Becoming a Licensed Professional Engineer Part 2 of n

Electrical Engineering ShirtLink to Part 1 of this series

The Professional Engineering (PE) application process takes a fair amount of time and money. I spent anywhere from 50 to 70 hours on just the application paperwork, and the application fee was $250.

In addition to the expenses of money and time, the PE application requires:

  • Written recommendations from three current professional engineers
  • Certified copies of your college transcripts
  • Miscellaneous situational paperwork

In Texas, if you’re just starting out or if you want to learn more about the process of becoming a licensed professional engineer, the TBPE website is the first website to visit. It explains the application process in great detail, and is pretty straightforward: TBPE Website – Application Process.

After receiving the PE exam approval you’ll need to spend another $265 to take the exam and the cost of any additional prep material that you may need. A coworker graciously let me use his sample exam and a reference manual from PPI along with a sample exam from NCEES. NCEES is the organization that writes the tests for the state of Texas and many other states.

Of all the study material that I received (or found), the once item I couldn’t do without was the NCEES sample exam. From my experience, the questions asked were similar in complexity and covered much of the same material as the actual exam questions. If NCEES offered more than one sample exam I would have purchased it in a heartbeat just to have more practice test questions.

I also used sample exams from a website called Professional Publications, Inc. (PPI), and I can’t really vouch for them. Perhaps PPI has better sample exams for other engineering disciplines but it wasn’t good for the Electrical Engineering exam. I found that PPI’s questions barely scratched the surface of some subjects while other subjects were way to technical. When I ran into a question that was deeply technical, I couldn’t help but think I was under prepared. I ended up scoring very well on the exam but many of the questions provided by PPI had me panicked.

Inside the NCEES sample exam, on page 2 there’s an exam syllabus where they list all the subjects covered by the exam and each subject includes an approximate percentage on the exam. Use this information people, this could save you a ton of time!! For example, on the EE exam, control systems accounts for 7.5% yet electronics accounts for 12.5% of the exam. If you’re running out of time, you should definitely spend more time learning/re-learning electronics than control systems.

I also used the reference manual from PPI and again I can’t vouch for them on this product either. The reference manual is a good 1.5 inch thick book and 3/4 of the material wasn’t even on the exam. From what I recall, most of the extra information was background math subjects. For example the study material covered calculus and I can’t really think of any question that I had to use calculus for. In PPI’s defense, the introduction states that many of the subjects aren’t covered in the exam but are included for reference. If you skim over the introduction you could easily miss this statement. There were also several subjects that lacked critical material, especially electromagnetic theory and control systems. Eventually I abandoned the PPI reference manual completely and just went rogue.

In my opinion, you can prepare yourself extremely well for the exam by going over the NCEES exam syllabus on page 2 of the practice exam line by line. Subjects that you need to relearn or learn for the first time was mostly always described in old college text books and I was astounded by how much material I found on the web. If you think you’ve mastered that subject try answering the subject’s sample questions. If you can’t answer them correctly, keep studying. Once you can answer the subject questions in a timely fashion, move on to the next subject. The last several days leading up to the exam I must have taken the same practice exam 5 times until I knew I could finish the exam within the given time allowed.

I hope to have another post soon to include links to the great study material websites (and there are a bunch). Good luck!

Link to Part 3 of the Professional Engineer Series

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