The FE Exam is your first step in becoming a professional engineer, and truthfully for most of you, to graduate from college. If you've found yourself taking this way out of college that's okay too! The FE is fundamental in testing your knowledge of a wide range of engineering concepts.
Trying to balance your already stressful full-time coursework (or full time job) while studying for the FE can be very overwhelming. Today, I’m going to break down what the FE exam is all about and what the best FE review courses available are so you can pass the FE and be on the road to becoming a professional licensed engineer.
Because this post is so long I've dropped a Table of Contents below for you so you can jump to any section you want to read up on.
What is the FE Exam?
The Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam, sometimes referred to as the Engineer in Training (EIT) exam, is the first exam that engineers must pass in order to become a professional licensed engineer (PE) or structural engineer (SE). It is administered by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES). NCEES develops, administers and scores the FE, PE and SE exams for engineering licensure. There is a $175 exam fee paid directly to NCEES to take the exam. Make sure and check with your individual state’s licensing board to see if they require any additional requirements or a separate application.
The FE exam is designed for recent university graduates and students who are near graduation with an engineering degree from an EAC/ABET-accredited engineering program. Anyone with a degree in engineering or a related field are also eligible to take the FE exam. Each state’s licensure boards set their own education requirements and fee structures for taking the FE exam.
If you'd like to know more about how many took it and some interesting facts about it you may want to check out our podcast CEA Episode 31 as we discuss the NCEES Squared Report.
How Many Questions are There?
The FE exam is a computer-based test (CBT) which consists of 110-questions. You are given 6 hours to complete the exam. This time limit includes a tutorial and an optional scheduled break. Both the International System of Units and the U.S. Customary System are used in the FE exam. It does contain alternative item types (AITs) which are questions other than traditional multiple-choice questions. Examples of some AIT questions can include the following types of questions; fill in the blank questions; drag and drop questions which require you to click on an item and drag it to rank, label, match or sort; point and click questions require you to click on part of a graphic to answer the question; or multiple correct questions which allow you to select multiple answers.
Here's quick breakdown of what you're getting into:
Non -Disclosure Agreement/
5 hr 55 min
The FE Civil exam covers 14 knowledge categories. Those categories are: Mathematics and Statistics; Ethics and Professional Practice; Engineering Economics; Statics; Dynamics; Mechanics of Materials; Materials; Fluid Mechanics; Surveying; Water Resources and Environmental Engineering; Structural Engineering; Geotechnical Engineering; Transportation Engineering; and Construction Engineering.
Exam Testing Date Appointment time Nondisclosure Agreement Tutorial Exam time Scheduled break Number of questions FE/FS Year-Round 5 hr 55 min 2 min 8 min 5 hr 20 min 25 min 110
Is the FE an Open Book Exam?
The FE Exam is not an open book exam, but better described as a “limited reference exam”. Limited reference exam means that the only reference you are able to use on the exam is the NCEES Handbook. No other reference materials are allowed while taking the exam. The FE Handbook is free though. You can get a PDF copy by accessing your NCEES account and finding a copy. You can also purchase a hard copy but we recommend getting the PDF version and using it ALL the time because it's going to be your go to resources for this exam. You need to become intimately familiar with it.
How is the Exam Scored?
There are no partial credit scores given for the FE exam. All questions are either scored as correct or incorrect. As of July 2020, the FE Civil exam pass rate is 73%. This percentage represents people who took the FE exam for the first time, who attended an EAC/ABET-accredited engineering program and who took the exam within twelve months of graduation from a university.
The actual results are simply reported as a pass or a fail. So you can imagine the elation of getting a pass and the crushing results of a fail in your inbox. They do however provide you with a diagnostic report that breaks down what areas you did well at what areas you sucked at, er, I mean, didn't score as high on. It's at least helpful in letting you know of areas to boost your study efforts.
Here's how the NCEES describes how this is scored: Your exam results are based on the total number of correct answers that you selected. There are no deductions for wrong answers. The score is then converted to a scaled score, which adjusts for any minor differences in difficulty across the different exam forms. This scaled score represents an examinee’s ability level and is compared to the minimum ability level for that exam, which has been determined by subject-matter experts through psychometric statistical methods (What? Yep.).
NCEES does not publish the passing score because it varies slightly based on difficulty. NCEES scores each exam with no predetermined percentage of examinees that should pass or fail. All exams are scored the same way. First-time takers and repeat takers are graded to the same standard.
