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 at UDC, "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.

Dr. Z's Corner

Dr. Z’s Corner (201503)

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.

Good Luck,

– Dr. Z.

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Dr. Z’s Corner (201502)

Conquering the FE & PE Exams

By Ahmet Zeytinci, P.E., F-NSPE



To answer some of our readers’ questions, I would like to review the requirements for licensing again and the new Professional Engineering (PE) Exam Specifications for Civil Engineers that will be effective beginning with the April 2015 examinations.

The graduates of a four-year college or a university program with a bachelor of science in engineering, bachelor of engineering, master of science in engineering or master of engineering from an Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, Inc., (ABET) accredited institution are eligible to take the new computer based Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) examination. This exam is developed and administered by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES). To register for the FE exam, the engineering licensing board in the state in which licensure is desired must be contacted. Applicants need to apply to the state licensing board to determine if they meet the requirements to take the FE exam. These requirements vary by state.

The FE exam tests applicants on breadth of understanding of basic engineering principles. Passing the FE exam typically qualifies the candidates for certification as an engineer in training (EIT) or engineering intern (EI). After gaining some engineering experience, generally four years, also varies from state to state, applicants have to take and pass a written Principles and Practice in Engineering, PE examination. The PE exam tests the applicant’s knowledge and skills in their chosen civil engineering discipline (i.e., construction, geotechnical, structural, transportation, and water resources and environmental). The PE exam uses both the International System of Units (SI) and the US Customary System (USCS).

The degree requirements for licensure are evolving. For example, effective Jan. 1, 2020, the NCEES will require additional credits beyond a bachelor of science in engineering degree. Effective and beginning with the April 2015 examinations, the new PE exam for the Civil Engineering will have new specifications. The new PE exam will be an eight-hour open-book exam with two sections, breadth and depth sections. Each section is four hours long and consists of 40 multiple choice questions. Examinees are required to work on all the questions in the morning session and in the afternoon module they have chosen. The final score is a combination of both section results (the depth results and the breadth results).

PE Exam – Morning Session Breakdown

The morning breadth section is 40 multiple-choice questions from the five discipline areas in civil engineering.

  • Project Planning: 4 questions,
  • Means and Methods: 3 questions,
  • Soils Mechanics: 6 questions,
  • Structures: 6 questions,
  • Hydraulics and Hydrology: 7 questions,
  • Geometrics: 3 questions,
  • Materials: 6 questions, and
  • Site Development: 5 questions.

PE Exam – Afternoon Session Breakdown

The afternoon depth section is 40 multiple choice questions and focus on a single area of practice in civil engineering (e.g., only construction or only geotechnical). Each discipline will be covered separately in the future articles.

Remember, in both FE and PE exams timing is everything. To conquer these exams speed is very important and speed can only be attained through practice and more practice!

Until next time, Dr. Z/
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