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Civil Construction PE Prep - Second Attempt

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In reading thru your story, there aren't any glaring omissions or issues with your prep that I can see.  It sounds like our prep and background was/is similar.  This was my first attempt.  I chose Civil Construction and passed.

I've been out of school for 20yrs and have worked in more of an administrative capacity for most of that time, so I needed to not only refresh but re-learn a lot of material.  I have two young kids at home and work 50-60 hr weeks.  I used EET for breadth and depth but didn't put in as many hours as you did.  

My only comment would be this:

I spent a lot of time doing problems.  Over and over, again.  And then again.  And then again.  And then again.  Again and Again.  I only used EET's practice problems, their exams, the NCEES practice exam and the 6-minute solution book.  But, I spent most of my time doing and re-doing the EET problems.  I probably did them all 4-5 times and some more than that.   I didn't care about simulating the exam, I only worked at recognizing problems and their solution path as quickly as possible.  In preparation, it wasn't enough for me to understand the problem and solution, the goal was to be FAST.  The only way I know how to do anything fast is for it to be almost second nature.  And that comes thru practice.  Lots of it.

By the time I went thru all of EET's problems once, I would go back and redo them.  I rarely remembered the individual problem details.  I did this until I could quickly assess and do the problem without reference to procedure or theory.  I took only the EET materials into the exam and opened them a handful of times to reference formulas I couldn''t recall and for the Safety questions.  Other than that, I motored thru.  Oh, and geometrics.  I didn't review that at all pretest so I did use EET's materials to muddle those couple problems. 

In my opinion, the majority of pretest preparation/study should focus on speed and how fast one can recognize problems.  If this means doing the same problem 10 times in a row until it's burned into your brain, so be it.  Speed.  It's the key.

Hang in there.  You'll get it.

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Do you have all of the required reference materials called out in the NCEES exam guidelines for the Construction depth?  I can guarantee that having those books landed me an easy 12 questions on the exam in October.

I highly recommend Civil Engineering Academy's "Ultimate Civil PE Review Course".  Isaac has put together the best online exam prep course there is.  And that's coming from someone who took PPI2Pass twice and has seen the materials from SoPE.  I took the exam for the 4th time in October and really credit a lot of my success to the Ultimate Civil PE Review Course.  

I also suggest working as many practice problems as you can possibly find.  I worked two full NCEES practice exams (current and 2011 version), Goswami's practice exams, Learn Civil Engineering's construction exam, and all of the Ultimate Civil PE Review Course practice problems (and there are a couple hundred).  I think I worked 500+ problems in preparation for this last go-around, and that's what I credit the rest of my success to. 

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On 12/19/2019 at 10:06 AM, LyceeFruit PE said:

So I didn't take civil as you know.

But I created a binder of all of my completed problems and created an index sorted by category from NCEES. And on the problems I got wrong, I corrected them in a different color pen to show where I went wrong. And pointed out traps and such so it'd be stuck in my head 

I don't know if this is something you can apply to your exam

Actually, that's kinda what I did too. I would write myself little notes on the problems I would work out and tell myself don't fall for this trap. It's 8.34 x ........ to get to lbs/day. This test is worst than the child support trap I got stuck with. 

Edited by Fisherman504

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So now that I'm no longer in my feelings, I'm ready to get back to work. Someone recommended that I talk about the things I felt that I did well in the last cycle and of course, the things I could do better. 

I've been out of school for almost 16 years so I had to start from scratch with a lot of topics. 

Strengths

- I was really organized. I tabbed the EET binders, the OSHA reference, ACI reference, and parts of the CERM. I created an index for the EET binders. Shoutout to @CivInTexas who sent a great template of an old EET keyword index. I updated it and included it at the front of the AM and PM binders.

