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PE Structural Depth Failure - Advice?

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Firstly, I copied this over from the Civil Engineering PE Exam: Structural forum, to see if anyone here has any advice. I wrote this last Thursday, and right now, I am thinking I will likely enroll in the EET breadth and depth courses, but would still love to hear anyone else's tips for passing this exam come April 2017.

Hi all,

So I'm sadly reporting that I did not pass the civil PE structural depth exam this time. It was my second time taking it, first being in April of this year. I'm at a bit of a loss as to what to do for my third time around (I refuse to give up!).

Here is my background for my first exam, followed by its diagnostic:

I self-studied using the CERM, the CERM's accompanying practice problems, and NCEES practice exams. I probably spent somewhere around 150 or 200 hours studying, starting at the end of January and going through the first week of April. To start, I studied mostly on weekends for 6-8 hours Saturday and Sunday. Once I was one month out, I started studying 2-3 hours after work three or four work nights as well, usually taking Friday night off before hitting the books again with the weekend schedule. I also had to peel off a few days on weekends to study for the CA state specific seismic and surveying exams. This was definitely detrimental to my time devoted to studying my depth. That can clearly be  seen in the diagnostic, I think.

April 2016 diagnostic:

 April 2016 Diagnositc.jpg

A little more background: walking out of the exam in the spring, I thought I had passed. When I got my results, I was pretty much at a loss as to how I had bombed the Design and Details of Structures: Component design and detailing section so atrociously. Though obviously, I was subpar in actually all of the afternoon (and many of the morning) sections. That particular section definitely stuck out to me the most. 

For October 2016, I decided I probably hadn't studied enough on my own, and definitely didn't focus enough on my depth topics. I decided to take the live online PPI Civil PE review course for a few different reasons. Firstly, I thought it might do me better to have more structure to my studying. Secondly, my coworker recommended it as he had taken this course (same instructor) and passed on his first try. Thirdly, I really liked the guarantee. As the course came to a close, I thought it had been good for the morning section, but rather lacking for the depth. I should have known that to begin with, as it is not advertised as being for the specific depths and instead devotes one or maybe two classes at most to each depth topic. Anyway, I completed all the homework and the PPI practice exam (and so fulfilled the requirements for the guarantee), did not divvy any time off of the state exams (I had passed seismic and decided to save studying for surveying until the week after the PE exam). I also worked additional PPI practice problems (120 solved problems, primarily in the structural depth) and NCEES practice exams again. I completed the NCEES practice exams in 4-hour chunks for morning and depth, to simulate the test itself. I thought I was pretty much as well-prepared for the PE exam as I could have reasonably been.

This is my diagnostics report this time:

October 2016 Diagnostic.jpg\

As can be seen, overall, I did significantly worse (in terms of absolute scores) in the morning and 33% better in the afternoon. I much improved my score in the depth topic I bombed in April (though I still came up short), but this time suffered a rather crushing defeat in Analysis of Structures: Loads and load applications (which I had previously done much better in). I am noticeably supbar in the morning sections also, which is a little perplexing to me because I felt I studied them about as much as I did the first time around. Though, I do remember thinking the Hydraulics & Hydrology and Geometrics questions being more complicated compared to what they were in April. I ended up with a score of 45 this time, compared to 46 in April.

I guess I'm just at a bit of a loss as to how to attack this exam for April 2017. I think I would like to do a review course again, but perhaps on demand this time. I think having structured instruction is very helpful for me, as I'm not as good of a self-teacher/reviewer. I am not tied to PPI because of the guarantee, as I don't know that it would prepare me significantly better by doing it again. I've read great things here about EET, but I don't know if I would then sign up for the breadth and depth both, just the breadth, or just the depth (though I think just the depth would be the least likely option). For materials, I feel I was pretty well covered... Having studied with the CERM, PPI practice problems, the PPI practice exam, PPI's Civil Engineering Solved Problems, and various other practice problems as well as the NCEES practice exams. But I have heard great things about the EET binders that are provided to course takers. To both exams, I brought with me the CERM, my PPI course notes, the PPI Structural Depth for the PE Exam Reference Manual, as well as various codes (basically all recommended codes besides OSHA, PCI, and AASHTO). 

