“Failure is part of life”, they say. But when it comes to failing your PE exam, it just seems to hit harder than almost anything else, right? After all, you’ve put a significant amount of time, energy, and money into it. But make no mistake, you’re definitely not alone.
Today’s episode will reveal what you can do to not only recover from an exam failure but also get back in the game as soon as possible. Whether you’ll have to retake your exam or take it the first time in 2022, your preparation and strategies for a computer-based exam are different from those of a paper-based exam. If you find yourself in that place, this episode got you covered.
What You’ll Learn:
- What You Should Do to Get Back on the PE Train After Failing It
- How the CBT Format Can Help Get Yourself Up as Quickly as Possible
- Studying Strategies for Retaking an Exam—And How They Change for First Time Takers
- Changes You’ll have to Make to Your Preparation Due to the New Format
- Studying Strategies for Taking a Computer-Based Exam
- You Can Retake the PE Exam More Often. But Does Your State Allow You to Do so?
- Why You Should Pay Close Attention to Theory Type Questions
- Positives of the PE Going CBT—And How You Can Benefit from Them
Built Bar – https://civilengineeringacademy.com/built
School of PE – http://www.civilengineeringacademy.com/sope
Ranked #1 PE Prep Course by Test Prep Insight – https://testprepinsight.com/best/best-pe-exam-prep-courses
Ranked #1 FE Prep Course by Test Prep Insight – https://testprepinsight.com/best/best-fe-exam-prep-courses
The Ultimate Civil PE Review Course (Use the code CEASAVINGS15 to Get 15% OFF) – https://civilpereviewcourse.com
The Ultimate Civil FE Review Course (Use the code CEASAVINGS15 to Get 15% OFF) – https://civilfereviewcourse.com
CEA Breadth and Depth Practice Exams (Use the code BLACKFRIDAY2021 to Get 50% OFF) – https://civilengineeringacademy.com/exams
Free CEA Community – https://ceacommunity.com
CEA 103 (All Your Questions Answered About the PE Going CBT!) – https://civilengineeringacademy.com/cea-103-all-your-questions-answered-about-the-pe-going-cbt
NCEES Website – https://ncees.org
Other CEA Resources:
CEA Newsletter – https://civilengineeringacademy.com/newsletter
CEA Youtube Channel – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCPeFLBZ2gk0uO5M9uE2zj0Q
The 5 Best Resources for the Civil FE Exam – http://www.civilengineeringacademy.com/bestferesources
Reach out to Isaac – [email protected]
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: What's up, everybody? Welcome to another sweet episode of the Civil Engineering Academy Podcast. I'm excited that you're here with me. Thanks for sticking around. If you haven't given us a nice ranking or participated in the comments on YouTube, we kind of post this all over the place, so feel free to do that. It really helps. So thanks for being here. Appreciate it. Today we're going to talk about those that took the PE exam in 2021. Let's say you failed. Now what are you going to do? What are you going to do? So today we're going to give tips and advice around those that find themselves either failing the PE in 2021 or are registering to take the PE in 2022, as it transitions to the CBT exam, the computer-based testing exam. So it's going to be a good one. Let's do it.
Isaac Oakeson: All right, guys. Let's get into it. So, first of all, let's talk about if you have found yourself in a position where you have failed the exam in 2021. Or you have failed the exam before and you've just been holding on before you pass the exam, or want to take the exam. There's definitely some disappointment in failing. I've been in your shoes before. It is a little bit soul crushing and I get it. But the truth of the matter is that all of us go through this learning experience. And whether you pass it in one time or you pass it in five times or six times or whatever, all of us will go through ups and downs as we go through this exam journey. There is definitely disappointment in failing. You're going to feel obviously a little bit of weight on your shoulders for the amount of money that you spent trying to prepare for this. The time alone in preparing for this.
Isaac Oakeson: And I'm going to say, go ahead and let yourself grieve. That's going to be fine, you know? You got to give yourself a chance to heal. You got to give you a chance to mentally recover. It is kind of a blow to you. Not only to you, but also to anybody around you, including family members, when you've made a sacrifice of this level to try to pass this thing, and then you end up not doing it. I mean, realistically, you're treating this like a part-time job, and it can take three to four months to prepare for this. And then you get a failing score and it's hard. You know, I get it. It's very hard. So the thing here is that -- Obviously, we have to get back on the train, right? We got to get back on the train and get moving forward as quickly as possible.
