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mnguy88

Civil Structural Fail - How to Pass?

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I failed my first attempt at the Civil PE - Structural Exam this past April.  A bit of background about me: I did not graduate with a degree in Civil Engineering or Structural. I am a Biological Engineer with a focus in structural systems.  I've been working four years as an engineer in a field of its own, utility design.  Therefore, I don't have much exposure to anything civil or biological. The reason I chose the structural exam was because I enjoyed learning and taking structural courses in college.  I figured the other disciplines will bore me.  I took steel, wood, and multiple analysis courses. Additionally, there are so many more resources to help pass the civil exam than the biological exam.

My first attempt, I completely bombed.  However, I think it wasn't too bad given that I do not work in the field and only studied 2.5 months prior to the exam.  It was really tough studying because I wasn't familiar with the majority of breadth topics, but knew the depth was going to be hard so I focused most of my studies on the depth.  Below is my diagnostics.  I would love to get any help possible.  I'll be taking the PPI course again soon.  I took it the first time, but I was so focused on studying for the depth, that I did not pay attention.  I am hoping the second time around will be a pass.

Any tips for someone who is not in the field to pass the Civil Structural?  Changing disciplines is not an option.  My work already paid for the thousands of dollars in course and reference materials.

 

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1 minute ago, mnguy88 said:

I failed my first attempt at the Civil PE - Structural Exam this past April.  A bit of background about me: I did not graduate with a degree in Civil Engineering or Structural. I am a Biological Engineer with a focus in structural systems.  I've been working four years as an engineer in a field of its own, utility design.  Therefore, I don't have much exposure to anything civil or biological. The reason I chose the structural exam was because I enjoyed learning and taking structural courses in college.  I figured the other disciplines will bore me.  I took steel, wood, and multiple analysis courses. Additionally, there are so many more resources to help pass the civil exam than the biological exam.

My first attempt, I completely bombed.  However, I think it wasn't too bad given that I do not work in the field and only studied 2.5 months prior to the exam.  It was really tough studying because I wasn't familiar with the majority of breadth topics, but knew the depth was going to be hard so I focused most of my studies on the depth.  Below is my diagnostics.  I would love to get any help possible.  I'll be taking the PPI course again soon.  I took it the first time, but I was so focused on studying for the depth, that I did not pay attention.  I am hoping the second time around will be a pass.

Any tips for someone who is not in the field to pass the Civil Structural?  Changing disciplines is not an option.  My work already paid for the thousands of dollars in course and reference materials.

 

 

 

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Hi @mnguy88!

Thanks for posting your diagnostic. That always helps a lot in determining a path forward to pass the civil structural PE exam. I have a few questions for you.

Firstly, how did you study for the depth module? What specific resources and/or study plan did you use? How familiar are you with the codes used for the depth module already?

As far as the PPI course, I think it is worth it for you to take it again if you did as well as you did on the breadth section without really paying attention to it. The PPI class is heavily geared towards the breadth module, so if you can follow that class and get maybe five more questions there, and also put in your own time studying the depth subjects again, I would say that would put you in good shape for the exam.

I know I didn't provide much real concrete advice here, but if I get a bit more background on what you did to study for the depth module, I could possibly help you a little more.

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1 hour ago, leggo PE said:

Hi @mnguy88!

Thanks for posting your diagnostic. That always helps a lot in determining a path forward to pass the civil structural PE exam. I have a few questions for you.

Firstly, how did you study for the depth module? What specific resources and/or study plan did you use? How familiar are you with the codes used for the depth module already?

As far as the PPI course, I think it is worth it for you to take it again if you did as well as you did on the breadth section without really paying attention to it. The PPI class is heavily geared towards the breadth module, so if you can follow that class and get maybe five more questions there, and also put in your own time studying the depth subjects again, I would say that would put you in good shape for the exam.

I know I didn't provide much real concrete advice here, but if I get a bit more background on what you did to study for the depth module, I could possibly help you a little more.

I found a few books to be the best for me at studying so I kept to those few books only. I was using a couple of NCEES practice exam and Structural Depth Practice Exam from ppi by James Giancaspro. I tried some six minute solutions but didn't really find it helpful. I found these two books the most helpful. Some days, it took me two hours to understand and do one or two problems, so three months flew by and I didn't feel too comfortable. Overall, I thought the depth on the PE when I took it was doable, I just wasn't prepared enough.

As for codes, I'm mostly familiar with AISC. Anything concrete was brand new to me. I've used NDS in college too. 

Most of the civil engineers at my work took the construction exam since our line of work doesn't really fall into any category. However, I decided to move from the pack and do structural which I find more interesting. Everyone thought I was crazy, and I do too. But I almost want to prove to myself I could pass it too since so many are afraid to go beyond the construction depth. 

Let me know if you need more information.

