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Tips for taking the PE again

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Good day all,

I took my Civil PE (Construction) this past April, and was unfortunately not able to pass. I feel like I did everything - took School of PE, took an NCEES practice exam, studied all material thoroughly, revised SoPE material twice, was calm and collected during the exam, and had a very good feeling I would pass. However, seeing that "Fail" inside the red box last week crushed me really bad. Needless to say, it was not the type long weekend I had hoped it to be.

But I am over it. The best I can do is put this energy/anger/frustration to good use and start studying again. I wanted to see if I could get any insights into where I went wrong. Last year, I signed up for SoPE for the on-demand classes (they were videos from the fall PE session). I took my time with them, made sure I understood the material, and worked on problems (refresher + workshop) multiple times. The week before the PE exam, I took the latest NCEES Civil PE Construction test, and tried my best to simulate the testing atmosphere. I did well, and also realized that the mistakes on the practice exam was primarily stupid ones (distractor - type). I made a mental tattoo of not to do this and read through the entire problem before starting it on the actual test. A couple of weeks before the PE exam, I started watching the new/Spring PE videos. I found the lectures to be similar, emailed all instructors about the changes in material (Fall 2017 Vs. Spring 2018), to which I received revisions and figured I was covered.

I think where I lacked the most was that I did not purchase other practice tests and work them out. I really regret not doing this. Having said that, what practice tests do you guys recommend taking?  Also, any tips, suggestions, advises etc. would be absolutely amazing. 

Also, just an FYI - I work in the construction industry, and this depth of the CIVIL PE made the most sense. The other depth topics do not apply to my line of work, besides some random geotech, water resources, structural, etc. type of encounters here and there.

Thanks, much appreciated!

 

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Did you do other practice problems besides what was given with the SoPE notes and the practice exam?  I failed even after taking SoPE, and I think part of the reason was not doing enough practice problems.  

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7 minutes ago, txjennah said:

Did you do other practice problems besides what was given with the SoPE notes and the practice exam?  I failed even after taking SoPE, and I think part of the reason was not doing enough practice problems.  

Hi there,

Honestly, the only other thing I did besides the SoPE problems was the lastest NCEES practice test. However, most of the problems were from the old on-demand session (Fall 2017). Maybe I missed a bunch of new material from the new session (Spring 2018). I agree with you, maybe I too should have bought some more practice exams and crunched numbers.... :(

Was this your first time?

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28 minutes ago, civilpe_const said:

Hi there,

Honestly, the only other thing I did besides the SoPE problems was the lastest NCEES practice test. However, most of the problems were from the old on-demand session (Fall 2017). Maybe I missed a bunch of new material from the new session (Spring 2018). I agree with you, maybe I too should have bought some more practice exams and crunched numbers.... :(

Was this your first time?

Ah, ok. I'd recommend getting additional practice problems - see if there's a 6 Minute solutions manual or other similar practice books for your depth subject.  From what I've heard, the more problems you work through and solve, the better your chances are of passing.

No, unfortunately October will be exam attempt #3.

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I tried to find as many practice tests as possible when I was studying. The problems you found you easily messed up when you took the practice test are very easy to fall for, even when you make note that you need to pay more attention its easy to do it again without a lot of practice. I took a total of at least 8 or more complete practice tests leading up to the exam. The first few times I kept falling into little traps and screwing up simple steps that was only corrected by continuous practice with more exam type problems. Once you do enough different problems that have simple common mistakes its easier to be more prepared to recognize the common mistakes you are prone to make and avoid them later on, but it doesn't sound like doing one practice exam isn't going to be enough. 

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17 hours ago, txjennah said:

Ah, ok. I'd recommend getting additional practice problems - see if there's a 6 Minute solutions manual or other similar practice books for your depth subject.  From what I've heard, the more problems you work through and solve, the better your chances are of passing.

No, unfortunately October will be exam attempt #3.

Thanks! I am sure your third time will get you through the hump. I'm rooting for ya!

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42 minutes ago, Brian.j.h said:

I tried to find as many practice tests as possible when I was studying. The problems you found you easily messed up when you took the practice test are very easy to fall for, even when you make note that you need to pay more attention its easy to do it again without a lot of practice. I took a total of at least 8 or more complete practice tests leading up to the exam. The first few times I kept falling into little traps and screwing up simple steps that was only corrected by continuous practice with more exam type problems. Once you do enough different problems that have simple common mistakes its easier to be more prepared to recognize the common mistakes you are prone to make and avoid them later on, but it doesn't sound like doing one practice exam isn't going to be enough. 

Hi there,

You are right - I need to get more practice tests done instead of just relying on the SoPE problems and one extra test. I will heed your and txjennah's advice and do more problems.

