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GasPro

PE - Chemical Preparation

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I decided to take PE exam back in May 2016 , so went ahead and registered for it. Took the Chemical PE exam in October 2016; passed it and now want to sell some of the material I used for PE preparation:

 

1. NCEES PE Chemical Engineering Practice Exam 

This book is a must-read for all who want to take PE exam in Chemical Engineering. It contains 80 questions with comprehensive solutions. I personally read it twice; once skimmed through it when just started studying for PE, and the second time was a week before the actual PE exam when I tried to simulate the exam in a timely manner. I didn’t make any note or highlight in it except a few small notes to show where each section ends. For instance, the questions start with Thermodynamics Q101 to Q118, then Heat Transfer, Kinetics and so on; I wrote a two word note saying “Heat Transfer” on the margin next to Q119. Other than this, the book is clean and ready for a second person to read and go through the adventure of PE Chemical exam!

2. Practice Problems for the Chemical Engineering PE Exam, 7th Edition (By Michael Lindeburg)

This book is the companion of "Chemical Engineering Reference Manual for the PE Exam". It has great problems and is a must-read! I studied most of it; tried to answer all the questions in Thermodynamics, Mass Transfer, Heat Transfer, Kinetics and Fluid Mechanics. There are two more chapters for subjects of "Plant Design" and "Environmental" which I didn't get the time to go over them unfortunately. This book is clean, no highlight or note in it.

3. TI-36X Pro Calculator (This calculator is allowed in PE exam. I have another programmable calculator and don't use this anymore.)

In addition to above items, I bought "Chemical Engineering Reference Manual for the PE Exam", but I would like to keep it, as it contains a lot of good info and is good to have it in my office for future! If you are interested to buy these books, please contact me at "alan.hejrati@gmail.com". The price is negotiable. If you have any other question regarding the exam, I would be glad to bring some light!

 

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I also would like to share my experience studying and preparing for PE exam. I know many engineers are confused with how to start, so I was. Here is what I realized soon after I started studying: “It’s hard to start but when you get into it, you will find the right path!” The exam has 6 topics in general; Thermodynamics, Heat Transfer, Kinetics, Fluid Mechanics, Mass Transfer, and Plant Design. I believe everybody who has a good engineering background is able to self-study. There are also some online courses. I’ve never taken any of those but heard they are helpful. However, if you have to pay for all expenses yourself, then you might need to think for a moment, as those courses aren’t inexpensive! I would like to go briefly through each topic and let you know how I started and prepared myself in less than 4 months while working full time;

1.       Thermodynamics:  NCEES PE Chemical Engineering Practice Exam” book suggests 18 questions (out of 80) for this subject. The questions cover many topics including material balance, combustion, stoichiometry, power cycles, etc. "Chemical Engineering Reference Manual for the PE Exam (ChERM)" by Lindeburg is a good refresher for most of these topics. However, in my opinion, it goes too deep into some of topics including power cycles. No doubt that reading and studying everything would be helpful for our engineering career but maybe unnecessary for the PE exam in such a short prep time. Anyway I studied thermodynamics from Lindeburg. Then, I polished my studying with solving problems, “Practice Problems for the Chemical Engineering PE Exam (PP), 7th Edition (By Michael Lindeburg)”. There are some other good practice books, but I got this one and still believe that these two books suffice to help you answer most of the question! My Thermodynamics instructor used to say “You cannot claim that you know Thermodynamics, if you don’t solve any problem” So, as you solve more problems, you become more confident in your answers. And it applies to all sections of PE exam, not only Thermo. I also took “Introduction to Chemical Engineering Thermodynamics” by Van Ness with me to the exam, but don’t remember if I ever opened it!

2.       Heat Transfer: I began this section with “Heat Transfer – JP Holman”. I studied this book back in my bachelor’s and was familiar with it. However, my favorite chapter in “ChERM” is Heat Transfer. This chapter is very short, around 60 pages and it covers all important topics of heat transfer including Conduction, Free and Forced Convection, Heat Exchangers and Radiation. DO NOT bother studying any other book! Just study “ChERM” and you’ll be able to answer all the questions in heat transfer. Of course solving problems would help you become faster and I suggest “PP” is a good source.

