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tracetrimble

Late Bloomer Questions

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I graduated in 1997, and just now looking into getting my Texas PE (mechanical, machine design & materials).  Got a few questions...

I passed the FE in my senior year.  I worked in manufacturing for about 12 years, not under a PE.  About 8 years ago, I changed bosses and worked under a PE until about a year ago, so I have 7 years of qualifying experience.  Should I submit SERs for all of my jobs, or just the one under a PE?  Will the gaps before or after be any kind of issue, or are they just looking for 4+ cumulative years under a PE?  Also, my former boss' license is in civil/environmental - does that matter?  

For those that took the mechanical test, especially more than 10 years after graduation, how difficult did you find it to be?  How much did you study?  What reference materials did you bring to the test?  From what I recall, I was decent at taking tests in school, but it's been a while.

I'm reading good things about the Mechanical Engineering Reference Manual by Lindeburg, and the accompanying Practice Problems being just about the only thing you need to study, and the MERM is the only reference you need to bring to the test.  Anyone agree/disagree with this?  How much has the MERM changed over the years?  I can pick up a 1990's edition from ebay for a LOT less than new.  I'm pretty sure physics hasn't changed much in the last 20 years.  

A colleague suggested that I just sign up for the next test in April '19, get the MERM and a practice test, familiarize myself with it but don't kill myself studying, and take a shot at the test.  If I pass on the first try awesome, but if not I will know what to expect when I take it again.  Does this seem like sound advice?

Thanks for any input. 

Edited by tracetrimble

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NCEES wants an accounting of your entire work history from graduation up to your current employment, along with supervisor references to verify. However, there is a place to explain gaps in employment. You might be able to document your non-engineering experience that way.

I graduated in 2004 and just took the PE exam in October (in ME TFS). It was very hard at first. I started studying in April and while I didn't track my hours, I easily spent hundreds of hours studying. I have a husband and  elementary aged children and refused to spend that much time away from them, so I studied with all the noise and distractions. In the end I think that helped me tune out everyone and everything on exam day. I took a different concentration so I can't speak to the references, but I will say that MERM was the main reference I used while studying and during the exam. I also used Engineering Unit Conversions and 11x17 psychrometric charts (not sure whether these are needed as much for the machine design exam).

I disagree with your colleague's advice. Everyone I spoke with who failed the first time said they did exactly that. I didn't want to have to take the exam twice, so I put in a lot of effort. Even then it was a difficult exam and I was relieved when I found out I passed. I'm sure there are people out there who can pass it that way, but it's not the norm.

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Statistically, the percentage of repeat test takers passing is much lower than that of first time takers.  I agree with @AlliChEME that you want to put the time/effort in and pass this exam on the first try.  Not sure what discipline you're planning on taking but as a general rule for Mechanicals you should get the MERM, Conversion book, and any/all practice exams you can get your hands on and work them studiously. 

Best of luck.

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Read up on your states requirements about gaps, some of them only require you to list engineering experience (verified) and other states want every job that you have had since High School graduation. Its a little different for every state.

For mine I was in the army for 2 years after HS so would just sate US Army 1990-1993 - and then I wouldn't put any other info. I would think you could do the same thing for any jobs that you held prior to the experience you want to "verify"


I graduated in 1998 - best of luck to you in your studying efforts! - but I know several "old school" people that went back and got their PE late in the career so its defin doable!

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2 hours ago, tracetrimble said:

I graduated in 1997, and just now looking into getting my Texas PE (mechanical, machine design & materials).  Got a few questions...

I passed the FE in my senior year.  I worked in manufacturing for about 12 years, not under a PE.  About 8 years ago, I changed bosses and worked under a PE until about a year ago, so I have 7 years of qualifying experience.  Should I submit SERs for all of my jobs, or just the one under a PE?  Will the gaps before or after be any kind of issue, or are they just looking for 4+ cumulative years under a PE?  Also, my former boss' license is in civil/environmental - does that matter?  

For those that took the mechanical test, especially more than 10 years after graduation, how difficult did you find it to be?  How much did you study?  What reference materials did you bring to the test?  From what I recall, I was decent at taking tests in school, but it's been a while.

I'm reading good things about the Mechanical Engineering Reference Manual by Lindeburg, and the accompanying Practice Problems being just about the only thing you need to study, and the MERM is the only reference you need to bring to the test.  Anyone agree/disagree with this?  How much has the MERM changed over the years?  I can pick up a 1990's edition from ebay for a LOT less than new.  I'm pretty sure physics hasn't changed much in the last 20 years.  

A colleague suggested that I just sign up for the next test in April '19, get the MERM and a practice test, familiarize myself with it but don't kill myself studying, and take a shot at the test.  If I pass on the first try awesome, but if not I will know what to expect when I take it again.  Does this seem like sound advice?

Thanks for any input. 

I'm not a mechanical PE, so I won't speak to any of those questions.  But as someone who took the PE 10 years after graduation, I most definitely do not recommend the "try it and see" approach.  It's a really difficult and expensive test, and since I didn't take it seriously enough the first time around, I failed.  I finally passed (after, ahem, three tries). I finally got serious the third time around and logged 200 hours studying.  I wish I'd done that the first time around, I would have saved myself a lot of money and misery.  Seriously, just study as much as you can and get it done the first time.

