Saturday, September 7, 2013

Pass the PE like a Pro

The best overall guide to the non-academic parts of the PE process:
    Pass the PE, PE exam, NCEES exam, how to pass the PE, best pe review
    How to Pass the PE

  • determining which kinds of books you will need
  • the best titles for the subjects you want to review
  • how to avoid poor-quality materials
  • preparing an effective study plan
  • How to increase your score 5% in 10 minutes
  • How to get discounts on some of the best books
  • the best calculator for the PE exam
  • + more!
Pass the PE like a Pro compiles the very best material from this blog into one easy professional engineering exam study guide. With a free Kindle app, you can view this on a PC, iphone, ipad, Mac, or any Android device.

In the end of the book, I have a links reference list. Many of these links provide valuable information.

This is a tool to save you time in your exam preparation, which requires more than just working problems. Additionally, I list several tips I've learned over more than 30 years in academic competitions, winning Marine of the Year in 1988, learning foreign languages, and -of course- passing the FE and PE exams.

At just $2.99, you can't afford not to buy this one. See book now: Pass the PE like a Pro

This low price for this professional engineering exam study guide is an introductory price to increase sales and push the book up in Amazon's listings. (When you search, the highest selling books appear first.) Update: Now #20 in Kindle Civil Engineering books. Thanks for the support!

  No risk- as with all Kindle books, Amazon offers a 7-day return policy.

No Kindle? No problem! Download Kindle viewer free:

Kindle for PC

Kindle for Mac

Kindle for Ipad, Ipod, Ipod Touch 

Friday, August 30, 2013

Best PE Exam Review Materials

PE exam study, professional engineer exam, civil PE exam, PE exam review
Snapshot of PE Exam Materials Store
Today, I finally completed a massive review of the available PE exam study materials. Phew! I learned there are some good books, some real worthless garbage, and some absolute "must have" materials.

In short, I compiled lists of the best PE review books for each topic: mechanical,  industrial, chemical, et al, and each of the five civil engineering afternoon topics: structural, geotechnical, environmental and water resources, transportation, and construction; as well as the California civil engineering surveying, and California civil seismic exams.

I put it all together in special pages on Amazon. The first page is a list of my top recommendations, the "must have" list. You'll need to click around to see other lists. Most of the lists have multiple pages.

PE Exam Study Materials

One thing that stunned me: I found a lot of unique material from this blog in other writers' content. I checked and confirmed- I published first. Wow. They say copying is the highest compliment. Well, I am blushing!

You, of course, are reading this material for FREE. You're welcome. Look in the right margin for more great articles that are sure to make it into more books "by others."

When it comes to the Civil and Mechanical exams, a good book of engineering unit conversions will prove valuable. The best title I have identified is Engineering Unit Conversions, by Michael Lindeburg. 

Friday, August 23, 2013

Best Surveying Book for CA PE Exam

What is the best surveying review book to prepare for the California Engineering Surveying exam? This is a complete list of the available books. There are not too many options!

Here, I list the books that don't make people pull their hair out. By this, I mean they have better than 50% reviewer ratings.

The California Engineering Surveying exam has a lower pass rate than either of the NCEES morning or afternoon exams. The first thing you need to do is understand what is on the exam. To do this, visit the website's 7-page description of the five content areas covered in the Engineering Surveying exam:

Engineering Surveying Exam PE CaliforniaI. Standards of Practice (6%)

II. Equipment and Uses (8%)

III. Field Measurements (28%)

IV. Calculations (33%)

V. Data Application Procedures (25%)

Part I, Standards and Practice, is kind of a "gimme", like the ethics questions of the FE exam. If you read the material twice, you're sure to answer all these correctly. Read this article, and print out the 37 pages and take them with you in a binder: Engineering and Land Surveying for Public Officials

The second part of part I of the five content areas for the civil surveying exam is the Professional Engineer's Act. Reading this is required to complete the take-home exam portion of the PE exam, so you most likely already know this material. Review the 33 pages anyway, and print it if you want: Professional Engineers Act

Personally, I went to the public library and checked out an intro-to-surveying text book. I did this less than a week before my exam date. I gave it a full day. I reviewed all the chapters, and worked the easy problems in each section.

California Engineering Surveying Exam Test-Taking Strategy

Total, I prepared 10 hours for this exam. Most of this was to familiarize myself with the book. During the exam, I answered all the questions I could do with my head knowledge.

Then, I returned to the problems I recognized from the library text book. I had circled the numbers of these exam problems in the test booklet. This way, you don't have to re-read the problems to recognize the ones you knew you could do- but with time-burning equation retrieval from a reference.

I found the equations I needed. I found them quickly because I had familiarized myself with my book. Then, I answered those questions as well.

If you have never surveyed, or have little experience surveying or working with survey data, you will require more review and more preparation. I worked 5 years as a technician during which I regularly surveyed and processed the data.

If you have experience calculating angles, distances, inverts, slopes, and curves, you have an advantage on this exam. I felt it was very practical.The problems on the exam were the kinds of calculations and reasoning I used performing surveys and drafting plans from survey data.

Best Surveying Book for the CA PE Exam

The good news is: You don't have too many resources to consider. The bad news is: Most of the options are disappointing.

If you know of a book which should be on this list, please, leave a comment.
1.  Surveying for the California Civil PE License, by Shahin Mansour. Mr. Mansour is a veteran PE exam prep instructor. He only created a seller account online in early 2015. So, this is a great book and is only recently available. Before, former students sold copies at inflated rates... and they sold out.

2.  Surveying Principles, by Paul A. Cuomo $74, average rating on Amazon: 2.8 of 5 stars.

2. 120 Solved Surveying Problems, by Peter Boniface $75, 2.8 of 5 stars.