- I had a separate binder for practice problems. I included solved practice problems from EET practice problems, EET midterm, some 6-minute solutions, and EET simulated 8-hr exam. I created an index for my practice problem binder that included the following columns: NCEES test section/Given/Find

- I also brought the entire EET practice exam solutions in a binder. I created an index for this one as well. (I didn't use this as much)

- I completed two 4-hour timed exams and one 8-hour timed exam. I also bought a pack of scantrons from Amazon and used those during simulated exam, and I always worked from my crates. So what I liked the most about this was that it helped me to become more comfortable with maneuvering during test taking. It's really important to get in the habit of transferring answers to the scantron, to keep up with the scantron, and learn how to move your books around. I actually studied at a 6 foot long table and forced myself to work within a 4-5 foot footprint. I never felt awkward during the exam because I was so used to working this way.

- Variety of practice. I used CERM Practice Problems (useless because they mix breadth and depth questions together. kinda helpful for your depth area), Six Minute Solutions (takes way more than 6 minutes to complete so don't feel bad), Goswami Civil Breadth Exams (harder than the exam but good practice), NCEES Civil Construction Practice Exam (not the same questions as what you will see on the exam but it's a similar level of difficulty - a little more straightforward than some of the tricky problems you'll see), and as mentioned before - the EET practice exams and practice problems.

- I kept a log of my study hours. This kept me honest regarding my coverage of each topic. 

- I had all of the required references. My EET binders had most of the information that I needed, however, I forced myself to use my actual references because I needed to learn how to use them just in case the EET binders didn't have something. 

 

Weaknesses

- I studied way too much. That may sound weird and everybody is different but I sacrificed my sleep and my health. I was burned out by the last few weeks. Lesson: Focus on quality study time rather than quantity. Add in time to exercise and more down time/social time.

- I didn't do a good job of populating each section of my practice problem binder. It showed up in my diagnostic report too. I think I started this exercise a little too late during my studying and didn't really get as much in there as I should have. I completed an endless number of problems across three 3-subject spiral notebooks. I couldn't comb through it to pull out problems as efficiently as I thought I could. So some of my divider sections were empty. I knew how to do some of the problems on the exam for these areas, but the practice problems kind of sparked some ideas on how to start a problem. Time savings is key during the exam. I was left staring at some problems for way too long only to realize how to solve it after I sat with it for 10 minutes. That shouldn't happen. Lesson: Solve more problems AND save them and index them in my practice problem binder along the way.

- Wasted time working through CERM Practice Problems. A couple of people on here told me to stay away from these problems ( @youngmotivatedengineer)  but I didn't listen. I found myself emailing Nazrul from EET about a couple of them only for him to answer my question and then say "...but that's on Geotechnical depth so I wouldn't worry about that level of detail". I spent 2 days on one problem. Ridiculous. 

- I didn't build in time to review my work during the exam. This hurt me bad. The good news is that I completed practice problems at a rate that made me very comfortable with my calculator and transferring information from calculator, to scratch paper, to scantron. The bad news is if I transferred something incorrectly or made some other error, I didn't build in time to check it. I just moved on to the next problem. I felt completely confident with 27 problems in the AM. I got 21 right. That tells me that I made math errors somewhere and I left those points on the table.

- I spent too much time on topics at the beginning of my study plan and didn't return to those subjects. I did really poorly in Project Planning and Means and Methods because I studied those first, throwing almost study hours at those... only to not return until maybe the night before a simulated exam. Lesson: I'm taking a different approach this time around, touching on several subjects in a week. Also dedicate time to the breadth topics towards the end of my study plan.

- I need to understand the application of Hydraulics and Hydrology to practice problems. I understand the ideas but I definitely need practice with applying the equations. So that means more practice!

 

This might be helpful to someone, not sure. But here ya go.

 

Edited by civilrobot
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I am 20 years out of college and finally passed April 2019 after multiple attempts...I did construction the first time and the remaining times I kept my focus on transportation,  even though I work in construction. 

What i did, after taking EET was sacrificed and used a week of vacation before the exam...i.e. exam was Friday, I took that previous Friday up to that Friday off. Everyday that week, I went to the library and watched the EET videos on demand and did problems loke it was a work week... starting at 730 am and ending at 5 or later depending on my confidence level.

What I found was having that fresh in my mind the week before the exam helped me tremendously with recollection of material and I was rested enough during the week and used to spending a "work day" studying that I was comfortable in the exam.... Yes.. spending my vacation week for studying was a huge sacrifice but I feel it was key to me finally passing the exam... Best of Luck!

