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Deciphering diagnostic report, revised study plan - ME MDM CBT Oct 2020

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Introduction and Main Question

Hi all, this forum has been a tremendously helpful one during my PE exam prep. As you may be able to tell from my title, I recently failed my PE exam, first attempt. I was not expecting this but was prepared for it. Alas, I will carry on. I wondered if anyone could help me decipher my diagnostic report? It seems to have much less information than I was hoping for compared to others who have shared. The report says it is not possible to determine the # of questions I answered correctly, but only have this infographic below.

How did I prepare?

I used Dr. Tom's Classroom (DTC) as my sole preparation resource. Per his guidance, we are not to deviate from the course materials. I wavered from this approach a few times but stayed true. As I left the exam I felt I should have at least exposed myself to some other resources along the way. My roll of the dice was definitely against what I felt comfortable with. I feel I needed more practice exams and problems closer to the real exam difficulty. The real exam was much more geared toward qualitive questions than I expected. 

I did his 20-week course which includes review of the NCEES practice exam which I found to be closest to the real exam in terms of difficulty. I reworked all of his problems at least twice and took the practice exam twice as well. By this point I was scoring 80% + in all areas but keep in mind mastering (100%) his course is designed to earn you a pass. All in, I kept my schedule strong which put me at 225 hours of studying. 

My plan to push forward. Suggestions?

I will rework DTC materials in areas where I feel least confident, considering bias from the report below. I have also heard great things about EngProGuides (includes Shigley's & more). I think between EPG and DTC review, I will be geared to pass this exam with another 100+ hours of studying under my belt. Nice thing about CBT is I got my results in less than a week... so I have hardly lost any momentum or knowledge retained. I said it the first time, but I do NOT want to take this more than twice. My wife, family, and various life challenges right now can't afford it. Being honest, I do not have the time to study for a 100% on the exam, but I now know I need to shoot for 80 or 90 vs 70. :) Suggestions or changes? 


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Hi @baublitz and welcome to EB. I'm a Mech:MDM PE; I took and passed the exam in Oct 2018 which was still on paper at the time. I also used Dr. Tom's Classroom as my only source of preparation. Here are my thoughts.

First let me cut right to the chase. Your diagnostic doesn't look great. I'm sorry for being so blunt, but I say it genuinely to be helpful. The dashed centerline represents how the average engineer who passed did on that section. Your performance on the exam was about average in "Principles: Engineering Science and Mechanics" and "Applications: Joints and Fasteners", but below average in the all the other areas. It would be more encouraging if there were 2 or 3 above average areas. But don't give up. This doesn't mean you can't pass, it just means you have work to do. I'm very happy that you're already planning your preparation for your next attempt.

It would be helpful to have a little background on your knowledge and work experience. Are you at the typical 4-year mark? Older? Younger? What type of work you do? Etc. I only ask because it can be useful for figuring out a study plan. Generally people closer to school have more broad knowledge but not much expertise. More experienced engineers often develop a high level of expertise in a particular area, but begin to forget everything else. Those differences can point to different approaches in preparation. 

But looking at your diagnostic, I think it would be most valuable for you to continuing studying all the areas of the exam. If you're willing to put in the work I'm confident you can do it!

Regarding Dr. Tom's MDM course. I also took that course and didn't do anything else outside of the course... not because I was opposed to doing outside work, but I just didn't have time. I loved his course and thought it prepared me well. I thought the exam questions were slightly more complex than Dr. Tom's questions, but I had the knowledge to figure them out. Sorry it didn't work out for you. I think it's a good idea to supplement with other sources of preparation. Also I wonder how well Dr. Tom's course has adapted to the computer based test. A huge component of his course pre-CBT was building reference binders of example problems, formulas, and theory. I thought this was great, and I still reference those binders today. But with CBT, you can't bring your own references. I have no idea how the course has adapted, but that seems like a difficult adjustment. I actually did a full "review" of Dr. Tom's course pre-CBT on this forum, if you're interested in my detailed thoughts, but I'm not sure how useful that is to you.

I can't think of anything else to say right now. I hope this is helpful. Feel free to ask any questions that you have. And good luck!

Edited by jean15paul_PE
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Hello to you as well, @jean15paul_PE. Congrats on your PE! Thank you for finding time to dig through obscure forum posts and reply to me.