The next options are actually geared toward the Principles and Practice of Surveying (PS) exams. But, their ratings are epic compared to the products above, which focus on the California Civil Engineering Surveying Exam. 
3. Surveyor Reference Manual, by George M. Cole, PhD, $170 (newer edition available for $217). Average rating on Amazon: 4.0 of 5 stars.

4. 1001 Solved Surveying Fundamentals Problems, by Jan Van Sickle $100 used, $200 new: 4.8 of 5 stars.

5. Surveying Solved Problems, by Jan Van Sickle $95, 4.7 of 5 stars.

6. Surveying Practice Problems, by Timothy Nelson $18, 4 of 5 stars (just one review.)

7. The FREE NCEES PS Reference Handbook: 130 pages of surveying equations.This has far more than you need for the Civil Surveying exam. However, pick through and take what you want. Put it into a section of your Quick Reference folder.

More options to prepare for the California Engineering Surveying Exam: 

8. PES Surveying for the California Civil PE. This is a DVD set selling for $350, by Shahin Mansour. Mr. Mansour also offers his services at

9. Surveying Practice Exams and Solutions, $139, also offered by Shahin Mansour.

Further Reading: 

Six Week NCEES PE Exam Study Guide

PE Exam Study Materials - a dedicated, pre-filtered store containing only current, well-reviewed PE exam review and preparation materials: books, DVDs, course notes, and more.

PE Review Course List and Comparison - PE exam review courses, what is provided, and the cost. 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Win a Free PE Sample Exam or a Copy of Pass the PE like a Pro!

This free giveaway ends November 19, 2013. 1st prize is a copy of the NCEES Sample PE Exam, produced by NCEES. Second prize is an ebook: Pass the PE like a Pro.
The previous winner returned a few times and made multiple entries- smart move. He won a copy of the Civil Engineering Reference Manual

Winner for September announced, see below.

The raffle ends November 19, 2013. You gain additional entries by sharing the contest with friends. When they enter, you are automatically entered again. 

There are a few varieties of the NCEES book. Each has a morning breadth and afternoon depth sample exam. I will email you to ask which you want.

The rafflecopter tool will select the winner from the total entry pool using input from You may enter multiple times by tweeting, Google +1'ing and providing feedback to the blog.

Everyone else: You can get 5% off PE exam study books (any other book published by PPI) by using a ppi2pass discount code.

The most popular articles on this blog are:

Six Week NCEES PE Exam Study Plan

Test Taking Tips

and PE Review Course List and Comparison

Be sure to enter the raffle (see right margin.). I'm committed to giving away two excellent books. Only 11 days remaining, and only 30 entries. Those are great odds.Sixth day: there were only 14 entries. These are fabulous odds. Someone is going to win. It may as well be you. In this raffle, you can enter multiple times, return each day, and enter the raffle again! 

Congratulations to the September winner: 
    W. Tang won 13th Edition Civil Engineering Reference Manual by Michael R. Lindeburg a Rafflecopter giveaway People, I am really giving away free PE sample exam books. I've done it before, and I am going to keep on doing it. Why? Because, to enter, you have an option of sharing this blog with others. It's advertising.

Mr. Lee won November.

December: No winner because nobody entered. The only 10 entries were all me. Those were my test actions to ensure everything was operating correctly. Very funny! 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

300-Hour PE Exam Study Plan

300-Hour PE Exam Study Plan

This article is an adapted excerpt from Pass the PE like a Pro

Most reference books, websites, review course instructors, and blogs recommend 300+ hours of study. To be ready to pass the PE exam, you should invest 300 or more hours. 

I don’t think anyone knows where that figure originated. 

However, I estimated I studied about 270 hours. So, 300 hours sounds like a legitimate estimate. The next decision is: Over how many months and weeks should you distribute those 300 hours? 

There are three factors to consider: 
  1.        How much time will you have each evening and on weekends?
  2.        How effective are study sessions, considering duration? Are longer sessions more effective? 
  3.       The process of learning prefers longer time frames.
Number Three is easy to apply. The longer the time frame over which you study, the more in-depth will be your knowledge. You will have time to learn, and to then build on that learning. In other words, a 300 hour study plan is more effective stretched over 3 months that compacted into one month.

Number Two encourages you to consider the effectiveness of study sessions by length. If you use the dinner table to study, you’ll have to set up and clean up your study space for each session. The same is true if you’re using a table at the library or a local coffee shop. 

If you have a dedicated space at home, this will be the best arrangement.  If you do not have a commute to your place of study, and no need to lose 5 minutes before and after studying, then shorter study sessions make more sense. 

Another consideration in Number Two is this: You are studying for an 8-hour examination. You need to build up some mental stamina. You need to operate your mental engine at high capacity on exam day. So, studying for 2-hours per session makes more since than smaller, 1-hour sessions. 

Number One: How much time do you actually have on weekends and in the evening?  If you only have 90 minutes per day, then the math is easy: You need (300/1.5=) 200 days! 

Most people have a weekend day free. Typically, that day is Saturday.

If you alternate using your free day to study 4 hours one Saturday, and 8 hours the next (the explanation for that is a bit further down in this article), and you study 90 minutes five days during the week, then you average 13.5 hours per week. This schedule requires (300/13.5=) 22.2 weeks. This is about 5 months. 

Notice that one day of rest is beneficial, in the long run, to increase learning. In the above example calculation, Sunday was accounted as a day off. 