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When you work on practice problems this time, keep a print out of the test specifications nearby. If you get stuck on a problem,  verify that it is in the specifications before wasting too much time on it. You may find that some questions may get too involved, however the initial steps to solving the problem may actually be on the test. For example,  you may need to solve for 3 or different variables before you can plug them in to solve the problem.  While the overall answer of the sample question, may be beyond the scope of the actual exam, there may be a question asking you to solve for 1 of those 3 things the practice question was asking for. 

When going through the EET course, keep track of the hints, rules of thimb and safe assumptions they give. For example,  when evaluating a truss, theres certain conditions in which the reaction load would be 0. The PE exam may ask you to find a reaction load thag fits this rule, and you will know the answer without having to do any physical math.

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On 12/19/2019 at 3:17 PM, civilrobot said:

To be honest with you, it wasn't until I was more than halfway through my preparation that I realized that I should have chosen WRE because of the broad scope of construction. My field experience is in construction. I surprised I kinda bombed on Project Planning, etc. I will admit that I studied that topic pretty hot and heavy when I started back in June and then I never revisited it with that same intensity until a month out. But by then, I was more into Deep Foundations, Welding and Bolting, PM stuff basically. I work in transportation but I'm in a senior executive level, and not in the field so that one is meh... 

I don't know if backing out of this area and going into another is the right move...meaning, I really don't know. It's crossed my mind but I wonder if it's a pretty heavy lift.

Personally....for the sake of saving time and valuable study material...I say stick with construction on your next go around so that you can build on the  already know.

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1 hour ago, J. Jones PE (Shengineer) said:

Personally....for the sake of saving time and valuable study material...I say stick with construction on your next go around so that you can build on the  already know.

Yeah I'm definitely doing that. 

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Good news is you are now familiar with the format of the test.  I was out of school for 11 years and took WRE.  I had on-demand EET and SoPE and studied for a year+ prior (originally I was going to take Oct 18, then Apr 19, but life got in the way).

I think your major downfall the last test was not re-reviewing information.  This pattern of study should work well for you too.  I set aside ~2 hours a day for studying where I could; 45 minutes at lunch, some time after the kids went to bed, etc.  Weekends I would try to study 3-4 hours when I could.  Every few days I would switch topics and then start again.  I tabbed the heck out of my CERM and relied on that for 90-95% of the test, but Construction probably needs additional references for the PM portion.  

I think one of the craziest and helpful tasks I did was re-tabbing everything the last weekend.  I color coded and organized the tabs so they weren't everywhere.  By doing this I reviewed where everything was, made notes to other pages/references where needed, and had a fresh overview of the information.  

You got this!

Edited by SB_VA
Spelling is not my strong suit =)
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On 12/19/2019 at 6:58 PM, CampCounselor said:

In reading thru your story, there aren't any glaring omissions or issues with your prep that I can see.  It sounds like our prep and background was/is similar.  This was my first attempt.  I chose Civil Construction and passed.

I've been out of school for 20yrs and have worked in more of an administrative capacity for most of that time, so I needed to not only refresh but re-learn a lot of material.  I have two young kids at home and work 50-60 hr weeks.  I used EET for breadth and depth but didn't put in as many hours as you did.  

My only comment would be this:

I spent a lot of time doing problems.  Over and over, again.  And then again.  And then again.  And then again.  Again and Again.  I only used EET's practice problems, their exams, the NCEES practice exam and the 6-minute solution book.  But, I spent most of my time doing and re-doing the EET problems.  I probably did them all 4-5 times and some more than that.   I didn't care about simulating the exam, I only worked at recognizing problems and their solution path as quickly as possible.  In preparation, it wasn't enough for me to understand the problem and solution, the goal was to be FAST.  The only way I know how to do anything fast is for it to be almost second nature.  And that comes thru practice.  Lots of it.