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Long read below.

I agree with what was said above. For me, I'd been out of school for 8 years. I have a spouse and two children as well. I took the Testmasters course in Houston (Mechanical Thermal Fluids). It was definitely worth it because it gave me direction and path to study. It is expensive and not everyone needs that, but for me, it certainly aided in my passing the exam (after two attempts). I recommend it (my company re-imbursed the cost of the course). I put in 150 hours of studying each time. The last few days of studying, I took timed, mock exams from the NCEES practice exam. Those are the most realistic to what you will see on the exam, in my opinion. I didn't spend any time working MERM problems because I feel they are too in depth for what you need to know on the exam. I did use the MERM (13th ed) during the exam, though.

I feel like you only need a few references for the mechanical exams to pass, at least in TFS. For me, I only used:

1. Personal notes/formulas binder - create a thorough binder of all of the re-occurring formulas from each major section. Take note of major topics, formulas and conversions as you study. Write them clearly and tab each major subject and sub-section. Keep it well organized, because time management is critical. By exam time, you should know exactly where each major topic and sub-section is located. This was my most used reference during the exam, both times!

2. MERM - same with this reference. Highlight and tab major topics and sections in a well organized fashion. I used this book for more theory/conceptual referencing, as well as those areas that Testmasters didn't cover in great detail. I tabbed the heck out of it; especially the appendix and index. But, I used a well thought out system for tabbing that would make it easier for me to readily find the subject I needed.

3. Unit conversions book by Lindeburg. Also tabbed popular and re-occurring conversions. Not sure how much is needed for the MDM exam, though.

Those were the only three references I used. It keeps the work space relatively neat and clutter free and has pretty much anything you would need to pass the exam. Personally, I don't see how mechanical folks can bring in so many references and actually use them. It takes away precious time and clutters the area. I feel like if you're well organized and your reference locations are like muscle memory, you will be fine. I also worked what I felt were the easier problems first, then moved on to more difficult ones. It's tricky sometimes, because what you think is an easy problem, turns out to be a harder one. You end up spending too much time on it. You have to recognize those situations and move past them, then come back towards the end to finish them.

This is my TFS experience, but I'm sure the MDM would be similar. Maybe a few different reference materials (i.e Machinery's Handbook, etc.)?

For the TBPE application, I only used actual engineering work experience that covered a four year period. I had PM experience and military experience that was not included. They only want actual, full-time engineering experience. All of my work was under a P.E., but I want to say there's still a way to have it counted if your engineering work was not under a P.E. I provided three references. Two from out of state (one was a Civil P.E.) and one at my current employer. All were sufficient for the board. I took the ethics exam and submitted the package. The board approved my package in approximately 2-3 weeks, at that time. Honestly, it was pretty painless. The worst part was going back and finding/documenting my earlier experience...and the exam of course. 

Like others said, put in the time now and try to get it done. I was miserable knowing I had to start studying again the second time around. 

Hope that helps a bit. Good luck!

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I was in a similar position having graduated in 1994 and waiting until 2011 to take my mechanical PE exam.  Average student in school, and I took the machine design and materials test.  The practice exam from the NCEES was most helpful (to me) in pointing out where I needed to study.  I did thumb through the MERM and practice problems in those areas that I knew I was likely weak (like thermos) just in case the morning portion of the test had some HVAC or other long forgotten problem types.  I passed first try with what I would characterize as 8 hours of study each weekend for 3 months because I also had a family life to balance out with work.  I don't think you'll be at a serious disadvantage in waiting so long to take the test (I don't feel like I was) and the only real challenge I found was finding time to study.  For the books I took:

  • * Mechanical Engineering Design: Shigley & Mischke
  • * Fundamentals of Engineering Thermodynamics: Moran & Shapiro
  • * Mechanisms and Dynamics of Machinery: Mabie & Reinholtz
  • * Materials Science and Engineering (An Introduction): Callister
  • Fundamentals of Fluid Mechanics: Munson, Young, Okiishi
  • Durco Pump Engineering Manual
  • MERM

* - what I actually used in the test

Good luck.

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Hey, I graduated same year as you, 1997.  I took my exam (Civil) as soon as I became eligible, in 1999, after two years of qualifying work experience.  Still though, it took three tries.  The main difference between my fails and success was doing practice problems/drills.  For the third exam I promised it would be my last, that I'd either pass or switch careers if I failed.  Doing practice probs over and over again really helped because it made me familiar with all the different category/types of problems that would appear.  It also made me less reliant on my books and reference materials I brought into the exam.  I have some friends that graduated same year as me and have been taking the exam more or less ever year since they qualified (which would have been in the late 90's/early 2000's) and still failing.  I heard that they continued to do this so they wouldn't have to reapply from scratch if they go too long without taking it (or something like that).  My feeling is though, that if you're just "taking it for the sake of taking it" without any effort to study or intention of realistically passing, then it just becomes demoralizing and futile year after year like this. 

And one last note, I've worked with folks that passed the PE on their first try and were some of the most technically lacking engineers I'd ever met.  They were simply good text takers and good studiers.  Likewise, I've worked with some very good engineers who are just terrible text takers and are therefore to this day, still unlicensed. 

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