Do you doubt you can pass your FE and PE exams if you’ve been out of school for a while and have a busy schedule? Then today’s guest is living proof you just need the right resource. Sean Aldridge took the FE exam three times, but the third time around was completely different with the help of The Ultimate Civil FE Review Course.
Tune in to Learn:
- Sean's journey passing the FE exam on his third attempt after 2+ years out of school
- How Sean prepared differently with the help of The Ultimate Civil FE Review Course
- What Sean enjoyed the most about the course — and why you will, too
- What makes CEA's FE review course different from the other options out there
- A studying technique to use in your daily commute to make good use of that time
- How to approach questions on exam day — including the alternative-item type questions
- A mistake Sean made on exam day you should definitely avoid
- Sean's #1 advice to those considering or already preparing for their FE Exam
- How to stay motivated as a repeat test-taker — and why you should
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
Free Facebook Community – https://ceacommunity.com
YouTube Channel – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCPeFLBZ2gk0uO5M9uE2zj0Q
Newsletter – https://civilengineeringacademy.com/newsletter
Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/theceacademy
Twitter – https://twitter.com/civilengacad
Reach out to Isaac – [email protected]
NCEES – https://ncees.org
FE Civil Practice Exam, by NCEES – https://account.ncees.org/exam-prep/431
Microsoft Scheduler – https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/microsoft-365/meeting-scheduler
Engineer, by Kenza – https://www.engenieer.com
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: What's going on, everybody? Isaac here with Civil Engineering Academy. I'm excited to share with you an interview I did with a previous student of The Ultimate Civil FE Review Course, presented by Civil Engineering Academy. He's also a member of The Ultimate Civil PE Review Course, as he's preparing for the PE. And just wanted to have a fun interview with Sean Aldridge today, talk about his experience and his journey taking the FE. Also a little bit how he's preparing for the PE now. But really how he found Civil Engineering Academy and our courses, and how they helped prepare him for this major exam.
Isaac Oakeson: He was a repeat taker. This is in fact, his third time taking it. He has many friends that are taking it three or four times, which seems to be maybe the average to take this exam 2+ times. So definitely don't feel discouraged. And this is something that you can definitely do. He's got kids. He's got a full-time job. He's super busy. And he found a way to do this. And, you know, utilizing our course and the tools that we have available has been able to get over the hump of passing this thing and moving on with his life and working towards becoming a Professional Engineer.
Isaac Oakeson: So it's an exciting thing to do. I'm super pumped for him. But I just wanted to bring him on and talk about his own journey. And I think you're really gonna enjoy it. It's gonna be coming up right after this.
Isaac Oakeson: All right, Sean. Thanks for jumping on with me. I'm excited to chat with you about your experience with our courses. So, thanks for doing this.
Sean Aldridge: Yes, sir.
Isaac Oakeson: Sean, before we kind of dive into things, could you tell us maybe a little about what you do for a living right now?
Sean Aldridge: Yeah, I'm working as an engineer in the Metro, Atlanta/Athens, Georgia area.
Isaac Oakeson: Awesome. And are you doing transportation? What's kind of the division you're doing?
Sean Aldridge: I'm a water resources guy. But I'm also, you know, construction management resident, project representative. So I sit on job sites from time to time and monitor contractors progress, approve payouts, monthly progress meetings. But I do design work as well. I do some CAD work. And you know, little bit of this, little bit of that. Yes, sir.
Isaac Oakeson: Jack of all trades. I like it. Why don't you describe for us maybe your own journey taking the FE and kind of where you're sitting with the PE. But, how did you find Civil Engineering Academy? How did your journey start? Give us a little glimpse into that.
Sean Aldridge: Sure. I found you guys strictly by chance. We had just gotten a smart TV and it was the middle of summer a couple years ago. And I had it on my books to -- You know, it was one of those things that was dogging me. I'd been out of school a couple years and I said, "Man, I gotta get this pass." And my wife said, "Are you ever gonna take the FE?"
