Looking for "game day" ideas and advice for Civil PE...

Help Support Engineer Boards:

BuilderGirl

Member
Joined
Oct 2, 2020
Messages
14
Reaction score
7
Hi, All!
Taking the Civil PE in T-minus 12 days. Looking for ideas for reference books carry in and set up on site... What worked for you? What did you see others do that you wished you did? Suitcases? Crates? little red wagons? Bookends? I am taking Construction PM so with references, I have a lot of books to carry in, and at 5'3" (and a BuilderGIRL, not the strongest cookie in the box)... Would love any input you're willing to provide.

Sincerely,
BuilderGirl
testing in Illinois
 

NJHHEngineer

Got a bridge to sell ya.
Joined
Oct 26, 2020
Messages
224
Reaction score
209
Location
NJ
Apologizing in advance for the longwinded response.

I took the Construction exam in October. I was able to fit all of my references into a medium sized rolling suitcase, and I was content. But, I saw a wide array of transportation methods from wagons, to hand trucks and I'm quite surprised a few people didn't rent forklifts/box trucks...Obviously, everybody is different but I couldn't see needing THAT much material. Albeit, I took it the same day as the Structural folks and I know there is a TON of codes and references required, so that may have been the people I saw trailer loads of books.

The biggest thing is, what do you think will work for you? Due to the size of my binders & other books it was just more logical to me to have something on wheels. A coworker of mine took the exam on the same day and only brought 1 Banker's Box in. We both passed. So it's not necessarily about the quantity of references so much as the quality of references. When I was preparing, I literally pulled out every college textbook I ever owned, pulled references from our work "library", downloaded all kinds of crap...and never touched them in my preparation. Those books made my cut list about 3 weeks or so out. I then proceeded to take the EET simulated exam and the NCEES exams with what I thought my "game day" arsenal was going to be. Did "well" on both exams and said ok all these references are must haves on the test. I took the day before the exam off from work for a mental health and prep day. Packed my suitcase, and tried to separate my AM from PM references and made sure my calculators were in there with a straight edge and anything else recommended/allowed in the exam room. Took one last look at the "cut" references and decided to bring one or two as an insurance policy. I took a ride up to the exam site to scope out the parking situation. It was only a quick 40 minute ride for me, so I realize that may not be feasible in most people's cases.

On exam day, I got up there EARLY (I was third in line to enter the room, with my coworker just ahead of me). Maybe an hour and half or so to give myself time to find the actual exam location, bathroom, have a coffee, say a few prayers, cry a little, etc...and at that point your anxiety is running at an all time high but, no looking back at that point. Take some deep breaths, focus and just take the test. It's only a test. Pass or Fail you're no better or worse of an engineer than before you started. Buckle up and kick some ass. Don't let the exam intimidate you or you're already at a disadvantage. Here's my tips for during the exam:

1. READ each question carefully and do not rush. Do not just bomb into solving the problem. Make sure you understand what the question is asking for. One word/caveat in the problem can completely influence the correct answer.

2. KNOW what subjects you are strong in (you should have figured this out in your prep). Get all of those questions correct (or try to). Try to find a few of these from the start to get your confidence up. Don't get caught up in a problem that isn't one of your strengths and let that set the tone for the 4 hours you're there in each session. Make sure you get all of the "low hanging fruit" look up type questions.

3. KNOW what subjects you are weak in. Don't waste time in the beginning trying to figure these out. Score the points while you have the time and come back later. If you don't know what to do immediately after reading the question, move on. Come back later. There were some problems that were "easy" but in the out of the gate adrenaline rush I just wasn't thinking straight. Come back once the nerves have settled.

4. FOCUS. You got this.

5. If all else fails, GUESS. You can't lose points. You only gain them on this exam. You might be able to snag a few points this way.

I have always been a very quick test taker throughout all my schooling. I set a goal to finish the AM in no more than 2.5 hours to give myself the maximum amount of time to regroup for the afternoon. I did succeed in that. While I realize that is not the reality for everyone, but there should be plenty of time to complete the exam and check your answers. Set yourself a realistic goal and work for it. Again, this might add some unnecessary stress if that's nto your style, but as long as you know your references, and the exam material, you will have plenty of time. Four hours is a lot of time, and it does certainly go by quickly. Biggest thing is to just keep a level head and keep moving forward.

