How is The FE Exam Graded

Mike Grossman
Professional Engineer
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May 2, 2022
How is The FE Exam Graded

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The National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) designed the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) Exam to test the technical knowledge needed in the engineering field. It is a necessary part of becoming a professional engineer in the United States. Students can take the test in the last year of their undergraduate programs or soon after graduation. The NCEES YouTube channel has some more helpful information about the exam.

The FE Exam consists of 110 questions. You will have 5 hours 20 minutes to complete the exam. A 25-minute break is provided half way through. Even though you are taking the FE Exam within your discipline, there are many general engineering questions that you won't recognize.

To save time, work on the questions that you know how to solve first. If a subject is foreign to you, skip the question until the end. The computerized version of the FE Exam allows you to flag questions for later. It also provides a screen that shows you which questions you have or have not answered. Make sure to go back and answer all the questions you missed, even if you just guess the answer. NCEES does not deduct wrong answers from the final score. This means every time you guess an answer you have a 25% chance of adding more points to your final score.

NCEES offers a digital copy of the reference book (MyNCEES), used during the test. It is important to familiarize yourself with the reference book before the day of the exam. It will be searchable, but you need to use the correct spelling. If you don't know the name of a specific equation, you should know what section it is listed under. There is not a lot of time here, so don't waste it by searching for equations for ages.

Each individual’s exam is different. A linear-on-the-fly (LOFT) algorithm determines the questions for each exam. Each exam has a similar level of difficulty, and they all have the same amount of questions. The exam also includes a small number of pretest questions, but you won't know which ones they are.

Tip: there are no deductions for wrong attempts"

The FE is on a pass/fail system. Since each test is a bit different, the NCEES doesn't publish the score needed to pass. They also do not set a designated number of passing individuals for the exam either. The grading scale takes all this into account, and adjusts accordingly.

By passing the exam, it shows that you exceed a minimally-accepted level of knowledge in the field. Experts in each subject determine the minimum requirements based on psychometric statistical methods. This ensures licensing boards know you are competent in your field if you achieved a passing score for the FE Exam.

You get the results from you computer-based FE Exam 7-10 days after testing. You will receive an e-mail directing you to sign into your MYNCEES account to find out if you passed.  NCEES reuses its questions for other exams, so the results don't tell you which ones you got right. You don't get the final score, either. You will only be notified if you passed or failed the exam and how to proceed with your licensing board.

If you fail the exam, NCEES will provide a diagnostic report showing your weak and strong areas. The report won’t show what questions you missed, but a scaled score within each category. It will also show a comparison by category of your performance against people who passed. This information can be used to determine the areas that you should focus if you decide to retake the exam.

NCEES also provides universities with Outcome Assessment Tools from each FE Exam. This allows educators to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the school’s engineering programs. The tool compares current students and recent graduates with national averages. Educators can then determine if improvements need to be made within certain subject matters.

Every six to eight years, NCEES conducts a survey to determine the fairness of the exam’s content. The survey is based on a typical university graduate’s basic curriculum. These checks and balances ensure every student has the technical knowledge to succeed as an engineer.

A lot of different factors go into the final scoring of the FE Exam. NCEES has to balance out the variable difficulty to make it fair for everyone who takes the exam. They do this while maintaining the integrity of the exam. Engineering is a profession that requires a vast amount of technical knowledge. The FE Exam is one way to ensure that engineers have the knowledge and understanding required to succeed.  

PS: The FE Exam is all about time so be sure to know your calculator rather than selecting the best calculator. Here's a resource of the best video tutorials for each calculator, so you can quickly solve problems numerically rather than wasting time solving them by hand.

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