Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Can Prayer Help Pass the PE Exam?

Prayer helped me in passing the PE exam. I will tell you how:

How Prayer Aided my EIT test success: 

I read, prior to taking the EIT (FE) exam that two things can increase exam scores by 5 to 10 percent. First, do five minutes of exercise. The increased blood circulation improves mental performance. Second, drinking a cup of coffee also increases blood flow. The morning of the exam, as I left a friend's home en route to Sacramento, I prayed, "Lord, please give me an opportunity to have a cup of coffee and also to get a little exercise before the test begins."

On the way, I suddenly had to relieve my bladder. I pulled off highway 99 to a gas station. As I pulled into the lot, I saw a large four foot square banner: 16 oz Coffee 99 cents       

So, I bought a coffee, which I had already forgotten I wanted to do. I slowly sipped it as I drove the last 20 miles to the exam site at Cal Expo. I drank only about half. It is wise to prevent multiple trips to the restroom during the exam.

When I arrived, I parked across the street to save the five dollar parking fee. I walked to the exam and sat down at a table. I looked and noticed a fellow next to me had two calculators on the table. I thought, "He should only have one calculator on the table." Then, I looked for where I had placed mine. I remembered it was on the floor of my car.

I had to negotiate with the elderly lady at the door. She told me to speak with the person in charge. This man had no problem with it, but told me to hurry. "If the doors close before you get back, no one enters after the doors close." So, I ran to my parking space. Finding my calculator there, I again ran back, wishing I had worn something other than my Birkenstock sandals.

When I returned, the door was yet open, and I entered with no problem. I made sure the man in charge saw me, and sat at my seat. I recalled the prayer. I realized I just received the second part of my prayer: a 5 minute jogging exercise.

How I Prayed for the PE Exam:

I prayed for success, of course. I also prayed that God would cause me to have work which would incorporate problems that were going to be on the PE exam.

On the actual exam day, many of the problems were similar to those I had worked in the few months prior to the exam. In fact, the day before the exam, I broke conventional wisdom and took a practice exam using my PPI account to generate the practice exam. Several of them I was almost able to solve, but answered incorrectly. I worked each one correctly, then copied them into Word documents, printed them out, and put them into a three-ring binder. Three of them used the exact same solution process as actual questions on the exam.

I did not study for the surveying exam or the seismic exam very well. On the surveying exam, most of the problems were problems that I had worked as the survey crew leader in Athens-Clarke County. On the seismic portion, I mismanaged my time. I worked as if I had 4 hours. Really, there are just 2 and a half hours for 50 questions. This is 3 minutes per seismic problem, not 6, as I worked. So, the California Board of Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors sent me an automatic entry for the October 30, 2010 exam.

The new procedure requires all PE examinees to also register with NCEES. I did and received a confirmation, which I printed out and filed. So, I was surprised on September 27th when I received this email:

Subject: NCEES Exam Registration October 2010 - Cancelled

Your state board or testing service has not approved you to sit for the October 
2010 exam. Therefore, your NCEES exam registration has been cancelled. Please do 
not call NCEES about your registration status.  You should direct all your 
inquiries to your board or testing service.
Please note that if you wish to take a future exam, your NCEES ID number will 
remain the same. You simply need to access your NCEES account to register for 
any exams in the future. Registration for the April 2011 exam will open in late 



I was so surprised, I did not even notice the double misspelling of the word "canceled". Returning to the confirmation print-out, I noticed that my own name was not on it. My wife's name was there. Google AutoFill must have done this. When I completed the NCEES boxes, I clicked to advance to the next page of the process, but was returned to the same page to correct something. That must have been when the substitution occurred. AutoFill swapped out my name and inserted my spouse's name instead.

I called NCEES. I spoke with Tamara and explained the situation. She saw that I had in fact registered, and that my wife's name was in my place. She assured me that NCEES never makes any exceptions. Once the deadline has passed, she told me, they have never, not ever, allowed anyone to sit for the exam. NCEES had already ordered the exams to be printed on the 21st, she said. It was impossible because there would be no exam printed for me.

However, she promised to ask the responsible people. I hung up and spoke with my wife. I told her, "We need to pray." We prayed for less than 5 minutes. I said that God promised to grant any prayer in the name of Jesus if two or more people touched in agreement. We prayed for favor and that God would do something to open a door for me to sit for the seismic exam. Then we did a fist bump, and I returned to my desk.

As she promised, Tamara phoned before the end of the business day. I said hello. She said, "You must be the luckiest man on the planet. They agreed to change your status." Then she explained she had actually asked three different people. The third man gave the approval.

So, God blessed me. I believed in God's word, and asked and believed.

Yes, prayer will help you to not only pass the exam, but also to get into the exam in the first place!

