How to Pass the FE Exam: A 12-Step FE Exam Prep Guide

The Fundamentals of Engineering Exam is long. 

It encompasses the junior and senior years of a four-year Civil Engineering program. There’s no easy way to pass the exam: you must prepare. You must undertake a concentrated FE Exam prep. 

However, you don’t have to work on everything; you need to address your weaknesses. 

The time and effort you need to put into studying for the FE exam will depend on your starting point. If you graduated last week with a 4.0 GPA, you’ll need less time than someone who graduated 3 years ago with a 2.1 GPA. However, you will all have to work hard to get through this exam because it’s comprehensive.

How to Pass the FE Exam: A 12-Step FE Exam Prep Process

Before you begin the 12-step FE Exam prep process, you’ll need to collect the following:

  • A copy of the official FE Reference Manual.
  • The approved calculator you will use for the actual exam.
  • Scratch paper.
  • Your undergraduate notes.
  • Your undergraduate textbook with post-it tabs for quick reference.
  • A computer with Excel.

Step 1: FE Exam Strengths and Weaknesses

Identify your strengths and weaknesses by identifying your confidence level for each topic.  (1: little confidence — 5: very confident) Make an Excel spreadsheet like below.

This step will show you where to put your major effort.

Step 2: Cheat Sheets for Weak Topics

Study your undergraduate notes, your undergraduate text bookmarked with Post-it tabs for quick reference and any other materials on your weakest topics. Make a special cheat sheet for each weak topic.

Step 3: Online FE Exam Prep Course

Subscribe to an online FE test prep site where your practice will simulate the actual online exam experience. Set yourself up to take a full-length practice FE exam test (morning and afternoon sessions).

Make sure you have:

  • A copy of the official FE Reference Manual
  • Cheat sheets (especially for your weaker topics).
  • Your undergraduate notes.Your undergraduate textbook with Post-it tabs for quick reference.
  • This step will ease you into the exam format without time pressure, with plenty of support materials. Don’t worry about time. You’re simply getting started and probing your weaknesses.

Step 4: Take Your Time

Take the FE exam, taking as much time as you need. If necessary, look up any theory you need in order to answer the problems. Make a note of these problems on a scratch paper.

This step will take a while because you may need to pause the exam many times. Don’t get despondent when you see the score. It’s likely to be low. Remember, this is a process.

Step 5: Learn From Your Mistakes

Review your results (expect them to be poor). Add columns to your Excel spreadsheet to track your progress (see below).

Here you’ll begin to identify your strengths and weaknesses based on data. It will give your preparation much more focus.

Step 6: Revise Your Confidence Score

Return to your chart and fill in your revised confidence score based on your FE practice exam results (see below).

The revised confidence score will be better than your first estimate.

Step 7: Topic-Based FE Exam Practice

Take some specialized topic-based practice tests in your low-confidence topics.

Step 8: Revise Your Excel Spreadsheet

Revise your chart with your specialized scores. IF you need to continue working on weak topics, go back to Step 7. Otherwise, move on to the next step.

Step 9: Full-Length FE Practice Exam

Take another full-length FE practice exam. This will be better than the first attempt, but your score is likely to be short of the notional “70%” passing score. Don’t despair, remember – it’s a process and you have to keep working.

Step 10: Take Stock

IF your score is below 50%, go back to Step 5. Otherwise, move on to the next step.

Step 11: A Timed FE Practice Exam 

Take a full-length timed FE practice exam.

Step 12: Pass or Try Again

IF your score is below 50%, go back to Step 11. Otherwise, you are ready for the exam!

This process entails plenty of effort. But it is a focused effort directed toward getting you through the marathon that is the FE exam.

Good luck!