Monday, April 11, 2011

Checklist for Day Prior to Leaving for PE Exam:

Here is a checklist for you to use the day prior to your PE exam:

NCEES examinee letter with examinee ID number.
Read the NCEES Candidate Agreement
Set out comfortable clothes. Include a heavy sweater or light jacket. (Hoods not allowed.)
Fill tank with gas.
Compile all books together.
Find a box to use as a bookshelf.
Print directions to test site.
Set alarm (two, if you got ‘em.)
Calculator. Double check against NCEES list, and the California state calculator policy, if you are taking the PE exam in the Golden State. The lists are not the same!
Reserve Calculator.
Add any loose papers to a binder. Organize and tab sections.
Gatorade or G2 Perform.
Bring old NCEES mechanical pencils.
Money for parking..
Go to bed on time.

Some explanations: 

Box: the box can be set on top of your table. This allows you to easily look up from your exam, see the reference you need, and grab it. Once finished, you can easily replace it to your instant book shelf. This keeps less important books out of your work area. You also will not have to rummage around in a wheeled carry-on bag sitting on the floor. This equates to time saved and frustration avoided.

The image is the box I used to carry my books into the exam. It then becomes a very convenient book shelf.

Binder: This is a place for any vocabulary list you may have printed out. These can be valuable in the NCEES PE exam morning session, as well as the afternoon exam. Also include any problems you have worked and reworked. In my exam-day binder, I printed several problems from my practice tests. Three of them were very similar to actual test problems. Having the problems in my binder saved me time and mental energy. 

Fill ‘er up: You do not want to pull over to fill your gas tank early in the morning. You want to drive straight to the exam site and stay focused on one thing- your exam. So, stop by the petrol station the Thursday before your exam date.

Pack Books: In the morning, some unexpected thing may cause you to rush. Rushing can create room for omissions and errors. Line up your books and double check to ensure you have it all. Before Seismic Exam day, I left my Kaplan “Civil & Structural Engineering Seismic Design Review for the PE Exam” book on the floor in the bathroom. I had searched my desk and book shelf for all the references and books I planned to take. I almost missed this book! It played an important part in my exam, too. So, double check your books.

Gatorade and G2 Perform: Your brain uses the body’s resources just like physical labor uses them. Prepping for activity is just as relevant for mental competitors as it is for physical competitors.

NCEES Letter: The young woman who sat to my right printed out only her confirmation email. She somehow overlooked the attachment. This was caught at 8:43. The chief proctor sent her to the “Help Desk”. She returned several minutes later with her letter and took the exam. They allowed her to open her email, and print out the attachment on the email from NCEES. It worked out for her. But, better to bring your letter in the first place. 

Mechanical Pencils: In case they run out of pencils. You will only have one of these if you previously took an exam and are re-taking any part of the exam series. (I retook the California State Specific Seismic Principles Exam, so I had one from the previous exam.) I read the testimony of an examinee whose exam group started late because the proctors ran out of mechanical pencils. Proctors drove to the store to purchase more.

Reserve Calculator: You're only allowed one on the desktop. But, you are permitted a back up. There is an excellent PE Exam Calculator Review to help you select a second unit (If you're reading this well ahead of time, the best deals are online. If the actual day before, take a trip to the local office supply. Fill your tank on the way!)

Get to bed on time: Mental exercise actually requires more rest than physical labor. Charge up with a good rest. Actually, because of the way the body compensates with hormones, sleep on Tuesday and Wednesday nights will have more impact on your performance than will sleep on Thursday. All-nighters, of course are a mistake. Better to be fresh for an 8-hour comprehensive exam than to splurge 6 hours sleep for 6 hours' review time.

NCEES Candidate Agreement: Be sure to read this brief, two-page explanation of what can get you kicked out of the exam. For example, a cell phone or a non-NCEES pencil are grounds for an early departure and/or invalidation of your exam.

Money for Parking: The cost to park at the Sacramento, California PE exam site was $5, cash only. I previously took my FE exam there. When I didn't have cash on the FE date, the cashier told me I could park across the street, and walk over, which I did. So, be sure to have some cash for 9 or 10 hours of parking.

Did I leave something off this list? Post a comment!


  1. I would add, that a good breakfast on the day of is also helpful.

  2. So you can bring a box but not a backpack to hold your books in? On the Candidate Agreement, it says no bags, only clear bags.

    1. I had not heard that. When I tested in 2010, my box was not an issue at all. Some people wheeled in moving-to-another-state sized suitcases.

  3. PS: Actually, the great state of Florida (born and raised!) is the Sunshine State. California is known as the Golden State.

    1. Thanks. I can see why both states would be called Sunshine. But, I have no idea what is "golden" about California. The liberal laws make it easy to sue professionals, who leave in droves. This is one (ironic) reason The state has lower than average requirements for licensure. They need to replace those who leave for more golden opportunities.
      I fixed the error. Points to you. Peace.


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