Isaac Oakeson: My recommendation is to register for the very next exam that you can. But now we're going computer based. It's definitely going to be where you can take the exams more frequently. And it's helpful to keep in mind this wonderful quote by Epictetus: "Life is not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters." So just remember that as you're going through the disappointment of failure. I totally get it. And give yourself a chance to heal and recover. And that's okay, you know? If you go through that.
Isaac Oakeson: So after you have gone through that process, we've got to keep our head up. Don't miss a beat. Don't skip an exam. Don't miss an opportunity to take this as soon as you can. Now with the computer-based exam, the soonest that you can register for this exam was November of 2021 to take January's exams. And they've broken these up into quarters now. So you can take an exam once a quarter, instead of having to wait six months, what it used to be with the paper-based exam. Which was, you know, kind of a downer. But now we've got a positive as we are going to computer-based testing, which is nice. So, let's get over the disappointment of failing, if you found yourself in those shoes. It's a terrible email. It used to be a letter to kit right around Christmas time if you do find yourself failing. But give yourself time to grieve. Give yourself time to get over it. And get back on the PE train and let's keep on chugging. So we got to do that. Keep your head up.
Isaac Oakeson: And I'm here to encourage you every step of the way. If you found yourself struggling, feel free to reach out to me. I love talking to people that have found themselves in a difficult situation. You know, I'm here for you. I'm here for you. So let me know how it's going. Let me know your positives. Let me know what you find frustrating. I'm here for you. I'm here for you to listen, and I can grieve with you as well. And help lift you up a little bit as well as we go forward. So if you have found yourself in those shoes, you know, don't fall into a hole of not ever coming back out. I'm here to help you get back out. I'm reaching down and pulling you up. Let's get back on the horse. Let's get back on the train. And we can do this, okay? It doesn't mean you're a bad engineer.
Isaac Oakeson: And that's something to keep in mind as you go through this process. A lot of people think, you know, "I'm not passing this exam. I'm horrible engineer". And that's not true. You are not a bad engineer for failing, okay? Keep that in mind. You are learning how they administer exams. You're learning what questions they ask on those exams. And you're trying to tailor your studies to meet those expectations. So there's going to be pains with registering for a new exam. You're going to have to cough up more money for a new exam that's going to be computer-based. But that's just the nature of it. And we can't change that. You can only control the things that you can control. And anything outside of that, you're not going to worry about. So let's control what we can, and let's do our best.
Isaac Oakeson: So there's definitely going to be some pains registering for a new exam. That's just natural, you know? You've got to cough up more money. And maybe we need more resources where we got to mix up problems that you haven't seen before. I definitely recommend that. And definitely a key is to give yourself a testing-like environment so that you can put pressure on yourself well before the exam is even realized. So keep that in mind.
Isaac Oakeson: So let's talk about how you prepare now for this computer-based testing exam, and what changes to your studies that you're going to have to make. Because preparing for a paper-based exam is going to be a little bit different than preparing for a computer-based exam. And so, if you find yourself in this transition period, or you have failed the exam for October 2021 and you're looking ahead to taking the computer-based exam in 2022, there's some things we need to understand, right?
Isaac Oakeson: So the first thing is that we need to understand the new format of the exam and all of its nuances. I've produced some videos on this. Go check out our library. I talk about the top questions asked about the exam going CBT in 2022. So definitely go check that out. But we need to understand the new format of the exam. It's obviously computer-based. It is still 80 questions. It is still broken up into morning -- I should say AM and PM type questions. But they can mix and match those on you now. So every exam is going to be different. They use this Linear on the Fly method to change questions. They'll give you questions that are similar in difficulty to your neighbor, but they will be different. And so they're just pulling from, I'm sure, a pile of problems that are very similar to each other, and you're getting those problems. So understand the new format of the exam. We'll talk about how to study or how to take those problems as they come to you. But we need to understand that.
