Preparing To Take The Fundamentals of Engineering Exam? What Type
of FE Review Should You Take?
So, you just found out that you need to take the FE. Feel overwhelmed? I did. I
thought I was about done with exams, and then I found out about 2 more I would have to endure—and those 2 sounded
terrifying… Two 8 hour exams that cover multiple fields of engineering—many of which only sounded vaguely
familiar to me—my first thought was, “How can I get out of this?” Well, I have some good news and some bad
news for you. Bad news is, yep, you have to take the Fundamentals of Engineering exam if you ever want to be
a Professional Engineer. And trust me, if you want to pursue a career in engineering, you want to be a
Professional Engineer—and your boss will want you to be a Professional Engineer—and their boss will really want you
to be a Professional Engineer. That’s just a reality of our field—and it’s a good thing—you don’t want
uncertified engineers running around designing bridges and water treatment plants—now that really would be
terrifying—not to mention deadly. Now the good news, YOU CAN DO THIS. Trust me, I did it—and you can,
too. Yes, it is hard work and yes, it takes good preparation, but it is worth it. I hope this site will
give you some quick pointers on what to expect, on how to use your time wisely, and on how to build up your
confidence for these exams. This site is not intended to carry you through to the exam, just think of it as a
little clearinghouse that points you to some really good resources that will get you there and through it.
What is the FE?
The FE – or Fundamentals of Engineering Exam is a prerequisite examination on the path to getting a
Professional Engineering license (see below for Why be a PE?). The FE (or EIT—Engineer in Training exam, as
it was formerly called) is an 8 hour examination that consists of 180 multiple choice questions. See below
for How is the FE Exam Structured?
Why should I take the FE?
Although you might be inclined to find a way out of this exam, don’t. If you are planning on pursuing a
career in the field of engineering, then you need to take this exam. Having your professional engineering
license will not only lead to better pay and better projects at work, it will give you the credentials you need to
be at the top of your field. It will enable you to start your own engineering firm. It will greatly
enhance your career opportunities.
When should I take the FE?
From personal experience I would recommend sitting for the FE towards the end of your tenure as an undergrad.
The FE covers a wide range of engineering topics that you will likely not see on a daily basis at your job or in
your graduate studies. Keep in mind, this is a fundamentals exam—you will be tested on the building blocks of
engineering—so you will need to be familiar with the theory behind the applications. This is something that
is easy to forget long after those Diff EQ books have gathered dust. For a current listing of exam dates and
locations in your area, please visit the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (or NCEES) website.
How should I prepare for the FE?
Study. No-brainer, right? Yes, we all know someone that can waltz into any exam and pass it first shot,
but those folks are rare. In my opinion the FE was harder than the PE—and I know smart folks that have
studied hard and sat for the PE multiple times… Trust me, this exam is no fun—just study well the first time
and get it behind you. There are 3 basic study techniques I recommend to prepare you for this exam:
1. Get familiar with the exam handbook. The testing facility will provide you with an exam handbook—a
paperback book of equations and conversions for the exam. You can download this online before the exam (make
sure it is the version they will use for your test date)—but you cannot take your own copy into the exam.
They will provide a new one for you. Be absolutely familiar with the layout of this handbook. Be
familiar with how the equations are laid out—you might be surprised that some of the environmental equations are
placed under civil water resources, or thermo, just look through it page by page and get familiar with it.
2. Find and use a good FE review manual. You need
to work problems—and use your exam handbook to do so. Nothing tops working a ton of problems.
3. Attend a live FE review course, if there is one
available in your area. Or form a study group. Sometimes just having the support of others undergoing
this same torture will help keep you motivated.
What is on the FE?
The FE is an 8-hour closed-book exam. Although it is “closed-book,” they will provide you with the reference
handbook at the testing facility. Remember, you will not be allowed to bring in your personal copy of the
reference handbook. The exam is broken up into 2 main parts—the morning session and the afternoon
session. Each session lasts 4 hours and you will have a lunch break between sessions.
The morning session will be the same for everyone taking the exam. It will have 120 multiple choice questions
(worth 1-point each) on general engineering topics: Mathematics, Engineering Probability and Statistics, Chemistry,
Computers, Ethics and Business Practices, Engineering Economics, Engineering Mechanics (Statics & Dynamics),
Strength of Materials, Material Properties, Fluid Mechanics, Electricity & Magnetism, and Thermodynamics.
The questions will be organized by topic, so you will know what area of expertise you are working within.
The afternoon session will consist of 60 multiple choice questions (worth 2-points each). You will choose
from 7 topics for the afternoon session: Chemical, Civil, Electrical, Environmental, Industrial, Mechanical,
Other Disciplines (or General). I would recommend that you select the afternoon session that best matches
your undergraduate degree.
How is the FE scored?
NCEES is the testing agency for the FE and the process in which the scores are released to
examinees vary by state. In general, you will receive either a pass or fail. If you fail you will
receive a report indicating areas of strengths and weaknesses to help aid you in retaking the exam. For more
info, please visit the NCEES website.
What can I take into the examination?
After months of preparation for this big day, the thing you want is to get caught off guard when
walking into the exam room. For the most current listing of exam day policies, including what you can and
cannot bring into the exam room, please review the NCEES FE exam policies.