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jocey07

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Hi everyone,

What books did everyone study to take the vertical and lateral exams for buildings? Review courses?

Also, I am thinking of taking one day at a time, so I can really focus on each day at a time. What are  y'all thoughts on this?

 

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i recommend one day at a time. this is how i'm doing it. 

as for references and courses, and even both vs one at a time, there's a lot of info already in this forum that you can search through and browse

 

I highly recommend AEI California. The content is great, the instructors are fantastic and responsive. 

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One day at a time is the way to go.

I used School of PE for vert-buildings and would give it a 'meh'. No experience with AEI but I hear fantastic things often.

I used the SERM primarily as my main study tool. Felt it was much more worthwhile than the much more expensive online class.

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SERM is useful on test day for random things and general reference.  

As for systematic study I'd take AEI and follow their schedule,  do all the homework , quizzes, mini exams, and practice exams and besides that David Connors bridge book was handy, David Fanella concrete, Breyer for Wood.  Hibbler for structural analysis and hibbler statics and mechanics book.  Structural loads by Fabella and ACIsp17 vol 1, 2...

Cant think of much else off top of my head. 

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Some 2nd tier resources that were useful at times...

Sabbelli - ductile design of steel

Moehle - seismic design conc. Structures 

Hiner seismic workbook 

Ummmm .... ppi steel design was solid, the conc one was meh.  

 

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I took the PPI course, and I passed in my first attempt. I studied about 400 hours between the course and personal study. I bought all the references from the PPI course and used almost all of them while studying--though not necessarily on the test.

There is a lot of debate on taking 1 vs. 2 days. I went with taking both in 1 sitting. Personally, I felt the exams had much different material so it wasn't difficult switching from from vertical to lateral. After studying for about 6 months almost nonstop, I would not want to put my family through that again. You are going to sacrifice a lot of personal time if you do the studying correctly. Personally, if you're going to put in a lot of hours studying for the vertical, the lateral isn't that much more difficult (at least for bridges). The right answer for me was to take 2 days in one sitting, but yours might be different.

Personally, I would recommend the PPI course, especially if you are taking both days.

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Definitely split up the components. I took lateral first because it was easier to study for. Vertical has such broad base of questions that could be asked. 

Definitely the SEAOC IBC Seismic Design Manuals for lateral. Just study those and maybe take a review course and you should be OK for lateral. 

Follow the NCEES specs. for what to study.  Try not to stray off into subject matter that would probably not be covered by the exam. 

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I find it impressive just how different everyone's experiences are.  Guess that's a testament to the material on the test, the background of the test taker, and how the individual learns/studies.

Personally I found splitting the test up far better than taking in one cycle.  I found as a career bridge designer the vertical was far easier to study for than the lateral (vertical felt broader but also shallower than the lateral).  I used the SERM for studying for Vertical and found it almost 100% adequate for getting me through the morning.  Having a wealth of long form example problems for the afternoon at the ready was good enough for the bridge test.  I didn't find any of the references I purchased for lateral were useful (I bought and studied Williams's Seismic and Wind Structural Design Examples, Volumes 1 through 4 of the SEAOC design manual, PPI's Seismic manual, and a bunch of more niche references).  The lateral portion of the SERM is almost nonexistent.  I didn't even understand when each of the wind design methods was supposed to be used, let alone how to actually use them correctly.  I ended up taking the EET/AEI lateral class and that gave me everything I needed to confidently pass the lateral.

So your background and the way you learn will likely dictate what works best for you.  Note that despite working primarily in high seismic areas (CA and WA) and being fairly competent in displacement based and force based lateral bridge design, the only thing that really helped me "learn" building seismic and wind was taking that class.  Self study was perfectly fine for the vertical for me.

Best of Luck!

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I would recommend taking them separately. I took both on my first attempt (did not put in the study time that i needed to), I was so mentally exhausted after the first day, but still had to get up and do it again for the second day - I have never felt so drained as I did at the end of the second day.

I then took just the vertical and passed and followed that up with just the lateral and passed (I took EET for the lateral portion). Overall the single day attempts were a better experience just because I had time to recover after taking an 8 hour test.

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Structural Analysis by Hibbeler

David Connor's Book O' Bridge Problems

SEAOC Structural / Seismic Design Manuals 1-4 are great for learning/refreshing seismic, and make a terrific addition to your permanent library.  

Edited by Reverse Polish
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I heard most of the existing courses are not that friendly to Bridge guys, can anyone confirm this for me? Based on your experience with AEI or PPI, are they also good for bridges? Thanks

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AEI is great for bridges. 

 

Remember it's a review course covering many topics....and aaahto is a gazillion pages.  

 

AEI hits all the high percentage topics and several of the more obscure one too.  No class or text covers them all.  

 

For bridges for bldg folks here is what I'd suggest :

1 AEI Course 

2 Connors book 

3 Caltran chapter 3

4 FHWA Example problems, especially the one for composite beams and the plate girder one

All those taken together will get you 90 percent of the way. 

