Long gone are the days where you would go into a conference center carrying your suitcase filled with books, references, and codes, with thousands of other people, all of you feeling nervous and anxious. Starting January 2022, the Civil PE exam is going to be a computer-based test (CBT). And today, you’ll learn EVERYTHING you need about this new format so that you can better prepare for it―and pass it!
- How Will the Specifications Change?
- Will it Still be an 80-Question, 8-hour Exam?
- Are They Still Going to Ask Breadth and Depth Questions?
- What are the New Types of Questions―And How to Prepare for Them?
- What Can You Bring into the Exam? Is it still Open-Book?
- Do All Test Takers Answer the Exact Same Questions?
- What Score Do You Need to Pass it?
- How Much Does it Cost to Register for the Exam?
- Where Can You Take the Exam―And How to Register for it?
- How Often Will the Exam Take Place?
- How Many Times Can You Take the Exam?
- How Long Do You Have to Wait to Get the Results?
- What Happens if You Fail the Exam and Need to Take it Again?
- What Should You Do if You Need to Reschedule or Cancel Your Exam?
- What if You Want to Change Your Depth Exam After You’ve Already Registered?
Built Bar – https://civilengineeringacademy.com/built
NCEES Website – https://ncees.org
Guidelines on the Civil PE Exam Going CBT – https://ncees.org/engineering/pe/civil-cbt
NCEES-Approved Pearson VUE Test Centers – https://ncees.org/exams/test-center-locations
Approved Calculators – https://civilengineeringacademy.com/approved-calculators
CEA Website – https://civilengineeringacademy.com
The Ultimate Civil PE Review Course – https://civilpereviewcourse.com
The Ultimate Civil FE Review Course – https://civilfereviewcourse.com
CEA Youtube Channel – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCPeFLBZ2gk0uO5M9uE2zj0Q
CEA Free Facebook Community – https://ceacommunity.com
CEA FE and PE Practice Exams – https://civilengineeringacademy.com/exams
Additional Resources Mentioned:
NCEES – https://ncees.org
Engineer to Entrepreneur – https://engineer2entrepreneur.net
Civil Engineering Reference Manual – http://www.civilengineeringacademy.com/ppi (Use this link to grab a copy for a 15% discount)
Transcript of Show
You can download our show notes summary here or get our transcript of the show below!
Isaac Oakeson: Hey! What's going on, everybody? Isaac here with Civil Engineering Academy hanging out with you today on another podcast episode. Thanks for being here. Thanks for being with me. In today's episode, I'm going to do a deep dive into the PE going computer-based. Or as they call it, CBT. So it's going to be an interesting topic as the clock flips on this in January of 2022, where the civil PE exam will be exclusively computer-based. No more paper-based exam. There's some positives and negatives to that. But it doesn't really matter because that's the way it's going moving forward. And we're going to talk all about it. So if you are interested in learning more about the CBT exam for civil engineers, hang around with me because it's going to be a good episode. And it's all coming up right after this.
Isaac Oakeson: All right, guys. So let's get right into it. So today we're going to do a deep dive into the civil engineering PE exam going CBT in January of 2022. And I wanted to share a lot of details about what that means and everything about the CBT exam. So the first thing I want to talk about is the specifications. So with the exam going CBT in January, did the specifications change? And the answer to that is basically "No". So the specs didn't change. They haven't changed since 2015, which is quite nice because it's not another thing they wanted to tackle, I'm sure. On top of moving everything to a computer-based exam, also updating the specifications. So you'll notice that the specs don't change. What they did do, if you look at the specifications from the NCEES, is that they removed any reference to an AM or PM section of the exam. Or part one or part two, however you want to word that.
Isaac Oakeson: And that's simply because, now, the specification -- They can test you on any question at any time. So, you know, it used to be at AM portion of the exam, and you knew kind of what you were getting into. They were a little easier problems, there was a breadth of knowledge. And the PM exam was depth sections. Now you will have one specification, and it still is AM and PM sections. But there is no designation there any more. So what does that mean? That means they can ask you anything they want, whenever they want to, on the exam. So you kind of have to be prepared with that. But does that mean the exam strategy changes as you take it? It does not. What I mean by that is that you can simply go through the exam, when it's computer-based, and answer, obviously, the answers that are easiest to you right off the beginning. Flag those that you have no idea how to solve yet, and come back to it when you can.