Also, quick question - why is the pass rate for repeat takers so low? I mean, is there a logic behind the percentage that I am not getting? you would think people taking the test again have a better understanding of what to expect, and hence perform better. It's not discouraging but its not not discouraging either. 😶

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2 hours ago, civilpe_const said:

Hi there,

You are right - I need to get more practice tests done instead of just relying on the SoPE problems and one extra test. I will heed your and txjennah's advice and do more problems.

Also, quick question - why is the pass rate for repeat takers so low? I mean, is there a logic behind the percentage that I am not getting? you would think people taking the test again have a better understanding of what to expect, and hence perform better. It's not discouraging but its not not discouraging either. 😶

From what I've heard, it's because people will keep the same study habits that allowed them to fail the first time. When I took the exam the second time, I scored only one point higher than the first attempt, even though I studied twice as much. But I've identified several things that I need to change for the third round (one of those being more practice problems!) :)

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2 hours ago, civilpe_const said:

Thanks! I am sure your third time will get you through the hump. I'm rooting for ya!

Rooting for you too! :)

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3rd time failing this past April. I've taken EET and SofPE.  I think I relied too much on having my notes, but also I felt like no matter how much you study, there are going to be questions that throw you off.  I scored a 49 this past exam, and now I'm not to sure what to do.  Maybe focus more on practice problems also. 

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Here are my last three exam results. Any help would be appreciative. 

 

 

 

No. Questions

 

 

April 17'

 

 

 October        17'    

     

 

 

April     18'

Project Planning 4 3 3 2
Means and Methods 3 1 1 3
Soil 6 1 3 3
Strucutral 6 3 3 4
Hydraulics 7 4 5 5
Geometrics 3 3 2 2
Materials 6 5 4 5
Site 5 5 2 3
    25 23 27
Earthwork  6 3 4 3
Estimating 6 2 4 3
Construction Ops 7 3 5 2
Scheduling 5 2 4 3
Material QC 6 3 3 6
Temp 7 2 3 3
Safety 3 2 2 2
    17 25 22
         
    42 48 49

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Hey bud,

Sorry to hear about your unsuccessful attempts. I know it is hard, and I can't say I am going through the same as you. But you've got to push through. Here's what someone else taking the test again and passing had to say (another thread). Hope it helps.

3 hours ago, jrob47 said:

I took WRE... failed my first try last Fall and passed my second this Spring. I definitely understand that you feel discouraged but do not give up. I changed my studying approach between exams and it helped a lot. I would even say that i spent less time studying the second try than i did the first (oddly enough this was the case when i failed/passed my FE as well). Its all about making the right adjustments and not repeating the same old studying habits. If you don't change your approach, you can likely expect the same results. Here are a few things i would recommend...

- As many others have suggested... take an study course if you havn't already done so. I took School of PE and, for the most part, it was very helpful. Some lectures were better than others but i am glad i made the investment.

- With that being said... the big mistake i made the first time that i failed was that i convinced myself that watching every single minute of the online course would pretty much guarantee that i would pass. The class was easy to listen to. I got comfortable just sitting in front of a lecture thinking that it was actually helping me. It was not. In order for something to truly stick in my mind i need to actually do the problems myself on paper... and that is what i did wrong. I didn't do enough sample problems. I would get angry/nervous if i did one and got it wrong... so i avoided them because i didn't want to get discouraged. The second time around i hardly watched any of the lectures again at all... maybe half. I bought a bunch of sample questions and sample exams and did ALL of them. Even if i got a problem wrong or didn't quite understand it, i still now had that type of problem in my arsenal of problems that i was familiar with. I brought the sample exams/questions with me and above/below each problem i wrote in large letters "FIND 'X' GIVEN 'Y...'" so i knew exactly what each one was asking for and if i could use the formula associated with that problem on the one on the exam. Long story short... do sample problems, then do more sample problems. Build and arsenal of sample problems so you are less likely to get thrown off by a question you were not expecting.

- I printed out all the lecture notes from the School of PE and brought a separate binder for each topic. I tabbed my notes like crazy. I also tabbed my sample problems/exams that i worked through to reference the most common types of problems (especially for the AM) so that i could quickly reference them.

- As for switching for the depth portion... its a tough call but i would probably recommend sticking with Transportation now that you have taken it a few times and are familiar with it. I took Water Resources/Environmental and i primarily do stormwater management type of work so the environmental portion (wastewater treatment) was a bit of a challenge for me, but, again, familiarizing myself with the types of problems ended up making it less scary the second time around. I have a background in survey/construction as well and considered switching to construction for my second attempt but i am glad that i did not.

- It might seem obvious, but make sure you focus on nailing the AM portion of the exam. You will start to notice patterns of the types of topics that they want you to understand. Don't overthink the AM questions. Keep an eye out for simple unit conversion mistakes or that type of thing.

