily available from government agencies (Navfac, FHWA, etc).

Survey: I actually had a good book by Ghilani and Wolf from undergrad (an old edition like 12th is only $20) that is very comprehensive. I also did a lot of practice problems (some practice ones by Mansour were definitely uncannily close to some exam problems) although I reviewed a bunch of topics like basics of GPS, Differential Levelling, Errors with different tools, lattittude/departure, area by coordinates, horizontal/vertical curves, etc in much more detail than a brief reference guide will ever give you.   Which was helpful because I guarantee you will have problems that ask those questions in some form or another and often these question writers are tricky enough to ask you just something that is a little out of reach of a typical quick reference.

Really though the big thing with that is just type. It's honestly kind of BS since conceptually the stuff isn't hard and I bet if I just gave you the exam right now you could probably reason through most of it just from basic trig/similar triangles/law of (co)sines and such; although it might take you awhile to carefully and meticulously go through each little step whereas on the exam they expect you to know a bunch of shortcuts and stuff which is kind of against the spirit of surveying, a very meticulous and careful art. But eh, them's the breaks.

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I took all 3 in April 15.  I passed 8 hour and surveying.  Failed seismic.  I spaced the three tests a week apart each.  Surveying the first Friday, the scheduled 8 hour the next Friday and Seismic the last Friday.  After three consecutive weeks, I was pretty burnt out by the time I took seismic.  I started studying for all 3 tests 2-3 months before the exams.   In hindsight I would have started a month earlier, I could have used more time to study seismic.  I re took seismic a few weeks ago and felt much better leaving than I did the first time. 

Anyways, I would still recommend taking all 3 in the same cycle.  Best case scenario you pass all three and only have the pay the state application fee once.  Worst case you fail them all but have gone through the process and know what to expect for next time.  More valuable experience than any review course IMO.  Good Luck!

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20 hours ago, Ayerforce35 said:

I took all 3 in April 15.  I passed 8 hour and surveying.  Failed seismic.  I spaced the three tests a week apart each.  Surveying the first Friday, the scheduled 8 hour the next Friday and Seismic the last Friday.  After three consecutive weeks, I was pretty burnt out by the time I took seismic.  I started studying for all 3 tests 2-3 months before the exams.   In hindsight I would have started a month earlier, I could have used more time to study seismic.  I re took seismic a few weeks ago and felt much better leaving than I did the first time. 

Anyways, I would still recommend taking all 3 in the same cycle.  Best case scenario you pass all three and only have the pay the state application fee once.  Worst case you fail them all but have gone through the process and know what to expect for next time.  More valuable experience than any review course IMO.  Good Luck!

Any study tips? How were you able to manage time and study for three different exams in 3 months? I am having difficulty trying to budget my time and studying for each different exam. Did you study one topic (Surveying) one day then another topic (Seismic) another day? Did you take a review course? Thank you.

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35 minutes ago, Superlaker24 said:

Any study tips? How were you able to manage time and study for three different exams in 3 months? I am having difficulty trying to budget my time and studying for each different exam. Did you study one topic (Surveying) one day then another topic (Seismic) another day? Did you take a review course? Thank you.

I spent a week studying one, then another the next week and so on, averaging about 2 hours a night after work and on weekends.  I did not take any review courses.  All of my study time was spent working example problems. My tips and study materials for each test:

8hour - Buy a Civil Engineering Reference Manual (CERM)!!!!  I answered a lot of questions directly from this book.  Doesn't have to be the newest edition either, I used the 11th edition. 

           -Study the NCEES practice exam.  IMO the difficulty of the exam and the practice exam were identical. 

           - I bought the All-in-One Civil Engineering PE Practice Exams: Breadth and Depth Practice Exam book 1st Edition by Goswami.  This book is very in depth and helpful, but IMO the questions are a lot more complex than those    on the actual exam.  I finished the morning and afternoon session each with about an hour and a half left. 

Surveying - The only study material I used for this test was Surveying Principles for Civil Engineers: Review for the Engineering Surveying Section of the California Special Civil Engineer Examination, 2nd ed. by Coumo.  This is mainly a Geometry/Trig test.  IMO the most difficult part of the surveying and seismic exams is the time limit. 

