If you want to pass your PE exam but think there’s no time for you to learn all the technical content, then this episode is for you. Today, Luis Duque from Engineering Our Future shares a recently released study guide that teaches you how — not what — to study for the PE exam so you can pass it once and for all…as he did on his first try.
Tune in to Learn:
- How Luis prepared for and passed his PE Exam all by himself
- An underappreciated outcome of taking the PE exam that supercharges your career
- A scientifically proven study technique that helps you learn more…faster
- The only two things you need to consider when choosing your depth section
- How much time you should give yourself to prepare for the exam
- What the PE exam decoupling is and how it impact when you should (not “can”) sit for it
- Luis’s study guide teaches you how, instead of what, to study for your PE 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]
The Ultimate PE Exam Study Guide (Use Code CEA to Get 10% Off) – https://www.luisfelipeduque.com/pe-exam-study-guide
Free PE Course – https://engineeringourfuture.gumroad.com/l/FreePECourse
PE Civil Structural Notes – https://engineeringourfuture.gumroad.com/l/PE-Structural-Notes
Engineering Our Future Website – https://www.luisfelipeduque.com
Engineering Our Future Podcast #43 with Isaac Oakeson – https://www.luisfelipeduque.com/043
Engineering Our Future Blog – https://www.luisfelipeduque.com/home/blog
ASCE's PE Exam Review Courses – https://www.asce.org/education-and-events/explore-education/pe-exam-reviews
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, excited to be with you again. Thanks for joining me today on a podcast episode. Today, I bring back a previous guest that I've had, Luis Duque of Engineering Our Future. He jumps on. Has a very popular podcast that details basically anything to help engineers on their own journey in life. And he created a nice PE course that complements those that are getting started to prepare for the PE exam, giving you the tips and tools and resources to help get you started. Including talking about our own tools at civilengineeringacademy.com, as well as the courses that we have to help people more of the technical side of things.
Isaac Oakeson: So I bring him on, we talk about his journey into taking the civil PE exam. We also talk a lot of tips related to taking the PE exam, how long to study for the PE exam, and really the motivation on why to take the PE exam in the first place. So we talk in detail about his course that he's releasing. We even offer you a special discount code and coupon for the course, if you are interested in upping your game as you're preparing for the PE exam. So, had a good time, and I think you're really gonna enjoy this episode and it's gonna be coming up right after this.
Isaac Oakeson: All right. What is going on, Luis? Thanks for joining me on another episode of the Civil Engineering Academy Podcast. I'm excited that you've jumped back on to share some of your wisdom.
Luis Duque: Yeah, thanks for inviting me. Very excited to be here again.
Isaac Oakeson: Yeah, this is gonna be exciting. So, one of the things I wanted to connect with you is, you've been publishing a lot of material about the PE exam and your journey. Even a course that you've come up with. But before I kind of dive into those kind of questions and pick your brain about that stuff, maybe you could share with us a background about your own PE journey, what that was like for you, the mindset that you had, you know, going into the exam, and the struggle, I guess. So tell us a little bit about that.
Luis Duque: Yeah. It's been a year, almost today, when I found out that I passed the PE exam. So that's obviously a big moment in every engineer's career. And preparing for exam wasn't really easy just because of COVID. There was a lot of courses that I could just attend. I tried to attend the ASCE course. There's definitely a lot of courses online, but at the time, they didn't seem to work out well for me.
Luis Duque: So I just decided to go through this journey by myself. I felt like I was confident in just studying by myself. I had resources and concepts and study techniques that I have been working on for a little while. I really enjoy reading and researching deep work, recall, and space repetition. All these techniques that are really important to learn material like the one we need to do for the PE.
Luis Duque: So I studied for about four months. Spaced it out to make sure I wasn't going too hard at the beginning and wasn't gonna burn out really early on. And I just took my time, took a lot of practice exams, a lot of practice problems, studied the material, did my own summaries, and gathered all this information that helped me eventually take the exam.