Good luck. If you need anything else as far as the Construction exam goes, feel free to DM me. I'm no expert by any stretch of the word but I'll try to help as best I can.
 

civilrobot

Melanated and vaccinated
Joined
Jun 1, 2017
Messages
1,296
Reaction score
588
Location
Bo Brooks
@NJHHEngineer sound advice.

@BuilderGirl The nerves thing is so true and can make or break your experience. It's so important to get a handle on the nerves and think straight. The nerves killed my mental capacity for the first hour. I lost an hour because of anxiety.

I have a utility wagon and two foldable milk crates. I could possible fit all of my books in one milk crate, but spreading them out is just easier on my body. I'm using a rolling wagon because when you get there, you will be standing in line outside of the testing venue. I didn't want to struggle with holding a crate or box for 30 minutes? 1 hour? However long it takes for them to open the doors. They told us to get there at 7:15. I don't think the doors opened until maybe 7:45. Then, what if it rains? How will you protect you and your stuff from the rain? So that's why I chose to go with a cart. Also, when the exam was over, I had plenty of room to just toss the books back in the cart so I could just get out of that room. I sorted through my things and packed them out when I got back to the car.

Here's some advice that's been tested. Breadth - the problem is not super complicated. If you find yourself doing a ton of work, you're probably going in the wrong direction. For instance, I was trying out an EET problem. A sling problem. I was trying to set up a free body diagram, and solve for two unknowns by setting up a system of equations, and then picking an arbitrary point of moment... then I realized that it was literally a two step problem. By the time I realized this, I was on page 2 of solving this complicated set up that was obviously so wrong. lol I felt like I was creating a new theorem. lol

I have so many other examples like this. Sometimes you have to step back, mentally, take a breath and read it again. Walk through the problem in your head and "say" to yourself what they are asking for. I will admit I didn't have a great handle on a few topics during my last attempt. This will be my second attempt but I am trying something new. Instead of frantically flipping through my notes looking for a problem that has the same words (don't do this), I imagine the scenario that is being described. When I relax and do this, I solve problems well.

I hope this works next week. lol
 

NJHHEngineer

Got a bridge to sell ya.
Joined
Oct 26, 2020
Messages
224
Reaction score
209
Location
NJ
Can't forget to take your pre-game dump! I got up at the house a bit early just to have a cup of coffee and take care of all bodily functions. You don't want any bathroom emergencies mid AM exam!
THIS...the dump wasn't the issue. But about a half hour in to the AM session I got the "gotta pee" feeling. But I told myself I'm not sacrificing any time. So i held it. Finished the AM in about 2 hours checked it, rechecked it. So it's been 2.5 hours and I've been holding it for 2 hours. Doing the pee pee dance in my chair I decided I was done and I gotta go! Raised my hand to tell the proctor I was complete. As part of the protocol and I believe COVID regulations, they were only allowing 1 person out of the room at a time. I was told that even though i was complete, I needed to wait until the other examinee returned. I look over, and the other proctor is standing at the desk of my coworker, who is nowhere to be seen. Another half hour goes by and my eyes are turning yellow. I looked to the proctor and said, did he say he was done and left? or was he using the restroom because you might want to check on him. And by the way, if you really want, I can grab my phone and call him for you. He said "i think he went to restroom" and my response was - "well go check on him and I'm leaving because I really have to go" - The proctor escorted me to, AND into the restroom. Boy was he in a panic when I was the only one in there...So, I called my buddy and he says "Dude, I finished like 45 minutes ago and am sitting in my car eating lunch"...

Also, to echo @civilrobot, the breadth questions should only require a line MAYBE 2 of calculations (not 100% certainty), but if you find yourself several lines, derivations, advanced multivariable calculus, or trying to prove string theory, you're probably on the wrong track. And in addition, I thought it was a good idea to bring a binder full of solved problems. I categorized, color coded, indexed, etc...the binder never left my bag. You don't have time to flip through and find the exact/similar questions. Might be good to have as a Hail Mary if time permits, but I wouldn't bank on that being a viable resource in the exam.
 

brude

New member
Joined
Mar 26, 2018
Messages
4
Reaction score
4
Location
Houston, TX
And in addition, I thought it was a good idea to bring a binder full of solved problems. I categorized, color coded, indexed, etc...the binder never left my bag.
Same. I did this the first time around. Failed. This is not the way to take the exam.

Also that bathroom story is hilarious. You'd think the proctors would be a little better than that.
 

BuilderGirl

Member
Joined
Oct 2, 2020
Messages
14
Reaction score
7
Same. I did this the first time around. Failed. This is not the way to take the exam.