 

If ncees wants to ask some obscure bearing designs or random detail that's buried in the code you likely have a small chance of getting it right.  However, assuming 10 bridge questions on the test... The above references get you to 70-80 percent.  The other 20... Not much here you can do unless you're a bridge person. 

 

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12 hours ago, AndieWoooooooo said:

I heard most of the existing courses are not that friendly to Bridge guys, can anyone confirm this for me? Based on your experience with AEI or PPI, are they also good for bridges? Thanks

I took the PPI course and the bridge exam. I passed my first try.

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11 hours ago, dlegofan said:

I took the PPI course and the bridge exam. I passed my first try.

do you recommend PPI for me to take the SE exam? or you study something else in addition to it? Any tips/suggestions from you will be highly appreciated.

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I highly recommend AEI ( Advanced Engineering institute). I took both vertical and lateral classes (building) with them. I did my first trial for both vertical and lateral in April 2019, passing vertical and fail lateral (27/40 AM, A, A, IR, U). Then I passed my lateral in Oct 2019. 

I only took AEI's handout and required codes with me for both exams. AEI's handout in really detailed and helpful. I can almost find all the things I need for the exam from their handout. 

Hope this help. Good luck for the exam.

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12 hours ago, AndieWoooooooo said:

do you recommend PPI for me to take the SE exam? or you study something else in addition to it? Any tips/suggestions from you will be highly appreciated.

I do recommend PPI just for the sake of the one-on-one with the instructor and collaboration with classmates. Here are some things that helped me:

-Get all your books early and every time you study, lay them out on a desk the size of the testing desk. Put your books in the same place every time. The more you simulate how you will actually take the exam, the more comfortable you will feel. Personally, I separated into 4 stacks: materials (steel, concrete, timber, masonry), AASHTO, design codes (IBC/ASCE 7, etc.), everything else.

-Break up AASHTO into 4 sections: Ch. 1-4, Ch 5, Ch 6, everything else

-Make a binder with helpful cheat sheets. For example, I made a quick-reference for rebar development lengths.

-You need to study every chance you get. I took 1 week off for a vacation about midway through and studied about 400 hours total. You are going to sacrifice a lot of time, but your family and friends are also going to sacrifice time with you as well. Make sure to tell them upfront the commitment you are making. You don't want to have to retake the test and have them go through it again. (That was a big motivator for me)

-If you have a weakness, the test will exploit it. You need to know everything or at least where everything is located.

-Don't bring extra books that you don't need. You will just waste time thumbing through them.

-Make notes in all of the references. I drew pictures. I wrote what page number to go to instead of the section because it's quicker to find a page number. I made a chart of beta values for concrete. if a section called for iteration, I made a table when possible. Etc. Anything that saves you time and brain power will help.

-Leave time to study your weakest subject last. That way, it is the freshest in your mind. But you need to make sure you have enough time to study for it. For me, I left about 1 month.

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11 minutes ago, dlegofan said:

I do recommend PPI just for the sake of the one-on-one with the instructor and collaboration with classmates. Here are some things that helped me:

-Get all your books early and every time you study, lay them out on a desk the size of the testing desk. Put your books in the same place every time. The more you simulate how you will actually take the exam, the more comfortable you will feel. Personally, I separated into 4 stacks: materials (steel, concrete, timber, masonry), AASHTO, design codes (IBC/ASCE 7, etc.), everything else.

-Break up AASHTO into 4 sections: Ch. 1-4, Ch 5, Ch 6, everything else

-Make a binder with helpful cheat sheets. For example, I made a quick-reference for rebar development lengths.

-You need to study every chance you get. I took 1 week off for a vacation about midway through and studied about 400 hours total. You are going to sacrifice a lot of time, but your family and friends are also going to sacrifice time with you as well. Make sure to tell them upfront the commitment you are making. You don't want to have to retake the test and have them go through it again. (That was a big motivator for me)

-If you have a weakness, the test will exploit it. You need to know everything or at least where everything is located.

-Don't bring extra books that you don't need. You will just waste time thumbing through them.

-Make notes in all of the references. I drew pictures. I wrote what page number to go to instead of the section because it's quicker to find a page number. I made a chart of beta values for concrete. if a section called for iteration, I made a table when possible. Etc. Anything that saves you time and brain power will help.

-Leave time to study your weakest subject last. That way, it is the freshest in your mind. But you need to make sure you have enough time to study for it. For me, I left about 1 month.

Thanks a lot for your detailed explanations. I really appreciate your help.

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Anyone who has studied using AEI...

How useful was the AEI handouts for the test? During the test, were you guys using the AEI binders 90% of the time? 80%? 50%? 

So far, I am putting post-it notes on both the AEI binders and code books. Wondering whether I should focus on one or the other.

