The NCEES organization has decided to change things up a bit for those entering the test this April 2015.
It has been awhile since they've updated the problems administered in the breadth exam but it looks like change is here. Let's break down what we use to have and look the future with the new PE exam update.
Before April 2015 you use to have 5 categories in the civil PE breadth exam covering structural, geotechnical, hyrdrology/environmental, transportation, and construction. Within these 5 categories you had 8 questions per category. That was then. Let's look at what we have now for the breadth exam. You have 8 categories covering a variety of topics:
Project Planning: 4 questions
A. Quantity take-off methods
B. Cost estimating
C. Project schedules
Means and Methods: 3 questions
A. Construction loads
B. Construction methods
C. Temporary structures and facilities
Soil Mechanics: 6 questions
A. Lateral earth pressure
B. Soil consolidation
C. Effective and total stresses
D. Bearing capacity
E. Foundation settlement
F. Slope stability
Structural Mechanics: 6 questions
A. Dead and live loads
C. Bending (e.g., moments and stresses)
D. Shear (e.g., forces and stresses)
E. Axial (e.g., forces and stresses)
F. Combined stresses
L. Retaining walls
Hydraulics and Hydrology: 7 questions
A. Open-channel flow
B. Stormwater collection and drainage (e.g., culvert, stormwater inlets, gutter flow, street flow, storm sewer pipes)
C. Storm characteristics (e.g, storm frequency, rainfall measurement and distribution)
D. Runoff analysis (e.g., Rational and SCS/NRCS methods, hydrographic application, runoff time of concentration)
E. Detention/retention ponds
F. Pressure conduit (e.g., single pipe, force mains, Hazen-Williams, Darcy-Weisbach, major and minor losses)
G. Energy and/or continuity equation (e.g., Bernoulli)
Geometrics: 3 questions
A. Basic circular curve elements (e.g., middle ordinate, length, chord, radius)
B. Basic vertical curve elements
C. Traffic volume (e.g., vehicle mix, flow, and speed)
Materials: 6 questions
A. Soil classification and boring log interpretation
B. Soil properties (e.g., strength, permeability, compressibility, phase relationships)
C. Concrete (e.g., nonreinforced, reinforced)
D. Structural steel
E. Material test methods and specification conformance
Site Development: 5 questions
A. Excavation and embankment (e.g., cut and fill)
B. Construction site layout and control
C. Temporary and permanent soil erosion and sediment control (e.g., construction erosion control and permits, sediment transport, channel/outlet protection)
D. Impact of construction on adjacent facilities
E. Safety (e.g., construction, roadside, work zone)
Whew..and that's it. By stepping back, and looking at it all, they have really eliminated a lot of the transportation questions. You've gone from 8 to only 3. The hydrology has been reduced by 1 question, which looks like environmental got the axe (wastewater treatment plants, water treatment, etc.). The rest of the topics and sub-topics look about the same as before. It just feels like there is more emphasis on construction/geotech/structural now. Sorry tranpo guys and gals!
The NCEES organization states that this is neither exhaustive or exclusive in the categories shown so they could ask some other random things that were found in the previous exams. I can't imagine that the problems vary too much in look and feel to what has been done in the past. It seems that the topics changed and some subjects got the boot while others have more emphasis.
In any case, these new PE exam specifications should be followed closely. Your study should reflect exactly what these specifications provide. There are some topics that seem to be added, like temporary and permanent soil erosion and impact of construction on adjacent facilities, but for the most part these are very similar to what we've been studying in the past.
The depth sections also changed. It seems that each topic and sub-topic is more detailed in its description of what could be asked. You are also given how many problems are in each section versus a percentage that use to be given. All in all these look the same as the old version, just called out differently and in more detail about what specifically they might ask. Again, it isn't exhaustive or exclusive so they could really ask anything, but it seems that it is all spelled out for you. Also, any new code updates that have happened will be used now on the exam. They spell out the design standard title now at the end of specification sheet.
You should see a flood of new material that will cover these new PE exam specifications, but the old rules will still apply with how you study and mark up your material. I would still buy the resources currently provided and work from them. Don't worry about updated everything because of this change unless you are just staring to hit the books and you've been able to find something with the updates.
The current breadth exam that is sold on this site will be updated shortly to reflect the current changes. It currently sits covering what the old specifications were for the breadth exam. The problems will be similar in look and feel to the exam, but there will be less transportation, less hydrology, and more construction and geotechnical type of questions.
What do you think of the changes? How has this affected the way you study?
Good luck with studying!