Luis Duque: I felt okay doing exam. I don't think I was super confident, but obviously I passed the exam and everything went well. So I just wanted to create -- Well, I've done a lot of content around the PE exam, which has been great. During the podcast, I've had other people that have passed the exam. Some people that haven't passed the exam. I've wrote articles about the new format. I've wrote articles about my own journey through passing the exam.
Luis Duque: So it's a topic that had been really present on my mind for the past year that I passed exam. So I'm basically taking all of this information, all the things that I learned doing that, and I'm just gonna put it together into a course where people can access it. But the most important part is there will be access to an accountability group that's gonna help them study and prepare for exam.
Luis Duque: And this course is just intended to give you the tools, study techniques, help you figure out how you learn, what are the best techniques for your learning style, and then create a plan to tackle the exam, which I'm sure you know about. It's hard. And it's [inaudible] and complicated. So it's something that I'm trying to facilitate and something that, hopefully, a lot of people see the value in it. Because there's a lot of information that is hard to gather when you are just entering this journey by yourself.
Isaac Oakeson: Yeah, it totally is. I, I agree with you for sure. And many people have, you know, their own -- Everyone's got their own journey to get there to become a professional engineer. So, I like it. So, I notice that some people lose their motivation sometimes. Or sometimes maybe their goals aren't strong enough to earn the PE license. But what, in your opinion, I guess, could an engineer do to know the value of getting that license so that they can keep going? Whether they have taken the exam and failed it, or whether they just haven't taken it or haven't been motivated to do it. So what are your thoughts around that?
Luis Duque: I mean, I think there's a lot of value in just the license in general. I mean, just talking about simple things, like you'll able to earn more, be able to stamp drawings and have your own design. I think you really become more valuable to any of the companies. And it's a process that not only, in my opinion, helps you get this license that it's important for your career and everything, but I think already makes you a great engineer. You have to review a lot of material. You have to learn a lot of stuff during the process. And I mean, my first video related to the PE exam was just talking about that process and how simply starting preparing, putting the effort, 200-300 hours of studying and preparing, already made me a better engineer.
Luis Duque: So if you're a young engineer, you're on the fence about taking exam, don't even think about the benefits of the PE license. I think, think about the benefits of going through the process of studying for the exam that is gonna make you a better engineer, is gonna bring more value to the company. They're gonna give you a raise, they're gonna give you a promotion. And obviously, if you get the PE license eventually, that's gonna combine all of these things and really enhance your career at the end of the day.
Isaac Oakeson: I like it. So, I guess the point there is to enjoy the journey. And to be honest with people, like, when I was studying for the PE exam, you actually, believe it or not, get to a point when you get back to that homework and study mode that you might even enjoy. You know, solving problems at some point. When things start clicking, it's like, "Hey, I'm catching onto this. And this is fun." Like, stuff starts firing and clicking and making sense.
Luis Duque: Right. And not only during studying for the exam. But I think even after you're done preparing for the exam, you take it, you go back to work and you see a problem that you now know how to solve because you went through studying for exam and you went through that process of learning this new material that maybe you forgot or was taught different at the university. Now, you know how to design a beam, a column with some weird loading or something that you found when you were studying for the exam. So now you have a better understanding of the technical concepts just because you were studying for that.
Isaac Oakeson: I like it. And what depth section did you take?
Luis Duque: Structural
Isaac Oakeson: Structural. So there's a lot of codes associated with that and such. With your course, do you touch on anything related to people's depth exams? Or I guess, could you give us a couple highlights of what you've got in the course to help people?
Luis Duque: Right. So the course is basically split in three different modules. So Module one is mostly giving you my experience taking the exam. I have someone that recently took the CBT exam, and is giving her experience on the process and how the exam changed. Also I'm gonna start giving you the resources and the place that you can go to access material, some of my own articles and blog posts, some of the courses that you offer, some of the courses that other people offer, giving people the options and seeing what's out there to really prepare for this exam. Giving my experience will help them see what my journey was. Seeing that it may be hard at times, but there's always an option. There's always a plan that can be created to accomplish this really tough task.
