Passing the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) Examination is the first step toward becoming a licensed Professional Engineer (PE). This exam has evolved over time, from the Engineer In Training (EIT) exam several years ago to the present-day computer based test. This six hour, closed book, multiple choice examination challenges even experienced engineers.
Registration and Scheduling
To register for the exam, navigate to the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) web page and follow the instructions on the right of the screen. Depending on your location, registration may be as simple as creating an account with NCEES, selecting a location, selecting an available date at that location, and paying the $225 fee. Some state licensing boards require you to prove that you have graduated or are about to graduate from an approved program, and some require you to submit application to them at the same time that you sign up for the exam.
There are four testing windows throughout the year, and many sites provide multiple dates within each window. Set the date with care, because rescheduling may incur additional fees. These fees are set by the Pearson VUE testing system, and they increase when the request to reschedule is made within 48 hours of the testing appointment. The NCEES FE exam guide contains information regarding test procedures.
There are seven different disciplines to choose from when you register:
The Chemical exam covers chemical reaction engineering, process design and economics, process control, safety, and ethics. The Civil exam covers structural design, geotechnical engineering, and transportation and environmental engineering, as well as the basics of construction and surveying. The Electrical and Computer exam covers circuit analysis, signal processing, electronics and control systems, power generation and distribution, communications, computer networks, and software development. The Environmental exam covers water resources, water and wastewater, air quality, solid and hazardous waste, and groundwater and soils. The Industrial exam covers manufacturing, production, and service systems; facilities and logistics; human factors, ergonomics, and safety; work design; quality assurance; and systems engineering. The Mechanical exam covers dynamics, kinematics, and vibrations; mechanics of materials; materials properties and processing; fluids; and mechanical design and analysis.
To prepare for your exam once you’ve set up a date, several test takers recommended that you acquire as many texts on your field as you can and then read them. This approach may be time-prohibitive, though, in which case focused study is more appropriate. You should, however, be aware of various ways of labeling key values and asking questions in your discipline. For example, electrical engineering transistor biasing calculations may ask for either ßDC or Hfe; a tester should know how to work with either notation.
The examination is administered in a closed-book format, so leave your reference materials at home. You will, however, be provided with an electronic version of the FE Reference Handbook for the examination. Before the test date, you should go to the download site enter your e-mail, and download a copy of the PDF. This reference handbook contains 295 pages of facts, figures, and formulas. On a timed examination like the FE, knowing where to find information within the reference handbook is vital.
What To Bring To The Exam
The Exam Guide contains a list of items that must, and those that may, be brought in to the examination with you. Chief among those that must accompany you on test day is your ID, either issued by your state or the U.S. Military, or valid international passport. The ID must display your name, which must match the name on the appointment confirmation letter (which you must also bring).
You may bring one NCEES-approved calculator. The current list of approved calculators is available on the NCEES web site . The list changes each year, so you should verify that your model is on the list before the day of the test.
You may also bring certain comfort items. Included in the list are earplugs, noise-cancelling headsets, light sweater or jacket, orthopedic braces, certain medications, eye drops, etc. You may not wear anything with a hood. You may bring snacks and non-alcoholic beverages, as long as you do not disturb the testing environment with them.
The actual maximum time allowed on the examination is five hours and twenty minutes. During this time, you may take one twenty-five minute scheduled break after completing fifty-five questions; it does not count against your maximum time. You may also take unscheduled breaks by notifying the proctor; these will count against your maximum time.
The result of the FE exam is reported to you as a pass or fail. The pass-fail determination is made based on a raw score that is calculated by counting one point for each question you answer correctly. No points are deducted for incorrect answers, so it is in your best interest to answer every question. According to the NCEES web site, the examinations run between 68% and 85% pass rate. The highest pass rate is:
What units are used on the exam?
The FE exam uses both SI (Standard International) and USCS (U.S. Customary System) in its questions, so you should be familiar with converting from one system to the other.