Getting… Fundamental

It occurred to me that simply tossing-up the video and/or a link to the video is, well, cheating. So I’m going to add a somewhat narrative version of the slides (not nearly as long-winded as I am when I’m talking on the video) in case someone really just wants to read-through the information without the commentary. I’m also going to do said narrative in a somewhat different order than in the video.

We’ll start by recognizing that, given you’re here, I didn’t scare you away with my first video and you’re at least somewhat interested in taking the steps necessary to become a licensed professional engineer, which I think is awesome. So, what I’ll cover here is a very high-level overview of the FE exam, without anything at all in the way of technical details of the exam itself. Further, I’ll assume you
meet (or will meet) the first criteria (the 4-year degree from an accredited engineering program), and that you’re completely in the dark when it comes to the test and how to register for and get started preparing for it.

You start by registering for the exam, but before registering for the exam you need to created an account at NCEES. To do so, go to and select MyNCEES in the upper right corner of the page. On the next page, again select MyNCEES under “NCEES customers”, scroll down to the bottom of the next page and click on “Create An Account” (or, I suppose, you can spare yourself a bunch of clicks by just clicking on the link I just provided). Fill-in all the required information and the CAPTCHA. Finally, click submit, and wait for an email to show up at the address you provided.

Using the link provided in the email from NCEES, verify your email and log-in to your NCEES account. Once you’re into your account, you will notice some “Common Tasks” which includes… Register for an exam. Here you will be told you need to fill-in some aspects of your NCEES profile before you can move on, specifically:

  • Contact Information
  • Education Information
  • Request a review

Once you’ve requested a review you can select “Register for an exam” to move on to where you actually wanted to be in the first place. Here, you simply select the test you wish to take (presumably “Fundamentals of Engineering”), and then select the specific exam (such as “FE Mechanical). In the resulting page you select the state where you wish to be registered by selecting the state in the “Board” drop-down box and acknowledge whether your state requires an additional registration and/or fee for the exam. Agree to the terms and then move along.

Eventually you will pay-up the exam feel of $175 and be officially registered to take the test at the time and place you specified. It’s then time to start prepping.

And we’re just getting started! Now the work actually begins. So with that, let’s talk a bit about the exam itself.

The NCEES Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) examination is a computer-based test (CBT) that is administered year-round at NCEES-approved test centers. The exam itself is 110-questions in length and lasts 5-hours and 20-minutes (with a planned 25-minute break halfway through the test); meaning that you have approximately 3-minutes per question on the exam.

It’s an open-book test … sorta (more on that in a bit), that covers a very broad set of subject areas (including Mathematics, Ethics, Economics, etc.) and consists of traditional multiple-choice, single correct answer questions plus “alternative item types” (AITs, we’ll talk more about these later as well).

The test is Pass/Fail, and you will be offered an area-by-area diagnostic assessment at MyNCEES. Finally, there are 7 distinct versions of the test…

  • Chemical
  • Civil (most common)
  • Electrical and Computer
  • Environmental
  • Industrial and Systems (least common)
  • Mechanical, and…
  • Other

The “FE Other Disciplines” test (taken by about 7.5% of applicants) is appropriate for applicants whose degree doesn’t fit neatly into either of the other 6 disciplines, and contains a sampling of all the other tests. The pass rate for 1st-time test takers is around 70-72 percent.

All questions on the exam are scored as either correct or incorrect. There is no partial credit, and this is particularly important to remember when looking at these so-called AIT’s, which can include

  • Multiple correct – allow for the selection of multiple answers
  • Point and click – click on part of a graphic to answer
  • Drag and drop – click/drag items to match, sort, rank, or label
  • Fill in the blank – provide a space to enter a response to the question

The challenge, of course, is that you need to get any of these completely correct, or they’re entirely wrong. AITs are incorporated into the practice exams provided by NCEES, and the Pearson VUE CBT demo (a demo test environment) has examples of AITs. I strongly suggest taking advantage of these opportunities prior to your exam date.

As to the “kinda/sorta open-book” statement… the NCEES FE Reference Handbook is the only reference material allowed during the exam. An electronic version of the reference handbook will be available during the exam. For your preparation purposes, you can purchase a hard copy or download a free electronic copy of the reference manual at your MyNCEES account after you’ve registered. My suggestion is that you use this, and only this, reference while you’re prepping for the exam because you are going to want to get very, very comfortable moving around this very large (~500 pages) electronic document.

Don’t bother printing it (assuming you’d even wish to); you will not be permitted to bring a printed copy of this manual with you into the test. As for what you are allowed to bring into the test with you, the answer is… pretty much nothing. You will not be allowed to bring in your own pencils/pens or paper (you’ll be provided with a non-erasable tablet and marker for your use – if you fill it up, raise your hand and they’ll bring you another one). You may bring in one of the approved calculators, but I suggest you practice with and use during the test the electronic TI-30SX clone that is provided as part of the test environment.

There is a wealth of information on the exam and the exam-day experience on both the NCEES YouTube channel, starting with the highly-recommended Perason VUE exam day experience video.

Note: my video is also available at BitChute.

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