So, here is what two weeks looks like in a 5-month, 300-hour study plan for the Principles and Practice of Engineering Exam:

Week 1:               (Monday to Friday) 95 minutes of study each day
                            (Saturday) One 9-hour study session: Start at 8 a.m. Break for one hour
                                             from noon to one o’clock. At one, start second session.
                                             End at 5 p.m. 
                            (Sunday) No studying allowed.

Week 2:               (Monday to Friday) 90 minutes of study each day
                            (Saturday) One 4-hour study session start at 8 a.m. and end at noon.
                            (Sunday) No studying allowed.

Repeat this 2-week plan. Adjust emphasis to balance time committed to each topic. 

Here is a 16-week (about 4 months), 300-hour study plan for the PE Exam: 

Week 1:               (Monday to Friday) 2 hours and 33 minutes of study each day
                            (Saturday) One 4-hour study session start at 8 a.m. and end at noon.
                            (Sunday) No studying allowed.

Week 2:               (Monday to Friday) 2 hours and 33 minutes of study each day
                            (Saturday) One 9-hour study session: Start at 8 a.m. Break for one hour
                                             from noon to one o’clock. At one, start second session.
                                             End at 5 p.m.  
                            (Sunday) No studying allowed.

The keystone of these study plans is the 9-hour Saturday. On this day, take a full practice exam. During the weekly study sessions following each exam, review problems you missed.

On alternate Saturdays, be sure to wake on time and be seated to begin working problems promptly at 8. This conditions your body to prepare for a rigorous mental workout at the time of morning when you'll be working your PE exam on your scheduled date.

Carefully determine why you missed a problem. Write out the reason you missed it. Occasionally, throughout your PE exam preparation, review your notes and read the mistakes you made. This will help you avoid them in the future. 

Always Pray:
One thing I did which really helped me on exam day was this: I prayed God would cause projects to come my way which would force me to learn engineering I didn't know, which would be on the exam. 

And, God did just that. I had several unusual projects during my study period. And, some of the projects I designed were similar to problems on the exam.

Best Review Books for the PE Exam - This is a compilation of the top-rated and most current review books for the Professional Engineering exam. There are unique pages for each exam topic: civil, mechanical, chemical, geotechnical, etcetera.

If you plan to purchase sample exams at, use promo code PASS1114 to receive 5% off every book published by PPI.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

PE Exam Calculators

On exam day, there will be two tools you use on every problem: a calculator and your mechanical pencil. We will assume you are adept with the use of a mechanical pencil. The calculator you will use will be one of just three brands: HP, Casio, or Texas Instruments.

From Casio, just the fx-115 line is permitted. Following are the models in this line:
"All fx-115 models. Any Casio calculator must contain fx-115 in its model name." -NCEES Calculator policy statement

fx-115 ES
fx-115 ES Plus
fx-115 MS
fx-115 MS Standard
fx-115 MS-SR
fx-115 W S-V.P.A.M.

HP produces the 33 and 35 lines, which meet PE Exam calculator requirements:
"the HP 33s and 35s models, but no others" -NCEES Calculator policy statement

HP 33s
HP 35s

Texas Instruments makes these PE Exam calculators:
"All TI-30X and TI-36X models. Any Texas Instruments calculator must contain either TI-30X or TI-36X in its model name." -NCEES Calculator policy statement

TI-30XA Solar
TI-30XS Multiview


TI-36X Pro
TI-36X Solar

Read my review and analysis of the available calculators. Find the best prices on Amazon and eBay- all in one easy to follow article: PE Exam Calculators

If you are taking the FE exam, here is an article on Best Calculator for the FE Exam

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Engineers and "the Knack"

Scott Adams must not know that the social ineptitude factor only applies to electrical engineers. Mechanical engineers know all about world forces and there is a 2% chance each year the town could be flattened- without civil engineers!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Most Important Thing for the PE Exam

Before you set out to take your PE exam, do not forget the most important thing in life: your relationship with God. Spend some time praising God. And, say a prayer asking the Father to watch over you, get you to the site on time, remove any delays or distractions, and to bless you with a passing score.

Peace, MfM

PS- A bit of help: Day-before PE Exam Day Checklist 
                           What Food to Eat before an Exam?
                           PE Exam Results- How to Get Them Early 
                           Six-Week PE Exam Study Plan  

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

How to Study for the PE Exam

Want to know how to study for the PE exam?

The proper way to study for any event, and especially for rigorous professional exams like the FE, PE, bar exam, and the CPA exam is to prepare for the actual event by mimicking the examination in your study and preparation.

This means taking practice exams. Practice by doing the actual thing in which you intend to excel- that is how to study for the PE exam.

PE exam study, PE exam, civil engineering exam, PE review books, best PE review book
PE Exam Book Pages
Take practice PE exam tests mimicking as closely as possible actual exam details. Start setting up your exam practice space at 7:30. This is when doors typically open at NCEES exam sites. Open your practice exam at 8 a.m. Keep the clock running if you need to dash off to the toilet. Take a one hour lunch. Then, begin the afternoon depth practice exam at one.

You should purchase your reference books and two NCEES approved engineering calculators as soon as possible. On exam day, be able to use your manuals and calculators automatically, without any hesitation or halting.Visit the Best PE Exam Materials store to familiarize yourself with the available materials.

How long should you study for the PE Exam? 

Most PE exam prep sites recommend 300 hours. Many of those sites offer full refunds, free second enrollment, or other guarantees. 300 hours increases the percentage of people who pass using their programs. But, this really is how to study for the PE exam if you want to walk into the examination room with a very high probability of passing.

It is possible to pass with fewer than 300 hours. One man in a forum claimed he passed on the first try without any study at all. None. This is not worth considering. There are always heavy outliers in statistical data. And, a small chance exists that this man may have prevaricated his claim. The reality is likely something more like a Bell curve with the median a little less than 300 hours.