Isaac Oakeson: The next thing you need to do is really understand and get a copy of the new handbook. This is key. This is the only thing that you can bring -- You can't bring anything actually with you into the exam. But this is the only thing that you get. And it is a PDF that's going to be on the left-hand side of your screen. And it's going to be what you need to understand really well. So before, we needed to understand the Civil Engineering Reference Manual for years and years and years, and it is still a good manual. In fact, I still recommend using it for your preparation because it's going to teach you things that the handbook just doesn't have in there, or doesn't have concepts fleshed out. So if you do need that book, go use our partner link at civilengineeringacademy.com/ppi, and you can go get a discount on your books if you haven't gotten those. But you sure are going to need reference material to study from, although you do need to know the handbook as well. So it's almost like an additional thing that you're going to need to know to look up. Because it's the only thing that you're going to have at your disposal.
Isaac Oakeson: So you need to know it really well. Use it with all of your studies. Have it open. Get a free copy in your NCEES account. It is free to you. And you can also order a physical copy if you wanted to. But in general, you know, if you go with a physical copy, maybe you want it so you can take it to an office or pack it around with you. But you need to get used to that PDF handout style, or that PDF computer-based style. Because you got to get used to the search functions and how they lay things out and know everything about that.
Isaac Oakeson: If you start looking into the handbook, you'll notice that it's severely lacking in depth section coverage. And so the thought here that a lot of people have is "Well, are they going to venture outside of those equations? Are they going to ask something that's not on the handbook?" And that is definitely a possibility. But I think for the first few rounds, you know, as this is a very first edition, I'm betting they stick with the book or they ask you really a lot of engineering theory type questions as part of the exam to really touch your knowledge in those areas, as opposed to having to break out equations. And if they do ask anything that's outside of the handbook, they will most likely give you those equations or reference tables or anything to use right within the problem itself. So just keep that in mind.
Isaac Oakeson: All right. Third thing we need to understand is that we need to get copies of the depth codes that you will specifically have for your depth section. So if you've already gathered a lot of these already, when you were taking the paper-based exam, great for you. But you want to keep in mind that every depth section now has codes attached to them. Even the water resources section. So no one is immune to finding an exam that does not have codes attached to it now. So a bit of a bummer there, but that's the way they've headed. So you will have access to the depth codes as a PDF, a searchable PDF. You'll also have access to the handbook as a searchable PDF. So you want to make sure you get those codes. Beg, borrow, whatever you need to do to get those codes, so that you have them and can get familiar with them in case problems come out of them. So those are the real keys that I see you need to understand as this flips the switch to computer-based testing. And you're looking at trying study in a different way, okay? Different way.
Isaac Oakeson: The other thing is the exam format and really understanding a plan of attack. Now, the big picture, this doesn't really change, but what's really frustrating for students is that there is no clear line of demarcation between the AM and the PM exam. There's nothing that clearly states that I am taking easier problems in the morning and more difficult problems in the afternoon. That's just not there anymore. So you're left to try to figure that out because they can mix and match these things on you. I'd be willing to bet that they still lean towards the easier AM type questions for the first half of the exam. But it's not what's stated, and it's not what they can do.
Isaac Oakeson: I mean, this is a whole big reason why they are going computer-based testing. So they can mix and match things. So understand a format and the plan of attack is kind of crucial here. One of the things we want to make sure we understand is that we're going to tackle as problems are posted and we see them. We're sitting down at the computer, ready to go. We filled out all the forms. The first problem pops up and what are you going to do? We're going to go through the problem, we're going to tackle the problem as it comes, and we're going to solve the easiest questions first. Just like we did with the paper-based exam, okay? You're just going to go through it, take them as they come. If you find that it's a problem that you see is maybe related to your depth exam and you can get through it quickly, go for it.
Isaac Oakeson: If you find that you can't, or it's more challenging, you're going to want to flag it and skip it, okay? Come back to it later, after you've gone through the majority of the exam or all the exam through once. And the reason for that is because this is a timed exam, and time management is still key. And you want to make sure you manage your time well. So we don't want to screw ourselves by spending 10, 12 minutes on a problem, and you've just eaten up a bunch of time for easier problems down the road. So the format, the plan of attack, is very similar to the paper-based in that you would go through and solve those that were easiest first. You're going to do the same thing. Take them as they come and you'll just need to flag those that look like they are a little longer, okay?
