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Exam Day Strategy

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Going for my second try in October.  I failed with a 48.  I had about 2 months to study while having a full time job and young children, so I contribute most of my failure to lack of time to study (but company paying for test so take it and fail or maybe pass, instead of waiting another 6 months).


I didn't look up much information during the exam or use the books I brought with me since I like to teach myself the information.  But I was weak in rotating machines and/or the analytical questions.

 

So i started hard on those so far, and found that I might be better off creating a binder for each "type" of question on the exam and it may help with lookups for the exam and save time.  i.e. A binder for protection, one for NEC, one for rotating machines etc.  This way I have one entire binder with all of the similar questions in it, instead of looking through 12 books to find that one question that may help me.  Each binder would contain sample questions, as well as study notes etc I have downloaded from different sites and books.

 

My real question is, has anyone else put this strategy to the test and liked or disliked it?

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I did not do a binder for each subject but I did prepare two large  3-ring binders where I had a tab for each subject.  I also used a "5-pass" system to answer questions which I'll post more about that a little later.

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I think you'll find a binder per topic is a bit excessive.  I had a single larger binder, tabbed, for each category on the syllabus I needed reference on. 

The material in this binder was not generic or extensive.  It was specific, targeted to my weakness or to provide quick reminders for formula or common goofs I would make.  I put like 75 hours into mine, but i drew figures in AutoCAD and made something I could probably turn around and sell to consumers with another 10-15 hours worth of formatting and checking work.

 

Ultimately whatever organization method you do has to compliment and feel natural to you.  That is probably the most important thing as time is very critical on the exam.    

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My strategy, while successful, may not be a good one.  But I'll post it any ways as it helped me pass the power exam on my first attempt with a mechanical background, and roughly a similar situation you faced during the run up to your first attempt (i.e. 2 small children, full time work, wife working nights, 2 months of prep etc.)

1. Practice exams, NCEES and Graffeo.  I worked each problem, made notes as to the approach and method to find the solution and if I was able to use a simpler method than what the authors solution suggested I made note of that too.  Then reviewed every problem and tried to the best of my ability to memorize the practice exams, so when I faced a similar question on the real test I jumped to that problem, used the solution, subbed the new numbers and solved.

2. Eng. Pro Guides book, cheapest and in my opinion best summarized formula sheet in the back. 

3. NEC Handbook tabbed for quick reference, Expensive but it's an absolute necessity. 

 4.ANSI std. 81-1983, free and 2 question I could not have answered without it. (2 questions seems trivial, but when the difference in pass or fail is 1 then 2 can make that difference)

I spent 2 months with very limited time at nights to study using those 4 references and gained enough to pass.

A side note, I had all my hand written notes in fully bound and covered composition books which were all confiscated prior to starting.  So, using the strategy and only the references above I managed to pull off a passing score.  Also I implemented a 6 minute to 'C' rule, if I didn't know it or had never seen it, then I scribbled 'C' and moved on.

Edited by DK_Power_PE
Typo

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Thanks for the replies.....I found the engineering pro guide materials after the exam and said, if I failed, i need to buy these.  Needless to say, after reviewing them, they may have been the difference in me passing the exam.


Oddly enough, I have compiled so many review questions from other friends, that when I say I have a binder for each section....each binder is a minimum of 1" and some are 2-3" and they're all pretty full.  I guess I could create one large binder but could be enormous.

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And......I finished both the morning and afternoon sessions an hour early during the exam.  Unfortunately I had a huge retirement party at work an hour away that I was late for; huge networking event within the company, and I had to be there.  So could've also been a bad thing too

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We offer a free mini video course titled "How to Pass the PE Exam" that covers all of our best strategy for maximizing your score based on our exit interviews with students every exam cycle to figure out what is working and what is not. The information included is what we generally recommend to each student that signs up for our course and it works for first timers and especially for those that are repeat takers who were not successful in previous attempts at passing the PE exam: 

Electrical PE Review - How to Pass the PE Exam (FREE)

It covers the best strategy and approach for maximizing your score on the PE exam by teaching you:

  • How much and how often you should study
  • How to set up a study calendar and schedule
  • The correct mindset to adopt from successful engineers that pass the PE exam vs unsuccess mindsets to avoid that generally leads to not passing
  • Getting buy-in and support from both your boss/colleagues and family to set yourself up for success and to reduce outside stress to help you concentrate all of your energy on the months leading up to the exam
  • Test-taking strategies specifically for the PE exam
    • How to maximize the 6 minute per question average pace
    • Taking the exam in multiple passes
    • What to bring
    • What not to bring

 

I think you'll like it. It answers a lot of questions that have been asked in your original post and expands on a lot of the concepts being discussed in this thread. 

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On 7/12/2018 at 2:01 PM, DK_Power_PE said:

My strategy, while successful, may not be a good one.  But I'll post it any ways as it helped me pass the power exam on my first attempt with a mechanical background, and roughly a similar situation you faced during the run up to your first attempt (i.e. 2 small children, full time work, wife working nights, 2 months of prep etc.)

1. Practice exams, NCEES and Graffeo.  I worked each problem, made notes as to the approach and method to find the solution and if I was able to use a simpler method than what the authors solution suggested I made note of that too.  Then reviewed every problem and tried to the best of my ability to memorize the practice exams, so when I faced a similar question on the real test I jumped to that problem, used the solution, subbed the new numbers and solved.

2. Eng. Pro Guides book, cheapest and in my opinion best summarized formula sheet in the back. 

3. NEC Handbook tabbed for quick reference, Expensive but it's an absolute necessity. 

 4.ANSI std. 81-1983, free and 2 question I could not have answered without it. (2 questions seems trivial, but when the difference in pass or fail is 1 then 2 can make that difference)

I spent 2 months with very limited time at nights to study using those 4 references and gained enough to pass.

A side note, I had all my hand written notes in fully bound and covered composition books which were all confiscated prior to starting.  So, using the strategy and only the references above I managed to pull off a passing score.  Also I implemented a 6 minute to 'C' rule, if I didn't know it or had never seen it, then I scribbled 'C' and moved on.

I thought if you had notes that were bound (like in a 3-ring binder) or even a spiral binder then it's legal to bring to the exam.  Why were yours confiscated?

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On 8/8/2018 at 5:33 PM, MEtoEE said:

I thought if you had notes that were bound (like in a 3-ring binder) or even a spiral binder then it's legal to bring to the exam.  Why were yours confiscated?

I'm not sure, the comp notebooks were permanently bound.  And, the rules on the exam only specifically stated no loose papers or legal pads.  I didn't try to argue over fear of being asked to leave.  

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4 hours ago, DK_Power_PE said:

I'm not sure, the comp notebooks were permanently bound.  And, the rules on the exam only specifically stated no loose papers or legal pads.  I didn't try to argue over fear of being asked to leave.  

I guess since you passed (congratulations, btw) there was no need to go back and ask why they confiscated those.  It makes me wary about bringing any notes.  I figured any notes or reference material that was bound (I've heard many people saying they were planning on using a big 3-ring binder and organizing/tabbing by topic) was legal.

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On 8/8/2018 at 2:33 PM, MEtoEE said:

I thought if you had notes that were bound (like in a 3-ring binder) or even a spiral binder then it's legal to bring to the exam.  Why were yours confiscated?

I used a couple 3 ring binders with typed notes and printed pdf's inside attached to binder using the normal 3 hole punch method. Had no issues. Lots of folks had 3-ring binders. The rules seem to allow it; IIRC something about being being fully attached through the paper. I've never heard of 3-ring binders being an issue. Tons of folks use them. Never heard of a single one being confiscated.

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12 hours ago, Surf and Snow said:

I used a couple 3 ring binders with typed notes and printed pdf's inside attached to binder using the normal 3 hole punch method. Had no issues. Lots of folks had 3-ring binders. The rules seem to allow it; IIRC something about being being fully attached through the paper. I've never heard of 3-ring binders being an issue. Tons of folks use them. Never heard of a single one being confiscated.