Isaac Oakeson: And in that way, you're trying to break that up as an AM and a PM type of exam, where you're answering the easiest questions first and coming back and solving the hard ones. So the answer to that question, "Did the specs change?", they didn't. The things that did change is that they updated the codes that are used. So the standards and codes that are used in reference, and that's pretty much it. The specs didn't change. And to be honest with you, the core engineering subjects in their specifications never change. They might mix them around a little bit, give them a different title, like transportation that changed to geometrics. They might go back to transportation. Who knows? But those core engineering topics really never change over time. And so if you're ever looking at a review course, and you're wondering if all the material is covered, just know that all the core engineering material never changes, and you should be good to go.
Isaac Oakeson: All right. The next question that I often get is, "What can you bring into the exam with you?" Now, when you go into an exam, it's going to be at a Pearson VUE testing center now. No longer are you going into a conference room with a thousand people in there. That's going to be very small, you're going to have your own little cubicle and your own computer, and that's pretty much it. You can bring an approved NCEES calculator. So make sure you have that. And they give you a pad of paper, or a pen that you can erase, okay? And that's pretty much it. So, not a lot that you're bringing in with you. Everything else needs to be stored in a locker. So if you have a cell phone or anything else, you need to put that away.
Isaac Oakeson: So really you can't bring a lot with you into the exam. Now, if you're wondering about, "Is the test now open book?". It is not open book. You can't bring in whatever book or material that you want to bring in with you anymore. It's closed-book -- Well, semi-closed. You're going to have access to the PE Reference Handbook, and you're going to have access to codes and standards. And they're all going to be searchable PDFs that you will have on your screen. So, the left-hand side of your screen is going to be your PDF, and the right-hand side of your screen is going to be the exam. And you can use the search functionalities for the handbook, as well as the codes that they give you, and just search anything that you want there. And that's pretty much it. So, if you're wondering about what you can bring into the exam with you, no books, just an approved calculator, you bring your ID, don't bring in your cell phone, get that locker, fill it up with the crap that you brought. So don't do that. You'd probably get kicked out. So, that's another good question that people often ask.
Isaac Oakeson: Okay! Another question that's asked about the CBT exam is, "Is it all multiple-choice?". And the answer to that is "No". But the surprise answer to that is that the majority of the questions still are multiple-choice. So if you're thinking, "Oh crap! They're going to ask me any type of question, any way they want to", that's not true. The majority of the questions are still going to be multiple-choice, so you don't have to worry too much about that. And if you're using practice exams and practicing problems that are multiple-choice, you're still going to do well with these alternative item type problems anyway. Because frankly, you're just going to know how to solve these things, right? So, you know, get used to solving problems. You're going to be just fine.
Isaac Oakeson: So what does it include? These alternative item types can include point and click. So if they give a graph or something, you'd have to point and click on a correct answer. They have multiple-choice, we covered. They have drag-and-drop, so you can drag and drop lists of things in different spots. They have my personal favorite, which is fill in the blank. And who knows what that might entail, or how they know it's wrong. Maybe too many significant figures are not enough. I don't know. There's all those things that come into play with that. So those are all the different kind of questions they could ask as part of those alternative item type questions. They do give you a tool where you can draw a line across. So if you're looking at a graph, you can definitely draw a straight line and try to get an answer that way. But I know these type of problems might scare people. But if you are getting enough practice problems in, and you're already solving multiple-choice type of problems, you're going to be just fine in solving these ones as well. You know, give it your best effort. You'll be just fine. So, great question.
Isaac Oakeson: All right. The next question I have is, "When can you take the CBT exam?". Now, these exams can be taken as early as January of 2022. And you can start registering for them in November. November 1st of 2021. So you can get started right away in November on registering for this, selecting the depth exam that you want to take, and getting prepared to take a computer-based PE exam. And a lot of people are excited for this because of the search functions, not having to bring in suitcases full of books and stuff like that. And so everything is just right there at your fingertips. So the exams are year round now. They basically are chunked up into quarters. You can only take one exam each quarter. So let's say you failed an exam in January. You probably can't take one until April, right? So you have to take one each quarter. And you can only take the exam three times in a 12-month period. So if you do happen to fail the exam three times, you're going to have to wait 12 months in order to take it again. So that's kind of the rules around when you can take the exam, how often you can take the exam, and really when they're administered.