I also recommend 300 hours. But, I myself studied less than this. I scheduled 5 full practice exams, and took all of them on schedule. I studied 3 months, one hour per night Monday to Friday, and 4 hours even Saturdays, full exams odd Saturdays. Total, I studied about 250 hours.

Some people start late, and they are good at responding under pressure. For these people, I wrote a Six Week NCEES PE Exam Study Plan.

Another worthwhile article, valid for taking any test, is Test Taking Tips. It shares several secrets that can improve your score. I doubt you have seen these tips before. I highly recommend you read Test Taking Tips.

NCEES sells sample problem books on Amazon.
To use the study method I'm recommending, you need several full practice PE exams. You should purchase three or four books to provide these. One of them should be the NCEES sample problems book for the afternoon topic you registered for.

And, never forget to pray and ask God to bless you in your preparation, exam, and career.


Friday, April 5, 2013

What Lunch to Eat During PE Exam?

As mentioned in several other posts on this blog, increasing blood flow to the brain improves test results. The average increase is 5 percent!

So, when planning a lunch, don't go for the full meal deal. Look for something light. You will need energy and "brain food". But, overdo it, and your system will divert blood to the stomach to digest what you have eaten.

Packing a lunch has an important advantage: More of your one hour lunch will be committed to relaxing.

If you decide to eat fast food, do a search of the area where your PE test site is situated. Find something you like. I located a Chik-fil-A near my testing site in Sacramento. I had MapQuest directions printed out, and drove straight there, got my lunch, and drove back to the testing site parking lot.

Don't Risk Lunch Hour Traffic
Return to the exam site immediately to avoid the end-of-lunch-hour traffic. Be sure you are on site and make it for the beginning of the afternoon depth exam. If you pack your own lunch, you can eat and then take a power nap. Set an alarm on a watch or phone. As an added bit of insurance, park near the lane other returning examinees will use walking back to the exam area. The noise of the other examinees will serve as a back-up to your alarm.

The chicken sandwich, fruit cup, bottled water, and (another) half cup of coffee had me feeling refreshed and ready for the second 4-hour exam. However, I realized recently that there are surely more beneficial foods to eat before an exam. As already mentioned, packing your own lunch provides some advantages.So, which foods are good to eat during PE exam day?

First, here is a to-avoid list of items that digest very slowly, and will hog your blood supply:
  • French fries
  • dairy products
  • red meat
  • ice cream
  • high fat content foods
  • deep-fried foods 
Here are foods that are easy to digest:
  • chicken (roasted, baked, or boiled)
  • fish
  • sprouted grains
  • apples 
  • grains: rice, quinoa, millet, buckwheat
These foods are good for the brain:
  • blueberries
  • grape juice
  • fish
  • walnuts
  • vegetables
  • whole grains
  • avocado
  • chocolate
  • broccoli
  • Salad with chicken breast- a good option for exam day lunch

  • olive oil 
  • pumpkin seeds
So, using the above lists, here is an example lunch:

Roasted chicken breast salad with olive oil and balsamic vinegar dressing. Include avocado and broccoli in the salad.
A glass of 100% grape juice, without added sugar or anything artificial.
A portion of blueberries
A portion of mixed nuts
A half cup of coffee

 Increase or modify this suggestion according to your own size and metabolism. If you are a big person, or exercise regularly, you will probably need more. However, don't overdo it.

Suggested Reading:

Day Before PE Exam Checklist  A list of things you should prepare and double check the day before your NCEES PE exam.
PE Exam Tips Tips on how to prepare for the PE exam.
11 Intelligence Killing Foods to Avoid Some of these surprised me, and I used to own a health food store! 

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Test Taking Tips

These are tips on how to do well on any exam. I placed at state level in many academic competitions throughout my grade school and high school years. These test taking tips will improve your scores. This article has little to do with study. It focuses primarily on other aspects of life which can affect test taking performance.

1. Confidence is second only to ability. Be sure to prepare using equal mixes of the material. Studying just the material you have not yet mastered can be discouraging. Mix in material you feel you already know in order to build confidence.

2. Return to material you have already covered in study. Quiz yourself. On most tests, 90% is recall and 10% is novel application of the material. Realize this: The exam tests your ability to recall formulas and how to use them. In a self quiz, you actually practice for a test by mimicking test conditions.

These test taking tips helping you so far? I tutored math, calculus, trigonometry, algebra and the sciences in college. People requested me by name. This is because these tools brought people with D averages up to B averages- many scoring A grades on exams! Keep reading, there's more:

3. Sleep right. Go to bed at 11 or before. Do not eat for at least one hour before going to sleep. Best is to not eat 3 hours before sleeping, and to not drink 60 minutes before going to bed. Have you heard of the "freshman fifteen"? This refers to young women who enter college and gain 15 pounds. When I was in college at SJSU in 1992, it was just the freshman ten.

Hormones are produced during sleep. Formally, science believed hormones were produced equally all through the night, at a steady rate per hour. More recently, this notion has been replaced. The body produces hormones according to a priority list. It produces several hormones at once, until optimal levels are attained. Then, it ceases a hormone which has reached capacity and begins production on another hormone.

The hormones that limit fat production are one of the last produced. When you begin to lose sleep, fat production suffers. We can reasonably extrapolate that other functions, not just fat production, also suffer from poor, irregular, and insufficient sleep.How much of youthful energy results from an early bed time and sleeping as late as the body wants?

The body is like an organic machine. Care for it. Provide the proper maintenance, and it will operate efficiently and effectively for you.