Seismic - I bought the Hiner book and worked through all the practice problems.  This book covers everything you need to know.  Again, time is your enemy.  There is no time to "learn" a topic during this test like you can during the 8 hour.  If you don't know within 1 minute how to solve a problem I recommend marking an answer, flagging the question and coming back to it at the end as long as you have time remaining.  This way, you can at least get to all the questions you know how to solve instead of spending too much time on ones you can't.  If you don't have time left to go back, at least you marked an answer.  This strategy applies to surveying as well.

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On 11/17/2015, 6:38:33, Liquefaction said:

I took all three at once... we'll see.

The main thing that I think helped, or at least my strategy was and I felt it was fair, is I took a Seismic Review Course by Hiner (recommended!) since I didn't know jack about ASCE-7/CBC/IBC and codes and that stuff is a bear to try to parse on your own.   I also signed up for the Seismic Exam ASAP at the earliest date so it was as close to being fresh in my mind since the class ended relatively shortly before the exam. That way I could put all the seismic stuff behind me and focus on the PE exam itself. I also took a week off of work before the PE just to sit down, tab things and study. I should have studied more for the PE though but it wasn't that bad.

I also scheduled the Surveying on the last possible day (Nov 6) so it gave me a week to bunker down and study for the Surveying without any worries since all the other exams were done. I think a review course might have been helpful but the exam itself isn't that hard, it's just they throw a lot of BS long ass questions at you in such a short amount of time that if you don't know literally law of sin/cosines/trig/similar triangle/horizonal/vertical curve shortcuts at t the tip of your brain then it's nearly impossible to finish (I still had to guess on at least 5 of them just from time alone) despite if I sat down at a desk and worked at them I could have easily reasoned through it just fine.

 

tl:dr--If you want to do all three:

- Take a seismic course. Sign up for seismic exam at the EARLIEST DATE POSSIBLE while it's fresh in  your brain

- Take a week off work (if viable) to study for PE just before. 

- Take Surveying Exam LAST DAY POSSIBLE so you have as much time to sit all the PE/Seismic jungle out of your mind and focus on just surveying concepts/problems.

I did exactly the same thing (except a different seismic review course). I passed all three first try, and I'm so glad I set it up that way. Your tl:dr is dead-on.

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cost wise.

you pay $125 each time you make a application for sitting in any one of the 3 exams.

Long wait for re-approval.

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On 11/17/2015, 1:16:46, abell8418 said:

For those who are or have taken the California Civil PE Exam, did you take all three exams in one exam cycle, or split them up?  

If you took them all at once, what was your experience?  Would you recommend it?

If there is a similar post to this, please direct me there.

Thanks

Took all three and passed all three at once (April '14).  It's a tough road, but definitely possible.  Little background - I'm married, had a 2 year old and my wife was 8.5 months pregnant when I took the exam.  It was a little stressful, but I was motivated to get through all the exams at once since studying with a newborn for the October exam cycle would have been worse.  I ended up studying around 200 hours over a 4 month period - usually included waking up and getting to the office 2 hours early to study before the work day began.  Being tired and in my own world during that time put some strain on both home life and work, but most of my colleagues were pretty understanding and my wife just figured she was mad at me all the time because she was pregnant (which may or may not have been true).

From my perspective, it's all about what your personal situation is.  If you have reasons that necessitate you taking all 3 at once, then go for it, but don't slack off and expect to pass.  There's a lot of great ideas on how to space out the exam now that they're not all back-to-back.  If the opportunity is there for you to take the exams over multiple sessions, it will be a lot easier to just study for one (or two) with your sole focus on that test rather than having an "out" to study for your depth if seismic is getting under your skin, etc.

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Any tips for spacing out the studying? Should I focus on one topic a week? How should I study for the three different exams? Should I study one exam for one month?

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Got approval to take the examm. Do I just register on NCESS? How can I register for the Seismic and Surveying exam?

Edited by Superlaker24

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I took all three tests in one exam cycle and passed (not bragging). It wasn't easy and it took me away from everything for four months but passing all three made up for the absence as time passed.

The seismic and surveying tests are conducted online by Prometric and can be taken at the nearest center to your home, even in a different state if you are not from California. You'll register for those test with Prometric once the registration opens.

I also have some seismic and surveying study material for sale (see the yard sale section of the forum) if you are interested.

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