Side note: When someone like Tamara goes the extra mile for another person, God will ensure she receives the same if she ever has a need like I had. "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

Saturday, August 7, 2010

PE Exam Tip #2: Make a "Quick Reference" Folder

PE Exam Tips for Winners

During the actual exam, you will utilize your time most effectively, and thereby earn your maximum potential score, by skipping problems with which you are unfamiliar, or which do not quickly yield a solution method. Instead, you will move to the problems you know well. You will work questions similar to the work you perform during the week, from classes in which you excelled, and in material you studied during your preparation for the NCEES exam.

Include: Equations, conversions, solution methods you use regularly.

Add as well: Solved problems you have worked successfully a few times on practice exams, but cannot solve quickly without referencing an example. The day before the April exam, I took the afternoon portion of a practice exam. I copied several examples I correctly worked. And I added a few on which I made simple errors and corrected them in review. On the actual exam, there were three problems very similar to those I had added into my quick reference folder the night before.

Ensure all sheets are secured. I read some testimonies of binders being shaken for loose papers, examinees taping loose sheets into folders in the moments before the exam, and other stories of paranoid police-state enforcement. Just make sure the sheets stay in the folder. I used a hole punch and a Dollar Store plastic three-ring binder. Nothing fancy. Get one that flops open and stays open. Fighting your binder to keep it open during the timed professional engineering exam is not best!

One error I caught while taking a practice exam at home was the distraction of a a binder that wants to flip closed on it's own. I replaced it with one that has creases at the binding so it lays flat naturally.

When you take your practice exams, keep the quick reference binder on the desk you will use. After each use, organize and reorganize to make it more intuitive. Add index sheets or tabs. Put the most used categories to the front. Within categories, move most used sheets to the front, nearest the tab. That way, when you open the binder with the tab, the most likely desired information is immediately available.

Be selective. An overcrowded quick reference is less advantageous than one holding only the richest equations and solution methods. 

Use it during your practice sessions. Books you use during your practice sessions become valuable. You will use them on the exam. References you do not use will be less than worthless- they will be a detriment as you stumble through them hoping the equation you need can be gleaned from unfamiliar pages. The same is true for the quick reference folder.

Bonus tip: You should have a quick reference folder for your desk at work. The one you prepare for the exam will provide the basis for your work version.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

PPI Discount

I prepared for the California April PE exam in 2010 using a heavy emphasis on taking practice exams. In my opinion, this is the best way to prepare for and pass the PE Exam.

You need to practice taking exams in the same conditions under which the actual NCEES exam is administered.

I took a practice exam every other Saturday for three months prior to the exam. Between exams, I focused on two categories: my strongest category and my weakest categories. Investing in your strong area solidifies this base and ensures you will continue to score these points on future practice exams and on the actual exam day. Delving into your weak areas will bring you the "low hanging fruit." Easy topics are learned easily. Some facets of engineering. like pumps, are simple enough- if only you understand the variables used in the equations.

Update (01-26-15): You can find the best PE sample exam books and other review materials at the best PE review materials link below.

Best PE Exam Books
Another great resource for best prices on PE exam review books is the Amazon page pictured to the right. This page has all the best of the current editions of PE review materials.
Don't forget that Amazon requires all sellers on their site to meet or beat prices anywhere else on any other site. And, when it comes to shipping, Amazon.com is free after $35. PPI makes you pay (not cheap, either) up to $350 in books. After that, shipping is free.

Check out the Best PE Review Materials Amazon page.

Be sure to buy a good calculator, a reserve calculator, minimum two practice exam books, and the reference books specific to your exam module.

The two most valuable tools for PE exam review and preparation are taking practice exams and practicing with the Civil Engineering Reference Manual (CERM). To find the cheapest copy of the CERM available, use this page: Civil Engineering Reference Manual 

Friday, July 30, 2010

Excel Test Prep Service

Results from the California PE Exam of April, 2010 were sent out mid-July. A few days prior to receiving my letter, I received two advertisements for study services. I took them as a bad omen. In fact, I failed to pass the seismic portion of the California PE exam series. Here in the Sunshine State, we have 5 portions: a take home, mailed in with the application, the two part NCEES exam, and two more exams the day following the NCEES test date. The two are a seismic and a surveying exam.

Since then, I learned about the best book for the seismic PE exam

I failed the seismic. This is a reasonable result. My study for the other portions had content and structure. For the seismic? Well, I noticed everyone else had seismic books with them. I had only two books: the ASCE7-05 and the 2006 IBC Structural Seismic Design Manual. These were marginally helpful on the exam. End result: my performance on two of five portions of the seismic exam was "marginal". The other three were "deficient".