Sean Aldridge: So I was watching some YouTube videos on the new TV that we had just installed. And there was -- Oh man. I think she's from Quebec or something. She was French-Canadian. I can't think of what -- [inaudible] or something like that. Anyway, I was watching one of her videos and she was talking about the new test format where they had eliminated the statistics and kind of married that with the mathematics. And the next video that kind of popped up, you know, that suggested feed, it was one of your videos where you were talking about Civil Engineering Academy. So anyway, I watched a couple of your videos that you had up there and I went to your website. And, I don't know, a couple weeks later, my wife was like, "You're gonna take that FE?" And I said, "Yeah, I am. And I think I found a course".
Sean Aldridge: And so anyway, we signed up for your -- I think I bought a year-long access because we were trying to get some things done around the house, we had a baby on the way. And I said, "You know, with everything we got going on, I think we took it a year from now. That give me plenty of time to study for it." On top of the two or three years of extra school that we did.
Isaac Oakeson: Well, hopefully that eliminates some pressure, too, when you got access for that long.
Sean Aldridge: Yeah. And I knew -- You know, you know how those things are. You got a family and life just -- You [inaudible] plans in the world you want. But you know, kid gets sick or, you know, work interferes. And the next thing you know you're pulling on all-nighter trying to get some documents out for a client or whatever. A number of things. Anyway, I knew a year was gonna be ideal for me. There was a smidge of procrastination involved. I just didn't -- I had taken it once and I didn't wanna do it again.
Sean Aldridge: Actually, I took it twice. I took it the first time, but I didn't even bother studying or trying. It was one of the graduation requirements, right? So I didn't even count that one. The second time I really studied and I put two weeks of -- You know, a couple weekends and two weeks preparing before that, trying to prep with some prep books.
Sean Aldridge: But anyway, I found your course and then I changed jobs. And that was in November and they were gonna hire me in January. That was the deadline I put on myself. I said, "You know, I'll have my FE pass by the time I come on board with you guys." And so that lit the fire. I watched all your videos and did all those problems. Every single one of them. Most of my -- You know, I had an okay grasp on.
Sean Aldridge: I knew I wasn't gonna do very well in the structural section. So I just picked that section and I said, "You know what, anything structural comes along, I'm gonna give it a glance, give it a guess. And then I'm gonna move on", right? So I took the diagnostics for the exam that I kind of studied for. And I said, "You know, these are the areas I really need to brush it up on."
Sean Aldridge: Anyway. So I took your course, took all those practice problems that you had, and I had a couple prep books from NCEES. It was New Year's Eve and I pulled up to the test site, sat in my car for two hours and studied. What's funny is, I looked at one of these -- I think it was your surveying problem. You know, height of instrument, backside, foreside. What are you gonna come out at the end of the -- What do you call it? You know, at the end of your closure, right?
Sean Aldridge: So anyway, I sat there and looked down. I said, "Man, that one is gonna dog me." But I looked at it, and I'm not kidding you, Isaac. I walked in there and one of the last problems on that exam that I took, it was almost to the number that problem was on. You know, it's a disclaimer for all your folks that are watching or listening. You know, I don't know if that was chance or what. But you know, it showed up on mine.
Sean Aldridge: And anyway, I walked out of there and I was like, "Oh, man." That was the first time that actually felt, you know, halfway decent, right? I drove home. I worked all weekend and didn't give another minute thought. And then Monday rolled around and I started working the new job. And then, my new boss, he texted me and he said, "Hey, man. I forgot to ask. Did you get your FE?" I said, "I took it last Friday. I'll have an answer on Wednesday." And you know, that 10:00, 10:30 when they released the scores, it clicked off, man.
Sean Aldridge: My wife came and it was almost lunch time. She was like, "Did you check your FE score yet?" I said, "No, I didn't check it. I'm kind of afraid to." She said, "Just check it and get it over with." And man, I did. And the first thing I did, you know, I said, "I passed." And then I emailed you and your brother. Man, I'm telling you, that was the best feeling in the world.
Isaac Oakeson: I remember that. I love that. We love hearing those success stories. So that's great. So I guess I want to ask, like, what structure did you have with the course? What was your studies like? Because it sounds like you took the test a few times. So what was your studies like before? And then what was it like after, as you were going through the course? How did that help you?