Also that bathroom story is hilarious. You'd think the proctors would be a little better than that.
No kidding. Scares me to death they didn't know someone was finished with the exam!!
 

BuilderGirl

Member
Joined
Oct 2, 2020
Messages
14
Reaction score
7
Apologizing in advance for the longwinded response.

I took the Construction exam in October. I was able to fit all of my references into a medium sized rolling suitcase, and I was content. But, I saw a wide array of transportation methods from wagons, to hand trucks and I'm quite surprised a few people didn't rent forklifts/box trucks...Obviously, everybody is different but I couldn't see needing THAT much material. Albeit, I took it the same day as the Structural folks and I know there is a TON of codes and references required, so that may have been the people I saw trailer loads of books.

The biggest thing is, what do you think will work for you? Due to the size of my binders & other books it was just more logical to me to have something on wheels. A coworker of mine took the exam on the same day and only brought 1 Banker's Box in. We both passed. So it's not necessarily about the quantity of references so much as the quality of references. When I was preparing, I literally pulled out every college textbook I ever owned, pulled references from our work "library", downloaded all kinds of crap...and never touched them in my preparation. Those books made my cut list about 3 weeks or so out. I then proceeded to take the EET simulated exam and the NCEES exams with what I thought my "game day" arsenal was going to be. Did "well" on both exams and said ok all these references are must haves on the test. I took the day before the exam off from work for a mental health and prep day. Packed my suitcase, and tried to separate my AM from PM references and made sure my calculators were in there with a straight edge and anything else recommended/allowed in the exam room. Took one last look at the "cut" references and decided to bring one or two as an insurance policy. I took a ride up to the exam site to scope out the parking situation. It was only a quick 40 minute ride for me, so I realize that may not be feasible in most people's cases.

On exam day, I got up there EARLY (I was third in line to enter the room, with my coworker just ahead of me). Maybe an hour and half or so to give myself time to find the actual exam location, bathroom, have a coffee, say a few prayers, cry a little, etc...and at that point your anxiety is running at an all time high but, no looking back at that point. Take some deep breaths, focus and just take the test. It's only a test. Pass or Fail you're no better or worse of an engineer than before you started. Buckle up and kick some ass. Don't let the exam intimidate you or you're already at a disadvantage. Here's my tips for during the exam:

1. READ each question carefully and do not rush. Do not just bomb into solving the problem. Make sure you understand what the question is asking for. One word/caveat in the problem can completely influence the correct answer.

2. KNOW what subjects you are strong in (you should have figured this out in your prep). Get all of those questions correct (or try to). Try to find a few of these from the start to get your confidence up. Don't get caught up in a problem that isn't one of your strengths and let that set the tone for the 4 hours you're there in each session. Make sure you get all of the "low hanging fruit" look up type questions.

3. KNOW what subjects you are weak in. Don't waste time in the beginning trying to figure these out. Score the points while you have the time and come back later. If you don't know what to do immediately after reading the question, move on. Come back later. There were some problems that were "easy" but in the out of the gate adrenaline rush I just wasn't thinking straight. Come back once the nerves have settled.

4. FOCUS. You got this.

5. If all else fails, GUESS. You can't lose points. You only gain them on this exam. You might be able to snag a few points this way.

I have always been a very quick test taker throughout all my schooling. I set a goal to finish the AM in no more than 2.5 hours to give myself the maximum amount of time to regroup for the afternoon. I did succeed in that. While I realize that is not the reality for everyone, but there should be plenty of time to complete the exam and check your answers. Set yourself a realistic goal and work for it. Again, this might add some unnecessary stress if that's nto your style, but as long as you know your references, and the exam material, you will have plenty of time. Four hours is a lot of time, and it does certainly go by quickly. Biggest thing is to just keep a level head and keep moving forward.

Good luck. If you need anything else as far as the Construction exam goes, feel free to DM me. I'm no expert by any stretch of the word but I'll try to help as best I can.
SOOOOO thankful for all of your thoughts! My exam is 90 mins from home, doing the drive the day before. I will DM you some questions...
 