Luis Duque: And then we move to module two, and this is where, I think, the good stuff begins. We start talking about how do you learn? What are your best learning style? If you are someone that loves reading or writing, you're someone that loves having visuals, someone that likes to teach. Then we apply those learning styles into an actual study strategy. So we go into some science-based study techniques that are proven to help you learn faster, help you learn better. And I think, ultimately, just help you learn in a way that maybe you haven't done it in the past. Retain the material better and, honestly, just help you later on in your career, because now you understand these a lot better than you did before.
Luis Duque: We touch on time management tips. As engineers, we're really busy. We have limited time. When I was going through the exam, I had two children at home. Life was busy. I was doing the podcast. I was working. There was a lot of things going on around me. So I needed to maximize the time. So I touch on some time management techniques that are really powerful; they're gonna save people a lot of time to put into the things that really matter.
Luis Duque: And then on the last module, we create a plan to go through this process. So we talk about when to study, how to study. We create a solid three- or four-month plan to help everyone look at the topics they have to study, which one you feel more confident on, which one you need to start studying more, which ones you may need to just touch on a little bit and just solve some problems. And help them create that plan that ultimately is gonna prepare them the best way to get to the exam.
Isaac Oakeson: I love it. That sounds like good stuff. I like it. So you mentioned, a scientific-based way to study. Could you maybe touch on maybe one thing that you've learned as you have researched a scientific-based way to study? Because I don't think most engineers even know what that might mean. You know, they just start plugging and chugging and opening a book and start going to town. So what do you mean by a "scientific-based way of studying"?
Luis Duque: So, I mean, I think we have all gone through school and one of the most common ways to study is, you open your textbook and you start reading what the textbook says. You may highlight some things, do some summary of the topics, and you finish a chapter and maybe you are going back and rereading the thing, trying to figure out what's going on, trying to figure out if you are really understanding the concepts. You may practice some problems to test yourself. And most people just leave it at that. And that's what I did in college. That's all I did in college. And again, it works. But you're not maximizing that time you're using to learn the material.
Luis Duque: So one of the techniques that are scientifically proven to increase your retention of the material, help you learn better, there's a lot of papers on this, is active recall. So you look at the material and instead of just reading, you are actually trying to engage with the material by retrieving information from your brain. So let's say you're studying for your structural depth portion, concrete, concrete beams. Instead of just going to that chapter and start reading all the concepts, you start writing a list of questions that you think will help your mind retrieve the information from your brain.
Luis Duque: And it may sound weird, but like, we learn more by trying to take stuff out of your brain than putting stuff into your brain. So you read the question, you say, "I don't know this one". Then it may move to the red zone where you save it for later. But then you start going through all these questions, you start getting that information out of your brain. And by doing that, you're teaching your brain to get that information out of it and really get those concepts nailed down and ultimately just learn a lot faster.
Isaac Oakeson: That's great. I could also see, by learning that way, you probably would score or do better on the theory type questions where you need to understand the concepts and use engineering judgment to help solve those things. And there's quite a few of those on the exam. It's always a surprise to people how many problems there are on there that are just, "you gotta reason out", you know?
Luis Duque: Right. And I think also very important is -- I mean, you, when you took the exam, you probably realized this. When you're answering one question, sometimes you need to know information from different aspects of that design. So by really understanding how all these concepts are connected with each other, you can read the question and say, "Okay, this question relates to this code, and this section, and I need to consider these variables. Then I can answer this specific question." And you need to really retrieve information from various aspects of the design, not just what they're asking you in front of you.
Isaac Oakeson: I like it. One of the common questions that I see that students have is, they always ask which depth section to take. Do you have any advice around that for students looking to take this relatively soon?
