Taking the FE exam

IMPORTANCE OF LICENSURE

Licensure protects the public by enforcing standards that restrict practice to qualified individuals.

Licensure is critical for civil engineers.

  • Civil engineers work on infrastructure and mistakes can be deadly and expensive; as a result, most permitting agencies and insurance companies require the engineers who approve designs to be licensed.
  • Many government agencies and firms will dismiss civil engineers who do not pass their first licensing exam by their second year of employment (e.g., DOT).
  • Being licensed also has a cache that can help you advance in your career – in a way that is similar to having an advanced degree.

At CCNY, one of the required courses for CE students is CE 40100 Preparations for the FE exam. While licensure in itself is important, you should also consider beginning the process of getting licensed NOW because if you self-study for and pass the FE exam on your own, you are not required to take CE 40100 in order to graduate.

 

HOW TO BECOME LICENSED

In order to become licensed, you must meet the education and experience qualifications defined by the State of NY and pass two licensing exams.

Because you will be graduating from an ABET-accredited B.E. program (education requirement), you need much less experience (experience requirement) in order to sit for both exams (exam requirement). The two exams are:

  • Fundamentals of engineering (FE) exam - in college when you have 20 or fewer credits remaining including courses in progress
  • Principals and practice of engineering (PE) exam - after only 4 years of experience

If you were not enrolled in an ABET-accredited B.E. program, you would need 6 years of experience to take the FE exam and 12 years of experience to take the PE exam.


FE CIVIL EXAM FORMAT and TOPICS

The exam is a 6-hour computer-based test that includes:

  • 8-minute tutorial; 
  • Optional 25-minute break halfway through;
  • Closed book with an electronic reference which includes data and equations; and
  • 110 equally-weighted questions
    • All multiple choice
    • 4 choices per question
    • Answers often reflect common mistakes 
    • Some questions may ask for the “closest” answer (the exact answer is not one of the options)
    • No deductions for wrong answers (so you should absolutely guess if you do not know)

NCEES publishes the topics and the number of questions that will be on FE (shown below is the weighting starting in July 1, 2020). You do not need to study every topic to pass the exam, but the further you are in your coursework, the less you will need to teach yourself.

Topic Percent of problems
Mathematics and statistics 8%
Ethics and professional practice  4%
Engineering economics 5%
Statics 8%
Dynamics 4%
Mechanics of materials 7%
Materials 5%
Fluid mechanics 6%
Water resources/Environmental engineering 10%
Structural engineering     10%
Geotechnical engineering     10%
Transportation engineering     9%
Construction engineering     8%
Surveying 6%

Since our program is traditional and comprehensive, there are only a few topics that are not in our core (<30% of the concepts). 

 

DO I NEED TO PREPARE FOR THE EXAM?

Even though you are on the verge of obtaining your degree, you absolutely should prepare for the exam.
This is true regardless of what college you went to, how many of the topics were in your curriculum, or how well you did in your classes.

This table shows the National Pass Rate for the FE Civil exam in 2019 for people who were enrolled in or graduated from an ABET-accredited B.E. C.E. program (both first time-takers and repeat-takers). So, please do not take the exam without preparing for it – it is a waste of your time and money.

Exam National Pass Rate
FE Chemical 73%
FE Civil 65%
FE Electrical and Computer 67%
FE Environmental  72%
FE Industrial and Systems 53%
FE Mechanical 76%
FE Other Disciplines 75%


This exam is not just a test of concepts, but also of efficiency, and it also has some tricks. And so, even if you already know all of the topics, you will still need to:

  • Practice taking a timed standardized multiple-choice exam 
  • Practice the concept of the “closest answer”
  • Learn what data and equations are in the electronic reference
  • Practice searching the electronic reference document 
  • Get comfortable with / pre-program your approved calculator

Go to the end of this page for some resources that will give you a good sense of what to expect including the NCEES examinee testing guide and a series of utube videos about the exam centers, conditions, searching the reference manual, etc.

 


HOW TO PREPARE FOR THE EXAM

  1. FE Reference Handbook: This is the handbook that you will be given (electronically) during your exam. It contains a lot of data and equations. Get a free copy of it from NCEES and learn what is in it and practice searching it.http://ncees.org/exams/study-materials/download-fe-supplied-reference-handbook/
  2. Allowed calculators: Only certain calculators are permitted in the exam. Purchase one before you start studying for the exam so that you can get to know it and are proficient in its use during the actual exam. You can even pre-program it with some of the more complicated equations from the Reference Handbook. NCEES lists the ones that are allowed here: http://ncees.org/exams/calculator-policy/
  3. Study materials: Obtain a review manual and some practice problems. In CE 40100, we ask students to purchase the PPI exam practice materials because we feel that they really match the content of the FE exam and the types of questions on it. But, there are free online resources too. Make sure that the study materials you use are for the CBT (computer based test) since the exam format changed around 2011. For whatever study materials you use, make sure to fully solve the problems, and use your calculator and the FE Reference Handbook. http://ppi2pass.com/shop/fe-eit-exam/fe-civil
  4. Practice tests: It is helpful to take practice tests, mimicking the actual exam conditions, such as time constraints, and using an allowed calculator and the FE Reference Handbook. We use the PPI practice tests in CE 40100 but you can also get free online tests and purchase practice tests directly from NCEES: For whatever tests you use, make sure you mimic the actual exam conditions - impose a time constraint, use your allowed calculator and the FE Reference Handbook electronically. https://account.ncees.org/exam-prep/store/category/FE

 

WHEN and WHERE THE EXAM IS GIVEN

The FE exam is offered year-round as computer-based exams at Pearson VUE testing centers. A upcoming schedule of FE exams can be found here: http://ncees.org/exams/exam-schedule/

The exam is given at multiple locations. The one that is closest to CCNY is located at Pearson Professional Centers-NY at 19 West 44th Street, Suite 306 in NYC. For other locations: http://ncees.org/exams/cbt/testing-center-locations/

There are 4 windows when the exam is administered: 

  • January, February, March
  • April, May, June
  • July, August, September
  • October, November, December

You can only take the exam once per “testing window” and no more than 3 times in a 12-month period.

 

HOW TO REGISTER TO TAKE THE EXAM

  1. Once you have 20 or fewer credits remaining, register with NCEES to take the exam and pay the $175 fee. Since you are enrolled in an accredited B.E. program, you are automatically eligible to register for the exam through NCEES without first obtaining approval from the NYS Board for Engineering (as the NYSOP website indicates). But, make sure you fill out all the required information fully and accurately, or you will receive a message stating you require Board approval and then you will have to apply to sit for the exam through NYSOP (which is a lengthy process).
  2. Once NCEES authorizes you to sit for the exam, schedule the exam at any Pearson VUE testing center in the country. You will receive an appointment confirmation from the Pearson VUE testing center.
  3. Results are typically available 7–10 days after the exam.

 

RESOURCES