Study Tips for the Civil Engineering PE Exam

Study Tips for the Civil Engineering PE Exam | When to Start Studying for the Professional Engineering Exam? What Do You Study?

Obtaining a professional engineering ticket is perhaps one of the most valuable milestones in an engineer’s career.  A professional engineering ticket allows an engineer to legally practice engineering in his/her state and meadow of licensure.  What this means is that the engineer can be legally responsible for his/her work.  Obtaining a professional engineering ticket is a crucial step in building a successful career.

N.B., – Civil Engineering PE Exam –

Study Tips for the Civil Engineering PE Exam

General Information about Civil Engineering PE Exam

Each state has its own prerequisites required to obtain a professional engineering ticket.  The basic requirements include a minimum amount of work encounter (years/hours vary) under qualified engineers (#’s vary) in the desired meadow of licensure.  Some states credit higher education at an accredited college towards work encounter.

The fundamentals of engineering exam are normally required prior to taking the professional engineering (P.E.) exam.  This examination is administered through the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) and the test is consistent throughout the U.S.  The requirements for the desired state and meadow of licensure should be researched far ahead of the examination dates.

The Civil P.E. exam is made up five different sections:  Construction, Geotechnical, Structural, Transportation and Water Assets and Environmental.  The examination consists of a 4-hour morning or breadth part which covers all five topics.

The questions in this part of the exam cover broad concepts in each topic.  The second part of the exam is a 4-hour afternoon or deepness part.

In this part of the exam, you will point out one topic to complete.  The questions in this part of the exam will cover more detailed concepts of the select topic.  The entire exam consists of multiple-choice questions.  Some states may require additional examinations to obtain a professional engineering ticket.

When to Start Studying for the Professional Engineering Exam?

The most valuable thing to do when studying for the exam is to start early!  Generally, I would urge starting to study about 4-6 months prior to the examination date.

This may seem a bit excessive, but remember, it’s simpler and less stressful to slow down your studying than to speed up.  After studying for about 1-2 months you should have an excellent feel of where you are in your study material and whether you need to increase or decrease your study time.

What Do You Study?

The amount of material covered on the P.E. exam can be daunting at initially.  Remember, there are two sections, the breadth and deepness sections.  You will not need to know each of the five sections in detail.  It is virtually impossible and really unnecessary to know all of the topics in detail.

The key in studying for the P.E. exam is efficiency.  It is not compulsory that you study one topic in deepness, preferably the topic that you are most comfortable with.

Studying for the breadth exam should cover the remaining four topics focusing on broad concepts.

What References Should I Bring?

The most common response to an open-book exam, such as the P.E. exam, is to bring as many books and references as possible.  This is completely incorrect!  Because the exam is time-restricted, you need to be as well-organized as possible when it comes to searching through references.

My recommendation is to bring ONLY references that you have used during your studying.  Bringing extra references will just mean that time will be wasted going through a book that you are not comfortable with.

If you can locate information promptly during the exam you will be able to devote more time to working problems.  Two key references that I would urge are:

Civil Engineering Allusion Manual for the PE Exam, 11th edition.  Lindeburg, Michael

Practice Problems for the Civil Engineering PE Exam:  A Companion to the Civil Engineering Allusion Manual, 11th Edition.  Lindeburg, Michael


Most people taking the P.E. exam find it hard to dedicate time towards studying, so studying efficiently is very valuable.

  • Focus predominantly on the topic you plot to take in deepness.  Cover just enough of the remaining four topics to make you comfortable with the material covered in the breadth part.
  • The time allotted for each part of the exam will give you about 6 minutes to complete each conundrum (40 problems in 4 hours).
  • If you get stuck on any one conundrum…skip it and come back to it later.
  • By spending too much time on any one conundrum you may possibly be missing many more problems that can be answered promptly.
  • After you complete the exam go back and attempt the problems that were skipped.  If you end either of the breadth or deepness sections early…DO NOT LEAVE!!
  • Take the extra time to double-check your answers and making sure you have marked in the right answer on your answer sheet.

Get an excellent nights rest and try (it will be hard) to relax prior to the exam.

Excellent luck!

About the Author
Er. Mukesh Kumar
Er. Mukesh Kumar is Editor in Chief and Co-Fonder at Civil Engineering Website. Mukesh Kumar is a Bachelor in Civil Engineering From MIT. He has work experience in Highway Construction, Bridge Construction, Railway Steel Girder work, Under box culvert construction, Retaining wall construction. He was a lecturer in a Engineering college for more than 6 years.