Are you preparing for the FE exam…again? You’re not alone! Today’s guest is Brianna Tallas, who passed the exam on her fourth try, years after school. In this episode, she lays out everything she learned along this journey, and how The Ultimate FE Review Course helped her finally get it done.
Tune in to Learn:
- Briannas's journey taking the FE exam four times
- A little-known benefit of taking a review course — and it's not the course content
- The factors to consider when choosing the best review course for you
- What she loved about The Ultimate Civil FE Review Course — and why you will too
- The simple secret she learned as to correctly prepare for the FE exam
- Two test-taking strategies to help you manage your time during the exam
- Are there a lot of Alternative-Item Type (AIT) questions on the FE?
- Her top two tips for those preparing for this big exam
Website – https://civilengineeringacademy.com
The Ultimate Civil FE Review Course – https://civilfereviewcourse.com
The Ultimate Civil PE Review Course – https://civilpereviewcourse.com
FE and PE Practice Exams – https://civilengineeringacademy.com/exams
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Reach out to Isaac – [email protected]
Indeed – https://indeed.com
LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com
Glassdoor – https://www.glassdoor.co
NCEES Annual Report – https://ncees.org/wp-content/uploads/Annual-report-2021_web.pdf
Advance: An NCEES Podcast Series – https://ncees.org/podcast
CEA Podcast #51 with Tim Miller – https://civilengineeringacademy.com/cea51
Engineers Without Borders – https://www.ewb-usa.org
McKinley Advisors – https://www.mckinley-advisors.com
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 get our transcript of the show below!
Isaac Oakeson: Hey, what's up everybody? Isaac here with Civil Engineering Academy. Excited to be with you on another fun episode. And this one is a good one. We got Brianna Tallas coming. She's a student of ours from the Ultimate Civil FE Review Course that my brother and I have created. If you aren't aware of that, go check it out at civilfereviewcourse.com. You can also find it on our main website, civilengineeringacademy.com. Go check it out.
Isaac Oakeson: But Brianna is a student. I bring her on and we chat about taking the FE exam. The struggles that she had as a repeat taker, taking it multiple times, finally getting over the hump and passing this thing. She found our course and talks about that. And I just thought it would be fun to bring her on and chat. So that is what this is about. I hope you enjoy it, and it's gonna be coming up right after this.
Isaac Oakeson: Thank you so much for doing this, by the way, Brianna. Appreciate you taking the time to do this.
Brianna Tallas: Yeah.
Isaac Oakeson: I know we're both probably pretty busy. So, where are you from?
Brianna Tallas: I'm from LA. Went to school at USC. Grew up in LA my whole life and then moved out to Phoenix after I graduated.
Isaac Oakeson: And that's where you're at right now? Phoenix?
Brianna Tallas: Yeah.
Isaac Oakeson: And what's the temperature like in Phoenix?
Brianna Tallas: Currently, not too bad. Only like 98º.
Isaac Oakeson: Oh, okay. That's not bad.
Brianna Tallas: Yeah, we've had a little bit of a delay. But yeah, it'll be 120º here in like a week.
Isaac Oakeson: Wow! Okay. Awesome. Well, thanks for doing this. I'll just ask you a few questions
Brianna Tallas: For a land development firm and have done that since I graduated about five years ago. So I moved out to Phoenix for a job in 2017, early 2017, worked crazy, crazy hours, way too crazy, and quit two years into that. Worked for another smaller firm for a few months, and then I was in a terrible car accident and was out of work for like three months. And then after that, recovering from that, started at my current job three years ago, three and a half years ago. And just love what I do. I work for a tiny firm. There's like five of us. And so we do water, sewer, drainage plans, reports, design, all that.
Isaac Oakeson: That's awesome. Well, sorry. You got an accident. That doesn't sound fun at all.
Brianna Tallas: No. No.
Isaac Oakeson: But it sounds like you're doing better. So that's good.
