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!