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. 


  1. Dr. Mansour is a great resource!!! Use his study material for the other exams as well.

    1. I have never met Dr. Mansour. But, he is very well reviewed on Amazon and in forums.


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