A New Era for the PE Exams: Are You Ready for the New Specifications?
By Ahmet Zeytinci, P.E., F-NSPE
Civil Breath and Geotechnical Depth Exams
April 2015 is an important month for all engineers who are planning to take their PE exams. Why? Because effective April 2015, the new PE exam specifications will be implemented. Last month we discussed in detail the new specifications for the “Construction Module” and this month we are going to talk about the “Geotechnical Module”, afternoon depth exams.
PE civil exam basics:
- Offered twice a year; in April and October;
- Designed for engineers with FE (EIT) certificates who have gained at least four years’ post-college work experience in their chosen engineering discipline;
- Multiple-choice questions, lasting 8 hours;
- Split into a morning and an afternoon session (4 hours each; 40 multiple choice questions each);
- Both sessions use SI units and the US Customary System; and
- Morning and afternoon session exam results are combined for final the score.
- The February issue of our column details the morning breath session of the exam.
- The afternoon depth section focuses on a single area of practice in civil engineering to test an engineer’s ability to practice competently in one of the five sub-disciplines of the civil engineering.
- The exam is scored based on the afternoon module selected during registration.
PE Civil Geotechnical – Afternoon Depth Exam Specifications
The afternoon session of the PE Civil Geotechnical has questions that require a variety of approaches and methodologies, including design, analysis, and application. Some problems in the afternoon session may require knowledge of engineering economics. A typical breakdown with approximate number of questions:
- Site Characterization: 5 questions,
- Soil Mechanics, Laboratory Testing, and Analysis: 5 questions,
- Field Materials Testing, Methods, and Safety: 3 questions,
- Earthquake Engineering and Dynamic Loads: 2 questions,
- Earth Structures: 4 questions,
- Groundwater and Seepage: 3 questions,
- Problematic Soil and Rock Conditions: 3 questions,
- Earth Retaining Structures (ASD or LRFD): 5 questions,
- Shallow Foundations (ASD or LRFD): 5 questions,
- Deep Foundations (ASD or LRFD): 5 questions
The PE exam is an open-book exam. According to NCEES, you can bring bound reference material, loose paper bound with ring binders, plastic snap binders, and spiral-bound notebooks to the exam. All paper must remain bound during the exam, and sticky notes and flags must remain attached to book pages.
Finally, these are very fast-paced exams and you will have little time to look up information. Therefore, make sure you are familiar with your reference material and begin with the subject areas you know best. This will give you more time and build your confidence. Remember, it is always good idea to consider reverse engineering the problems by substituting the answers and seeing which one works. To help prepare for the exam, here is this month’s problem set.
Most importantly, stay relaxed and confident. Always keep a good attitude and remind yourself that you are going to do your best.
Until Next Time,
Ahmet Zeytinci, PE– Dr. Z.
NCS congratulates Dr. Z on his Community Service Award!
Construction Module Afternoon Depth Exam Specifications
By Ahmet Zeytinci, P.E., F-NSPE
As promised in our February 2015 article, we are going to continue talking about the afternoon session of the PE civil exams. The afternoon session tests an engineer’s ability to practice competency in one of the five sub-disciplines of civil engineering (construction, geotechnical, structural, transportation, and water resources and environmental). NCEES designed the PE exam for engineers with FE (EIT) certificates who have at least four years post-college work experience in their chosen engineering discipline. The exams are offered twice a year, in April and October. Remember, new exam specifications begin with the April 2015 PE exams.
The PE civil exam lasts 8 hours and is split into a morning and an afternoon session (4 hours each). The morning breath session of the exam was detailed in the February issue of our column. The afternoon depth section is composed of 40 multiple choice questions and focuses on a single area of practice in civil engineering (e.g., only construction or only geotechnical). Depth exam results are combined with breadth results for final score. As in the morning session, the afternoon depth section uses SI units and the US Customary System (USCS). When you take the PE civil exam, you select an afternoon module during registration and your answer sheet is scored based on the module you selected when registering.
According to the latest statistics, the scores vary among the five civil engineering disciplines. Based on October 2014 test results, for first time test takers, structural scored the highest with 73%; followed by water resources and environmental 72%; geotechnical 67%; transportation 64%; and construction 56%.
Answering our readers’ questions, we will start with the new construction depth exam specifications and continue covering each sub-discipline area of civil engineering separately in future articles.
PE Civil Construction – Afternoon Depth Exam Specifications
The afternoon session of the PE civil construction exam has questions that will require a variety of approaches and methodologies, including design, analysis, and application. Some problems in the afternoon session may require knowledge of engineering economics. A typical breakdown with approximate number of questions:
- Earthwork Construction and Layout: 6 questions,
- Estimating Quantities and Costs: 6 questions,
- Construction Operations and Methods: 6 questions,
- Scheduling: 5 questions,
- Material Quality Control and Production: 6 questions,
- Temporary Structures: 7 questions,
- Health and Safety: 3 questions.
Also be aware that the new exams use the following Construction Design Standards (beginning with the April 2015 exams):
- ASCE 37 (Design Loads on Structures during Construction, 2002);
- NDS (National Design Specification for Wood Construction, 2012);
- CMWB (Standard Practice for Masonry Walls under Construction, 2012),
- AISC (Steel Construction Manual, 14th Edition, 2011);
- ACI 318-11 (Building Code Requirements for Structural Concrete, 2011);
- ACI 347 (Guide to Formwork for Concrete, 2004);
- ACI SP-4 (Formwork for Concrete, 2005);
- OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Standards for the Construction Industry, 29 CFR Part 1926, US Federal Version); and
- MUTCD-Pt 6 (Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices – Part 6 Temporary Traffic Control, 2009).
One last reminder for exam applicants: When you pack your books and other reference material for the PE civil construction exam, do not forget the “Reference Categories” for the construction depth module. These include Construction Surveying, Construction Estimating, Construction Planning and Scheduling, and Construction Equipment and Methods.
Finally, during the exam do not rush and do not just dive in! Read each question very carefully all the way through to the end. In some cases, information provided at the end of the problem will clearly change your final answer. This month’s problem set can be found HERE.
– Dr. Z.