- Try to be relaxed. I went into the second exam way more relaxed despite there being a lot more pressure for me to pass. I know its kind of weak advice but... try to relax.

I hope some of this helps. Best of luck on your next attempt.

 

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Practice problems were key for me. However, if you use old NCEES/6 min problems look at the content prior to solving them. The content of what is tested on in the morning session has changed throughout the years and you don't want to waste time studying things you won't be tested on. For example the morning session used to test on vertical and horizontal curves and now I believe they only test on one.

 

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I have failed twice looking at third time. There is overlap between construction / geotech topics. if you look at current NCEES standards for test, the majority of morning problems in structures are basically statics problems. I have located and used some college level textbooks for extra practice problems. I graduated college in 1992.

There is a site called learncivilengineering.com, they have some free downloads, and a guide on how to allocate your time. 

There is a  six minute solutions and construction depth from PPI, but I don't agree with how they solved some of their problems. There were three problems where it asked you to calculate weight of rebar needed, instead of using table with weight/foot, used density and calculated area of rebar, so solution was actually took more time. Another asked to calculate total bid cost including profit.  Profit calculation included taking percentage of tax and bond cost, I have never seen this done, and taking profit off tax may be illegal.  Some of the solutions contradict or don't follow what is shown in CERM.

Some general exam tips:

Clear the calculator. I cleared calculator display after very problem so I did not accidentally include results form previous problem in calculation of next problem.

Count the zeros. If you're entering a number with a lot of zeros, it is easy to lose track. It will affect answer, and it may be obvious depending on complexity of equation.

Repetitive calculations: if there is a equation with a lot of constants combine them, fewer keystrokes, less chance for error. (PI/4) is good one to calculate.

If you can answer a safety question using one of you references instead of OSHA or MUTCD  use the reference. The legalese in OSHA is very difficult, I recommend tabbing the numbered subparts in OSHA and MUTCD in case it is needed.

Watch for simple mistakes, I was doing practice problems, and combining exponents wrong. So something that would cause me to fail high school algebra was giving wrong answers.

 

 

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try to get your hands on as many different practice exams as you can and keep working problems. Review exponents if needed, i remember i kept getting a few simple mistakes in my calcs. and to make it worse i would make the same mistakes twice. Finally i would write down 100 times in a row....the cubed root of x is equal x to the 1/3.....the cubed root of x equals x to the 1/3...the cubed root of is equal to x to the 1/3.....the 5th root of x equals w to the fifth.....the fifth root of x equals x to the 1/5........1 divided by the cubed root of x equals x to the the negative one third.....i kept writing this over and over until these little things stuck in my head. Then at exam time I could solve equations quicker if needed. These rules come in handy when you have to re-arrange equations to solve for headloss, friction, pipe diameter and pipe slopes and wetted perimeter.

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Thank you all for your suggestions and experiences. I'm a repeat Construction PM taker. Do I really need to buy those references listed on NCEES? I'm talking about MNL-15, SP-4, and CMWB.

I have older versions ASCE37-02 and 347R-04. Would that be sufficient?

I bought and obtained a whole bunch of problems from various sources.

Also, I am confused to either buy the NCEES reference material or to take the EET Construction PM Class. Please advise. Thanks again.

Edited by some1spl131

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On 8/1/2018 at 12:12 AM, some1spl131 said:

Thank you all for your suggestions and experiences. I'm a repeat Construction PM taker. Do I really need to buy those references listed on NCEES? I'm talking about MNL-15, SP-4, and CMWB.

I have older versions ASCE37-02 and 347R-04. Would that be sufficient?

I bought and obtained a whole bunch of problems from various sources.

Also, I am confused to either buy the NCEES reference material or to take the EET Construction PM Class. Please advise. Thanks again.

Yes and Yes.

You need all the reference material.  See if you can buy some in the yard sale forum. 

Yes, I would spring for the EET or School PE Construction Depth class.  Buying all the reference material and taking the EET Constuction Depth class are not mutually exclusive.

 

I know it can be expensive, but the other option could be you are a third time test taker.

Edited by ruggercsc
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Thank you for making it clear. And NOOO I’m not in to do this again!!!! Wish me luck!! 

 

On 8/1/2018 at 5:59 PM, ruggercsc said:

Yes and Yes.

You need all the reference material.  See if you can buy some in the yard sale forum. 

Yes, I would spring for the EET or School PE Construction Depth class.  Buying all the reference material and taking the EET Constuction Depth class are not mutually exclusive.

 

I know it can be expensive, but the other option could be you are a third time test taker.

 

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3 hours ago, some1spl131 said:

Thank you for making it clear. And NOOO I’m not in to do this again!!!! Wish me luck!! 

