Sharing Computer Based Exam (CBT) experience - PE Mechanical Engineering

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Overall, I must say that folks at NCEES are masters at framing the questions.
Tell me about it!

I took the TFS exam last Friday and received my results today, and I'm thrilled to have passed.

Having been out of school for several years, I did not think until late last year that I would one day take the P.E. exam, but I did and I am glad I did.

I started my preparation in late January after signing up with Dr. Tom's Classroom, which was highly recommended by 3 of my coworkers. Dr. Tom's course also requires working problems from the NCEES Practice Exam. I did not use any other material to prepare, but after the exam, I felt that the exam problems were at a much higher level than the DTC coursework and the NCEES practice problems. Nevertheless, as it turns out now, what I did was sufficient.

I spent a total of about 23 weeks preparing, which included 18 weeks to get through the 20 week planned coursework, a couple of weeks of intermittent reviews and 3 weeks of final review. Each week included about 25 hours of preparation (I was literally starting from zero theoretical knowledge). I thought the DTC coursework was very well structured for someone who has no clue where to begin and for anyone considering taking a course, I would highly recommend DTC.

The exam itself was super tedious. Wearing a mask was mandatory, but wasn't necessarily strictly monitored. My morning session had 37 questions for which I decided to give myself 3 hours and 40 minutes. I was able to get through most of the questions in less than 3 hours and spend the next 40 minutes trying to work problems that I had skipped or flagged. I took my break at that point and returned after a 40 minute break only to lose 6-8 minutes trying to get a pen that would write on the erasable booklet. The questions in the afternoon needed more time to work and some of them kept me spinning in circles with the way they were framed. There were some that looked very similar to the NCEES Practice exam, just twice as twisted. In my opinion, the difficulty level for the morning 37 questions was medium and the afternoon felt more like medium/hard with a couple of easy questions here and there. I had a fair amount of "Alternate Item Type" questions which I hated and most of those, you either knew based on your field of work or you didn't. To my surprise however, despite several questions seeming like curve balls, I managed to stay calm throughout the whole exam and I think this definitely played to my favor. Towards the end of my 8 hours, I still had several flagged questions and didn't manage to review them all. So, I walked out a bit low on confidence but high on hope and needless to say, hope prevailed.

Like others have mentioned, it is important to know how to navigate the Reference Handbook and the number you unit conversions throughout the exam will indeed wear you out. Also, be prepared for some questions that are unrelated to the Reference Handbook and I'd say Dr. Tom did a good job on some of these, which certainly helped me.

I too apologize for the lengthy post, but I hope some of you find it helpful and good luck to future test takers!

 
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@santy and @martiansoldier Congrats to both of you to pass the PE exam. Both of you sounds like worked very hard and prepared for the exam really well and it finally paid off. Well done!!!

I guess, couple of quick questions,

1. In case if you completely fill out the booklet in the first session, can you get another one and keep the previous one without returning before the second session?

2. Secondly, how searchable the provided reference manual on the exam. I am used to pdf searching features and get to where I need to be, however I am not sure how easy to use the reference manual during the exam and how to use it quickly? Any feedback in this would be greatly appreciated. 

 
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@santy and @martiansoldier Congrats to both of you to pass the PE exam. Both of you sounds like worked very hard and prepared for the exam really well and it finally paid off. Well done!!!

I guess, couple of quick questions,

1. In case if you completely fill out the booklet in the first session, can you get another one and keep the previous one without returning before the second session?

2. Secondly, how searchable the provided reference manual on the exam. I am used to pdf searching features and get to where I need to be, however I am not sure how easy to use the reference manual during the exam and how to use it quickly? Any feedback in this would be greatly appreciated. 
@FA_Mechanical engineer

1. I thought I wrote down a lot of stuff and I was nowhere close to filling out the booklet in the morning session. For the afternoon session, before I started, I requested a 2nd booklet and although I didn't ask, they also let me hold on to my booklet from the morning session which they had asked me to leave on my desk before I took my break. The markers were a bit finicky to write with as they often didn't put any ink on the booklet until you tried a few times.