4. Get regular exercise each week. Three times weekly with about 30 minutes each time makes a big difference. This increases blood flow throughout the entire body and increases the capacity of the cardiovascular system to uptake and transport oxygen- which is rocket fuel for the brain. Did you know that 80% of matriculants to Ivy League schools jog regularly? It makes a difference!

5. Stretch out once in a while. If you are someone who wakes in the morning with a stiff back or other stiff muscles, stretching is for you. This improves circulation and will benefit not just the brain, but the entire body as well. There is a reason airlines recommend stretching before long flights.

6. Quit drinking soda and never drink it ever again in your lifetime. The body operates at a preferred pH balance of about 7.2 to 7.4 (normal saliva ranges 6.0 to 7.4). Just one 12 oz. can of soda drops system pH and it takes the body a full week to recover back to normal pH. Again, treat the organic machine with respect, and it will operate according to the way God designed it. Abuse it and pour in the wrong fuel, and it will first begin to lose slight degrees of efficiency, and then begin to break down.

Did you know that cancer patients have very low pH? It is true. One more reason to never drink cola- it creates an environment favorable to cancer (which is really just fungus, research this.)

Artificial products gunk up the works.
7. This is not just a test taking tip, it's a life tip. Avoid or totally eliminate artificial colors and artificial flavors. One study on grade school children tested their grade level performance, then eliminated artificial colors and flavors for 3 months. At the end of the period during which these fake ingredients were eliminated at school, (but not at home), researchers retested the children. The average test performance improvement was 3 grade levels!

8. Dress to impress. Above, I mentioned confidence. Another factor that boosts self-confidence is a sharp appearance. Impact the room when you enter, and you will impact yourself as well. Wear nice suits even to study. A pressed shirt and tie will prevent you from taking a nap and doesn't feel right slumped into the couch with the remote in one hand.

9. Drink plenty of water. Again: organic machine. Water lubricates, cleanses, and freshens everything inside you.

10. Respect visual stimulants. Classical conditioning is at work all the time. Use this to your advantage. For every unique activity in your life, your body responds by producing what it needs. For example, the site of the gym will cause the body to produce simple sugars to fuel muscles. It has been conditioned to expect this. Even the site of gym clothes, your gym bag, gym membership card, and running shoes will start production of energy.

Your body will develop similar visual stimulators for mental work. Your calculator will definitely be one of these. So will reference books and other study materials. If you can, keep the most powerful icons of study in view during your exam.

I predict that a study using visual stimulants for study periods of specific topics which use different areas of the brain, will produce better results using the conditioned visual stimulators. For example: wearing a gold ring and using a specific pencil to study history, vs. wearing a blue shirt, a gemstone ring, and using a very different pencil to study chemistry.

Most drug addicts develop a tolerance to drugs. Their body becomes conditioned to produce drug-disabling hormones. Visual stimulants, like their dealer's street corner, a syringe, or crack spoon set off their bodies defense works. Most drug overdoses are total rookies who have no system built up, or veterans who took their usual amount in a new place- like a toilet stall in a club, where no visual stimulants facilitated their body pre-producing what it needed to negate portions of the drug. 

11. Don't eat anything spicy the day before, or the morning of, an exam. Don't eat at a "greasy spoon", either. Generally, avoid food with the ability to upset your gastrointestinal system. This goes double for people who tend to be nervous at the beginning of exams. Exception: If you eat spicy food every day, don't change a thing.

12. Arrive to your exam seat as soon as you can. Get comfortable with the environment. This is more important for regional competitions and national exams like the ASVAB, SAT, and professional licensing exams- places you have never before seen.

13. Within 15 minutes prior to beginning your exam, get 5 minutes of exercise. Run from your car to the test building, run around your classroom, or do push ups on some grass or against a bench. Also, drink a half cup of coffee. Each of these strategies, independently, increases blood flow to the brain. And, this has been shown to improve test scores an average of 5%. The day I took my exam, I also excused myself to the men's room and jogged there and jogged back to increase the flow of blood.

14. Stop drinking Fluoridated water and use toothpaste without Fluoride. U.S. studies show Fluoride drops IQs by 10 points. Chinese studies show 20 points lost where Fluoride was added to water.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

PE Exam Materials

Buy PE Exam study materials as early as you can. Here are 7 savings tips and motivational bullet points:

1. Once you pass the PE exam, your income potential goes way up. That is a no-brainer. Not guaranteed, but certainly most likely. (It did for me. Thank you, Jesus.)

2. The books will give you an economy of study and make your investment of time more effective. This is more true if you are getting a late start, or have a busy life.

3. Materials for professional advancement are tax deductible. In the year's accounting, it is less expensive than it looks at first glance. Each year, I claim my new reference and professional educational books under "office supplies."

4. The books you purchase today will remain on your book shelf. You will learn the contents of these PE exam study materials very well. In the future, when you encounter a rare engineering calculation, you will recall, "I saw that in my Civil Construction PE exam review book." You will use these books for more than just studying for the NCEES exam.

5. Most engineers have time at a premium. You really only need to search two sources: First, for books in general. Second,, the Civil Engineering Reference Manual and every other book as well, tend to be cheaper on Amazon. On Amazon, you can often get it for $220 or less, and qualify for free shipping. Click here to check Amazon prices: CERM. Be sure to compare total cost. Shipping on ppi's site is much higher than you might expect. On Amazon, the threshold for free shipping is much lower. Last check, Amazon is free shipping after $35 and PPI charges shipping all the way up to $300.

6. On Amazon, be sure to look at "all buying options." Third party sellers can sometimes be selling used books for substantial savings. You can also find new books from third party sellers. The trade-off is the risk the seller might ship a few days slower. Or, the seller might not pack your books the best way.