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question: how do you determine what you consider "helpful"? For example - the 6 minute solutions book. Did you just try a few problems and they were longer than you expected so you moved on? 

I always do better if I do more example problems. I would highly suggest the practice problems book by Lindeburg. Go through the problems make a guess at how to solve it, look up all of the information you need to learn for the problem, tab, mark, take notes, and continue on. Then, go through the problems again. You can do this by section since they are pretty well organized and grouped together. 

I would suggest getting a good grasp on any practice exam or problems you can get your hands on, as soon as possible. you have the foundation but not the experience using that information, so I feel like practice problems will help you start using the information more frequently, which will help you remember where to look for what and when. This will help you feel more confident, calm, and collected during your next round, and hopefully get you enough to earn that pass! 

Good luck!

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You went 23 AM & 19 PM. It's my opinion that the morning session is pretty plug and chug if you have the CERM and watch your units/work. Nail the easy questions in the AM and score at least 30 there and buckle down on your design/use of codes for the afternoon and you've got it in the bag.

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1 hour ago, thejulie_PE said:

question: how do you determine what you consider "helpful"? For example - the 6 minute solutions book. Did you just try a few problems and they were longer than you expected so you moved on? 

I always do better if I do more example problems. I would highly suggest the practice problems book by Lindeburg. Go through the problems make a guess at how to solve it, look up all of the information you need to learn for the problem, tab, mark, take notes, and continue on. Then, go through the problems again. You can do this by section since they are pretty well organized and grouped together. 

I would suggest getting a good grasp on any practice exam or problems you can get your hands on, as soon as possible. you have the foundation but not the experience using that information, so I feel like practice problems will help you start using the information more frequently, which will help you remember where to look for what and when. This will help you feel more confident, calm, and collected during your next round, and hopefully get you enough to earn that pass! 

Good luck!

You're right. I felt the 6 minute solutions were lengthy and not really like the ncees practice exam so I moved on. The practice exam I bought from ppi, I felt it was more accurately along with the ncees practice exam.  

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5 minutes ago, mnguy88 said:

You're right. I felt the 6 minute solutions were lengthy and not really like the ncees practice exam so I moved on. The practice exam I bought from ppi, I felt it was more accurately along with the ncees practice exam.  

yeah, the questions aren't necessarily "accurate" in terms of style and length compared to the exam, but the information is still valuable to learn. I wouldn't disregard it, at least. even if you just walk through the explanations of the answers. 

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As I'm starting to study once again, I'm just feeling very discouraged.  Can I pass this exam?  There are Structural Engineers who cannot pass and take it multiple times.  Can someone like myself who doesn't practice Structural at work pass?  

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1 hour ago, mnguy88 said:

As I'm starting to study once again, I'm just feeling very discouraged.  Can I pass this exam?  There are Structural Engineers who cannot pass and take it multiple times.  Can someone like myself who doesn't practice Structural at work pass?  

You'll pass it when you pass it. I've taken it multiple times and couldn't get it done. I'm well over 300 hours of studying over the course of all attempts. My recommendation is get a feel for it. My third attempt, when I finished, I felt accomplished. I didn't pass, but I thought I had. And I felt good over some problems I had solved that I had never seen before but were able to figure out. I ended up with 23 in the morning and 25 in the afternoon. I couldn't believe it. I thought for sure, absolutely, I had 30 in the morning. I blew it. I suck at exams. At work I'm the go to guy for solutions, but it aint enough. It's either I'm not getting enough of it at work, or haven't added up enough experience through out the course of my training, or I really really suck at exam taking. 

I do think anyone can pass this exam. I also think you need to know the right material to do it. And have really good practice in this material. I really hit the PPI 6 minute solutions books this last attempt and its been my best score. I'm in Tx and they score the exam, I ended up with a 67. So probably 3 to 4 questions and I could have been a winner. I easily remember 2 questions where I resolved to bubble in the wrong answer even though my solution was for another bubble. By this I mean the conditions of the problem gave me one answer but I opted to choose other conditions that would end up changing my answer. I know that sounds confusing, but I can't talk about the problems itself. 

What am I doing to have a better shot? Problems. 

Problems.Problems. Problems. 

Enjoy it. Your only getting better. Good Luck! 

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2 hours ago, mnguy88 said:

As I'm starting to study once again, I'm just feeling very discouraged.  Can I pass this exam?  There are Structural Engineers who cannot pass and take it multiple times.  Can someone like myself who doesn't practice Structural at work pass?  

 

35 minutes ago, Hemi79 said:

You'll pass it when you pass it. I've taken it multiple times and couldn't get it done. I'm well over 300 hours of studying over the course of all attempts. My recommendation is get a feel for it. My third attempt, when I finished, I felt accomplished. I didn't pass, but I thought I had. And I felt good over some problems I had solved that I had never seen before but were able to figure out. I ended up with 23 in the morning and 25 in the afternoon. I couldn't believe it. I thought for sure, absolutely, I had 30 in the morning. I blew it. I suck at exams. At work I'm the go to guy for solutions, but it aint enough. It's either I'm not getting enough of it at work, or haven't added up enough experience through out the course of my training, or I really really suck at exam taking. 