Confused about that also.  Used 2 main 3-rings and 1 smaller supplementary.  The big issue was for the notes not to be loose but they did not have to be permanently bound.  at least that's the way it was in Alabama in 2014.

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22 hours ago, MEtoEE said:

I guess since you passed (congratulations, btw) there was no need to go back and ask why they confiscated those.  It makes me wary about bringing any notes.  I figured any notes or reference material that was bound (I've heard many people saying they were planning on using a big 3-ring binder and organizing/tabbing by topic) was legal.

There were plenty of 3 ring binders, spiral bound notebooks, etc., but for whatever reason the notebooks of the kind attached were confiscated.  I felt the exam was particularly brutal in the morning session, and literally had to talk myself into going back for the afternoon.  Finished the afternoon in less than 2 hours, and I was so certain I failed that I didn't even bother trying to go back and try to work the problems I guessed on.  Maybe it was my misunderstanding of the 'rules', and the attached fits under their definition of a legal pad.   

Comp_Book.jpg

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Generally speaking I have heard that hand written notes are not permitted and get collected.

I guess in part, how can a proctor prove you didn't write down test questions or answers in a pad filled with hand written gobbleygook?

 

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Ok, then I'm in big trouble, because over the last few months I've writen tons of notes and worked out many practice problems in pencil on blank sheets of paper.  I was planning to organize all my notes and worked out practice problems in a separate 3-ring binder.  I work out my practice exam problems on separate pages so when I take a simulated 8-hour exam, I'm just looking at a clean practice exam with no notes so I can best simulate it.  Now I may have to go back and re-write my notes in pen to be safe.

I thought anything, notes, typed or handwritten, pen or pencil was ok as long as it was in a binder and not loose.  Did I mis-read the rules?

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BTW, I've heard so many stories (and know a few people personally) who have taken the exam (including second-timers) who walk out thinking there's no way they passed and they end up passing.  

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Why not just run them through a copier to be safe?

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1 hour ago, MEtoEE said:

Ok, then I'm in big trouble, because over the last few months I've writen tons of notes and worked out many practice problems in pencil on blank sheets of paper.  I was planning to organize all my notes and worked out practice problems in a separate 3-ring binder.  I work out my practice exam problems on separate pages so when I take a simulated 8-hour exam, I'm just looking at a clean practice exam with no notes so I can best simulate it.  Now I may have to go back and re-write my notes in pen to be safe.

I thought anything, notes, typed or handwritten, pen or pencil was ok as long as it was in a binder and not loose.  Did I mis-read the rules?

I second the person who suggested running them through the copier. I found out notes in pencil aren't allowed in my state two days before my first attempt.  Cue frenzied photocopying.  If there are any other questions, I'd recommend calling your state board. Some states will differ on what they accept and will not.

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1 minute ago, txjennah said:

I second the person who suggested running them through the copier. I found out notes in pencil aren't allowed in my state two days before my first attempt.  Cue frenzied photocopying.  If there are any other questions, I'd recommend calling your state board. Some states will differ on what they accept and will not.

Good to know, thanks!  I'm glad to have found this board and I appreciate everyone's input on their experience with the exam.  

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4 hours ago, MEtoEE said:

Good to know, thanks!  I'm glad to have found this board and I appreciate everyone's input on their experience with the exam.  

Yea.  I heard some states like Arkansas and Tennessee only allow computer printed text even though its not officially published as a requirement.  

Would really suck to be in one of those states and show up and have all your notes confiscated.    :hung-037:

Edited by Szar
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I contacted the board and they told me to contact NCEES.  I've read the examinee guide (June 2018) pdf that's on their site, but they don't say anything about handwritten notes or pen vs pencil in those notes.  Hmmm....

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16 hours ago, MEtoEE said:

I'm calling the board.  I'm in TN.

Always good to ask the board. 

 

Full Disclose:  I actually don't know anything specific about TN per say. I was mostly just teasing about Tennessee in particular.  :)
 

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