7. Be wary of package deals. Package deals are sometimes used by publishers to unload titles that are not otherwise moving. In other words, if you save 30% on the 2 books you really wanted, and then buy two more, also at 30% discount, you still pay more. For example, suppose each book costs $100. Without discount, you receive the 2 you want and spend $200. With a package deal, you pay $280. So, you still get the two you wanted for the $200.... and, in all the excitement of making a deal, you bought two books you were not going to buy at all, and for $40 each.

Is there a package deal anywhere that is really a deal? 

What are the best PE exam study materials? 

 If you use Amazon, you will get some recommendations. "People who bought the Civil Engineering Reference Manual also bought..."

The very best PE Exam Books and DVDs have been compiled here: PE Exam Study Materials

Monday, March 4, 2013

Six-Week NCEES PE Exam Study Guide

You Need a Plan
Six weeks until the PE exam. Have you organized your study plan? If not, here is one I put together for future examinees, already registered, six weeks out from their PE date (next exam date: April 17, 2015).

Note: NCEES changed the reference books for the 2015 exams. The correct books are listed on the bottom of the page on this article for Structural Engineering Exam Practice Problems

The first thing you want to do is take a full PE practice exam. You need to know where you stand. Even if you have not yet prepared a detailed plan of study, you have most likely been studying various topics and double checking your reference books.

Whatever you have done up to now, from nothing to a military-style study campaign, you need to assess your strengths and weaknesses. First, let's be sure you know which topics are covered on the PE exam.

PE exam morning session topics: 

Each of five topics receives equal emphasis:

Water Resources and Environmental

Afternoon Session Modules:

40 Questions in 4 hours. You will choose one module for the afternoon session. The module options match the morning session topics: Geotechnical, PE Civil Construction, Transportation, Structural, and Water Resources and Environmental.

Most important study topic: The module you select will become 60% of your exam. The afternoon section is 50% (obviously) and the morning portion of this topic accounts for another 10% (.20 x .50 = .10). Your study schedule and PE practice exams will need to emphasis the topic of your afternoon exam.


Best sample PE exam books

Week 1
Study 6 days and take 1 day off. If you don't schedule relaxation, you will steal it wherever you can. Trust me, when you know you have down time later, it is easier to focus during scheduled study sessions.
This first week, take a full 8-hour practice exam.

If you start on a Saturday or Sunday, take the full 8 hour exam in 9 hours. Start at 8 a.m., take a 1-hour lunch from noon to 1, and work the 4 hour afternoon Depth Exam from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Analyze Results of Your PE Practice Exam:
Tabulate your results topically. Generate a score for each of the 5 topics. Rank them 1 to 5, with #1 being your strongest subject and #5 being your weakest topic.

For the first week of study, emphasize #1 and #5. Forget the other topics for now.

Here is why: First, your brain needs to get back up to pace in intensity. Your brain actually requires increased blood flow to operate at increased levels. The PE exam tempo requires an increased level. You must slowly work your brain back up to the high performance levels required in college. Second, these two subjects have the greatest potential to produce a strong score on exam day.

Your strongest subject area score on the first practice exam may not remain strongest on future practice tests and self-quizzes. The reason is that each subject has a wide variety of subtopics. I took 6 full practice exams, at 2-week intervals, with moderate study in between. My score on each topic varied up and down test to test (but trended upward overall). The subtopics randomly presented in each PE practice exam will vary. And, your resultant score will also vary. This variance should be greater in subjects with the greatest number of subtopics- Structural has the most material (subtopics) and self-tests will produce results similar to statistical sampling. Variation of results will diminish as you progress along your study schedule.

However, if you score high in Environmental and low in Structural (common), it is because your mind likes the topic of environmental, or you work in environmental. For some reason, you and environmental just get along. Build your strength in this topic to ensure you continue to produce strong results in all practice exams- and on the day of your PE exam.

In your weakest area, there is the greatest room for improvement. You will rapidly improve in this subject. It is likely your low score is due to two factors, both easily corrected with a little time:
1. You need to become familiar with variables.
2. You need to become familiar with the reference materials (to find the necessary equations).

Study 4 hours each day, in the following format: 

Study the topics of the day for one hour. Next, take a 66-minute (maximum) self quiz. This is 7 problems. Take 4 questions from your strong area (#1), and 3 from your weak area (#5).

For the remainder of the time, review the solutions for the questions you chose. To create these practice quizzes, divide up a sample exam book. For example, using 80 morning questions:
  • Quiz #1: Numbers 1, 12, 23, 34, 45, 56, and 67
  • Quiz #2: Numbers 2, 13, 24, 35, 46, 57, and 68
  • etc.
That will create eleven 7-question quizzes. 

How many questions for a self-quiz? 
Create quizzes using 7 questions. This way, 5 correct gives you 71.4%, which you should expect to be a passing score.

Week 2
In a 3-month duration of study, I recommend taking a practice exam every other weekend. However, with a shorter timeline, you will benefit from taking more practice exams. As you experienced during the first week's quizzes, learning is more effective under the intensity of taking a test.

So, test yourself. You will find you performed much better on this second exam. Likely this is primarily attributed to having become accustomed to intense focus from taking quizzes, and more so due to familiarization with your reference books.

Between my first practice exam (40%) and my second exam (58%), I saw my greatest improvement. I attribute this to the two reasons mentioned above.

This week, you also want to spend some time reviewing and familiarizing yourself with required reference books, and especially with the CERM.

Tab your index pages. I listed the best index tabs for this purpose at the other end of the preceding link-test. Or, you can pick some up at the local office supply. I bought some excellent tabs in Office Depot. Your local office supply should have the same. Be sure to find tabs with a clear sticky base. This way, once attached, they will not cover any text. I found several options like this, which have good widths and assorted colors, or with wider tabs. The multiple colors will help you locate your favorite sections quickly. I used a red tab to mark the structural section of the CERM, for example.