Does anyone have any advice? When I compare my diagnostics, I basically just kind of see two different people taking the exam, and don't really know how to proceed.

Thanks so much for any help you can provide! I really, really appreciate it. I am determined to pass in April 2017!

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This is so weird. I suppose you simply freeze up at tests. Have you been practicing from the SERM as well?

Did I reply to you elsewhere? I was gonna suggest villanova because I like their power review course, but looks like that's all they do. I did self study for civil-structural.

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Erase this diagnostic reports.  It would probably discourage you more than help.  I'm sure you are well-rounded in everything.  Probably just need more practice problems so you don't get shocked by one and not know how to proceed.

I did the weekday online night classes (7PM-10:30PM) School of PE, on demand I hear is good because you get to start self-studying the class videos and notes before the actual class starts.  However, it's a bit pricey and you have to discipline yourself to actually watch the videos and do the problems.

You need to set yourself up 3-4 months in advance for this.  Dedicate one week for each subject (geotech, structural, construction, water, and probably just several days for the minor topics like engineering economics, traffic, etc.) and 2 weeks for the structural depth.  I took a practice exam before the real online night classes started (probably had a good 56/80 - Structural depth killed me, I probably only got half of the questions right) and a practice exam after the real classes ended (58/80 - not too much better).  DO NOT rely too much on Michael R. Lindeburg practice problems/exams they are 2-3 times harder than the actual questions.  Stick with the NCEES practice exams.

You'll be fine.  I am NOT a good test-taker at all.  I blank out a bunch.  However, I was able to pass Civil Structural my first time, thank the heavens and hells.  The biggest thing that helped me was that I tabbed BIG important practice problems.  Even though the exam didn't have the exact problem it was similar enough that I was able to follow the procedure and equations to come up with an answer.  ALL my binders had tabs, the people sitting around me looked at me funny but I didn't care.  I saw a problem and knew exactly where to flip to for a similar problem.  My weakness is water, so I developed equations sheets that listed out ALL important equations relating to closed pipe flow, open channel, etc.  Basically, when I saw a problem that had water in it, I looked at my equations and felt a little more comfortable because i saw familiar terms like fricition coefficients and the darcy crap.  I did not flip open anything else except my notes, practice problems, and MAYBE I opened up the osha reference I had.

I borrowed a CERM from my friend, however, I did not use it at all.  Maybe 1-3 conceptual problems i looked up key words in the index and found an appropriate answer.

Any further questions I'll be happy to answer/help; you or anyone can PM me.

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Thanks so much, @ZupaS!

The funny thing I that in the history of my schooling, I was never a bad test-taker. I actually considered myself a good test-taker, but I think the PE Exam is a different beast! I have not yet proven myself to be its master, but I definitely will.

I am thinking you're right in that I need to do more practice problems. Somehow I just don't think I've gotten that through my thick skull in these past two go's.

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The best Tip I have for you is don't give up. I scored similar to you the first time I took the PE studying the same and had the same idea you did the second time around. I lucked out and passed this time in October, but I know what help me pass for the study course that I took. I decided with EET, but I think they are all very similar in terms of what they cover. So if PPI was what you originally chose, you can continue to use them since they have the guarantee.

I think the reason why I passed the exam this time was how well I scored in the morning. I walked out of it pretty confident, and if I had to take a guess I probably only missed 3 or less of the morning problems. The afternoon killed me, I literally blindly guessed on 16 problems. Hence, I truly do believe I lucked out. However, have the confidence in the morning really must of gave me a better shot at passing the exam. So I would say study hard until you are completely confident with the morning then focus on the afternoon. Practice problems, and practice exams are definitely what you need to focus a lot of your time on.

Hope this helps and good luck in April's exam.

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Thank you, @lmtran4! I appreciate your insight, and congratulations on passing on your second try!

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Take EET Structural Review and CONSOLIDATE YOUR RESOURCES.  I had my favorite sections of far too many books on my first attempt.  The EET binder was my go-to and then I double-checked my preferred references if time allowed.  

I went into the exam wishing that I had spent less time learning the concepts in such serious depth and more time on practice questions.  Having studied for this exam forever, I answered 30+ of the the morning questions without any references at all.  I'd imagine that you'll hit the same point on the next round!

