Sharing my April 2019 7-week PE Study Journey (w/ Pics + Google Sheet) - Anything about the PE Exam - Engineer Boards
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MspSdf

Sharing my April 2019 7-week PE Study Journey (w/ Pics + Google Sheet)

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As I have said it in my other posts, I still can't believe I have passed my Civil Transportation PE first time. I would like to thank everyone here for making the otherwise miserable PE exam experience actually a lot of fun and engagement. Without the trolling and info sharing I think I would have given up just looking at the PE exam specifications.

So here I am to share my study journey with pictures and actual link to my Google Sheet (edited for public viewing). Note that each one of us has different methods of study, below is just what I have done that worked for myself.

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1IKiRuyXLC9LwfqalY6FywyjEEm7O52uuHNdCmf3k5bY/

Week 0-1 - Planning + Untimed Diagnostic Exam

I started off a few days before Feburary 18 creating this spreadsheet myself, which I also had a similar spreadsheet back in 2017 when I planned for my first ever half-marathon that I practiced for 3 months and finished 2:18:10. Anyways. The reason I started this late was waiting for my company to confirm that I could be reimbursed for study materials, which turned out that they couldn't.

Our local Minnesota NSPE chapter offered a virtual PPI course (live webinar + recorded access) with local engineering legends that began mid-January. When I subscribed to their course in early-February, I didn't even know about EngineerBoards. In my opinion, PPI course refreshed my mind for general concepts, but a lot of details would still need to be discovered through CERM and actually doing practice problems. The PPI course had a schedule with suggested pre-webinar homework. I didn't really do a lot but mainly focusing on the problems I got wrong on my "diagnostic" practice exam (see spreadsheet's "Practice exam 1 NCEES AM".

Week 2-5 - PPI Course

As you can see my weaknesses are on Means & Methods, Soil Mechanics, Materials, and Structural, I spent my efforts trying to bring those up to at least get a few more correct and less guesses. But after around a month of studying, my second AM practice exam on Week 6 (Civil Pe Practice AM Version B), I only improved from 24 to 26. On my 2A pivot table, factoring in improving from my silly mistakes, I predicted I will get 28 on AM.

After 2 weeks, I quickly recognized my AM wasn't going to get any better, but I would have more chances on PM. I did not do any diagnostics and go right into the PPI webinars and notes. At that point I still did not have any official manual references yet so I stuck with the course and work on problems on CERM and CETR.

Week 6 - Doing Practice Problems + Timed 8-hour Practice Exam

I was able to borrow 4 main references from the library finally on Week 6, and went right to the 6-minute transpo book doing every single problem with the references (Green Book, HCM 6th ed, Roadside Design Guide, MUTCD, HSM draft version found online). By the end of week 6, I did a 8-hour timed practice exam (Civil Pe Practice AM Version B + NCEES Practice Exam PM only) and scored 26/29 = 54.

Week 7 - Reviewing Wrong Problems + Setting Exam Strategy

So my focus last week was to only brushing up my points of failure and try to improve them. Another I did was to really breaking up the Exam Specifications NCEES provided to us. I figured the official NCEES practice exam problems were in order of the Specifications, but the other practice exams were not. Since I am taking it first-time I didn't know what to expect.

I decided that I would use the first few minutes of both AM and PM to flip through the entire exam and mark all questions with order numbers according to my pivot table 2A for AM (I also have a similar table for PM but I actually marked it on the actual specifications I printed out beforehand). On the actual exam, I roughly spent 3:30 on 30 AM problems and 3:15 on 25 PM problems according to my order. The remaining 15-30 minutes for the rest of the problems I struggled with, I gussed around 5 questions for each AM/PM with elimination, and the remaining ones (5 AM, 10 PM) putting all bets on a single letter choice (as the correct ABCD answers are equal = 10 each). I also used the same guessing strategy for my FE paper exam and it also worked.

Reflection

Looking back, if I would have done it differently, I would have started a month earlier and allow myself more time to work on practice problems and take one more practice exam to be sure. But in the end, it's all about the combination of exam strategy (plan) with actual tactics (action) that worked out. As Sun Tzu said in book The Art of War, “Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.”

The local MnSPE board also offered "power" snacks during lunch. Kudos to them and their sponsors.

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Congrats on passing the PE exam... wow was that a catered lunch I saw? We had to bring our own.

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Congrats! Also, how the hell did you receive a free lunch? Are a privileged NCEES member?

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2 minutes ago, Orca2552_PE said:

Congrats! Also, how the hell did you receive a free lunch? Are a privileged NCEES member?

Oh now that I read your entire post, my question is answered. Ill consider taking my SE there in 3 years time. 

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I thought one of your pictures looked familiar lol.  From one of my earlier study days.

Passed first time too!

25442D01-987A-4DE8-AAB6-CCFB748192E5.jpeg

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On 5/17/2019 at 3:20 PM, SacMe24 said:

Congrats on passing the PE exam... wow was that a catered lunch I saw? We had to bring our own.

 

On 5/17/2019 at 3:35 PM, Orca2552_PE said:

Congrats! Also, how the hell did you receive a free lunch? Are a privileged NCEES member?

lol the "lunch" was organized by the local Minnesota NSPE chapter with engineering companies as sponsors. The official Exam Authorization Notice actually included the "lunch" information so I only packed a energy bar and a water bottle. My own experience showed that having even a sandwich would make me sleepy.

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How did you enjoy lugging all your references up the broken escalator? That was my favorite part of test day.

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"(as the correct ABCD answers are equal = 10 each)"

Wait, is that true? It's always exactly 10 of each? If I'd known that, definitely would've changed by "guessing" strategy at the end, too. Oh well, passed anyway.

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21 hours ago, MspSdf said:

 

lol the "lunch" was organized by the local Minnesota NSPE chapter with engineering companies as sponsors. The official Exam Authorization Notice actually included the "lunch" information so I only packed a energy bar and a water bottle. My own experience showed that having even a sandwich would make me sleepy.

South Carolina did the same thing except they had pizza so I brought Jimmy Johns in my cooler lol.

 

7 hours ago, NASATimp said:

"(as the correct ABCD answers are equal = 10 each)"

Wait, is that true? It's always exactly 10 of each? If I'd known that, definitely would've changed by "guessing" strategy at the end, too. Oh well, passed anyway.

I remember someone posting they knew somebody who use to make the test and they had told them that. I don't put much weight in it since most people aren't going to be guessing on the whole exam. Pick your favorite letter and go with it for your WAG's.

 

The write-up is nicely done and informative, especially for those looking to take the exam in October. I would suggest multiple totes/milk crates for better organization before and during the exam.

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On 5/19/2019 at 4:46 PM, studierinpink said:

How did you enjoy lugging all your references up the broken escalator? That was my favorite part of test day.

When I got there at 6:45am the escalator going up was working fine. Must be me that broke it lol. There is also an elevator to go up if you were aware.

18 hours ago, NASATimp said:

"(as the correct ABCD answers are equal = 10 each)"

Wait, is that true? It's always exactly 10 of each? If I'd known that, definitely would've changed by "guessing" strategy at the end, too. Oh well, passed anyway.

I remember reading about the same amount of ABCDs somewhere online (not sure if it was here). When I was done on the questions I knew and guessed educatedly in the PM depth, I probably only had like 1-2 As. With 60 seconds left and 8-9 questions without an answer, betting on As was a no-brainer. I would never knew how much of those As actually helped me, but my "engineering judgment" paid off with a "Pass".

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