Here's an example of a diagnostic report from the FE Electrical Exam:
Based on experience you should aim to get about 70% right. If you can score close to 70% on this exam then you've got it aced. In fact, you may want to check out our podcast CEA Episode 40 or CEA Episode 41 about all the test taking tips we could find on passing the FE. You can also check out the video below:
When Can I Take the FE Exam?
The first step is registering for an FE exam. Go to HERE and create an account. Once you have a MyNCEES account, follow the onscreen instructions which include: reviewing the FE exam specifications, fees and requirements; reading reference materials; understanding scoring and reporting; and viewing the most up-to-date FE exam pass rates. Because the FE Exam is a CBT, it is administered year-round at NCEES-approved Pearson VUE test centers. You can search for a test center closest to you here: Pearson Vue .
The exam itself is offered year round because it is computer based. It's specifically offered during these times:
- January to March
- April to June
- July to September
- October to December
NCEES policy states examinees may attempt a particular NCEES exam one time per testing window and no more than three times in a 12-month approval period, which begins with the examinee’s first attempt. Some licensing boards have a more restrictive policy. Visit ncees.org/boards to review the policy of the licensing board you selected during the registration process. Once you are approved, your authorization will expire after 12 months. You will forfeit your registration fee if you fail to schedule your exam during this 12-month period. You are also charged a fee if you decide to reschedule the exam on another day.
My advice is to commit to the date and stick with it!
When Do I Get My Results?
An email from NCEES is sent to you typically between 7-10 days after you take the exam. This email will inform you that your results are in and that you can view them in your MyNCEES account. The results also include specific information for your particular licensing board so you know what your next steps are.
Can I Cancel the Exam or Get a Refund?
Here's the policy right from NCEES: You may cancel or reschedule your CBT appointment through your MyNCEES account. You may be entitled to a refund, depending on the date that you cancel or reschedule the exam. Applicable refunds will be processed automatically and applied to the same credit card used when registering for the computerbased exam within 7–10 business days.
All reschedule fees are payable directly to Pearson VUE and are subject to applicable Pearson VUE fees. You must reschedule a computer-based exam at least 24 hours in advance of your scheduled appointment. Examinees who reschedule 24 to 48 hours in advance of their scheduled appointment will pay a higher fee than those who reschedule more than 48 hours in advance of their scheduled appointment.
You may cancel your computer-based exam as long as you do so more than 48 hours in advance of your scheduled appointment. Cancellations that are received more than 48 hours in advance of a scheduled appointment will be eligible for a refund of the NCEES registration fee less a $50 administrative fee.
Cancellations are not allowed within 48 hours of a scheduled appointment. If a test center is open during inclement weather, neither NCEES nor Pearson VUE will make exceptions to refund and fee policies for examinees who cancel, reschedule, or fail to attend their scheduled appointment because of weather conditions.
If, on the day you are scheduled to test, you are unable to attend the exam for any of the following reasons, you may be allowed to reschedule without paying a rescheduling fee or
may be allowed to cancel with a full refund:
• Illness, either yourself or immediate family
• Death in the immediate family
• Disabling traffic accident
• Court appearance or jury duty
• Military duty
To avoid any monetary penalty in such situations, you will be required to provide reasonable documentation to NCEES within 14 days of your originally scheduled appointment confirming why you were unable to
test as scheduled. If you have an issue regarding a payment or refund, contact NCEES directly. Fees associated with charge-backs, returned checks, or any form of disputed payment are the responsibility of
How's that for a policy?
What FE Review Courses Available?
Because the FE exam is so vital to your career as an engineer, there are some courses that are available to help you focus and study so that you can pass the FE exam.
We will try to break this down and give you our ratings of each course. Having said that, some links are affiliate links and are no cost to you, but we make a small kick-back for sharing the course with you. We just want to be very transparent about what is out there for you so you can make the most informed decision you can.
It can be difficult to pinpoint what FE review course is right for you. We’ve listed the top FE review courses out there with some pros and cons of each course to help you make the best decision for you.
1. The Ultimate Civil FE Review Course $297/mo - $897/yr
The Ultimate Civil FE Review Course was built from the ground up by practicing engineering brothers Mark Oakeson, PE, SE and Isaac Oakeson, PE. They built the review course around the current NCEES specifications. It provides great materials, amazing support and is very cost effective.
2. PPI2PASS $285/mo - $1,750/yr
In 1975, Michael R. Lindburg, PE founded PPI. In 2018, PPI was acquired by Kapalan Professionals to add to their extensive product lines. PPI has a long history of providing materials for all engineering disciplines. PPI offers FE courses in six disciples and are offered online or on-demand.