Luis Duque: Yeah. I mean, I think, for some people, there is an easy answer. For example, in my case, I work in residential construction. Now I work on bridges. So the structural depth portion is kind of the clear option here. Like, I could do transportation, maybe I could do construction, but structural is kind of what we've specialized in. A lot of companies will really teach you that or tell you that, that this is what we do; this is that portion that most of the employees take. And that's a great way to just figure out if that's really the path you wanna take.
Luis Duque: I know other people in bridge engineering, for example, Dani, who's been here on the podcast a few times, she took the transportation depth portion. And obviously, is not the same as structures, but she is more leaning towards transportation in her field. Even though she works in a lot of bridges and is a structural engineer and does a lot of structural design, their portion was transportation just because that's what she does a lot. And she thought was gonna be more beneficial for her future at the end of the day.
Luis Duque: So just knowing what you're doing right now, I think is the first step. Asking around in the company, what people have taken in the past, and just looking at what you wanna do with your career. There's, again, a fine line between structures, transportation, construction, and then you have all the other ones that may not be related with each other. But if you understand what you're doing, where you wanna go with your career, then you can take that step and decide which depth section to take.
Isaac Oakeson: Makes sense. Good advice. Now I guess a follow-up question is, how many hours or months do you think, on average, people should be taking or preparing for this? And maybe touch on if you've not been in the industry for a while -- I've interviewed people that are maybe mothers that have come back to the industry or even people that, you know, just haven't taken the PE. Or have come from another country and need to take it, but they just kind of been out of the school mode for many, many years. So what are your thoughts around how many hours that people should be putting into this?
Luis Duque: Yeah. And I think, even over the amount of hours, you need to study, I think -- I like to think of it just months before. Because you could be studying a month before the exam and you could be cramming 300 hours in that month, and it's gonna be hell and you're not gonna learn anything. But if you think of five, maybe even six months, with that same number of hours, that's more manageable. So you're studying maybe one or two hours a day. You may study on Saturday. You may study after work for more time.
Luis Duque: I found that the sweet spot for me was four months. That's when I started studying for the exam. Just early January, I took it at the end of April. And I thought that was great. I started with one hour a day for a week or two. And we go a lot about this on the course as well, and the science behind the importance of spacing that time as much as possible, honestly, so you have time for reviewing and recalling all this material, really learning what you're doing. And getting into the exam, I was doing a lot more exams, a lot more exam problems and just kind of getting into that test mode that is super important. So I think between that 200 to 300 hours was the range that I was in, maybe closer to 300. But I spaced it longer than probably most people have.
Isaac Oakeson: That makes sense. I am all for giving yourself a long runway to get through this thing. I hate to see people cramming for it at the last second.
Luis Duque: There's no rush.
Isaac Oakeson: Some do, and you know, maybe it works. But not for most people.
Luis Duque: Right.
Isaac Oakeson: Good points. Well, I think one of the interesting things that states are doing, individual states are doing, is they're separating the exam from the actual experience requirement that is required. And it does vary state to state on who's doing this. But in your experience and what you've gone through, would you recommend people taking this exam as soon as possible or waiting until they gathered the experience to take it? Because that's when they can really get it anyway. So do you have any thoughts around that?
Luis Duque: I have a couple thoughts. So there's states that let you take it basically immediately after you graduate, there's states that let you take it two to three years. So maybe like in between graduating and the four-year range that we have all heard about. I recommend if you are a student that got good grades, really understand the material, the stuff that they show on the PE exam, at least from my perspective in the structural area, wasn't that much complicated or that much different from what I learned in school. There were a few things that I've learned some tricks to calculate, maybe some beam forces faster than what we're taught in school. But that's really not gonna make a big difference.
Luis Duque: So I think if you're a good student, if you learned the material well, you got good grades, you are passionate about the depth portion that you're gonna take—because I think that 70% of the exam is mostly just the depth portion, just counting questions in the morning—I think you're gonna be in a great position to take this exam. Obviously you need to put in the work to study the 200 to 300 hours, get into the exam understanding what exam entails and how to take it.