Isaac Oakeson: Now, they have a pool of problems. The level of difficulty will be the same among those problems. But everyone's going to have different problems that they are going to be solving. So don't expect the neighbor that you're sitting by to solve the same problems that you are anymore. They might add the same difficulty, but they're not going to be the same problems. And then they use their special method called LOTF, or Linear on the Fly method, to administer these questions to you. So you know, things are on the fly in asking you different questions. So that is a thing that comes up, but that helps to answer when you can take the exam.
Isaac Oakeson: All right. The next question that I often get is, "Where can I take the exam?". And the truth is that you can take it at any Pearson VUE testing center. So, they're going to have a bunch of them around. You just go find one and you can take it. So that's going to be a lot different than going to a conference center with thousands of people that are taking this exam, and everybody's worried and nervous and whatever. So now, you're just going into a small setting, with your own cubicle, your own computer, your lovely calculator, and off you go. So all you have to do is find a Pearson VUE testing center, and you'll be set and ready to go.
Isaac Oakeson: Okay. The next question that I often get asked is, "Did they change the amount of problems that they ask you?". And they didn't. So it is still going to be 80 questions that you have to solve in an eight-hour time period. Now, the total testing period is nine hours that they give you. But you're going to have a 50 minute break that they offer to give you, which I highly recommend taking, about a halfway mark. And you also have to sign some of their agreements, and waivers, and all that fun stuff at the beginning. And that takes up little bit of time as well. But at the end of the day, it's still an eight-hour exam in total time that you have to solve your problems. You still have a break, a 15-minute break that you can go take a lunch, or decompress, or whatever you need to do. And it's still that same old 80-question, eight-hour exam. And I can tell you that you're probably going to need a similar score as the paper-based, which isn't totally true, but it's typically around a 70% that you need to get right. So we'll see how that goes. But that's typically what you're shooting for. That's how much time you have to take it. And that's how many questions are on the exam.
Isaac Oakeson: Okay. The next question that I often get is, "How much is this going to cost me?". So the registration fee to take the CBT exam is $375. Ouch! You know, add up everything else you've got to buy to study for this thing, it gets really expensive. And that doesn't include the fees that you have to pay to apply to get your license after you pass the exam. And that ranges from state to state. I recently applied for an Oregon license. It's a $400 application fee. Now, not every state is that much, but you get the idea. So stuff can add up quickly. I would definitely recommend trying to see if your employer will pay for some of those costs, as most employers do. They'll pay for your registration, for your PE license in states, and things of that nature. But you're going to be on the hook for that $375 fee to register to take this exam. It's not a small fee. But that's the reality of it. So, sorry!
Isaac Oakeson: Okay. The next question that is coming to me all the time is, "Are they still going to ask breadth and depth type questions?" And the answer to that, I already alluded to earlier, if you look at the specifications, they don't break up the sections anymore into AM and PM anymore. And so you could be asked PM-type questions at any time during the exam. Because they can ask you whatever, whenever, right? The reality though, is that you'll still have AM-type questions scattered throughout the exam. You're going to also have PM-type questions scattered throughout the exam as well. Again, there's an exam strategy to that. Solve the easiest ones first, flagging those that are most difficult, and just come back and solve those that you skipped over. Make sure you get an answer on everything, because you need an answer on everything, or otherwise it's wrong. So definitely -- You know, there's still going to be AM- and PM-type questions. But they got rid of that kind of clear designation between the two. And that's just all mixed into one big batch. So, that's a good question.
Isaac Oakeson: All right! The next question that I typically get is, "How long will it take for me to get results back?". Now, this is the biggest benefit of taking a computer-based exam, in my opinion. And that is because you're used to waiting 10 weeks to get results. I mean, if you took the exam in October, it could be a horrible Christmas present that you opened if you failed the exam. But now you get results in seven to 10 days. And it's coming to you the same way. They shoot you an email about your results and off you go. And if you failed, you register for the next exam in the next three-month period, or the next quarter, and you just keep going. So, I really like this because it's made it much easier to get back on the horse and keep going with the exam, instead of having to wait six more months or whatever you do. If you skip an exam, that's a whole nother year, which is not good. So you can just get back on that horse, keep going, keep studying, keep moving forward fairly quickly. I love that you get results back in seven to 10 days and off you go. And so, you know, that's a big benefit of going computer-based. And I think it's one you might enjoy too.