At the end, I feel that it would be best to be the master of either the code book (ACI, AISC, NDS, etc) itself or AEI binder so I don't lose any time searching through the code references.

Any thoughts?

Also, after a long day at work,  I am barely putting 2 hours each night and extra hours on the weekends. I am worried that I am not studying enough for this April's tests. What were your study routines like for those of you who passed?

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Binders cover about 75% of the material (which when you think about it is quite a bit).  Code look ups are maybe another 15-20% and the last ten percent is going to be a bit random maybe more binder or more code or possibly a more obscure reference.  Depends on how you organize.  

My advice if you're short on time is to just work problems since that's the actual mechanism by which you'll be tested.   Mark up codes as you go and highlight and note binder and reference materials as needed.   

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7 hours ago, davab said:

Also, after a long day at work,  I am barely putting 2 hours each night and extra hours on the weekends. I am worried that I am not studying enough for this April's tests. What were your study routines like for those of you who passed?

That same worry persisted for me right up until the exam.  Remember to breathe every now-and-again--you still have about three months of productive study left.  

I studied about 10 hours a week on average, but was able to drag it out over 9 months.  That's just what my schedule permitted from a work and personal standpoint.  The rule-of-thumb that others have suggested in the past is that "adequate" study will amount to about 300 hours for the 16-hour exam.  Your results may vary, of course.  

Agreed with Titleistguy that at this point, working problems and making annotations along the way is a sound approach.  Practice exams are helpful to identify areas of weakness, as well as to get comfortable with the constructed response problems.  You can then go back to the codes to brush-up the weak areas.  I think I took one practice exam about 6 weeks out as a diagnostic, which allowed time for brushing-up on problems I missed.  I took a second practice exam 2 weeks out, to catch any last-minute points that remained.

Best of luck to you, and keep breathing!   

 

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The AEI binder/lectures is good in that it points out some more subtle parts of the code that can be easily overlooked during the test. I used the AEI binder to go through and add notes and highlights to my code books as I was more comfortable with finding most of the material in the code books. I only went to the AEI binder when I knew there was an example problem similar to something on the exam that I could reference to for all of the steps. So for me, I spent time to make sure I could reliably find everything I needed in the codes, and mainly used them during the test. I know others have said they used the binder for 90% of the test. 

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Thanks everyone for your thoughtful responses. Yes, I will remember to breath... Focus on AEI binder for now... and test problems!

When I registered for both exams and spent $1000 on the registration fee, I thought, "of course I can do it if I was able to pass CA PE with one try."

But wait.... I have a 5 month old baby now and started my own practice last year... Crap. I will make sure to breath before I suffocate!!

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The SE is not easy to get.  But the journey is worth it.  There are fist time passers and 5th time passers on this site.  And what's cool is there isn't any way to know the difference once you accomplish it.  So study hard, don't be afraid to fail, and your baby is only a baby once make sure you don't miss out on those moments to work problems.  The SE will always be there waiting.  Lol.  

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This is my take. 
 

I would take both days at once. It is A LOT but there is a key component to this test that doesn’t seem to be talked about, luck. If you take them both, you may get lucky and get an easier exam.  What if you decide to take only vertical, and that cycle has a lateral passing rate above 60%?  To me that was worth the chance.  Also, some states offer a slight discount to take them both at the same time (Illinois did). 
 

For classes, I did both PPI and AEI (formerly EET).  I failed after taking the PPI but passed after AEI.  I would recommend AEI by far.  The PPI one includes a lot of books (including the STERM) which is nice.   


That being said, it is not in the same universe as AEI. The binder alone that AEI mails you, is incredible for morning problems.  Especially for us bridge people that are at an extreme disadvantage on the heavily lopsided morning.  The binder has pretty much everything we would need for the building portion in addition to the codes.  The instructors are great, thorough, and responsive.  I actually still can email them now if I have a question on something and they get right back to me.

For books, obviously bring the codes and know them in and out.  Make sure to have the edition specified, NCEES likes to hit you with things that changed.  It’s a cop out and not very practical if you ask me, but that is another subject.  
 

Other than codes, bring the NCEES practice exam, the AEI binder (if you decide to go that route), the STERM (it is really only good for vertical, it’s worthless for lateral.), the laminated Codemasters, the the masonry TEK’s, maybe an old structural analysis textbook, any other practice exams, and hand notes.  Other books you can bring, but you probably won’t have time to use them. 
 

One thing I did that was extremely useful was to create step-by-step notes for specific things. For example, for the afternoon Lateral bridge column problem, I had every step you can have for circular or rectangular columns in seismic zone 4 and all of their checks.  This will really help you learn the topic and will speed things up significantly for afternoon portion.  

I apologize it was so long, but I think I covered everything.  
 

Good luck.  I can tell you that it feels wonderful to see those ACCEPTABLES on your dashboard. 

Edited by jmm7200
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