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I took the Civil - Structural this time around as well (and passed).  Looking at your diagnostic reports, I completely agree with you, what you are seeing in them is a bit perplexing.

Based on the facts that - (1) your apparent areas of strength and weakness changed quite a bit from the first exam to the second; (2) you felt good coming out of the first exam; and (3) you felt very prepared going into the second exam - I think Zupa is right to say that you're well rounded.  My best guess is that you're somehow falling into the traps the exam sets with some of the incorrect answers offered in the multiple choice.

I have found that I personally fall into trap wrong answers the most often in 3 ways:

(1) I forget a factor in an equation with quite a few terms.  Looking back at my notes, in one of my practice exam questions, I stupidly forgot to divide by 2 as required by the Darcy-Weisbach equation and ended up with the wrong answer.  I also found it difficult to keep track of all the terms in a wood/NDS design problem (in my defense, I have much more experience with steel and concrete than with wood).

(2) I misinterpret the problem diagram.  Another dumb thing to do, but I think it stems from the fact that I typically do better with words and numbers. (If you've ever read about the theory of multiple intelligences, I tend to score higher in logical-mathematical and verbal-linguistic than visual-spatial.)  In one of the practice exam questions that I missed, I calculated the shear force at a point a certain distance from the left end of the beam instead of from the right end like I was supposed to.

(3) I don't perform the last step required to solve the problem.  This one I think is mostly brought on by feeling pressure to move on to the next problem.  In one of my missed practice exam questions, I forgot to change my final moment calculation from foot-kips to inch-kips, and because the possible answer choices were spread far apart and rounded, I didn't think too much about my answer not matching maybe as well as it should have.  In another practice problem involving to what depth to excavate to place a pipe, I did not properly include the dimension of the pipe itself.

I found that it really helps me to go over a practice exam solution in depth almost immediately after my initial attempt at the problem.  That is, rather than trying to simulate taking the real exam and completing all 40 questions in 4 hours, practice problems help me more when I do them one at a time as best I can, then look at the answer.  That way, I get to stay thinking about the same problem without worrying about any other problems.  If my answer was right, I check to see if there was another way to solve the problem that was potentially more efficient, but otherwise I move on quickly.  If my answer was wrong, I spend more time to see if I missed the question because my thinking was completely off track, or if it was because I fell into a trap.

I hope what I wrote doesn't seem patronizing - you've done much more studying and preparation than I did.  Maybe it won't help at all.  I hope it's at least a little bit useful - I feel like you're so close to passing!  Good luck on your next try!

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@Mangano thanks for your advice! Consolidating my resources is a good idea, as I know I didn't use most of my resources in the actual exam. Too bad we cannot consolidate the codes... ;)

@Excelsior thank you! You did not come across as patronizing to me at all, and in fact provided a very good point. I would not be surprised if I fell into the traps set by some of the problems far too often. In fact, I can think of one problem from last April's exam where I am positive I fell into a trap, and only realized it after the exam was done. I am not sure, though, that I have been paying very much attention to the exact types of mistakes I'm making in practice problems. There's a big difference in just plain not knowing how to do a problem and needing to learn the method, versus doing it mostly correctly but forgetting one step somewhere along the way (most likely at either the start or the end). 

I think I basically feel that while I am likely spending a good amount of time preparing for the exam, I am probably not getting the most value out of how I am studying.

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I suggest while studying or solving questions, you summarize and categorize them to different subjects. I think taking classes or  which type courses are not important. The key is you need to understand the concept yourself. If you can quickly relate to the problem to the concept you learned without looking into books, that means you understand it. To me, references and books are only used for looking up for data, parameter, coefficients....etc. not for concepts or theory. You definitely can learn concepts from books, but while you are solving a problem, you should't be relying on learning new things from books. That is my understanding. I didn't go to any classes and spend about 180 hours for all three exams. I just passed my PE (structural depth) at first try. I can show you some of the summary I made if you would like to know.

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I took the same exam and passed it recently.  It was my third attempts and I'm glad to be done with it.  I have always been a good student but one need to study for the PE exam in order to pass it.  Some may require less effort than another depending on upon their design experience, academic backgrounds, and how long ago since graduation.  In my case, I probably spent about 120-150 hours studying for it.

