How to Pass the PE Exam

Instructor: Carrie Soucy
Taking the Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE) exam is a critical step on the path to becoming a licensed professional engineer. Read on for prep and test-taking tips and resources to help you pass this important test.

What It Takes To Pass the PE Exam

To pass your PE exam, you should allow yourself at least three months to prepare. Given that professional licensure hinges on your exam performance, use this prep time wisely and make sure to:

  • Familiarize yourself with the structure and content of the PE test you plan to take.
  • Compile appropriate study resources.
  • Be self-disciplined and utilize effective study habits.

Know What The Test Is Like

The National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES), which administers PE exams, offers a detailed description of the content and structure of each PE exam. These descriptions, which you may download from the NCEES website (, also include how many questions you'll have to answer for each topic. Most PE exams take 8 hours to complete, with each test being broken into a four-hour morning session and a four-hour afternoon session. Other than the exam for structural engineers, all exams feature multiple-choice questions. PE exams are open-book tests in a paper-and-pencil format.

Use Proper Prep Materials

Many types of study aids and prep materials are available for those readying for PE exams. These include:

  • Textbooks you have from your prior college studies or those recommended as resources for your test. The professional society for your engineering discipline may offer suggested lists of both helpful books and online reference assets.
  • Online courses can help you master any exam content topics with which you need help. For example, if you are taking one of the several PE exams that requires project management knowledge,'s self-paced online Project Management for Engineers course can help you master that section of your exam. Depending on the exam you take, courses such as Statistics, Business Law, and Business Math may also be helpful resources.
  • Exam prep courses, either in person or online, are offered for some PE exams. Check with the National Society of Professional Engineers, your state's professional engineering society, or the professional society for your engineering discipline for help finding appropriate classes.
  • Practice tests for some PE exams may be purchased on the NCEES website. You may find additional practice tests available for purchase through your engineering discipline's professional society.

Study Smart

Once you've compiled your study resources, you will want to make the most of the time you have to prep. To do so:

  • Schedule and organize your time by creating a study plan. For guidance, check out's short lesson on Making Study Guides for Yourself.
  • Be self-disciplined to maintain your study plan throughout your months of prep time. This lesson on How to Improve Your Study Skills can help.
  • Practice answering the types of questions you'll be asked on your exam. Since most PE exams have multiple-choice questions, watch this lesson on Strategy for Multiple-Choice Questions for tips.
  • To make sure you are ready for test day, plan to take practice tests using the same schedule you will follow when you take the actual exam.
  • If the idea of taking your PE exam is causing you stress, or if you've struggled with anxiety on tests in the past, check out this lesson on Overcoming Test Anxiety for help.

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