Dr. Z’s Corner

Dr. Z

Ahmet Zeytinci, P.E., Ph.D., Fellow-NSPE, Fellow-ASCE is an award-winning professor, structural engineer, author and mentor living in Washington, D.C. Since joining academia, "Dr. Z", as he is known by his students and colleagues, has distinguished himself on campus and beyond. He is passionate about engineering, gifted in teaching, and is a true champion for professional licensure. Dr. Z. has extraordinarily high standards; has produced award-winning designs; is prolific in professional service; and infects others with these same values. He is the recipient of numerous local, regional and national awards, including recent national awards from the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE) and American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE). Since 2014, he has been regularly writing monthly articles for “Dr.Z’s Corner “ and offering hundreds of engineering problems, for free, every month for students, engineers and engineering educators worldwide. Dr. Z. also offers pro-bono Saturday classes for students and engineers; his free classes are open to all in the greater Washington metro area and cost nothing, nada, zilch! Starbucks coffee is always a must have for Dr. Z.

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.
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NCS congratulates Dr. Z on his Community Service Award!

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