 I started out earlier in my career doing a good bit of structural  design works on Water & Wastewater structures.  Once the economic went south, I branched out into mechanical, civil site, and other faucets in civil engineering.  This has proven to be good and bad things for me.  The good thing is that I'm very well rounded so the morning session did come easy for me.  Due to the lack of depth and the lack-thereof in buildings & bridges design, the structural afternoon was some what a struggle.  I probably left 10-15 problems unsolved (due to time constraints) but did manage to get a passing grade.

My recommendation to you is try to do really well in the morning.  This will make you feel better and give you a better chance in the afternoon.  When I finished the morning I felt that I probably scored near perfect on it.  It was a different feeling in the afternoon but in the back of my mind....I know that I probably did well enough to pass.

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I ended up taking the exam twice before passing.  The first go around the company I work for paid for the ASCE Civil/Structural PE Exam Review Course.  It did a great job of reviewing the morning portion but only provided one 2-hour session on reviewing for the afternoon.  I felt confident about my structural skills and performed only about 30-40 practice problems and the NCEES practice exam for my afternoon studying.  My first attempt was 30/40 morning and 20/40 afternoon.

I was very frustrated and disappointed with my first attempt at the exam.  I felt I was readily prepared for the morning portion but spent way too much time digging for answers during the afternoon portion.  In short, I needed a more concise "here's what you need to know" type of studying method.  I did my research and settled on the EET On-Demand Depth Review course.  EET's binder was my primary resource the second go around on the afternoon portion of the exam.  Periodically I would crack open one of the codes to find an obscure code reference but overall used that binder for about 90% of the problems.  The binder does a great job of organizing information and has the different topics tabbed for you already.  I added additional tabs, notes, and references to the binder as I went along through the review course.  As I had questions, the professors readily answered emails and I never felt like I had to wait a long time to get answers. 

One thing I will say is to not neglect the am section.  I didn't study very much for the morning the second time around and I wish had done more.  In your studying make sure you cover each item identified on the test outline.  Skirting some can easily result in easy points being missed. 

Good luck in your studying and keep at it!  You'll get it done the next go around.

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I took School of PE and the morning was exceptional especially the construction topics.  The afternoon is very unorganized and lacking in term of useful information.  I would not recommend them if you need help with the depth portion.

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6 hours ago, PY_Structure, P.E. said:

I took School of PE and the morning was exceptional especially the construction topics.  The afternoon is very unorganized and lacking in term of useful information.  I would not recommend them if you need help with the depth portion.

I suppose SoPE is like any other course. Entirely a crapshoot on whether it'll help any more than self-study.

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9 hours ago, PY_Structure, P.E. said:

 I started out earlier in my career doing a good bit of structural  design works on Water & Wastewater structures.  Once the economic went south, I branched out into mechanical, civil site, and other faucets in civil engineering.  

what this some sort of pun?

 

9 hours ago, PY_Structure, P.E. said:

 I probably left 10-15 problems unsolved (due to time constraints) but did manage to get a passing grade.

.... When I finished the morning I felt that I probably scored near perfect on it.  It was a different feeling in the afternoon but in the back of my mind....I know that I probably did well enough to pass.

that's how it was for me on the FE, except I probably had ~25 unsolved problems. And I was certain I failed due to me bombing the afternoon.

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On ‎12‎/‎19‎/‎2016 at 5:57 PM, leggo said:

Firstly, I copied this over from the Civil Engineering PE Exam: Structural forum, to see if anyone here has any advice. I wrote this last Thursday, and right now, I am thinking I will likely enroll in the EET breadth and depth courses, but would still love to hear anyone else's tips for passing this exam come April 2017.

Hi all,

So I'm sadly reporting that I did not pass the civil PE structural depth exam this time. It was my second time taking it, first being in April of this year. I'm at a bit of a loss as to what to do for my third time around (I refuse to give up!).

Is there a choice to pick between discipline specific and general civil for the afternoon?

It's kinda tough to give advice on passing the exam when you DID study those all topics. The only tip I can even come up with is simply grab all practice question books under the sun and hammer through all the problems until April.

Did you try the Exam café from PPI? On the last exam I took, although nothing similar was on the test, going through those conceptual problems in a way expanded my grasp of the material, which I think help at least a little.

