I passed the FE on my 7th try and no it wasn’t easy!

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Jun 30, 2021
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Yes, I took the Fundamentals of Engineering Civil Exam 7 times. I’m pretty much an expert at taking it but not passing it of course as I only passed once. When I was studying I found forums with people sharing their story and how they passed so I wanted to share the tips I used to study that I think ultimately helped me pass! My experiences are with taking the FE Civil Exam but I think many of my tips will be helpful for anyone taking an FE Exam!

To share a little bit about me, I have earned both a Bachelor’s (2018) and Master’s (2020) degree in Civil Engineering and am currently working as a Civil Engineer overseeing construction projects at a large drinking water treatment plant.

Study materials I found helpful:
For every attempt my studying started with the FE Civil Review Manual book by Lindeburg, the FE Civil Practice Problems book by Lindeburg, and the official NCEES Practice Test. You also can not take the exam without fully knowing the NCEES Reference Handbook.

For my 7th attempt I needed to do something different so I searched online for what other books were available and I found the FE Civil Practice Questions book by Girum S. Urgessa, and the FE Civil Practice Exams book by M. Rashad Islam. These books were up to date for newest edition of the NCEES Reference Handbook which was 10.0.1 and gave me plenty of new problems to do that I had not seen before.

- NCEES Practice Test
The official practice test from NCEES is essential to taking the exam. I think this is a good representation of what the problems on the exam will be like. Only purchase one copy because the problems are always the same and if a newer addition comes out I found that most of the problems will be the same except for any problems changed because of changes the exam specification of topics covered on the exam. Buy the newest version of the practice test from NCEES when you register for an exam.

- FE Civil Review Manual by Michael R. Lindeburg
This is a great book for reading through to review topics and how equations that are provided in the NCEES Reference Handbook are applied. I used the older version which I felt was fine for studying from. Every time I took the test I went through the book, reading the example problems and I made a note sheet on every section of the test. My note sheets contained relevant important equations and information that would likely be on the test.

- FE Civil Practice Problems by Michael R. Lindeburg
This book is all just practice problems and a good purchase for problems that are divided into sections based on the test Specifications. I used the older version and went through a selection of problems from each section when studying every time I took the test.

- FE-Civil Practice Questions with Detailed Solutions by Girum S. Urgessa
For my 7th attempt I purchased this book and it came in great use. This book contains practice problems with solutions on the same page and a practice test with solutions following the test. I used the newest version which has some mistakes in page numbers referencing the NCEES Reference Handbook but overall this was a great book. I felt the problems in this book were more difficult than on the actual exam.

- FE Civil Practice Exams 2 Full Tests Including Solutions by M. Rashad Islam
For my 7th attempt I also purchased this book and I highly recommend it. It contains 2 full practice tests with solutions following the tests. The problems in this book are similar in style to the official NCEES Practice Test. I highly recommend this book!!

- NCEES Reference Handbook
Last but not least the NCEES Reference Handbook is essential to passing the exam. I did not purchase a paper copy as I always felt it was better to know the PDF file as that was closest to the searchable version you have when taking the exam. Use Ctrl+F or Ctrl+Shift+F to search the book like you are able to do during the exam.

How I studied:
For my 7th attempt I scheduled the test for June 7th, 2021. I started studying with the FE Civil Review Manual book by Lindeburg in the middle of March 2021. I reviewed sections in the Lindebug Review Manual and did problems from the FE Civil Practice Problems book by Lindeburg. I tried to actually do 10 practice problems on paper and I read through solutions for many of the other problems. I started a new section of material every 2 to 3 days through March and April. I also read through the NCEES Reference Handbook multiple times. Yes, I lost focus a lot and got busy with work throughout my study time but when I fell behind a few weeks I made sure I caught myself up to schedule. I printed out calendar pages for each month that I used to write on with what topics I wanted to cover each day.

For May 2021 I decided that each week I would do a real practice test. I spread out the tests to do the 100 or 110 problems over 4 days. Before I did a practice test I quickly read through the NCEES Reference Handbook to remind myself of the location for topics and equations. I was lucky to have time at work and at night when I was home to do problems. Some weeks I didn’t finish during the week and had to work on the tests over the weekend so I didn’t get behind. After completing the problems I read through and checked my solutions. The first week I did the practice test from the FE Civil Practice Questions book by Girum S. Urgessa. This test has solutions written right after the problem so I just read, rewrote on paper, and understood each problem. The second week I did the first test from the FE Civil Practice Exams book by M. Rashad Islam. The solutions in this book are on pages after the test. The third week I did the second test from the FE Civil Practice Questions book by Girum S. Urgessa which has solutions printed in the book on pages after the test. For the fourth week I did the second test from the FE Civil Practice Exams book by M. Rashad Islam.

Over the last weekend of May I did the official NCEES Practice Test and reviewed my answers the following day. On Friday, June 4th, I reluctantly decided to take off work to do the first test from the FE Civil Practice Exams book by M. Rashad Islam for the second time. I started early in the morning and treated it like I was taking the real FE Exam. For the remainder of the weekend I read through the other practice tests, and went through sections of practice problems reading the solutions. My studying concluded Sunday with a thorough review of the NCEES Reference Handbook. Monday morning I arrived at the testing center forcing myself to be as confident as I could and took the exam. Luckily it was all worth it!

Tips for taking the exam:
You are given 5 hours and 20 minutes to take the entire exam. The exam is split in two halves with a scheduled 25 minute break after completing roughly 55 of the 110 problems. You have just under 3 minutes to do each problem. I found the best thing to do when you first saw a problem was either solve it, check it off to review before submitting, or guessing. If I could solve the problem within about 2 minutes and knew what equations I would need either by memory or knew where they were in the NCEES Reference Handbook I solved the problem. If I thought I could solve the problem but needed more time I marked it for reviewing later. If I had no clue how to solve, and yes there might be a couple of these type of problems I made educated guesses. We’ve been taking multiple choice tests for years in school we know what this means! There is a strategy for making guesses on multiple choice tests that include choosing common letters on any guesses to increase the probability that you will get some right, choosing guesses that are similar numerically or with similar units to other choices, and if the problem has options that are written words the longest answer is more likely to be correct. Research tips for multiple choice tests online for more info on strategies.

The vast majority of questions are multiple choice but there will be a handful or so that are either fill in the blank, select an area, or drag and drop. Make your most educated guess if you don’t know. Never leave anything blank. On the NCEES website and YouTube channel there are tutorials that show you what the screen will look like when you are taking the exam. If it is your first time I highly recommend you familiarize yourself with what the screen will look like so there are no surprises. For my calculator I used the Texas Instruments TI-30XIIS but you should use what you already know or are comfortable with using! Another tip that I think helped me was that I studied using graph paper. I made my own with tables in Microsoft Word and printed them out so the grid was 4x4 equal to 1 in. by 1 in. I also used a pen so that I wasn’t tempted to erase anything on my paper just like with the pen/ marker you have for the test.

Study hard, don’t ever give up no matter how many attempts it takes you, and do not lose your focus! Remember your why!

If you have questions please ask and I will help in any way that I can!


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