 

 

The issue with the references is the questions you need the reference for tend to be easier "lookup the code type questions" or a "simple formula" type where you just look up the reference and plug into the equation.  You need to know where to look, but the Construction depth classes help in identifying these issues and where to look in the reference.

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5 hours ago, ruggercsc said:

The issue with the references is the questions you need the reference for tend to be easier "lookup the code type questions" or a "simple formula" type where you just look up the reference and plug into the equation.  You need to know where to look, but the Construction depth classes help in identifying these issues and where to look in the reference.

Yes, I understand that. Thanks again.

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On 6/6/2018 at 2:47 AM, nmaevh said:

Practice problems were key for me.

 

Yes. Find and work as many problems as you can...write out the solutions and equations, and then copy them (they can't be original, erasable notes) and take them in to the exam in a binder.  Not all states allow this, so check first.  This helped me a lot...When I would see problems with a similar method, I had a complete worked example with the correct equations ready to go. 

Also, for regulation questions, make sure you have the regs that are referred to in the practice exams.  Those are the ones that are important to the question makers...

 

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On 5/29/2018 at 3:06 PM, civilpe_const said:

Good day all,

I took my Civil PE (Construction) this past April, and was unfortunately not able to pass. I feel like I did everything - took School of PE, took an NCEES practice exam, studied all material thoroughly, revised SoPE material twice, was calm and collected during the exam, and had a very good feeling I would pass. However, seeing that "Fail" inside the red box last week crushed me really bad. Needless to say, it was not the type long weekend I had hoped it to be.

But I am over it. The best I can do is put this energy/anger/frustration to good use and start studying again. I wanted to see if I could get any insights into where I went wrong. Last year, I signed up for SoPE for the on-demand classes (they were videos from the fall PE session). I took my time with them, made sure I understood the material, and worked on problems (refresher + workshop) multiple times. The week before the PE exam, I took the latest NCEES Civil PE Construction test, and tried my best to simulate the testing atmosphere. I did well, and also realized that the mistakes on the practice exam was primarily stupid ones (distractor - type). I made a mental tattoo of not to do this and read through the entire problem before starting it on the actual test. A couple of weeks before the PE exam, I started watching the new/Spring PE videos. I found the lectures to be similar, emailed all instructors about the changes in material (Fall 2017 Vs. Spring 2018), to which I received revisions and figured I was covered.

I think where I lacked the most was that I did not purchase other practice tests and work them out. I really regret not doing this. Having said that, what practice tests do you guys recommend taking?  Also, any tips, suggestions, advises etc. would be absolutely amazing. 

Also, just an FYI - I work in the construction industry, and this depth of the CIVIL PE made the most sense. The other depth topics do not apply to my line of work, besides some random geotech, water resources, structural, etc. type of encounters here and there.

Thanks, much appreciated!

 

Goswami (https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1517351707/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i4) and Desantis (http://www.learncivilengineering.com/)  are great practice exams! I also used the Civil Engineering Academy (https://civilengineeringacademy.com/depth-exam/) Exam-it was tough as hell but I used it and learned alot..their methods are way different then EET or SOPE, for example concrete mix designs-given this many cyd what is the weight of the cement required, but your not given batch weights or ratios  also finding an area of a cross section by coordinates (so much faster than SOPE method) -If you can get through this one I'd say you were good!

Also, you can't go wrong with EET...Samir is an amazing teacher he went above and beyond....He was the first person I e-mail when I passed!! I also took SOPE and didn't care too much for their Depth Review....breadth review with SOPE was good. I took the free repeat for the live AM review and bought EET on-demand review just for the Depth!

I passed my second time..the trick is not to study harder but study smarter..figure out your weaknesses and design (pun intended) your new study schedule around that. Get all the references and to be intimately familiar with them. 

Most of all relax on test day...fortunately/unfortunately for me I was sick the night before the exam so I didn't pick up a book and just went to bed...on exam day I was loaded with dayquil and it slowed my hear rate down and pretty much chilled the entire exam..not saying you should take a dayquil before the exam. But, I knew the second time taking the morning exam...I was good...the afternoon after my first pass of the exam... I stopped and thought..."Holy Crap! I'm going to be a PE! I know all this stuff(remaining questions..I skipped)!!"...and I passed!!

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On 8/1/2018 at 4:59 PM, ruggercsc said:

Yes and Yes.

You need all the reference material.  See if you can buy some in the yard sale forum. 

Yes, I would spring for the EET or School PE Construction Depth class.  Buying all the reference material and taking the EET Constuction Depth class are not mutually exclusive.

 

I know it can be expensive, but the other option could be you are a third time test taker.

I was lucky because you gave the same recommendations in the last round, for me...:party-smiley-048:

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