Approaching the FE Exam for the First Time
I owe my editor an apology. This month’s article was supposed to be at my Editor James Palmer’s desk a week ago. Thank you, Jim, for your patience and for the great work that you’ve done for the Newsletter. As you may know, Jim is also a Structural Engineer working in Washington, DC.
For educators like us May means the end of another academic year. To say that this past semester was “busy” would be an understatement. Lectures, quizzes, finals, research papers, proposals, consulting, MATHCOUNTS and ASCE Steel Bridge Competitions, pro-bono Saturday classes, . . . the list goes on.
According to NCEES, every year 55,000 people take the FE exam and most of them are college seniors within one year of graduating or are recent graduates. The FE exam is the first step in the process leading to the Professional Engineer (PE) license and it contains 110 multiple-choice questions. The exam appointment time is 6 hours long, which includes a nondisclosure agreement, tutorial (8 minutes), the exam (5 hours and 20 minutes), a scheduled break (25 minutes), and a brief survey.
When approaching the FE Exam for the first time, it’s natural to feel a bit overwhelmed. The best way to build your confidence is to prepare for the test and to know the ins and outs of the test. To answer many readers’ questions, we would like to review the exam day experience and what you are expected to do that day.
Once your registration is approved by NCEES, you will receive an email notification that you have been authorized to take the exam and are eligible to schedule your exam appointment. NCEES computer-based tests (CBT) are offered in testing windows throughout the year during the following months: January, February, April, May, July, August, October and November.
Once you register and know your exam date, NCEES recommends the following: First, you should plan to arrive at the testing center 30 minutes prior to your scheduled appointment. Upon arrival, a representative will provide you with a copy of NCEES-CBT exam rules for your review. After doing so, you will be asked to provide your digital signature to confirm that you have read the rules and agreed to abide by them.
Then you will be asked to provide a current government issued form of ID such as a driver’s license. Once the representative confirmed your identification and the exam that you are taking, you will be asked to provide palm vein scan and have your photo taken. Your signature, palm vein scan and photo will be stored with your exam result. Prior to be admitted into the testing room, a representative will insure that you have in your possession only the items that NCEES allows them to the testing room. These items include, your ID, an NCEES approved calculator and eye glasses.
Most test centers have secure storage lockers on site for you to store prohibited items such as cell phones, other electronic devices and personal belongings such as a watch, wallet and bag. Once you complete the check in process, then you report to an exam proctor who will ask you to confirm your ID by providing again your palm vein scan. Then the proctor will give you a reusable booklet and marker for scratch work. The proctor will review the exam rules and will escort you to the exam room and assigned work station and launch the exam. Before starting your exam, all examinees will be required to read and agree to the NCEES’ non-disclosure agreement and complete a brief tutorial to learn how to ADVANCE to the next item, RETURN to a previous item and FLAG items for review.
After completing approximately 55 questions, examinees will be prompted on screen with the option to take a 25-minute break. Examinees who wish to take the scheduled break should raise their hands and wait for the prompter tor assistance. Unscheduled breaks may be requested at any time during the exam by following the same procedure. However, examinees should be aware that clock will not stop during an unscheduled break. Examinees are allowed to access their lockers during the scheduled and unscheduled breaks.
After completing the exam and a brief survey, you should raise your hands and proctor will verify that you had properly exited from exam and escort you from testing room and collect your booklet and marker. You will not receive any type of score before leaving the testing center. You will receive an email from NCEES within 7 to 10 days notifying you that your results are available for viewing in your MYNCEES account.
Ahmet Zeytinci (Dr. Z.)