2. I used Adobe during my exam preparation, but rather than search using "Control + F", I would recommend "Control + Shift + F" on Adobe, which is closer to what you will have in the exam, but not identical. The index and search functions worked just fine during the exam and I didn't have any trouble finding what I was looking for, but I was bummed that they didn't have page numbers. For instance, to get to the SI Steam Tables, I had to manually scroll some 50 pages to get to the page I wanted whereas while preparing, I'd type in page 325 or 330 and get pretty darn close to what I was looking for. Also, scrolling is pretty darn slow and not page by page, which could cost a bit of time.

Also, if you plan to take the break, I'd recommend that you use no more than 35-40 of the allotted 50 minutes because you would lose a few minutes before you leave the Exam Center and you will lose about 5 minutes on your check in when you return. Like someone else mentioned, if there are others waiting in line to check in ahead of you on your return, this could cost you time.

At the exam center I chose, a trip to the restroom would have cost me at least 5 minutes. So plan accordingly and avoid unscheduled breaks if you can.

Stay calm and focused. Apart from my preparation, I truly believe this is what helped me get through. Good luck!

 

DaisyD

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@FA_Mechanical engineer

1. I thought I wrote down a lot of stuff and I was nowhere close to filling out the booklet in the morning session. For the afternoon session, before I started, I requested a 2nd booklet and although I didn't ask, they also let me hold on to my booklet from the morning session which they had asked me to leave on my desk before I took my break. The markers were a bit finicky to write with as they often didn't put any ink on the booklet until you tried a few times.

2. I used Adobe during my exam preparation, but rather than search using "Control + F", I would recommend "Control + Shift + F" on Adobe, which is closer to what you will have in the exam, but not identical. The index and search functions worked just fine during the exam and I didn't have any trouble finding what I was looking for, but I was bummed that they didn't have page numbers. For instance, to get to the SI Steam Tables, I had to manually scroll some 50 pages to get to the page I wanted whereas while preparing, I'd type in page 325 or 330 and get pretty darn close to what I was looking for. Also, scrolling is pretty darn slow and not page by page, which could cost a bit of time.

Also, if you plan to take the break, I'd recommend that you use no more than 35-40 of the allotted 50 minutes because you would lose a few minutes before you leave the Exam Center and you will lose about 5 minutes on your check in when you return. Like someone else mentioned, if there are others waiting in line to check in ahead of you on your return, this could cost you time.

At the exam center I chose, a trip to the restroom would have cost me at least 5 minutes. So plan accordingly and avoid unscheduled breaks if you can.

Stay calm and focused. Apart from my preparation, I truly believe this is what helped me get through. Good luck!
Did you have access to the bookmarks in the pdf—so for instance you could click on the different chapters and then search Through them vs going through the entire document? I remeber being able to do that in the FE

 

Victor1990

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thank you for everyone for your valuable feedbacks 

i took the pe thermal exam on Saturday 

overall difficultly is nominal 

Exam passed  result in 2days 

 
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Did you have access to the bookmarks in the pdf—so for instance you could click on the different chapters and then search Through them vs going through the entire document? I remeber being able to do that in the FE
Yes, you do have access to the bookmarks that will take you directly to each chapter and it worked well for me. However, there is a post in this thread where someone mentioned that the bookmarks didn't work for them.

 

DaisyD

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Alright my turn—first, I appreciate all the feedback from the prior test takers, here’s my two cents on the TFS exam though it is fairly similar to others experience.
 

1. Overall difficulty level? Medium, I felt the AM portion was more difficult with more of what I’d consider minor topics (combustion, mechanics, economics). PM portion was more similar to the practice exam with some curveball questions. I echo the sentiment about conversions—good grief!

2. Question outside the NCEES reference manual? If yes difficulty level: Yes, practical knowledge—not a whole lot but those were essentially educated guesses for me

3. Best practice problem book to be used for CBT based on the difficulty level? I took Dr Toms course and I thought it was great—it’s been redone for the CBT and because his course work includes working problems from the NCEES practice exam I felt very confident in my ability to not only solve problems but understand the topics. His course is setup for 20 weeks with an additional 3 week final review period, I pushed myself to go through the course as fast as possible , from the start of the class to the exam date i spent 13 weeks studying.  There are topics that aren’t covered in depth in his course which is where I felt I had weak points that were exposed in the exam but like he says you don’t need to make a 100, you just need to pass.

