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.


  1. Do you recommend the code books listed on the board website (http://www.bpelsg.ca.gov/applicants/cerefs.shtml), if you don't are these books you listed sufficient, if not, which code books do you recommend?

    1. Yes, I think you should have and review the code books listed in the "Seismic Principles Examination" list on the bpelsg website. Most of those books are already owned by practicing engineers. Most engineers will not have ATC-20 or the ACI 520 books (in current code.)
      After my seismic principles exam, the girl next to me said she did not need any of the reference books to finish. I shared that I had used the ATC book to look up answers to 3 questions.
      I recommend my short ebook, "How to Pass the PE like a Pro." It has a lot of tips on ways to efficiently prepare. Your question shows you are looking to optimize your time investment. This ebook will facilitate this. (And it is cheap!)


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