Hey don't feel bad, I'm looking to be humbled and push forward, not defend a failed test. :) I appreciate the bluntness. I sure wish I could calculate my score from this but even then what would that help? I think you are spot on that I basically need to hit everything again, I just didn't want to accept it at first. I have only been out of school 5 years so I admittedly should've done better. I work as a Design Engineer and honestly much of what the course / test covers isn't a common day to day thing for my role. If anything I would be more inclined toward joints, fasteners and sheet metal design with lots of CAD. 

I am willing to put in the work. I've put in many hours already but clearly I need to boost beyond that, and that's okay. As you said, I don't have the time to waste on extraneous studying. I currently have 125 hours budgeted before retaking in mid-late January. Do you see any issues or suggestions with my study plan? To recap:

1) go through DTC course again (working problems, exams, etc) in 5-6 weeks. I will move faster on topics I feel strong in. Meaning I will "skim" a video on said topic, and not work the AQ problems since they are easier.

2) Read through the Eng Pro Guides study guide / textbook then take his exam. 4-5 weeks.

3) Use Shigley's to supplement both of these by reading the relevant sections where I feel weak and work the problems. Ordered that on Ebay just now.

As an aside, a friend took it with me (studied, same course, etc) and passed with less time devoted to it. It does little good to compare, but it does show me something I learned in college, that I need to work harder than the person beside me for the same thing. 

To answer regarding DTC's course updated for CBT, I think there is a fair bit of work left to make it perfect. There are several great equations, reductions, and highly valuable aspects of his materials that would've been lifeblood on the exam. The problem is, one can't hope to remember all of those! What I'm saying is I think he should continue working toward adapting his method TO the reference handbook which is all we have. To his credit, my friend passed, and DTC did revamp almost every video to adhere to the new test style. I still think it was worth it and I have 5 months left of access.

Thanks again, truly. Your support matters.

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I used DTC classroom to prepare my MDM test and I passed at my first attempt.

DTC is a well structured class which helped me refresh my memory on most materials. But in my opinion the DTC quiz and challenge problems are easier than the NCEES practice exam. After 20 weeks of study, I decided to find more practice problems. This was the first phase of my review.

I used about 1 month to review all DTC material (about 4 chapters a week) and reworked some quiz and challenge problems. I also reworked the NCEES exam. This was the 2nd phase. 

The 3rd and last phase was all about working on more problems. I used Eng Pro Guide practice exam, which is easier than the actual test and NCEES practice exam. But it helped me with the supportive knowledge section, which was not covered by DTC classroom. Then I purchased Klein and Hart's PE study exam. I strongly recommend this book, it is harder than the actual test but it helped me get a much better and deeper understanding on some material (stress concentration factor, fasteners, failure theory, etc.). I also used Kennedy's Mechanical PE Exam Review, the sample problems in the machine design section are also challenging and helpful.

I tried Shigley's book, it is an awesome textbook but the problems are too lengthy and complicated and cannot be solved within 6 minutes. In other words, not close enough to the actual test.

Last but not least, I carefully read though the Reference Handbook (~200 pages for MDM test) to make sure I can find the equation quickly during the test. I prepared a word doc that listed the keyword of each section.

Sorry about the lengthy post, hopefully it helps you pass the test.

Good luck!

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@baublitz That seems like a good plan. I don't have any specific sources to tell you to study. @naonao seemed to have some good suggestions. Also stay on EB and see what other people are doing. So much has changed. The switch to CBT doesn't seem like that big of a deal to me. But the switch to not bringing you own reference is a HUGE change. More recent CBT test takers would have more relevant advice.

One thing I'll add. You said...

On 10/22/2020 at 7:04 AM, baublitz said:

I have only been out of school 5 years so I admittedly should've done better.

I took the exam with  14 years of experience having done multiple jobs at 3 different companies. I don't think I could have passed without all that experience. I've learned more stuff and become a better engineer with every experience. I just say that to point out that everyone is different. There's not a "should have." You just do what works for you.

You got this!

Edited by jean15paul_PE
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@naonao @jean15paul_PE Thank you so much.

Your additional suggested resources are ones I will pick up for this go round, along with my DTC recap. I think I definitely would have benefited from more practice exams and problems. Thank you both for the additional support, resources, suggestions and encouragement. I no longer feel alone in this. 

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