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six minute solution is a must!!!!!

从我的 iPhone 发送,使用 Tapatalk

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7 hours ago, Phatso86 said:

Is there a choice to pick between discipline specific and general civil for the afternoon?

It's kinda tough to give advice on passing the exam when you DID study those all topics. The only tip I can even come up with is simply grab all practice question books under the sun and hammer through all the problems until April.

Did you try the Exam café from PPI? On the last exam I took, although nothing similar was on the test, going through those conceptual problems in a way expanded my grasp of the material, which I think help at least a little.

For the afternoon depth you have the choice of: construction, geotechnical, structural, transportation, water resources and environmental.  The morning breadth will cover aspects of all of these and more.  Reference: http://ncees.org/engineering/pe/.

I to have used the Exam Café from PPI.  While it was a good resource for studying conceptual problems, a lot of the time the analytical problems were nothing like you would see on the exam.  Some were overly easy and some were beyond the scope of the exam. 

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1 hour ago, Lei said:

six minute solution is a must!!!!!

从我的 iPhone 发送,使用 Tapatalk

Six minute solutions is a good resource for making sure you understand concepts.  However, the problems are way more in depth than what you will see on the exam. I'd recommend the NCEES practice exam for a more realistic view on what problems on the exam will look like.

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I don't get why NCEES doesn't release more practice exams.

Or better yet, a year long review course. They would make so much money :huh:

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13 hours ago, Phatso86 said:

I don't get why NCEES doesn't release more practice exams.

Or better yet, a year long review course. They would make so much money :huh:

I think their practice exams are a blessing. Its the real thing, it is all parallel to what's in the exam. And while a course from them would probably be ideal, i think their is definitely a conflict of interest. IMO. 

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1 hour ago, Lei said: six minute solution is a must!!!!!

从我的 iPhone 发送,使用 Tapatalk

Six minute solutions is a good resource for making sure you understand concepts.  However, the problems are way more in depth than what you will see on the exam. I'd recommend the NCEES practice exam for a more realistic view on what problems on the exam will look like.

To gain confidence for the real problem. I feel more prepared especially after throughly study of six minute solution.

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On 12/19/2016 at 2:57 PM, leggo said:

Firstly, I copied this over from the Civil Engineering PE Exam: Structural forum, to see if anyone here has any advice. I wrote this last Thursday, and right now, I am thinking I will likely enroll in the EET breadth and depth courses, but would still love to hear anyone else's tips for passing this exam come April 2017.

Hi all,

So I'm sadly reporting that I did not pass the civil PE structural depth exam this time. It was my second time taking it, first being in April of this year. I'm at a bit of a loss as to what to do for my third time around (I refuse to give up!).

Here is my background for my first exam, followed by its diagnostic:

I self-studied using the CERM, the CERM's accompanying practice problems, and NCEES practice exams. I probably spent somewhere around 150 or 200 hours studying, starting at the end of January and going through the first week of April. To start, I studied mostly on weekends for 6-8 hours Saturday and Sunday. Once I was one month out, I started studying 2-3 hours after work three or four work nights as well, usually taking Friday night off before hitting the books again with the weekend schedule. I also had to peel off a few days on weekends to study for the CA state specific seismic and surveying exams. This was definitely detrimental to my time devoted to studying my depth. That can clearly be  seen in the diagnostic, I think.

April 2016 diagnostic:

 April 2016 Diagnositc.jpg

A little more background: walking out of the exam in the spring, I thought I had passed. When I got my results, I was pretty much at a loss as to how I had bombed the Design and Details of Structures: Component design and detailing section so atrociously. Though obviously, I was subpar in actually all of the afternoon (and many of the morning) sections. That particular section definitely stuck out to me the most. 