Sean Aldridge: Before, it was two weeks out, open up a book, and you know, start working some problems, right? But I knew that, that -- You know, I had that job and I gave myself that deadline. So, as opposed to two weeks, I gave myself two months. And whenever I got the kids in the bed, whenever I got a free minute, I'm sitting at work on my lunch break, I was working a few problems. And you know, I printed out every single problem you had and just printed out the problems and I had the solutions that I could refer to. But definitely need two months of prep time on that FE. But it was like I said. It was late at night, early in the morning. Whenever I could scratch out a few minutes, that's when I was doing it.
Isaac Oakeson: Love it. Can you name something that you enjoyed about The Ultimate Civil FE Review Course?
Sean Aldridge: I'll tell you -- You know, there was a gentleman who worked a lot of the mathematics problems. But there was --
Isaac Oakeson: We have Jason that contributes. We have Cody. We have mark, and me.
Sean Aldridge: Yeah. Jason was -- He was short, sweet, and to the point, man. He would show his work, but he would skip a lot, right? He'd go, "All right. So we got this and this." And then he'd draw something out and he wouldn't say anything about that. And then he would go, "All right. So here's where we are." I thought that was hilarious. I always liked watching his videos.
Sean Aldridge: But there was one. It was somebody's triangle. Where you -- Oh, man. If I still had access to that course, I could point you the problem. It had to do with factors. It was something to do with algebra. And I had never seen that in my life. And when you worked -- I can't remember who worked that problem. I was watching that one at work on my lunch break, and I got up and I walked outside and I texted about six of my classmates. And I said, "Have you ever heard of this?" They were like, "Oh, yeah, man. I did that."
Sean Aldridge: Because where I went to school, we'd school at night. And it was a mixture. It was old folks and it was -- You know, it was good to be [inaudible] or whatever. So now they were at night at school and working during day. So coursework goes at night and leads to engineering degrees. But I texted them all and they're like, "Oh yeah, man. I saw that in algebra when I was up at so and so". And I had never heard of this. Never seen it. And then I went and looked at a bunch of problems so I finally understood it. Never saw a problem like that on the exam. But it was the practice. And good to have.
Isaac Oakeson: That's good. So we challenge you in areas that you maybe hadn't seen before.
Sean Aldridge: Absolutely. Absolutely. And I had a decent structures instructor. But the method of sections, you guys explain that a whole lot better. And I was able to understand that as far as statics.
Isaac Oakeson: Love it. So it sounds like you did some research. You researched some --
Sean Aldridge: Oh yeah. I shopped around. Yeah. Shopped around.
Isaac Oakeson: I mean, what made ours stand out from other options that were out there?
Sean Aldridge: Like I said, it was serendipitous that you showed up in that feed, I guess. But you guys were value-priced and, for a year-long access, it made the most sense. And it was total -- You know, it was complete access, or 24-hour access. I could email you guys through Facebook messenger or whatever, and you guys were always prompt to respond the next day or so. It just made sense for me. I knew it was gonna take me, you know, nine months of piddling around with it and then three months of buckling down. So anyway, it was the price point for me. So that's what sold us.
Isaac Oakeson: Okay. I like it. Well, it sounds like you've given some great tips about study time, about how long it took you to prepare for the exam. It sounds like, you know, two to three months is probably a fair amount. How many hours do you think you were doing a day?
Sean Aldridge: I would get up early. I had an hour -- Oh, that was the other thing. So I had an hour and a half commute, or an hour and 15 commute. Somewhere in that neighborhood, depend on traffic. So I would get up in the morning --
Isaac Oakeson: Plus family. Plus kids.
Sean Aldridge: Right, right. I'd get up in the morning. I'd shower, get dressed. I'd work a few problems here. And then I would go out and hop in the car. And I would turn on one of your lessons and have it just play via the Bluetooth. And so I would just listen to a lesson on the way to work and on the way back. So you know, solid studying, working problems. I think it's like you said, I was trying to get somewhere between 15 to 20 hours a week.
Sean Aldridge: Some weeks it wasn't like that, but that was what I was shooting for. And I had access to Microsoft Schedule through work. So I made the schedule. You know, what I needed to have achieved by the end of the week. And I tried to stick to that. And I think that's what helped. And, as I said, I knew structures was not gonna be a strong suit for me. So you know, I gave myself two days on that one.
Isaac Oakeson: So I want to dive in just a little bit. So, as a repeat taker, were you discouraged to taking the exam again, and how did you get over that?