4. When did you get the test results? 8 days, I passed 

Some general comments—I had access to the book mark tab and to a search tab, I had no issues with searching through the reference manual but of course knowing key words is essential—you don’t need to memorize anything though it’s good to know general locations for topics Incase you don’t know what keywords to use.  I had 37 questions in the morning and 43 in the afternoon and split my 8 hours accordingly.  It’s important to know when to “let go” of problems or skip them to get through all the questions—I felt like I was running out of time for the first portion because I couldn’t move on from some of the problems, this was not the case for the afternoon though I did end up using all the exam time.  I felt pretty good about the PM portion but worried about how I did for the AM portion, though I guess it worked out in the end.  I hope this helps future test takers, good luck everyone!

 

Saurabh9978

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Thank you all for your feedback  and support , I passed MDM exam recently. 

1. Overall difficulty level?

very easy for most of the problems , it did not take more than 5.5 hours to finish the exam.  

2. Question outside the NCEES reference manual? If yes difficulty level.

not much with basic designing and material background experience. exam was well formed considering the use of reference manual 

3. Best practice problem book to be used for CBT based on the difficulty level? For eg. PPI Mechanical engineering practice problem, 14th edition, NCEES practice exam etc.

MERM reference book for the theory and basic practice problems (chapter 41 to 60 and chapter 22)  and shigley's mechanical engineering design for practice problems.

I did enroll in ppi online practice problems for the safer side , not worth it 

4. When did you get the test results?

it took 6 working days. 

 
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TooOldForThis

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Passed the MDM recently.  This forum was helpful to feel less "alone" during the weeks leading up to the exam, so I'll give back my part.

1. Overall difficulty level?

Similar in difficulty to the NCEES practice exam.

2. Question outside the NCEES reference manual? If yes difficulty level.

Sorry, this question is too specific about exam questions, not going to perjure myself.

3. Best practice problem book to be used for CBT based on the difficulty level? For eg. PPI Mechanical engineering practice problem, 14th edition, NCEES practice exam etc.

The NCEES practice is representative.  Pro Engineering Guides practice exam is also pretty good, and affordable.  Even though it's outdated, I really liked the little blue Kennedy book, it's got some good focused refresher material without being overwhelming like the huge MERM.

4. When did you get the test results?

6 weekdays.

 

Dothracki PE

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Some general comments—I had access to the book mark tab and to a search tab, I had no issues with searching through the reference manual but of course knowing key words is essential—you don’t need to memorize anything though it’s good to know general locations for topics Incase you don’t know what keywords to use.  I had 37 questions in the morning and 43 in the afternoon and split my 8 hours accordingly.  It’s important to know when to “let go” of problems or skip them to get through all the questions—I felt like I was running out of time for the first portion because I couldn’t move on from some of the problems, this was not the case for the afternoon though I did end up using all the exam time.  I felt pretty good about the PM portion but worried about how I did for the AM portion, though I guess it worked out in the end.  I hope this helps future test takers, good luck everyone!
Just to clarify on this, were you able to skip a question and come back to it? I didn't quite see that explicitly stated in the examinee guide.

 

DaisyD

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Just to clarify on this, were you able to skip a question and come back to it? I didn't quite see that explicitly stated in the examinee guide.
Yes you can skip questions, my suggestion is you go through the exam and answer the questions you know and guess  on questions you don’t know-let’s say “a” if you think you can come back and work it out “b” if you might be able to work it out and “c” if you have no clue.  You would hit the “flag” button on these question screens.

Once you’re done with the exam (morning or afternoon portion) the end screen allows you to go back to your flagged questions.  You can then work through them in order of difficulty you assigned: a’s first, b’s second and forget about the ones you guessed c on.  This method will ensure you never leave any question blank Incase you run out of time. 

 

BebeshKing PE

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Regarding any CBT PE exam, When you are asked about a Code problem? Are they going to give you the access of the whole code book in PDF? or are they just going to give the limited pages of the code book specifically to solve that code problem?

 
D

Darkthrone1986

I took my thermal fluid exam last week and i just got the result and i passed. 
couple of things: 
1. there were around 12 questions regarding psychrometric and HVAC topics. I did not expect that many questions in this field since NCEES practice exam book has less questions in this filed. 
2. expect to see questions which are not covered in Lindeburg's book. for example, there were three questions about control valves which need your engineering judgment in order to solve them. Also don't forget to read the last chapter of manual for temperature control devices. 
3. Heat transfer question format was new mostly (much harder than what i've seen in NCEES practice exam book) and i did not see this format anywhere else (not even in textbook). 