By the time I went thru all of EET's problems once, I would go back and redo them.  I rarely remembered the individual problem details.  I did this until I could quickly assess and do the problem without reference to procedure or theory.  I took only the EET materials into the exam and opened them a handful of times to reference formulas I couldn''t recall and for the Safety questions.  Other than that, I motored thru.  Oh, and geometrics.  I didn't review that at all pretest so I did use EET's materials to muddle those couple problems. 

In my opinion, the majority of pretest preparation/study should focus on speed and how fast one can recognize problems.  If this means doing the same problem 10 times in a row until it's burned into your brain, so be it.  Speed.  It's the key.

Hang in there.  You'll get it.

This will be my 3rd time so Im looking for ideas too. EET material was great but I didnt do good on their simulation exams. This time Im going to try your approach, so my question is, did you do this with all exercises or only problems? I will probably skip the videos of the areas I did good and just do problems on them so reviewing the material and doing exercises and problems, your approach is my hope and hopefully will be my last time!

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51 minutes ago, vcuevas said:

This will be my 3rd time so Im looking for ideas too. EET material was great but I didnt do good on their simulation exams. This time Im going to try your approach, so my question is, did you do this with all exercises or only problems? I will probably skip the videos of the areas I did good and just do problems on them so reviewing the material and doing exercises and problems, your approach is my hope and hopefully will be my last time!

I passed it on my 4th time.  First off, keep your head up and keep busting your butt.  You'll get it!  I didn't take EET so I can't speak to any of their materials, but I'd like to recommend a few resources that help tremendously with the construction depth exam.  

1.  Goswami "All-In-One" exam guide.  It is similar to the CERM but much, much simpler to use and quite frankly I think it has better material than the CERM.  I found tons of theory answers in this book.  https://www.amazon.com/Civil-Engineering-All-One-Guide/dp/0071821953/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=goswami+all+in+one&qid=1579182605&sr=8-1

2.  Goswami Practice Exams.  This book has practice exams for every depth option, as well as breadth exams.  I found that the practice problems Goswami put together are very similar to the NCEES exam questions.  I worked every breadth problem and construction depth problem from this book more than once to familiarize myself with the types of questions I might see.  I even did some of the other depth problems that I thought could be on the breadth portion.  https://www.amazon.com/Civil-Engineering-PE-Practice-Exams/dp/0071777113/ref=sr_1_2?keywords=goswami+all+in+one&qid=1579182670&sr=8-2

3.  Learn Civil Engineering Construction Practice Exam.  This practice exam is awesome.  Very much like what you'll see on the exam.  Probably the most useful construction practice exam I took honestly.  https://www.learncivilengineering.com/practice-problems-and-sample-exams-2/

4.  If you'd like to try a course other than EET I highly recommend the Ultimate Civil PE Review Course by Civil Engineering Academy.  Very affordable course.  I think this course helped me crush the breadth portion.  By the time I finished problem 40 on the breadth portion I only had about 7-8 left to go back and work on, and I think I had 1 problem that I ended up just guessing on by the time the 4 hours were up.  This course comes with tons of practice problems and exams.  It's 20% talking about topics, notes, and definitions and 80% working problems.  Their practice problems and exams are top notch.  https://www.civilpereviewcourse.com/ultimate-civil-pe-review-course/

Best of luck on your 3rd attempt!  

Edited by Michael Scott, PE
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THANK you so much! I will look into those practice books, and that course. I believe I have enough material to practice I just have to spend more time doing problems than theory/videos.

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Breadth is Key and should be easier in April compared to October. The depth will be a challenge so definately focus on getting all of your points in the breadth this spring. 

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On ‎12‎/‎19‎/‎2019 at 6:58 PM, CampCounselor said:

In reading thru your story, there aren't any glaring omissions or issues with your prep that I can see.  It sounds like our prep and background was/is similar.  This was my first attempt.  I chose Civil Construction and passed.

I've been out of school for 20yrs and have worked in more of an administrative capacity for most of that time, so I needed to not only refresh but re-learn a lot of material.  I have two young kids at home and work 50-60 hr weeks.  I used EET for breadth and depth but didn't put in as many hours as you did.  