Sean Aldridge: Well that new job is what motivated me. You know, my former employer got purchased by a larger firm and I went out looking. The benefits weren't great. The benefits that we had were good. They were outstanding. Probably the best I've seen in the industry. But the new owner wasn't -- The benefits weren't there. And that was what kept us there, right? So, the new job and them saying, "Well, we'd really like you to have your EIT license or EIT certification"
Sean Aldridge: So that's what I did. And that was the motivator. But man, I was certain I was gonna be the drafter with the civil engineering degree for the rest of my career. It was either that and drive an Uber on the weekends. I just didn't wanna take it again after I took it that second time and it didn't go well. And you know, they don't give you a score. They just say, "Here's where you missed the most questions" or whatever. "And here's how many students did better than you", or whatever it was that they say. Anyway, I was like, "Man, I just don't wanna do it. I don't wanna give them any more money and I don't wanna do it again."
Sean Aldridge: Anyway. Yeah. So it's easy. It's easy to beat yourself up and get down, you know, as a multiple-time test-taker. But you gotta power through that. And man, I know several people who are on their third or fourth try. And when they told me they hadn't done it, I'm like, "Look, I've got the answer for you. Civil Engineering Academy." And I'm not making a commercial for you. But I'm telling you, man. If it hadn't been for you guys, like I said, I'd be driving an Uber tonight.
Isaac Oakeson: No, I love it. Well, we like hearing that. And I love to hear your mindset as to where you were. And you know, if you were to talk to somebody else that's taken it 3, 4, 5 times, it sounds like you've got some good advice for them too. And now that you've been there before, you know what hat feels like and you could relate to them. So, I'm glad to hear that.
Isaac Oakeson: And I hope that, you know, as you took the course, there was some motivation there that we encourage you to keep it going. And what I have really tried to do is create a safe space for people to talk about their failures and not feel like we're gonna beat you up over anything. Because you know, you're still a good engineer, even though you fail this exam a few times. You know, it's just part of the process and you gotta learn how NCEES does stuff. So hopefully, you know, you found some support through that as well.
Sean Aldridge: Absolutely. And the way you guys have it broken up into modules, that was very helpful. You know, rather than just, "here's a whole bunch of questions, you figure it out", it was, you know, you got mathematics and tons of math problems, right? You work out tons of examples and then you got tons of problems. And then there was Statics. And then it was dynamics. And then it was geotech. And then it was structures. Transportation.
Sean Aldridge: Man, I'll tell you, that's another thing. I figured out more -- I took a 15-week transportation course and I learned more in that module you guys taught on solving those problems than I did in that whole 15-week. And it's not a knock against the school. It's not a knock against the teacher. But you know, again, it's a mindset and I guess the want to learn.
Isaac Oakeson: There you go. Well, I love it. Well, did the course help you prepare for the exam being CBT in any way? Or do you have any tips around that? I'm just curious what your mindset was around that, and if we were able to help you prepare well for a CBT type exam.
Sean Aldridge: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. Like I said, that one surveying problem just popped up. "Oh, I saw that one a couple hours ago." I'll tell you what I did wrong the day of the exam. So you get to that first 52 or 55 questions, whatever it is. You get those first 50 done, and then they give you that 30-minute or 20-minute break, whatever it is. And I walked out in the hall and drank this big bottle of water and took the other --
Isaac Oakeson: The other half?
Sean Aldridge: The other half man. And I was like, "Oh man, I shouldn't had that bottle of water", you know? I left 20 minutes sitting on the table and I couldn't come back and check some questions. I was like, "I gotta get outta here". So, don't hydrate there in the middle -- Or don't hydrate as much as mine.
Isaac Oakeson: I like it. Good tip. I guess one of the other questions I have is a lot of people are concerned about alternative-item type questions. And, in our course, we do provide kind of a CBT exam that's given there. But I'm just curious what your thoughts are on alternative-item types. Or if you feel like the majority of the exam was still multiple choice and not to worry about that too much.
Sean Aldridge: Don't worry about it. Just look at it -- You know, I think you guys said in one of those modules. You're like, "You know, look at it. If you feel like it's one of those..." -- You know, I [inaudible] many videos. There's no telling, right? But somebody said, "Look at a problem. If it looks like one you can solve, then buckle down. But keep tracking of your time", right?