Also in Week 2, start a Quick Reference Folder. This is a binder you will create to hold all the most referenced tables, charts, and solutions you find valuable.

This week, study the #2 and #4 subjects from your Week1 practice PE exam. However, on the fourth day, study last week's topics. This forces you to recall the data, and to recall the location of formulas and tables in the reference material.

Strengthen Recall- a Key to Exam Success

No matter which exam you are taking, from grade school to college to professional life, during an exam, you must recall. Recollection is a specific ability of the mind. The more you recall something, the easier and faster it becomes. This is another reason taking practice quizzes and practice exams is a very effective study method.

Week 3

This week, take a break from the 8-hour exam. Instead of using a new exam to determine the two focus topics for this week, combine the results of the previous two tests, and make a judgment call about which topic to add to #3 from Week 1. #3 is the one topic you have not yet focused on.

Week 4

Practice test time! Hurray!

Make this week's quizzes comprehensive. By this time, you should receive a score of 70% or better. Most of these points will come in the Morning Breadth Exam. In my first practice exams, I scored double on the morning exams as I did on the afternoon portions. As I began to score higher, this ratio dropped. Don't worry where you earn the points. Just focus on the total.

In my own practice exams, I steadily improved, with less increase in later weeks. I always scored more in the morning section. I took the structural afternoon exam. I passed both NCEES exams on the first try using this system.

Week 5

Take another comprehensive exam. This may seem like a lot of practice exams. However, this is where the lion's share of your improvement will come. Psychological studies have proven that people forget lecture material like their minds are leaky buckets. But, put something on an exam, and they might remember it for years. The added stress increases recall. Effectively, testing yourself on practice exams and on quizzes is like amplifying your time investment.

Assessing the effectiveness of time invested into each topic, plan your study time accordingly. Do not stress your brain by studying more than 4 hours per day. Be sure to get to sleep on time (not later than 11 p.m.) to allow your body to refresh and restore and regenerate. People who work with their minds require more sleep than people who perform physical labor.

Force your Mind to Recall Previous Learning
Mix up your quizzes, but continue to emphasize topics each day,  no more than two per day. Review all the questions you miss on your quizzes. Because your mind was heightened when you looked at it the first time, there is a good anchor in your memory onto which you can attach the correct solution.

For questions you almost solved, or which you understand very well, but missed, write out the solution and add it to a section of your Quick Reference Folder. I solved three questions on my Structural Depth module using solutions in my quick reference binder.

Week 6

This Friday is PE exam day. The brain operates like a muscle. You have trained it up. Now, like professional athletes, you want to taper it down.

Take a practice exam on Tuesday. If you can't get the day off (comp time, maybe?), at least take a 4-hour morning or afternoon practice exam.

Study for 2 hours. Review problems from previous tests, especially the previous day's practice exam. Collect all your books into one place. Double check your exam day checklist for the PE.

Take a 1-hour practice quiz. Review your results. Relax. Get to bed on time.

Wake feeling refreshed. Stretch out. On the drive to your exam site, drink a half cup of coffee without sugar. Find a place before your exam to exercise for 5 minutes before entering the exam room. The coffee and exercise will increase your blood circulation. These two techniques have been shown to improve test results by 5%.

Don't forget: calculator, exam documents, photo ID

Before you begin your exam, give thanks to God for preparing you. Ask for calm, focus, wisdom, and understanding.

Concluding Notes: 

Many suggest a minimum of 300 hours study. I believe this can be decreased using the intensity of self-administered practice exams and quizzes. If you have just six weeks to study, this is my suggestion. If you are planning when to begin, I recommend 12 weeks. The longer time frame permits the brain to develop its capacity to meet the challenge.

For more great tips like this one, I recommend Pass the PE like a Pro. It is an e-book, available for instant download from

Best wishes for a successful career! Peace.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Recommended Sites for Civil PE Study Preparation:

These are two sites which should prove useful to FEs preparing for the NCEES Professional Engineering Exam:

1. This site provides lists of reference books, overviews the depth exam specifications, provides a photo overview of NCEES permitted calculators, and even provides a unique list of books for each of the afternoon depth exams. You will also find many valuable resources like links to all the state boards, an easy to read list of NCEES exam day policies, and the just released PasstheCivilPE Guide Book. Check it out.

2. This is a forum. There are more than 450 topics with thousands of replies. If you have a question, and you need an answer, this is a great site to use. (You can also use the search box on the upper left of this blog.) The site administrator, ptatohed, provides very informative posts. He seems to know a great deal about the PE.

3. This is a site full of books, packages, online PE review courses, a forum, and a test generation platform to take practice PE exams. They frequently give special discounts, and you can always get another 5% off using the word mommy taught you, "PASS1114". (Seriously, put those eight letters in the discount code box at checkout.)

4. PE Exam Study Materials Store: The best rated PE exam materials, grouped together for easy comparison and shopping. Only the most current editions are listed. 

Monday, January 28, 2013

How to Pass the FE Exam

I studied for my EIT exam in 2004 using  a heavy book from Great Lakes Press, with an FE practice exam in the back. I also ordered a copy of the NCEES supplied reference handbook. Now I know there are many great tools available. I could have saved a lot of time if I'd had better materials.Want to know how to pass the FE exam? Easy. Take several practice exams. Take one immediately. Then, take more periodically. Adjust your study emphasis based upon the results of the most recent exam and the overall trend in your performance.

