PE Exam Prep – Know your Reference Materials

By Sean Siwiecki, PE

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Preparing for the PE Exam can feel like a monstrous task – realizing you have to remember equations, theories, and engineering concepts that you may have not thought about for years (or ever, if you’re like me and missed the part of geotechnical engineering where they covered active/passive earth pressure). The good thing is they let you bring in your new best friends – your reference materials, which you will get to know quite well over the months leading up to the exam. Make sure you take the time to collect the Design Standards listed by NCEES for your specific discipline. After collecting the references, familiarizing yourself with them is crucial to your success. Well-placed tabs and labels for different topics and equations will save you time and frustration when you’re flipping through multiple references trying to find that one formula you remember you used on the practice exam you took a month ago. The last thing you want to do during the test is read a question – or five – asking for specific criteria out of a reference, like the AASHTO Roadside Design Guide, only to realize you didn’t bring it with you. If that happens, just breathe, make an educated guess, and move on to the rest of the questions that you can solve because you remembered to bring the rest of reference materials on the list. NCEES lets you bring reference materials in for a reason; make sure you use them to your advantage and they will definitely prove to be a saving grace while taking the exam.