1. Overall difficulty level?
easy-medium

2. Question outside the NCEES reference manual? If yes difficulty level.
this question is very general. I would say no but everybody knows that there are some questions about codes and standards which needs you engineering judgement.

3. Best practice problem book to be used for CBT based on the difficulty level? For eg. PPI Mechanical engineering practice problem, 14th edition, NCEES practice exam etc.
Lindeburg's manual, NCEES practice exam, Mechanical Pro exam 

4. When did you get the test results?
1 week after i took the exam (5 business day)

 
F

FA_Mechanical engineer

Does anyone know if the test taker can take more than 4 hrs for the morning session?

Also for the afternoon session, does the computer terminate the test and submit it automatically once the test time is complete?

 

naonao

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I took and passed the MDM exam at the first attempt. 

1. Overall difficulty level? Medium 

2. Question outside the NCEES reference manual? If yes difficulty level. Yes, qualitative question either you know or don't know.

3. Best practice problem book to be used for CBT based on the difficulty level? For eg. PPI Mechanical engineering practice problem, 14th edition, NCEES practice exam etc.

  • NCEES practice exam (The most important reference, I did the entire book 4 times)
  • I used Dr. Tom's Classroom for my review, the 20 weeks class is well structured. Some quiz and challenge problems are good.
  • Klein and Hart's Practice Exam
  • Engineering Pro Guide's Exam
4. When did you get the test results? 3 business days

 

ashu04

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Hello All,

I took the MDM CBT format last week and got the result today as passed. I would like to thank all the members here. This was my second attempt first being the October 2019. I initially planned to give exam in April but due to industry downturn and all the uncertainties surrounding Job decided to give whenever market improves. I started studying in august for my exam in late September. I had good hold on mechanical concepts so decided tp practice them a lot and focus on weak topics like supportive knowledge and basic engineering practices. It took me one month to review and brush up concepts and one month for practice any question I could find in various materials. I found two questions in the exam with some data mix-match or missing and reported it to NCEES. The table of content did not work for me as it when I was practicing through pdf. The search bar worked perfectly though. The main difference I found between paper and CBT is that there are many questions where you will find need to cross reference just to be sure and you know where that section is located but you wont have MERM or any other reference guide forcing you to have thorough understanding of the concept. My Pearson center required everyone to have mask throughout the exam. 

1. Overall difficulty level? Medium, It took me whole four hours to finish the morning section (38 questions)afternoon was core mechanical and it was breeze with and two hours to finish and I used rest of the time to recheck results and unit conversation.

2. Question outside the NCEES reference manual? If yes difficulty level. There were many questions but if you have deep understanding you would get them and then there are question you either know or you do not.

3. Best practice problem book to be used for CBT based on the difficulty level? For eg. PPI Mechanical engineering practice problem, 14th edition, NCEES practice exam etc. I used Merm and PPI learning hub. I also went through Engineering pro guides and found it to be very useful and exam oriented. EPG had numerous concepts which I think I would have missed if I only went through Merm.

4. When did you get the test results? 6 business days.

Please, continue to share the overall experience as you take the exam that would be greatly appreciated.

 

Mahil

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Hi All,

Does anybody know if there is a a full "Page Down" and "Page Up" function on the exam version of CBT PE handbook (versus scrolling down and up through portion of pages)?

Thank you in advance for yourfeedback

 

ashu04

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Hi All,

Does anybody know if there is a a full "Page Down" and "Page Up" function on the exam version of CBT PE handbook (versus scrolling down and up through portion of pages)?

Thank you in advance for yourfeedback
As far I can recall it does work but I only used search feature as it is user friendly and highlights( keywords) all at one place. I would suggest going through the NCEES tutorial to get comfortable before starting the exam.

 

Jonnybgood

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Anyone selling Lindeburg's practice problems for TFS please shoot me a message.

Congrats on those with the good news and thanks everyone for the feedback. 

 

megan

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Thanks for all the intel! This thread has been so helpful to read through as I gear up for my own CBT exam!

I have a couple other questions that I'm hoping someone could answer:
- Is there a clock provided on the computer or somewhere in the room? I see that PearsonVue doesn't allow watches so I wanted to double-check.
- Are you allowed to bring in water/snacks? 

 

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