My only comment would be this:

I spent a lot of time doing problems.  Over and over, again.  And then again.  And then again.  And then again.  Again and Again.  I only used EET's practice problems, their exams, the NCEES practice exam and the 6-minute solution book.  But, I spent most of my time doing and re-doing the EET problems.  I probably did them all 4-5 times and some more than that.   I didn't care about simulating the exam, I only worked at recognizing problems and their solution path as quickly as possible.  In preparation, it wasn't enough for me to understand the problem and solution, the goal was to be FAST.  The only way I know how to do anything fast is for it to be almost second nature.  And that comes thru practice.  Lots of it.

By the time I went thru all of EET's problems once, I would go back and redo them.  I rarely remembered the individual problem details.  I did this until I could quickly assess and do the problem without reference to procedure or theory.  I took only the EET materials into the exam and opened them a handful of times to reference formulas I couldn''t recall and for the Safety questions.  Other than that, I motored thru.  Oh, and geometrics.  I didn't review that at all pretest so I did use EET's materials to muddle those couple problems. 

In my opinion, the majority of pretest preparation/study should focus on speed and how fast one can recognize problems.  If this means doing the same problem 10 times in a row until it's burned into your brain, so be it.  Speed.  It's the key.

Hang in there.  You'll get it.

So this is the approach I've decided on. I started studying a few weeks ago, taking breaks when I need to and not sitting for too long. But when I am sitting down to study, I'm only doing problems. At first I made this complicated matrix of a schedule of how to cover all of the topics. I scrapped that. I'm just working through my EET binder and doing all of the problems. When I'm done, I'll start over, and then I'll add other problems in with it. I'll just keep repeating problems over and over again. The good thing about the way I studied last time is that I actually learned many of the concepts. I'm finding a few gaps here and there and filling them in. 

And like one of my peeps in here mentioned, I'm making a note of the steps that I struggle on, writing down exactly what I need to do as if someone is talking to me. It's helping me to keep my eyes open for the tricks. 

So yeah, this is my approach now. Thanks for the input guys!

Edited by civilrobot

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If you have time and feel so inclined, you might also try “Learning How to Learn” on Coursera - taught by Dr. Barbara Oakley and Dr. Terrence Sejnowski.

I used the course as meta-studying for the PE, because part of the class focuses on how to perform in high-pressure situations and how to get the most out of your studying hours.

I spent about 80 hrs studying and passed (Civil Transportation) on my first attempt. I did zero practice tests and approximately 100 practice problems, the majority of which took between 3 and 6 minutes to solve.

I did not take the EET simulated exam, nor did I time myself on any problems. Nor did I use any practice problems outside of EET or the official NCEES manual for my discipline (I highly recommend getting the construction one!).

The questions most representative of the PE exam ‘easy/moderate’ questions came from the NCEES manual, for me. The slightly more difficult but still routine questions were straight out of EET breadth and depth binders, at least in terms of topic.

The 10-20 most difficult questions on the exam are unpredictable, they would have taken me far more time to solve than 6-10 minutes, so for most of those I didn’t bother or just did my best to tackle the 3-5 hard questions I felt most comfortable attempting to answer.

My first pass of questions, all I did was label them with the topic and a likely concept or reference I thought I would use. I answered two questions on sight. The next pass I did everything I thought was a simple lookup or 30-second or less calculation. The third pass was all the simple calculations (one or two steps that I knew I could get right). The fourth pass was longer calculations I knew I could get right. The fifth pass was either difficult questions I thought I might be able to solve, or questions that looked easier but where I was less comfortable with the subject. The last pass was questions I thought I needed 10+ minutes to solve it that were just tedious or weird.

I used all of my time on the exam and spent time bubbling in answers only between passes, to help me track where I was and to help guide my next pass.

I left no questions unanswered and tried to, where I could not be certain of the correct answer, at least eliminate any apparently illogical, impossible, or unlikely answers (sometimes through algebraic comparison of units, or through calculation of similar forces in a ‘simplified’ parallel model of the problem -  Reducing a structure to a simple beam, for instance, and seeing the resulting pattern of forces and moments).

Labeling the questions with topics and likely references helped me focus on questions without needing to re-read the whole thing.

You can do this!

Edited by Sirian
Added example and another note
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