Isaac Oakeson: So pretty simple to think about. But when you're executing this and with a new format, people might get a little off balance. So I'm just here to bring you back to that idea. Make sure you understand that you still have the same plan of attack, even though they can mix and match these on you. So keep that in mind.
Isaac Oakeson: All right. A positive of this exam is that instead of waiting, you know, seven to 10 weeks to get results, which is very painful. It's excruciating. And the timing of that could be really good or really bad. It could be the best Christmas present ever, or the worst Christmas present ever. But waiting for results is going from seven to 10 weeks to seven to 10 days, okay? So you're going to get your results much, much quicker. You'll get that email about how you did much quicker, which is very nice, very nice.
Isaac Oakeson: Well, as part of this, one of the things I kind of want to raise a red flag on is that, if people are thinking that "Oh man, I can take the exam more times now." You know, if I fail once, I can just quickly take these as many times as I need to, and eventually I'll get to passing it. And that's not necessarily the case. So one of the keys that you need to understand is every state has their own codes and requirements for how many times you can take the exam. Some states say that you can take the exam up to three times, and then you have to prove that you've done something, whether it's take a course to help you, or whether you need additional credit hours in education. Some even require a master's degree, that many credit hours, if you have found yourself failing the exam multiple times. So you need to understand your own state's division of professional licensing. Go to the codes. I'm in Utah, so I'd go check those out. But I've applied for licenses in Colorado, and Nevada and Oregon, and other states. And every state has different requirements.
Isaac Oakeson: So you need to understand after how many times of failure can you take the exam. Now, I'm not saying you are going to personally fail he exam that many times. But you never know. And some people take a few times to get over the hump of this thing. So understand your own state's requirements before you start going willy nilly with thinking you can take this exam multiple times, because that's not the reality. You need to understand your state's requirements because you could be in hot water if you need to do additional stuff or prove something that you've taken additional education after you've taken the exam so many times. So just keep that in mind. If you're in that boat, know where you're at, and know how many times you can take it. And every time that you take it, you should be giving your highest performance, okay? I don't think you should be going to the exam just winging it. That was me the first time I took it. Don't do that. Don't do that. Take the exam serious, put some effort into it, a lot of effort into it, and it's going to go much better for you.
Isaac Oakeson: The other thing I want to tell you is that you probably shouldn't be surprised to find a lot of theory questions on the exam. Maybe even more than before. People are always surprised by how much theory type questions that they ask on these PE exams. And in the past, that's been, you know, 10 to 12 in the morning, 10 to 12 in the afternoon. I mean, that's a good chunk of the exam. So keep that in mind. And I think with the new handbook and the new CBT format, you're going to find just as many, if maybe not a little more, theory type questions being thrown at you to really test your engineering knowledge as a whole and the way that you reason out questions as an engineer versus just kind of plugging through a book that has equations. So just keep that in mind. Which is another good reason why I think School of PE got a good review guide, as well as PPI with the CERM.
Isaac Oakeson: If you are interested in either one, again, you can go to school of PE at civilengineeringacademy.com/sope. And we also have civilengineeringacademy.com/ppi. You can get a discount on your books by using those links there. So go check those out if you need them. And then in addition to that, we also have our own courses here at Civil Engineering Academy. And like I mentioned earlier, there is a discount running on those until the end of the month. So go take advantage of those to get 15% off if you need them. And you can get our PE course at civilpereviewcourse.com. You can get our FE course at civilfereviewcourse.com. And use our discount code going on right now of CEASAVINGS15 to get 15% off any course option. So we love it. I think you'll love it. Most people that have taken our courses love the support.
Isaac Oakeson: In fact, in talking about our courses, we were recently just ranked number one at testprepinsight.com for the best FE and PE review courses. Some of the comments that they had is that their highly effective and digestible video based solutions to practice problems, incredible value with bang for your buck, with the pricing and realistic practice exams for breadth and depth, including the FE exam. They really enjoyed the course. You can go read about it at Test Prep Insight. But they did rank us number one for the best FE and PE prep course. So definitely check that out if you have time to. So, definitely resources for you, if you need them as you're trying to pass this massive exam.
