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FE vs PE?

FE vs PE?

FE vs PE?

Hello all,

I had a general question about how the FE and PE compare in terms of difficulty.

I have heard varying opinions on this subject. Some people say that the PE is much more difficult and in depth, whereas, others say that the FE is supposed to be a harder exam. Does the answer to this question depend on which discipline your exam is in? Also, is this comparison valid or is it like comparing Apples and Oranges?

RE: FE vs PE?

The comparison is personal. Everyone approaches problems differently. People who struggle with the FE might find the narrower scope of the PE to be easier. People who take the FE in their senior year tend to pass at a very high rate (my school claimed over 80% when I was there in 1980). People who wait a few years might be rustier on many off-discipline topics. I found the PE more difficult, but it was a near thing and neither of them was as difficult as other tests I've taken.

David Simpson, PE
MuleShoe Engineering

"Belief" is the acceptance of an hypotheses in the absence of data.
"Prejudice" is having an opinion not supported by the preponderance of the data.
"Knowledge" is only found through the accumulation and analysis of data.

RE: FE vs PE?

Agree with David...personally different for each, most likely.

For me, the FE was more academically difficult, but much more amenable to guessing! I took it in my senior year and passed.

The PE was more difficult in that there could be more than one approach and more than one answer (taken back when the test was free-form and not multiple choice...all work had to be shown). I would anticipate that the current format might be less rigorous for that reason.

As with comparative difficulty, I considered the ASNT Level III radiography exam to be more difficult than either. I've taken two separate state contractor licensing exams and found them to be elementary level by comparison to any of the above.

Fortunately all passed so don't anticipate taking any of them again!!

RE: FE vs PE?

I thought the SE1 was harder than the FE exam. The worst thing about the FE exam was that it occurred at the end of senior year and we couldn't go out to the bars that afternoon.

RE: FE vs PE?

I found the PE and FE exams about the same level of difficulty and neither were particularly hard. If you are a fast test taker, you should be able to pass these two tests with minimal studying. If you bring in the Lindberg book for the PE exam that is just about all you need and you have enough to look up a lot of the questions on the spot.

I found the SE (2 day 16 hour) exam about 2 orders of magnitude more difficult than either the FE or the PE.

M.S. Structural Engineering
Licensed Structural Engineer and Licensed Professional Engineer (Illinois)

RE: FE vs PE?

It also depends on your specialty. The FE exam was a breeze compared to the metallurgy PE exam that I took back in 2004. I believe that a little over half of the people who took the PE exam in my discipline for the first time that year failed it. And if it was your second time taking the exam, the pass rates were even lower, around 25%. It was a tough exam. Fortunately, I passed it on the first try. But many others weren't so fortunate.



RE: FE vs PE?

I thought the FE was harder becasue they covered anything/everything and some things you never learned. I found the PE to be much easier. But that was about 40 years ago and for the PE you got to pick and choose which problems to solve.

I understand that has changed considerably...

RE: FE vs PE?

Thanks everyone for the input! Are any of you familiar with the Seismic and Surveying (4 hour each) exams that are required as part of the California PE? I will hopefully be doing the CA PE in October and I wanted to complement the information I have found on the web by getting first hand information from engineers who have already been through the whole process.

RE: FE vs PE?

The national pass rate for the SE exam is generally much lower than for other disciplines. http://cdn2.ncees.co/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/Li... [April 2011 see page 14]
http://cdn2.ncees.co/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/Li... [April 2012 see page 14]

For April 2012 pass rates in CA click http://www.bpelsg.ca.gov/applicants/ap12stats.shtm...
Notice that for the 3 part PE civil, the pass rate for each exam is about 40%. Probably less than 25% obtained the PE on the first attempt. What many in CA are doing now, is to take the national PE in another state and six months later take the CA Seismic and Surveying exams. A couple of review courses have the seismic and surveying exam preparation down pat. Many do not.

I concur with others who state that the FE exam is easy for seniors. For those who have been out of college for a while, it can be really challenging - a reason why some wait until the state board exempts them from the FE exam and allows them to take the PE based on years of experience.

RE: FE vs PE?

I took the CA survey and seismic about ten years ago and passed both the first time. The survey was pretty easy, the seismic is one of the hardest tests I ever took. I used the Seismic Prep book by Hiner, and attribute my passing to it. I did not attend any of the Hiner review courses because I'm out of state.

RE: FE vs PE?

I can only give a couple tips on the California specific exams.

