So, what’s on each of the FE exams?

Herein, we’ll perform a somewhat shallow-dive into the areas covered by each of the 7 NCEES FE examinations. This is the long-promised follow-up video to the broad overview I presented on the last video. Further details on the exams themselves are available from NCEES.

Note: this video is also available on BitChute.

So let’s review what we covered in our last venture into this subject. The NCEES Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) examination is a 110-question, 5-hour 20-minute long, Pass/Fail, computer-based test (CBT) that is administered year-round at NCEES-approved test centers. The exam itself covers a wide area of subjects in engineering, science, and mathematics. There are 7 distinct exams covering each of the following disciplines…

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

The test is kinda/sorta open-book (you’ll be provided with the “book” at the testing center) and you will need to get a certain percentage (usually 70%, or a Gentleman’s C) correct, and completely correct, in order to pass. Some questions will have multiple correct answers and, as there is no partial credit, you will need to select all of the correct answers for the question to be scored as correct.

There are some areas of science and engineering that are common to all or most of the individual exams. For example, every exam has some level of Mathematics that is tested – typically around 10% of the total exam. Several exams (particularly the Electrical/Computer exam) have a heavier focus on Math and test areas (such as Laplace Transforms) that are not found in the other tests. You can and should expect there to be some questions on Algebra, Trig, and other fundamentals, though there may also be some questions on Calculus and Differential Equations (typically first order, linear) as well.

Additionally, you can expect there to be questions covering Engineering Economics and Ethics. In all, these questions (like those in the Math section) tend to be rather straightforward (many are plug-and-chug) and are a great source of valuable points for you.

Subjects that are given a sizeable treatment on most exams include Thermodynamics (of course, haha!) and Fluid Mechanics.

As to the specifics of the individual exams, and looking first at the Chemical Engineering exam, we can see that there is a rather broad focus in quite a large number of areas. In fact, there is really no single area that dominates the test, and the subjects covered ought to be unsurprising to anyone who survived a 4-year ChemEng Bachelors’ program (this is typical for all of the exams, by the way.

The Civil Engineering exam, again the most popular of the exams by number of takers (nearly half of all FE test-takers) is similarly focused on areas such as Statics and Structural Engineering that one would expect to be the focus on a C.E. degree. It would be important however for the takers of this exam to not ignore their basic Surveying, as they can expect between 5-7 percent of the questions to be in this area.

Moving-on to the most unique of the exams – the Electrical and Computer Engineering exam – we note first and foremost the very heavy focus on Mathematics; perhaps as much as 15% of the exam will be on this subject. Expect some questions on Software Engineering as a part of the overall broad subject areas covered in this exam.

The Environmental Engineering exam shows a very unique set of areas as well. A solid preparatory focus on Fluids and Hydraulics, as well as general Hydrology, Wastewater, and Groundwater will guide takers towards successful conclusion of this exercise.

As mentioned in the last video, the Industrial and Systems Engineering exam is the least “popular” of the tests, with less than 5% of all FE takers choosing this particular focus. There is really no single subject area that dominates this test, as all areas such as Engineering Management, Facilities and Supply Chains, and Ergonomics receiving a reasonably equal treatment.

Those choosing the Mechanical Engineering examination can expect a heavy focus on Statics, Dynamics, and (of course) Thermo and Heat Transfer. But don’t think you’re going to get-away from your core EE courses – as you can expect questions on Electromagnetics and Instrumentation and Controls as well.

Finally, we have the Other Disciplines exam, which on the surface appears to be a merge of the Civil and Mechanical exams. However, you don’t have to look long to see that areas such as Basic Chemistry and even Basic Electrical Engineering are covered as well.

Before leaving the FE exam for now, I’d like to offer some general advice for takers. First and foremost, while you need to work with some urgency as you only have about 3-minutes per question, it’s just as important to pace yourself. Remember, it’s a marathon, not a sprint.

Second, if you can’t figure-out a question right away, it’s best to try to determine that within the first minute, flag it for review, and then come back to it later if you have time. Remember, the exam is pass-fail and you are not penalized for wrong answers – in other words, leaving a question blank is the same as getting the answer incorrect. So, when all else fails, you have nothing to lose by taking a SWAG at the question as time runs-out.

Finally, be on the lookout for “easy” questions that may be outside your principal strength areas. You never know if 1-2 questions that you never would have thought would be important could be the ones who get you over the finish line.

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