Isaac Oakeson: All right. Another question that I often get is, "Wwhat if I fail?". So I answered this already earlier. But if you do fail, you can take the exam again, but it has to be in the next quarter that they administer the exam. You can't take it in the same three-month period that you registered for. You have to wait for the next three-month period to take it. And you can take that up to three times, okay? If you fail three times, you have to wait 12 months before you take it again. So really, that's kind of nice. In the past, if you failed an exam, you had to wait six more months to take it. And that sucked. So now you can just keep going, like I said, and keep rolling with it. So if you fail, it's not such a blow. You are out money, and time, and things of that nature. But you can take that exam fairly quickly and try and try again.
Isaac Oakeson: All right. Next question that I often get is, "What do I need to do if I need to cancel the exam, and what happens in that process?'. So if you registered for the exam, and then you go and cancel it, you're going to be slapped with a $50 fee. Or you reschedule it, you're going to be slapped with a $50 fee, an administration fee, to do that. So I don't recommend keep doing that. You're just going to be out money every time you do that. They do have exceptions to that rule, but it's really clear that it needs to be, like, for an illness in the family, or you don't feel well, wheather is a condition, if you have military duty, jury duty. So there's a few reasons why you can bump your test to another period, but you're going to have to provide proof for that. And frankly, if you do change anything, they won't allow you to change anything if you have the exam within 48 hours. But if you do change things in advanced, you can be hit with that $50 fee, which they will assess to you to change things. So try to avoid changing things, swaping things. I mean, if you have to, you have to. But if you can avoid it, I definitely would. Because it's just going to cost you money. And that stinks. So don't do that. So that's what happens if you cancel your appointment.
Isaac Oakeson: Okay. Another question that I often get is, "Okay. So I registered for the exam and I was going to take Transportation. But now I want to take Water Resources. What has to happen?". And what they state is that you have to actually cancel the exam that you registered for. You pay a $50 fee for doing that. And then you can register for the next exam for the depth exam that you want to take it in. So that goes back to cancellation of taking the exam. Any time you cancel the exam, it's going to cost you $50. So you don't want to do that. Try to avoid that. Try to go in knowing what you want to take, and it'll save you some money.
Isaac Oakeson: All right. Lastly is some questions about what you can also bring in with you to the exam. And they do have a list of things that they allow you to do. I already mentioned this, but really you're only allowed your calculator and your ID. But if you are cold you bring in a light jacket. You're going to receive a little booklet and a marker specifically. You can bring in your eye glasses, if you wear eye glasses. And that's about it. So, I already hit that earlier. But that's really the details of all the things you can bring with you to the exam. So don't expect to bring too much with you. So that's about it.
Isaac Oakeson: All right, everybody! I hope you enjoyed that. That was a deep dive into the PE exam going computer-based, and answering questions that you all have about this going CBT. If you have any comments or questions, feel free to let me know. You can let them know in the comments, or feel free to shoot me an email, [email protected] Let me know what you think about the exam going computer-based. Do you enjoy that? Do you like that it's going computer-based? Or do you think it's going to be more difficult? Or less difficult? Easier? Harder? I want to know what your opinion is. So let me know in the comments. I'm really interested in hearing about that. And if you need additional resources, go check out civilengineeringacademy.com. We will be there every step of the way. If you're studying to prepare for the FE or the PE exam, we have resources and courses there to help you.
Isaac Oakeson: And because the spec did not really change that much at all, our course is still very much valid. So go check out the Ultimate Civil PE Review Course at civilpereviewcourse.com. And it will take you step-by-step, hand in hand, and take you through the course and all the modules you need to do, and practice problems, and everything else that we have for you built there to help you ace this exam. It's a really, really sweet thing.
Isaac Oakeson: So anyway. With that, thanks for being here. Thanks for joining me. And I will see you in the next one. Bye!
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