Brianna Tallas: Yeah, I'm doing great. I don't even think about it most days, which is crazy. It's a very much a miracle that I can be working with no mental changes at all.
Isaac Oakeson: Wow. Well, tell me a little bit about your FE journey. You know, how did you start that? Where did you start your search? How'd that go?
Brianna Tallas: Yeah. So I should've taken it my senior year, but I had switched majors from being an architecture major earlier in my college career. And so I was cramming in all my engineering classes and just studying nonstop, trying to get out early because USC tuition is not cheap.
Isaac Oakeson: I know that.
Brianna Tallas: Yeah. So because of that, I didn't have any time to study for or take it my senior year. And I was like, "Oh, it's fine. I'll take it down the line. Everybody said it was easy. No problem." And then once I got out of school, I had a job already lined up. They didn't care if I had passed it. And so, like I said earlier, I was working like crazy, you know, 70, 80-hour weeks for like almost two years straight. And so I really didn't study for it because I didn't care.
Isaac Oakeson: You were too busy.
Brianna Tallas: Yeah. I was way too busy. So I think I did take it one year out of school. That was my first time taking it and I didn't study, like, at all, because I didn't have time. So I was just like, "Oh I'll just take it on a Saturday and see how I do." And it was way harder than everyone had told me. Then, I went back to my crazy-hour work for another year and didn't have time to take it again until a year later. And I studied a little bit for that one. Failed again. And then my third time was like a year and a half ago, during COVID I took it. And I did a lot better on that one, but still failed.
Brianna Tallas: So that one, I did pay for a review course. I don't remember what it was called, but it was not super comprehensive. It was like some lecture videos and a few practice tests that I had taken. But I really didn't commit during all of those times to really regular studying and doing a ton of practice problems, which is really the way to pass it. Then finally, found your -- Well, basically, I was like, "I have to pass it this year. I should have my PE. I'm basically a project manager without a PE, and it's not good."
Isaac Oakeson: Well, and I don't think you're alone in that. I think many people find themselves doing that same thing.
Brianna Tallas: Well, that's good to hear. So yeah, found yours and just was like, "All right. I have to do" -- I was hesitant because I'm like, "It's so much money to pay for any review course." And your guys' course is very reasonable compared to a lot of them, which is partly why I ended up doing it. But I had good reviews and so I was like, "You know what, if I am gonna actually put in the time to do this, then" -- You know, it's easier to put in the time when you've invested your money as well.
Isaac Oakeson: That's great. Love hearing that. So, then you jumped in the course, what's something that you enjoyed about the Ultimate Civil FE Review Course? What's something that you liked?
Brianna Tallas: I love that there's the videos for all the practice problems. We didn't have -- Like, my previous review course and all my other time studying, I had done some practice problems, but not with video reviews. So that was really helpful. The lectures were good. Pretty standard, similar to the other course I had taken. But I think that what really made the difference was having the practice problems with video as well. And just so many of them that you guys really over prepared me, I feel like, in a lot of the topics, which is great.
Isaac Oakeson: That's good. The course has come with some practice exams. How did you tackle those? Was there any sort of strategy to taking them? Or how did you deal with that?
Brianna Tallas: No, I should have done more. I didn't actually take a full one. I did the problems from one of them, and I really thought I was gonna fail again. And was like, "I'm gonna have to go back and do the practice exams." But I didn't really utilize those, unfortunately. I should have, but I just didn't have a chunk of time, like a full Saturday, to devote to that, you know?
Isaac Oakeson: Makes sense. Were there any other barriers that you had when you were checking out courses, or checking out ours, as to pulling the trigger?
Brianna Tallas: No. It's just cost, obviously, is a big one. But then also trying to find something that is gonna be helpful to keep you on track so that you actually are [inaudible] several hours every other day or whatever the schedule is that you wanna make. But also being flexible because I knew I wasn't gonna be studying the exact same schedule every week. And so it was helpful to have something with that flexibility that was also a little bit cheaper, but enough to make me be invested.