Isaac Oakeson: So, let's get back on it here. I want to talk about some positives as we're talking about this exam going computer-based. Again, keep in mind if you have failed, keep your head up. Get back on the PE train. Keep on chugging. You're not a failure for failing. It's a learning experience that you've gained so much knowledge about. Take what you've learned and add to it, and you may find that the CBT exam is actually a better experience anyway. So, you know, we're going to control what we can. And if we can't control it, let's just avoid that, ignore that okay? Don't let that get in the way of our progress.
Isaac Oakeson: So what are some positives of this coming to CBT from the paper-based exam? And here are my thoughts on this. These are just things at the top of my head. We'll go ahead and talk about these and wrap this thing up. But the positives that I have is that, the first thing, is that you're not going to have massive conference rooms anymore with hundreds of people attending those exams. You know, everybody was nervous and anxiety was through the roof, and you're wondering where to park and what to do for lunch, and all that fun stuff. So that's all gone. You're going to register to Pearson Vue testing center, which is probably local to you. You know, it's not a huge place. You got your own cubicle. People in the room might not even be taking the PE exam. They administer a lot of different exams there. So it's really individualized now, which I think is better. I think that's better. So no more massive conference rooms with hundreds of people.
Isaac Oakeson: The other thing is, you don't have a proctor hovering over you, I think, ready to hunt you down for sneezing wrong. Like, there's still going to be someone at a testing center, right? They can still watch what you're doing and all of that stuff. But the fun proctors that are ready to kick you out for any reason, running the microphones, handing out the exams and all that fun stuff, you know, that that's going to be gone. You're just going to be at that testing center running the show there.
Isaac Oakeson: The other thing I think is a positive is no more suitcases full of books. Like, this is a real positive, guys and gals. Like, there's going to be -- Like, people brought in suitcases full of books. Suitcases. Sometimes two. It was getting ridiculous. And they needed that because, you know, if you're taking the structural depth exam, you're going to have a suitcase full of books. It's just the nature of it. You got a ton of reference material. So all of that goes away. All that goes away. No more suitcase full of books.
Isaac Oakeson: The other thing that I really enjoy and looking forward to for people is that the results that you get come way faster. Way faster! Like I said earlier, seven to 10 days versus weeks. So you're going to know if you failed or passed really quickly. Which I think, you know, take some of that anxiety off your shoulders. We used to have to wait for weeks and weeks and weeks, wondering what's going on, Netflix-binge every movie, and all of that jazz just kind of goes away. It's really nice.
Isaac Oakeson: The other thing I think is a real positive about this is that you have more opportunities to take the exam. So I mentioned that earlier, but I think that is a real positive that you have more chances to take this exam instead of having to wait six months to do it. You can take it once a quarter, three times in a 12-month period. If you end up failing three times in a 12-month period, there's going to be some sort of waiting period for you. You can read all about that at the NCEES website. But for the most part, like I said, you're gonna have more opportunities to take it, which I think is a real bonus.
Isaac Oakeson: And lastly, you are closer to testing centers. So again, going with conferece centers, just the proximity of where you're taking the exam is going to be such a bonus. It's going to be good stuff.
Isaac Oakeson: So those are the positives I see. I'm sure there are more. But those are things just at the top of my head. So I'm so excited that -- You know, change happens. Change will always happen. It happens in the workplace. You get new bosses. You get organizational turnover. Change happens with these exams. You get a new exam director. They want to change things up. COVID happens. Things get changed up. And now we're headed towards computer-based testing. It's just the reality of it. So control what you can. And we're going to get back on the horse, start studying again for this exam if we find ourselves failing or taking it for the first time. And we're going to be there to help you every step of the way.
Isaac Oakeson: So if you need resources, if you need exams, iIf you need a shoulder to cry or vent, we'll be there for you. So if you haven't taken advantage of our free community, go to ceacommunity.com. Go join that. And if you need additional resources, go to civilengineeringacademy.com. Go grab our FE or PE resources, as well as our exams and courses. And, yeah. That's gonna be it.
Isaac Oakeson: So if you didn't pass the PE in 2021, or you're just taking the exam in 2022, hopefully this was helpful for you. I just want to be here and let you know that I am here to encourage you every step of the way. I know you can do this because I've done it. And we've helped hundreds of others do it too. So keep that head up, and we'll see you in the next one. Bye!
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