For October 2016, I decided I probably hadn't studied enough on my own, and definitely didn't focus enough on my depth topics. I decided to take the live online PPI Civil PE review course for a few different reasons. Firstly, I thought it might do me better to have more structure to my studying. Secondly, my coworker recommended it as he had taken this course (same instructor) and passed on his first try. Thirdly, I really liked the guarantee. As the course came to a close, I thought it had been good for the morning section, but rather lacking for the depth. I should have known that to begin with, as it is not advertised as being for the specific depths and instead devotes one or maybe two classes at most to each depth topic. Anyway, I completed all the homework and the PPI practice exam (and so fulfilled the requirements for the guarantee), did not divvy any time off of the state exams (I had passed seismic and decided to save studying for surveying until the week after the PE exam). I also worked additional PPI practice problems (120 solved problems, primarily in the structural depth) and NCEES practice exams again. I completed the NCEES practice exams in 4-hour chunks for morning and depth, to simulate the test itself. I thought I was pretty much as well-prepared for the PE exam as I could have reasonably been.

This is my diagnostics report this time:

October 2016 Diagnostic.jpg\

As can be seen, overall, I did significantly worse (in terms of absolute scores) in the morning and 33% better in the afternoon. I much improved my score in the depth topic I bombed in April (though I still came up short), but this time suffered a rather crushing defeat in Analysis of Structures: Loads and load applications (which I had previously done much better in). I am noticeably supbar in the morning sections also, which is a little perplexing to me because I felt I studied them about as much as I did the first time around. Though, I do remember thinking the Hydraulics & Hydrology and Geometrics questions being more complicated compared to what they were in April. I ended up with a score of 45 this time, compared to 46 in April.

I guess I'm just at a bit of a loss as to how to attack this exam for April 2017. I think I would like to do a review course again, but perhaps on demand this time. I think having structured instruction is very helpful for me, as I'm not as good of a self-teacher/reviewer. I am not tied to PPI because of the guarantee, as I don't know that it would prepare me significantly better by doing it again. I've read great things here about EET, but I don't know if I would then sign up for the breadth and depth both, just the breadth, or just the depth (though I think just the depth would be the least likely option). For materials, I feel I was pretty well covered... Having studied with the CERM, PPI practice problems, the PPI practice exam, PPI's Civil Engineering Solved Problems, and various other practice problems as well as the NCEES practice exams. But I have heard great things about the EET binders that are provided to course takers. To both exams, I brought with me the CERM, my PPI course notes, the PPI Structural Depth for the PE Exam Reference Manual, as well as various codes (basically all recommended codes besides OSHA, PCI, and AASHTO). 

Does anyone have any advice? When I compare my diagnostics, I basically just kind of see two different people taking the exam, and don't really know how to proceed.

Thanks so much for any help you can provide! I really, really appreciate it. I am determined to pass in April 2017!

My advice to you is to first figure out why you're doing so poorly on the questions. Buy the NCEES practice exam if you don't already have it, block out 9 hours on a Saturday, and really take the test. No peeking at answers, no cheating, turn off the phone, 1 hour for lunch, small desk, crate underneath. Really be true and take it in the four hours. Make sure you are showing your work as much as possible without taking too long. Then, go back and see why you are missing the problems. Are you making simple mistakes too frequently? Do you genuinely not understand the concepts? Did you get a 64/80 and you just freeze up when you're actually doing the real deal?

Studying for the test is not doing it for you, you need to be more pragmatic and attack the parts of the test that you can do well on. I put in a lot of time as well (200+ hours) and while I passed, I am pretty sure I barely passed. I don't do any design for work so it was basically starting from scratch/fresh out of college as far as the exam knew. I didn't pretend for even a moment that I was going to do well on the afternoon so I studied like mad on the morning stuff to make sure I walked out of the first 4 hours with at least 36 questions right. Maybe that strategy will work for you, maybe it won't.

Figure out why you are missing so many and come up with a plan. Most of us would have no problem helping you out to devise a plan if we have a little bit more diagnostic info on how you're doing than just the number right/wrong.

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Thanks for the advice, everyone!

It may be overkill, but I have enrolled in EET's breadth and depth on-demand sections, and have gotten my hands on some new-to-me practice problems. 

I feel like in my previous times studying, I perhaps did not spend enough time really hammering out the problems myself, without looking at the answers. I also feel I need to put more confidence in myself, which I think I am lacking in. I know I can pass this exam, I know I have the support of my company, and I know that I am valued for what I contribute. I need to apply all of this knowledge to the fact that I will pass this exam. I know what to expect, so I will be doing problems and revisiting this thread in the future once I have more input on what I am finding I have trouble with in my studies.

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