Luis Duque: If, on the other side, you maybe graduated as a civil engineer, you don't really know which depth portion you may take, I recommend you just go out and work for a few years, try to figure that out, get the experience. And then, once that time comes, four years, maybe even more than that, there's really no rush to take the exam in the first place, you're gonna be better prepared and you're gonna have the best chance to pass exam.
Isaac Oakeson: Makes sense to me. I like your tips around that. I'm in the same line, so I feel the same way about that. Well, let's jump back to your course. So it's probably early in its stages, but have you had some students go through it and what's their experience been like? Have you had any feedback around that? And maybe touch on your own journey in creating it? Maybe something that you took away as you were making this thing. So any thoughts around that?
Luis Duque: Yeah. So, I mean, I didn't think I was ever gonna really do something like this in the past. I put a lot of PE content out there just because I have a podcast, I really enjoy sharing my experience with this process. The PE exam is a topic that's really popular within engineering, and got some good attention. I think people really enjoy the type of content advice. Having you on the podcast. I've had some people that failed the exam, their experience going through the process. And I think a lot of people really enjoy that content in the first place.
Luis Duque: Then I release my PE notes for the structural depth portion. And as of today, I think it's been downloaded over 800 times, which is incredible. There's a lot of people that really have taken the time to download it, enjoyed it, and I've received a lot of good feedback from that. So there I decided to do a free PE course. And I have that out there. It's just a guide giving you some resources, some exam tips. You helped me write one of the emails on your experience, your resources, and how to approach the exam in the first place. So this was kind of that MVP, the minimum viable product to figure out if this was actually something that people were interested in.
Luis Duque: And that course got over 150 downloads to this day. So obviously it's really popular. I got a lot of feedback from that. So I took all that feedback, all the things that I was hearing from people listening to the podcast or people that were reading the blog and taking the exam. Got all that information and that's how I came out with this course, the tips, the strategies, and everything that I touch on in that course.
Luis Duque: As of today, there have been a couple of people that have read it through. They haven't, like, taken it when preparing for the exam. They're just some friends that are helping me kind of proofread it and making sure there's a lot of value in it. And I'm gonna be opening the course in July 5th. I don't know when this episode is gonna be coming out, but that's when it'll actually be released to the public. So, getting the feedback was from the free version. I implemented those feedback and everything that I heard onto this course. And I think it's amazing. There's a lot of great information there.
Isaac Oakeson: That's great. Well, we're excited to help you out with it. You know, definitely go check it out. Where can people go to check it out and find out more information about it?
Luis Duque: So, they can go to luisfelipeduque.com/peguide, and that will direct them to the page with all the information, what the course has, the different modules, what people are saying about the course. Obviously, we're gonna give the listener of this show a discount code of 10% whenever they buy it through that link. And you can go to the buying page on that website and apply the code CEA for Civil Engineering Academy, and that will give you automatically 10% off on the course. I'm just excited about this because it's something that I've been studying and learning for so long. So I'm excited to put everything together and hopefully a lot of people are taking a lot of value from it.
Isaac Oakeson: I love it. Well, we're excited for you. Thanks for jumping on, share us your tips and tools and resources on how to pass the PE exam. We're all about it here. That's what we are trying to help people with. And we're excited to help people further their journey to become professional engineers. So thanks for taking the time jumping on and sharing that with us.
Luis Duque: Yeah, thanks for inviting me. And again, people can reach out to me on social media, or through the website if they want to have access the course, if they have question about the course, and anything related to engineering. I'm always happy to help people and coach them through the process.
Isaac Oakeson: I love it. Thanks for doing this. We'll see you maybe on a future episode.
Luis Duque: Yeah. Thank you.
Isaac Oakeson: All right. Bye.
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