Sean Aldridge: And then you gotta figure you need just as much time for the afternoon as you do for the morning part, for the first part. So kind of time and go, "All right, man. I got..." -- What is it? Six hours or something like that. "I got three hours to do these first 55." And, you know, start watching it. And they say those [inaudible] those things were flying through. And there's no way I spent three hours on that first 55.
Sean Aldridge: But watch your time and look at those alternative items. If it looks like it's something that -- You know, it's one of those [inaudible] zero-force members or calculate the force of the [inaudible] or whatever. If it's one that you know, do it. If it's not, circle something or write something down or, you know, write it down to check and move on. That's my advice. I think I had two of those. I don't think I had very many of those at all. But you know, I guess every week the test is different. Or every day the test is different. I don't know.
Isaac Oakeson: Yeah. I know they can mix it up. So that's good advice to hear. Well, is there anything else you'd like to share tips wise on preparing for the FE? And then give us a glimpse of where you're at with the PE, because you continued your studies. Not only were you a member of The Ultimate Civil FE Review Course, but it sounds like you've dived into The Ultimate Civil PE Review Course, and you're getting prepared for that as well.
Isaac Oakeson: So we're excited for that. And I know you had success with the FE and you're all booked up and ready to go for the PE coming up this summer. So, you know, any other tips or advice for anybody?
Sean Aldridge: Now's the time to take it, right? The FE. I took it and I had to wear that mask for six hours. And I'm telling you, take it now and go somewhere where you don't have to wear a mask if you don't want to. The mask is your choice. But I'm telling you, I had one of those masks with the rubber band and the little metal clip. And my glasses would fog up and then my ears were so sore from that rubber band. That was -- And you didn't figure that out until the next day and you had that rubber band impression on the back of your head for the next week. But take it now, if you feel like you're ready.
Sean Aldridge: And, you know, during that pandemic, you could -- That was another thing. And I don't know if it was good or bad. But you could boot that down the road to zero cost. There was no reschedule fee. So you know, if you were two or three days out, you're like, "man, I'm just not feeling this. I don't think I'm gonna pass," you know? You could boot it down the road and reschedule for another three weeks or whatever. Anyway, I didn't exploit that. I think I did reschedule one time. Anyway, take it now that we don't have the masks as stringent as you have to do. That would be our last piece of advice.
Isaac Oakeson: I got one other question for you. How long out of school have you been, you know, in preparing for this FE exam? Like, has it been a few years?
Sean Aldridge: Yeah, I finished it -- I got a weird story. I went back to school. I got an undergrad in another major. I worked as a contractor for a long time. And then I went to work in higher education. That's how I got into this engineering program. I was recruiting for that night program. Anyway, so I finished my second degree in 2018 and I passed that FE on December 31, 2020. So I've been out of school two and a half years, I think. May, 2018 to December 31. Something like that.
Isaac Oakeson: Well, you can do it. If you've been out of school for a while. If you're a repeat taker. If you're interested in, you know, getting a little more help, definitely go check us out, Civil Engineering Academy. You'll find all of our courses that we've got laid out there. And even if you don't want a course, we've got practice problems on our YouTube channel, as well as practice exams that are available to you. So come check us out at civilengineeringacademy.com.
Sean Aldridge: And your Facebook community that you have there where everybody can ask FE question or PE question. Everybody's there to help you.
Isaac Oakeson: Yep. You can join our free community at ceacommunity.com. It'll point you over to our free Facebook community. You're welcome to join that. And that's just free to people. So if you wanna, you know, jump on and ask questions, we'll be there to support you, too. I do feel like kind of the private communities that we set up are definitely maybe a little more engaging and people are quick to jump on to answer those questions maybe a little faster for you. But you know, we're here to help you in any way that we can.
Isaac Oakeson: Sean, thanks for jumping on and sharing your tips with us.
Sean Aldridge: Yes, yes. [Inaudible] by the month, maybe even another three month instead, so I can get that PE behind me in August.
Isaac Oakeson: Can't wait. Stay in touch. Let know how it goes.
Sean Aldridge: Will do, will do.
Isaac Oakeson: All right. Thanks, Sean. Talk to you later.
Sean Aldridge: All right. Have a great evening. Nice talking to you. Bye.
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