I do think anyone can pass this exam. I also think you need to know the right material to do it. And have really good practice in this material. I really hit the PPI 6 minute solutions books this last attempt and its been my best score. I'm in Tx and they score the exam, I ended up with a 67. So probably 3 to 4 questions and I could have been a winner. I easily remember 2 questions where I resolved to bubble in the wrong answer even though my solution was for another bubble. By this I mean the conditions of the problem gave me one answer but I opted to choose other conditions that would end up changing my answer. I know that sounds confusing, but I can't talk about the problems itself. 

What am I doing to have a better shot? Problems. 

Problems.Problems. Problems. 

Enjoy it. Your only getting better. Good Luck! 

I'm sorry if I sound bitchy. Don't mean to. You can definitely do it, and you don't need to take it 4 times like me. 

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7 hours ago, Hemi79 said:

 

I'm sorry if I sound bitchy. Don't mean to. You can definitely do it, and you don't need to take it 4 times like me. 

You don't sound bitchy at all. Lol. Thanks for the encouragement. I just hate to have to study all over again if I don't pass this time around. I get a promotion if I pass but it's nothing that's being pressured at work. It's more of my own ego that's killing me here. I'd say, I only know 1/3 of materials. The other 2/3, I've never done before in college, so it's a struggle trying to learn new stuff and try to do as many problems.

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I work in structural but suck at taking exams and also suck at studying. I failed first attempt by 1-2 problems. Passed second attempt. Probably actually studied about 16 hours for each try. 

You can do it. both of you. Don't give up. Don't feel discouraged. It's easy to do, but it won't help you at all. Just do your best. Pass or fail, you're not HURTING your knowledge by studying and testing. You're growing as an engineer even if you don't see it yourself. 

Keep your head up. Do what you need to do to minimize anxiety. For me, I got a hotel right near the testing location the night before even though I lived about 40 minutes away. That forced me to be prepared and packed up the night before, and be able to just wake up, fuel my body, and walk in calmly. otherwise I would probably be triple checking my suitcase of books 4 times between 1am and 5am. But that's me.

Keep at it. You will get it! This time around! :)

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@thejulie_PE  thanks for encouragement. It helps! I failed by 2 to 3 questions last time. So maybe I'll get it done this time. :-) Been working really hard and we still have plenty of time. Well for those of us who aren't new to the material. 

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1 minute ago, Hemi79 said:

@thejulie_PE  thanks for encouragement. It helps! I failed by 2 to 3 questions last time. So maybe I'll get it done this time. :-) Been working really hard and we still have plenty of time. Well for those of us who aren't new to the material. 

Absolutely! I had to take the FE twice too. I think it helps me to have a real life trial to prepare better. Both times, I adjusted my approach to the exam. 

1) go through and answer any questions you know the answer to without any calculations or minimal addition/multiplication.

2) go through and answer any questions you just need to fill out the numbers in a formula - plug and chug.

3) go through and answer questions you have to locate the answer in the CERM or whatever

4) go through and answer the remainders.

this helps me because the more difficult for me questions, get easier when I read them through a couple times to make sure I'm comprehending the words as theyve been intended. Probably my biggest issue is making random assumptions I think are in the question but really aren't. First time at FE and at PE I was close to time limit. Second time I had about 10 minutes to review in the morning, and 5 minutes to review in the afternoon. Just remember, you got this! and SPAM after the exam until results :):)

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On 8/24/2017 at 6:48 PM, thejulie_PE said:

Absolutely! I had to take the FE twice too. I think it helps me to have a real life trial to prepare better. Both times, I adjusted my approach to the exam. 

1) go through and answer any questions you know the answer to without any calculations or minimal addition/multiplication.

2) go through and answer any questions you just need to fill out the numbers in a formula - plug and chug.

3) go through and answer questions you have to locate the answer in the CERM or whatever

4) go through and answer the remainders.

this helps me because the more difficult for me questions, get easier when I read them through a couple times to make sure I'm comprehending the words as theyve been intended. Probably my biggest issue is making random assumptions I think are in the question but really aren't. First time at FE and at PE I was close to time limit. Second time I had about 10 minutes to review in the morning, and 5 minutes to review in the afternoon. Just remember, you got this! and SPAM after the exam until results :):)

I need to change how I study and think. I'm bummed I failed. For the FE, I barely studied. I went through the practice exam once and passed easily. For the PE, it feels impossible at this point, but I'm trying not to get discouraged. Everyone eventually passes right?

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