BuilderGirl

Member
Joined
Oct 2, 2020
Messages
14
Reaction score
7
THIS...the dump wasn't the issue. But about a half hour in to the AM session I got the "gotta pee" feeling. But I told myself I'm not sacrificing any time. So i held it. Finished the AM in about 2 hours checked it, rechecked it. So it's been 2.5 hours and I've been holding it for 2 hours. Doing the pee pee dance in my chair I decided I was done and I gotta go! Raised my hand to tell the proctor I was complete. As part of the protocol and I believe COVID regulations, they were only allowing 1 person out of the room at a time. I was told that even though i was complete, I needed to wait until the other examinee returned. I look over, and the other proctor is standing at the desk of my coworker, who is nowhere to be seen. Another half hour goes by and my eyes are turning yellow. I looked to the proctor and said, did he say he was done and left? or was he using the restroom because you might want to check on him. And by the way, if you really want, I can grab my phone and call him for you. He said "i think he went to restroom" and my response was - "well go check on him and I'm leaving because I really have to go" - The proctor escorted me to, AND into the restroom. Boy was he in a panic when I was the only one in there...So, I called my buddy and he says "Dude, I finished like 45 minutes ago and am sitting in my car eating lunch"...

Also, to echo @civilrobot, the breadth questions should only require a line MAYBE 2 of calculations (not 100% certainty), but if you find yourself several lines, derivations, advanced multivariable calculus, or trying to prove string theory, you're probably on the wrong track. And in addition, I thought it was a good idea to bring a binder full of solved problems. I categorized, color coded, indexed, etc...the binder never left my bag. You don't have time to flip through and find the exact/similar questions. Might be good to have as a Hail Mary if time permits, but I wouldn't bank on that being a viable resource in the exam.
Which practice tests were most representative of exam (breadth and depth) in your opinion?
 

civilrobot

Melanated and vaccinated
Joined
Jun 1, 2017
Messages
1,296
Reaction score
588
Location
Bo Brooks
Same. I did this the first time around. Failed. This is not the way to take the exam.

Also that bathroom story is hilarious. You'd think the proctors would be a little better than that.
you've been in the room. they aren't the sharpest. i had a lot of retiree-aged proctors. and it seemed like they JUST finished the training. they had to second guess everything and ask someone else constantly.

unfortunately i had to go to the bathroom TWICE in the AM session. i was so mad at my bladder.
 

NJHHEngineer

Got a bridge to sell ya.
Joined
Oct 26, 2020
Messages
224
Reaction score
209
Location
NJ
Which practice tests were most representative of exam (breadth and depth) in your opinion?
NCEES exam without a doubt. I felt it the difficulty level of it say, moderate. By no means simple but not exactly a bloodbath. Say, simpler than i expected it to be overall. The questions you see there are phrased, and presented very similar to the exam itself.

I also took the EET review course and did their practice exams both AM & PM a few times. Far more difficult than the exam IMHO, but very good practice and very similar to the exam in presentation.

EDIT: If you really want to "challenge" yourself, take whatever exam you want, like its the real deal. 4 hours AM take a break for an hour and take the PM in 4 hours. Simulate exam day. That's what I did first go around. After that, i just worked the same problems here and there when i had the time, under less stress.
 

civilrobot

Melanated and vaccinated
Joined
Jun 1, 2017
Messages
1,296
Reaction score
588
Location
Bo Brooks
I think the clock is the hidden topic that you're up against. I need to learn how to manage the clock better and not split my mental focus over freaking out about how much time I have left with solving the remaining problems. It's a challenge.
 

NJHHEngineer

Got a bridge to sell ya.
Joined
Oct 26, 2020
Messages
224
Reaction score
209
Location
NJ
I think the clock is the hidden topic that you're up against. I need to learn how to manage the clock better and not split my mental focus over freaking out about how much time I have left with solving the remaining problems. It's a challenge.
Time is your second biggest opponent besides yourself. That's why they stress knowing your references. If you can quickly find the equations, tables, general info etc. You'll bank boatloads of time. Remember, 6 minutes per problem. If you spend 4 of it searching for the right equation, you're screwed. There's bound to be a few "freebie" or simple look up type questions. If you know where to flip, you can finish those in say under a minute. Now you've got 5 minutes on your side.

That's why I said try to blow out a bunch of problems you know well early in the exam. Bank that time for some of the questions that might require more of your brain power. Start with stuff you know. Get your mind right from the start. If you break mentally early in the exam, you're in for a long day.

I see people recommending bringing a clock or time keeping device (approved by NCEES of course). I personally didn't for the exact reason you described above. You spend more time watching the time and not putting all your focus into the task at hand. Come to think of it, I'm not so sure there was even a clock in our exam room. If you truly put the time in to study and learn the material and stay focused and confident in your abilities, you'll be able to finish in the alotted time, if not sooner.