Taking practice exams became a fun tool. As I studied, I found taking short quizzes to actually be fun- I could see my progress quickly and easily. I also realized how effective it was to learn. Because of the elevated mental intensity of  testing myself, I remembered what I had worked much better compared to the time I spent working problems sitting in coffee shops (lots of conversations and goings on.) Additionally, I reviewed each problem I missed on my quizzes. Practice FE exams provided the carefully worked solution to each question. So, there was a triple benefit: Increased time efficiency because of increased focus, immediate feedback, and instant explanation of missed problems.

I used my FE Exam booklet from NCEES during my practice quizzes as well as my practice exams, which I took every second week. 

Top 10 FE Review Materials

How do Practice Exams Compare to the Actual FE Exam?

When I arrived at the actual test, I did very well on the morning session. The actual questions seemed a bit easier than those I worked in review book. In the afternoon, the tables were turned. It seemed the questions were a bit tougher, and took a bit longer to work. However, because of the effectiveness of the time I invested, I was able to locate many problems I knew how to work at first glance. I finished, and went back to those I skipped. I completed all the questions. I walked away feeling very good about my performance.

And, a few months later, I received my passing notice from BPELS- passed!

There is a better comprehensive FE review book than the Great Lakes Press book I used. The FE Review Manual is by far the most popular.

Suggested Reading:
PE Exam Tips (works just as well for FE exam)
PE Exam Checklist (yep, again, works for FE, too.)
Pass the FE like a Pro (covers a wealth of information about the CBT FE exam format, and unique information to help you pass the FE exam.)

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Best Book for Seismic PE Exam

If someone is going to fail a portion of the California PE Exam, the state-specific Seismic Principles exam is the second most likely to be that portion. (Slightly more people fail the California Civil Surveying exam.) The primary reason is that most engineers do not need to perform seismic force calculations. The second reason is people fail to study properly.

Most materials for the NCEES Principles and Practice exam focus on the morning and afternoon portions of the exam. All 50 states and the U.S. territories take those two portions, and must complete the ethics and professional code take-home exam. State specific exams are not addressed in most of the exam preparation books and courses.

And, most engineers do not own the reference books they will need. This is one reason passing rates for the California Civil Seismic are much lower than national passing rates for the PE exam. Overall rates are about 64% each year. Passing rates for the California seismic exam, on the other hand are lower. Only 47% pass. Keep in mind that people still fail to pass the Civil Surveying exam an additional 1% fewer than the rate for the seismic exam.

If you want to pass, you need review materials specific to those exams. There are not too many options.

Should you buy the ATC-20 to study for the seismic portion? Most people say no. But, read my post. This link will also take you to a list of all the required books for the Seismic Exam.

Other resources for the Seismic PE Exam:

1. Best Seismic Review Book for the PE Exam has several options.  One of the best seismic sample problems books is Seismic Principles Practice Exams for the California Special Seismic Exam. Pass rates for the civil engineering exams are just 64% in the U.S., and slightly lower in California. Even lower: pass rates for the seismic exam. Only 47% pass. People don't prepare adequately. Be sure to get your books early. And, use them well.

PE Exam Review Materials are an Investment
Study materials for the PE exam are tax deductible, so keep your receipts. The books you purchase today are not only to advance your professional credentials. They will line your reference book shelves for years to come.

2. 345 Solved Seismic Design Problems (5th Edition) by Majid Baradar, PE. This book is a little underrated. Overall, it has an average Amazon user review rating of 3.6/5.0 stars. However, this includes at least three editions. Some of the older (and lower) ratings refer to the third edition. The current, 5th, edition has an average 4.0 rating. When it comes to the review of Professional Engineering products, the ratings are typically about a 3, plus or minus 0.2 stars. So, with an average 4.0 rating, the 5th edition looks like a quality edition.

3. For other seismic review books and media, as well as other PE exam review materials, visit: PE Exam Study Materials

4. Practice Exams for the California Seismic Principles Civil P.E. Examination: This is a relatively new book. But, it already has three 5-star reviews. This book is 180 pages. It includes two 55-question practice seismic exams. Cost: $70.

5. Should you buy the ATC-20 to study for the seismic portion? Most people say no. But, read my post. This link will also take you to a list of all the required books for the Seismic Exam.

6. ASCE7-10: The basic equations and process to calculate seismic forces are in this code book from the American Society of Civil Engineers.

Monday, January 21, 2013

How Many Books are Allowed in Principles and Practice NCEES Exam?

Short answer: One. But, you better read the next few paragraphs.

The NCEES passed a vote in 2011 to go to a closed-book exam for PS licensure. The NCEES is avid about protecting its questions. Because sample questions must be inserted into each year's exams to calibrate them for future years, the Council must ensure questions are not jotted down in reference books and taken out of the testing center.

When I took my PE exam in 2009, PS examinees were wheeling in small libraries of books (not recommended, btw). Most of them had large collections of voluminous tomes.Basically, this is really a blessing for PS testers. No more worry about having the best references, purchasing many references, and wheeling them into your testing center from the parking lot.

How many books are allowed in the Principles and Practice exam? Just one, and they give it to you in the exam.

NCEES sells a set of 50 questions to prepare you. They also offer a download of the provided reference book for examinees. 

Breakdown of subjects on the exam: PS Exam Specifications

Free download of the PS Supplied Reference Handbook. Note of caution: check back for latest version as your study progresses. NCEES says they may update the reference book periodically.

If the 24 page booklet makes you think you will really need to know your stuff, I'm with you on that. 4 hours for 67 questions, and then 2 hours for 33 more... and just 2 dozen pages of support. Better study up!

Here are some more options to study and prepare:

1,100 Solved surveying problems (One to keep on the shelf). The ppi2pass promo code should work for this product as well.