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.

Dr. Z's Corner

Dr. Z’s Corner (201501)

Conquering the FE & PE Exams

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



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. This month’s problems can be found HERE.

To answer many readers’ questions, let’s review the exam day experience and what you are expected to do that day. Once your registration is approved, 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 are offered in testing windows throughout the year during January, February, April, May, July, August, October and November. Once you register and know your exam date, NCEES recommends the following:

  • 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. You will need 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 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, report to an exam proctor who will confirm your ID through a palm vein scan. The proctor will then provide with you with a reusable booklet and marker for scratch work, 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 are 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. NCEES also provides information at www.ncees.org and YouTube.

Until next time,

Dr. Z.
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Dr. Z’s Corner (201411)

Conquering the FE & PE Exams -
"PAT" Stands for Parallel-Axis Theorem

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



I was an avid reader of science fiction, and back in early eighties I read “X” Stands for Unknown, by Isaac Asimov, a collection of seventeen nonfiction science essays published in a science fiction magazine. The subtitle of this month’s article was inspired by that book and following some of our readers’ requests, I’ve decided to write about the Centroids, Moments of Inertia, and “Parallel Axis Theorem for an Area” which is one of the most important theorems in mechanics.

In the FE and PE exams there will be several questions about finding the centroids and moments of inertia of simple or composite areas. Both topics are listed as the “suggested required topics” at the top of page 266 of the new NCEES-Reference Manual (CBT-Version 9.1). Without getting into complex mathematics or derivations, let’s start with the “centroid of a cross-sectional area.”

In simplest terms, the centroid is a point that defines the geometrical center of an object or area and has to be determined first when solving problems in bending of beams, columns, and finding the deflections of flexural members, to name a few. The centroid of an area can be defined by considering the first moment of area about an axis, Integral (x.dA) and here x is known as the moment arm. On the other hand, the second moment of inertia, which is Integral (x2).dx is referred to as the moment of inertia for an area. Many problems in the FE and PE exams will require you to find the moments of inertia of any given area about any given axis, mostly horizontal centroidal axis.

In the NCEES-Reference Handbook, “Centroids” and “Moment of Inertia” are introduced on page 36, and on page 64, Moment of Inertia and “PAT” is defined. “The moment of inertia of an area about any axis is defined as the moment of inertia of the area about a parallel centroidal axis plus an additional term equal to the area multiplied by the square of the perpendicular distance d from the centroidal axis to the axis in question.” Two PAT formulas are in the handbook after the definition.

Visit the problems/examples for examples and supplemental problems to help demystify these concepts. Also, I strongly remind readers to review the formulas on page 65 of the Reference Handbook before taking the exam. When you need a formula for an area, centroid, moment of inertia, radius of gyration and product of inertia for simple shapes, go directly to PAGE 65 of the Handbook without wasting time. Rectangles, triangles, circles, circular sectors are on pages 65-67.

As always, I shall close with a final thought: during the FE or PE exams, the more time you spend on a difficult question, the more time you risk second guessing yourself. Trust your intuition. You have worked hard, don’t doubt yourself! Come back to that question later when you might have a clearer mind.

Until next time,

Dr. Z.

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