3.       Kinetics: The shortest chapter in “ChERM” is Kinetics with only 6 pages! Well, it’s actually too short to cover everything. I got my bachelor’s in Petroleum Engineering and never passed the subject of “Kinetics” in the university. Not that I wasn’t familiar with reaction kinetics, but had only little understanding about it through chemistry courses. Thus, I needed another source to learn kinetics. NCEES PE Chemical Engineering Practice Exam” book suggests 9 questions (out of 80) for this subject. I first went through those 9 questions and tried to understand what I can do in such a short prep time. Honestly, I wasn’t able to answer any of those 9 questions. So, I spent time on each question, googled the background for each and learned how to solve similar questions. Of course, googling helped me find more relative topics/info. I took some notes, and studied kinetics chapter in “ChERM” once again. This time I was like “Oh man, it make sense!” I spent less than two weeks before the exam preparing for kinetics, and I actually was able to solve all the questions in the exam! Well, I feel that my answers were mostly true! I also can share with you my notes and other material I found online.

4.       Fluid Mechanics: With ~13 questions in the exam, Fluids plays an important role in your result. “ChERM” and “PP” are sufficient to answer all the questions, in my opinion. Well, if you find more questions and if you have the time, then try to solve them. Otherwise stick to “ChERM” and “PP”.

5.       Mass Transfer: This section is a little bit tricky! I studied activity, liquid vapor equilibrium and separation, Henry’s law, etc. in the Thermodynamics course back in school. But actually these all are covered under Mass Transfer subject in PE exam with total of ~11 questions. “ChERM” and “PP” are definitely required for you to learn the McCabeThiele for different processes. (Oops… it was my first time dealing with McCabeThiele diagram! If you studied Mass Transfer II in your bachelor’s, you only need a review!) But then you need another Thermodynamics source for activity, Henry’s law, etc. My MSc thesis was in the area of thermodynamics. Therefore, I didn’t have any issue solving those other questions. However, taking “Introduction to Chemical Engineering Thermodynamics” by Van Ness with me to the exam gave me a good confidence to know that I am covered! I would suggest you to go through those 11 questions of NCEES PE Chemical Engineering Practice Exam” and see what might need studying. The questions in the actual PE exam are very similar.

6.       And finally Plant Design and Operation: It includes questions in the area of mass transfer column, heat exchangers, piping,  material of construction, economics, P&ID, unit operation, and anything that is covered or not covered in other sections of PE. As you see, the topics are broad, and it makes studying really hard! So I chose not to study for plant design and rely on my 3 years of experience as a process engineer. Having “ChERM” was very helpful for this section. I remember there was a question related to sound intensity, and I felt that the question was easy to solve!!! (From the 6th Sense!) So, I searched into “ChERM”, luckily found the formula and solved the question! Taking other engineering handbooks such as Perry’s or GPSA might be helpful for this section as well. But I didn’t take any handbook, only relied on “ChERM”, “PP” and NCEES PE Chemical Engineering Practice Exam”.

Conclusion: I would definitely suggest you to skim through NCEES PE Chemical Engineering Practice Exam” first. Know that you cannot answer even a single question out of 80 in the beginning. Then, start going through chapters of “ChERM” and try to solve as many problems as possible. “PP” is a very good source for practice problems’; however, it’s nothing similar to what you will see in the exam. The questions are longer – some might take an hour so solve – but they cover a good portion of exam questions. What you will see in the exam is very similar to NCEES PE Chemical Engineering Practice Exam”. There might even be similar questions with different numbers! So, I suggest reading this book twice; once in the beginning and again a few days before exam. And definitely take it with you to the exam!

Good luck,

GasPro

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Very good advice and the same I would have given after passing in 2006.  For the Chemical test the ChERM and practice problems are really all that are needed.  The kinetics chapter is REALLY short, but to the point and I had found an answer right there in those pitiful 6 pages after spending too much looking through my textbooks.  

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