For the seismic exam, be familiar with ASCE 7. There may be some quick look-up questions if you know where to look. I vaguely remember some question about special access floors and I knew nothing about access floors. But I was able to quickly find up the answer in chapter 13. There was also a question about some non-building structure that I knew nothing about. But, I found the answer quickly. You probably won't have the same questions, my point is to be familiar with ASCE 7. I do structural building design in California, so most of the seismic test was fairly simple for me.

For the surveying test, know what a licensed civil engineer in California can and cannot survey. You don't have to memorize everything, but things like civil engineers licensed after some date (in the 80s?) can't survey things that involve property boundaries. One big problem I had was my cheap TI calculator does not handle angle input in degrees minute and seconds. If I did not pass, I would have bought a new calculator that does before retaking the test. Become familiar with vertical and horizontal curves. I spent a half day before the test reviewing PPI's Civil Engineering Review Manual (CERM) so I knew the concepts and where to find the formulas. You will probably have a questions or two about curves on the national test and state surveying test. I had a fairly rigorous surveying class in college, so I knew surveying concepts and terminology.

By the way, I thought the PE exam was harder because I toted a box of reference material into the exam; All I carried for the FE was a calculator, some forms and wallet with identification. Just kidding smile I took the FE while I was in college. Before taking the PE, my boss said the best preparation for the exam is to take the exam. That way you know what to expect next time. I am grateful that I passed all of the tests the first time. They are long. I am not looking forward to taking the two day SE test when I am eligible.

RE: FE vs PE?

I don't understand how anyone, anywhere, could think the FE was harder than the PE, unless they're maybe not Civil and the PE for their discipline is super easy. I aced both, but I put ten times the effort into the PE, and it was clearly much more difficult.

Hydrology, Drainage Analysis, Flood Studies, and Complex Stormwater Litigation for Atlanta and the South East - http://www.campbellcivil.com

RE: FE vs PE?

took the seismic and survey in CA about 25 years ago when they first started giving it. pass rate for seismic was about 11%. I don't believe it has gotten much easier since then. I am not a structural engineer and did not pass the first time. When I took it, UBC was the correct reference to bring and they required using the 1984 edition. Since I had not checked into this before hand, I brought the newly released 1988 edition which unfortunately was not allowed. Lesson learned, find out which seismic code is required for the test...

the survey test was a cakewalk compared to either the seismic or the 8 hour exam.

studied 4 hours for the FE exam in my senior year and passed it.

RE: FE vs PE?

I thought the FE was a breeze, as I had just finished college and it was all fresh in my mind.

I didn't prepare much for the PE, since I had heard that it would focus on my area of experience. I just brought a handful of reference books. The test was a booger compared to my FE. I did pass with a pretty good score, but it was only because I identified two trick questions that took just minutes to complete.

Best to you,

Goober Dave

Haven't see the forum policies? Do so now: Forum Policies

RE: FE vs PE?

As a humble Canadian looking into the possibility of PE Licensure south of the border, rest assured that I personally would be applying for examination waivers at this stage of my life, since I have been out of school for 30 years. It would appear, however, that a waiver for the PE exam is not likely to be forthcoming, despite how many Provinces I am licensed in or what reciprocity arrangements are in place between licensing boards across the border.

A simple thing like using US Customary Units would be an immediate disadvantage to me...

I am currently hedging my bets by working through the FE Exam Preparation materials and sample exams loaned to me from a much younger colleague, if only to refresh myself for the fundamentals that might help with Part 1 of the PE exam.

Might as well start now...even though it's a drag and from what I hear (and read) there are folks smarter than me who aren't successful the first time around.

Any recommendations for the best places to obtain PE sample problems apart from NCEES?

RE: FE vs PE?

SNORGY, Michael Lindeburg has some excellent training material for the PE. Also, try Indira Goswami.

RE: FE vs PE?

Thanks, MusicEngineer.

Will do.

Now all I need to do is find somebody who is actually smart to take the tests for me.

RE: FE vs PE?

Just agree with David.

RE: FE vs PE?

I have looked into reciprocity with Canada - from the US. You practically have to live there to get some of them... Too cold!!

RE: FE vs PE?

I recently took the PE (OCT. 2012), and I thought that it was much easier than the FE. That being said, working in a design firm for four years provided a better understanding of the professional world than going to college for four years did. I was much more diligent about my studying because I knew that the test meant something. The FE was during my senior year of college and had calculus and other material that I really had no interest in. Additionally I just viewed it more as an academic test (which I still think it is) thus had no real emotional investment in. This made it much more difficult.

RE: FE vs PE?

I thought the FE was easy.

I am taking the PE for the second time in a couple weeks. I would say the problems are not much harder, but I struggle with doing them in 5 min.

That is just me and I am a slow reader and there is more reading on the PE exam.

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