This harbinger of bad news hit my post box four days before official news:

We guarantee it.
Excel Test Prep

A guarantee shows some good business principles. Plus, they got my address somehow. Freedom of information act, perhaps? Anyhow, you can peruse their site at exceltest.com or phone them at (510) 490-7000. email: pe@exceltest.com

For more PE Exam Review Class reviews, see the PE Review Course List and Comparison.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

PE Exam Books You Will Need:

For the NCEES PE Structural Exam:

1. Civil Engineering Reference Manual 14th Edition (CERM) Michael R. Lindeburg, ISBN: 978-1591263807

2. International Building Code 2012 International Code Council ISBN: 978-1609830403

3. Minimum Design Loads for Buildings and Other Structures, American Society of Civil Engineers, ASCE7-10 ISBN: 978-0784412916

4. Steel Construction Manual AISC 360-10, American Institute of Steel Construction (AISC) ISBN: 978-1564240606

5. Building Code Requirements for Structural Concrete, American Concrete Institute, ACI 318-08 ISBN: 978-0-87031-264-9

6. National Design Specification for Wood Construction ASD/LRFD, 2005 edition, and National Design Specification Supplement, Design Values for Wood Construction, 2005 edition, ASIN: B001K9TDFS

7. PCI Design Handbook Precast and Prestressed Concrete, 6th Edition, 2004  ISBN: 978-0937040713

8. Building Code Requirements and Specifications for Masonry Structures, ACI 530-08, Masonry Standards Joint Committee, ISBN: 1-929081-29-4

9. AASHTO LRFD Design Specifications for Bridges, 5th Edition, 2010, ASIN: B004C15EOA

10. Seismic Design Review Workbook: For the California Civil Professional Engineering Examination (See another post: Best Book for the California Seismic PE Exam.)

11. 2006 IBC Structural/Seismic Design Manual, 2nd Edition, ISBN: 978-1-58001-933-0 (for California Seismic Specialty exam)

12. The book of your choice for the California special Civil Engineering Surveying Exam. Link goes to an article listing all the best options available.

And, again, never be without:

1. Civil Engineering Reference Manual (the CERM), ISBN: 978-1591263418

These books can be purchased at ppi2pass.com. Additionally, take 5% off using promo code PASS1114. . Write down the discount code. Check the ppi bookstore today.

If you want to compare the best PE Sample Exams, click the link!

Monday, May 31, 2010

PE Exam Tip #1: Take Practice Exams!

Best Tip to Pass the PE: Practice Taking Exams

PE Sample Exams Compiled in one store
The best course of preparation for any event is to practice under conditions as close to the actual conditions as you can produce at home. Buy at least two practice exams.

To take a practice PE exam, gather all the books you need for the exam. Bring your calculator, a bottle of water, a mechanical pencil and every other thing you will require on exam day. At 8 am, be in place at your desk, kitchen table, computer station, or whatever place is available to you.

The space you use for the practice exam should be equivalent approximately to half a picnic table. (In SI units, that is 2.2 times the size of a sidewalk cafe table.)

You should plan to take a minimum of five practice exams during your review. Visit Best PE Sample Exams to review all the highest rated practice exams. Snapshot on right shows page 1.

Now, begin your exam. Leave the time running when you run to the loo. On exam day, if you drink too much water, you will likewise lose the time. If you cheat and stop the clock in your practice exam, you will not appreciate the importance of the time. On exam day, you want to arrive well hydrated, but not sloshing as you walk.

Analyze Your Results

Look at your score. Do not worry that you scored only 40% on this first practice exam. This test provides you with a basis to form your studying. For the next two weeks, concentrate on just two topics.

First: In which subjects have you performed very well? You will study this subject with some emphasis for the next two weeks. In which subject did you perform most poorly? This subject will also become a target of study. In the former group, your strong area(s), study will facilitate relearning equations, variables and applications.

Second, focus on your weak area (Is it geotech for everyone?) You will harvest the low hanging fruit, the easy equations and applications. Work problems in all areas, but especially emphasize the two main areas I just mentioned: Your strongest discipline, and your weakest field as well.

The exam is going to have similar, but different, questions than those you work in your study period. For this reason, studying your strong areas will help you have a greater depth of knowledge with which to correctly answer questions and score passing points.

Taking practice exams will also familiarize you with time constraints. Learn to recognize what four hours feels like. Learn to recognize when you have been working a problem for 6 minutes. After this, you need to determine whether to move on or to dog it out (Hint: best to move on). And, of course, practicing problems in a practice exam scenario will teach you through experience which problems you can do quickly, and which problems should be skipped.

I took six full practice exams during my PE exam review period. I took one immediately, to see where I stood and which topics were strong or weak for me. Then, every two weeks, I took another full exam. There are many exams available. The best-rated, most current are on this Amazon page (where you also get the price prices):

PE Sample Exams