I was a nervous wreck on the ride up in the morning and standing in line waiting to enter. Once you're there, there's no going back. Once they sat us, and i got settled, I sat with my eyes closed and took deep breathes and focused on settling my mind and telling myself I was going to make this exam my bitch. Don't know if I succeeded in that last part, but I passed and that's the only goal. You don't need to ace it. You just need to pass.
 

C. Ryan

Member
Joined
Dec 9, 2019
Messages
12
Reaction score
2
Two biggest pieces of advice i received prior to the exam that helped a ton:

tab, Tab, TAB - i went through and used small post it notes to tab anything i thought might be on the exam, along with a 1-2word descriptor on the tab. Then when i took the practice exams, anything i had to look up, got tabbed. I ended up with 30-40 tabs on my primary study book, and 5-10 tabs minimum on each reference i took into the exam.

check every problem BEFORE starting any problem - i was told to use a 5pt scale and rate every problem on the long form problems. 1 being you could do it in your sleep, 5 being you might as well guess right now. then go back and focus on all the 1's (know it cold), then the 2's (recognize it, and know which tab has the help you need), then 3's (i think i can do this, but i'm not sure), etc. this helps avoid wasting too much time on a problem that you dont really know. its better to skip a hard problem and come back, then burn too much time trying to solve it.
 

BuilderGirl

Member
Joined
Oct 2, 2020
Messages
14
Reaction score
7
Two biggest pieces of advice i received prior to the exam that helped a ton:

tab, Tab, TAB - i went through and used small post it notes to tab anything i thought might be on the exam, along with a 1-2word descriptor on the tab. Then when i took the practice exams, anything i had to look up, got tabbed. I ended up with 30-40 tabs on my primary study book, and 5-10 tabs minimum on each reference i took into the exam.

check every problem BEFORE starting any problem - i was told to use a 5pt scale and rate every problem on the long form problems. 1 being you could do it in your sleep, 5 being you might as well guess right now. then go back and focus on all the 1's (know it cold), then the 2's (recognize it, and know which tab has the help you need), then 3's (i think i can do this, but i'm not sure), etc. this helps avoid wasting too much time on a problem that you dont really know. its better to skip a hard problem and come back, then burn too much time trying to solve it.
Thank you!! Will you share which were your primary references? something you made yourself? or CERM or another published book?
 

C. Ryan

Member
Joined
Dec 9, 2019
Messages
12
Reaction score
2
So my primary reference was this massive blue book by Professional Publications, Inc (PPI) called "Civil Engineering Reference Manual for the PE Exam", along with a practice problems book and a test book. I also took the books I used in college (yeah i am one of those putzes that kept all their engineering books). I used the blue book a ton, and i still use it occasionally in practice today.
 

BuilderGirl

Member
Joined
Oct 2, 2020
Messages
14
Reaction score
7
So my primary reference was this massive blue book by Professional Publications, Inc (PPI) called "Civil Engineering Reference Manual for the PE Exam", along with a practice problems book and a test book. I also took the books I used in college (yeah i am one of those putzes that kept all their engineering books). I used the blue book a ton, and i still use it occasionally in practice today.
ahhh. Beloved CERM. Thank you for the input. :)
 

KevinChez

New member
Joined
Jan 25, 2021
Messages
3
Reaction score
2
I didn’t drink any coffee cause I didn’t want to get gitters or use bathroom mid morning.
So I ate chocolate for the caffeine and I didn’t want to get a headache. Worked for me
 
Joined
Sep 15, 2020
Messages
24
Reaction score
35
@BuilderGirl - Like basically everyone in here has said, tab your CERM and codes as well and organized as you can. You want to use your index as little as possible.

I for one took the School of PE prep course and had all of their lecture slides and example problems printed and worked out in their own binders (Breadth in one, Depth in another). I also had these notes and problems tabbed and I'd say I used them as much as, if not more than, my CERM.

You need to trust that your own preparation was sufficient. Helps with the nerves. You've probably never taken an exam this physically and mentally taxing. Also know that regardless of how many hours you put in, there will be problems and material that you've never seen. That's normal and to be expected. You will almost certainly need to learn new material on the fly during the test, but don't get hung up on a problem if you run into this. Just do whatever you an to stick to a speed of 6 minutes/problem or better. It's better to guess on one than waste too much time getting it right and having to guess on 4 at the end.
 

Latest posts

Top