3. School of PE $290/mo - $1190/6 mo
Since 2004, the School of PE has offered review courses to help students pass NCEES exams. They have multiple instructors who specialize in the subject they are teaching. They provide online and on-demand services.
7. Capstone Learning Associates $699
8. Excel Test Prep FE Review $999 - $1,299
9. FE Exam Tutoring Services - $1,950 - $2,950
10. Coursera - Georgia Tech - $50
11. TestMasters - $550 - $1,100
12. Prepineer - $179/month - $979/month
13. Engineering Education & Training - $549-$1,149
If you know of any other courses that you've run across let us know in the comments or feel free to email me at [email protected] so we can add them!
#1 The Ultimate Civil FE Review Course
The FE course we personally built to help you ace this exam is always ranked one of the highest. Check out testing.org and verify for yourself! The course comes with a lot of content, plenty of problems, a cost that is affordable, and amazing support.
COST $297 - $897
Pros and Cons of The Ultimate Civil FE Review Course
The Ultimate Civil FE Review Course offers your biggest bang for your buck. You get to chose which level of access you'd like depending on if you're a crammer or you need more preparation. Chose the one year option and you'll have the course for a full year of access just in case you need it. With a 15-day money back guarantee it's hard to pass this up.
PPI offers the most comprehensive course with the amount of material you can get. There seems to be an endless amount of options. Everyone uses the CERM so sometimes it makes sense to combine that with the a course. They are more on the expensive side but PPI is a proven company with good reputation
COST $285/MO - $1785/YR
Pros and Cons of PPI
PPI has been around the bock when preparing engineers for the NCEES exams. They have been around for years. They were recently purchased by Kaplan and things have slowly changed but they still have good content and courses albeit more on the expensive side.
#3 School of PE
The School of PE offers great course options. In terms of overall value they are ranked very high. They have good content, their cost is in range of others and includes manuals and content. I haven't heard much of the support but I'm sure its fine too.
SOPE offers a variety of options to take a FE review course. They have refresher topics that will get you up to speed and they offer a variety of problems to solve. School of PE has been around for many years and they offer a solid review for FE test takers.
#4 Engineering Education and Training (EET)
EET is relatively new to the FE review course market but they have popped up in forums and are gaining popularity. They range in options from a short on-demand course all the way up to a 20 week review either live or on-demand.
COST $549/OD - $1149/LIVE
The word on the street is the EET has a pretty good review course for your FE civil exam. They provide their own material and provide good value for the cost.
Prepineer provides great support, personalization, and a fun environment to study for the FE exam. They offer customized study plans and a dedicated instructor for the course.
COST $549/OD - $1149/LIVE
Prepineer is a solid choice to help with the FE exam. They are personable and are the cheapest per month charge that we've seen. It may be worth checking into if cost is a major factor.
The truth with the courses that I've outlined and highlighted is that you can't go wrong with any of them. Each has pros and cons associated with it. The fact of the matter is that you get what you put into studying. If you can focus on practicing the problems and always find more to do then you'll be way ahead of the game and on the path to success! In fact, check out other my other secrets to passing in the video below!
Courses provided structure and accountability to help you get back into school mode and force yourself to get serious about this massive milestone in your life. With that said, here are my final thoughts and awards for the top civil FE review courses (the others are decent too!):
Prepineer - they are affordable and personable. Their low monthly option gives them the edge here. I'd say The Ultimate Civil FE Review Course is a close second.
PPI - they have THE most content you can find and have been around the block the longest. SOPE is a second place finisher as they give you some great content as well but nowhere near the options of PPI.
What Are the Best FE Practice Exams?
If you are looking for other material you may consider getting our very own practice exams, The Ultimate Civil FE Practice Exam Volume 1 and 2 in addition please check out the best free FE resources. They give you life-like exam experience. We also recommend grabbing a copy of the Civil Engineering Reference Manual from PPI and it's associated practice problems book - use our discount code of CIVAC to get 15% off your order!
The more problems you can get the better so load up on exams and problems to do! If you would like to check out more FE resources then check out our resources page where we detail all the best free and not-so free resources out there.
Take a FE Assessment Quiz
Ready to quiz yourself and see how you're doing? Take this 5 question FE theory quiz and see where you're at!
Everyone and their dog has an opinion about courses and what they provide, didn't provided, etc. What do you think? Sound off in the comments below and let's hear it!
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