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.

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