Isaac Oakeson: Yeah. Will push you. I love it. Yeah, that's great. Well, I'm so happy and excited for you. It's kind of the springboard to the rest of your career and obtaining your PE license. I'm curious, is there anything that you learned about taking the CBT exam that you wish you would've known coming into it? Maybe like beforehand? Or did you know it so well from all your previous stuff?
Brianna Tallas: You would think I should've remembered some of what I learned, which I did a bit. But I think the big thing is the time that it takes to find equations and find what you're looking for in the reference handbook. Just being really familiar with that so that you don't waste a lot of time. Because I found that I wasted a lot of time trying to remember what page something was on. And you know, you're doing Ctrl-F, searching it, but it still takes a long time to get back to the right section. And so, that is something that I wish I'd spent more time on, even than -- You know, if you have limited time and you can't do all the practice problems, do spend some time on that, even if it means you don't review something else.
Brianna Tallas: And I think, time budgeting for the two halves as well to make sure that you leave more time for the second half of the exam because the problems take longer. That, I wasn't as good at. And so that was my big issue. The last two times, I guess, was that I knew the material well enough that yeah, if I had all day and I could've searched through everything and found it, I probably would've passed just fine. But in the time crunch, I didn't think about budgeting that. How many minutes am I taking per question? And flagging everything that was gonna take me more than a minute and just coming back to it later because there's free and easier points at the end.
Brianna Tallas: Like all the ethics questions then the construction questions that I should've been able to get to, and I didn't in the previous two that I did. And so, yeah. Flag everything that's gonna take you a long time, all the hard structural stuff. Get to the end quickly and then go back to the ones that you could have more time, because it's the same amount of points for a "What do they call the rocks where the roof drain comes out?" as for, you know, a 25 [inaudible] concrete and rebar problem.
Isaac Oakeson: Perfect. Good advice. I think time management is a huge deal on the exam, and a lot of people don't know that until they take one. Which is kind of why I harp on taking practice exams so much. To like put yourself in that situation so you get a feel for it. But good advice.
Isaac Oakeson: Did you feel like there was a huge amount of Alternative-Item Type Questions? Did that throw you a curve ball? Or was everything kind of, you know, multiple choice you felt like you could tackle this? There was no real surprises.
Brianna Tallas: There weren't too many surprises just because I had taken practice exams that were the real one three times. But I think it does throw you for a loop a little bit that they're not all multiple-choice. There are a lot of like, "Drag these four options to match up with the four things that they go with on the other side." And so yeah, there's a few different format ones.
Isaac Oakeson: Got you. Well that's good to know. Well, is there a main reason why you would recommend our course for someone else starting their FE journey, Brianna?
Brianna Tallas: Just the practice problems are great. The practice exams are also great from what I saw of them. And yeah, it's affordable and really, really good on the practice exams. I mean, and the practice problems. Because you get individual explanations and not just a PDF print-out of "This is how you solve it."
Isaac Oakeson: Perfect. Love it. Well, anything else you'd recommend to anyone preparing for this big exam? Any last second tips?
Brianna Tallas: No, just -- Yeah, take practice tests and budget your time in advance for what sections you're gonna get through every week. Or all of a sudden it'll be exam time and you'll be way behind.
Isaac Oakeson: Makes sense. I like it. Well I know -- You know, if you kick this exam down the road, it does cost additional money. And if you're buying review courses, tons of them, there's so much material out there. So we're grateful that you found us in this weird part of the internet, and we're excited that you passed. Any big plans to take the PE next?
Brianna Tallas: Yeah. Within the year, I'm still thinking about scheduling it, maybe in December, but that might be a little eager. So, maybe in the spring. But yeah, within a year, definitely at least take it. And hopefully pass it. We'll see.
Isaac Oakeson: I love it. Okay. Well thanks, Brianna. Thanks for jumping on. I really appreciate you sharing your thoughts with me and we'll stay in touch.
Brianna Tallas: Thank you so much.
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