Information about the FE Exam

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FE Exam

In order to pursue a professional license in engineering, candidates (unless they meet certain specific requirements) must first pass the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam. 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. First, 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 NCEES website has links to the state licensing boards on their website. After eligibility is verified, one can register to take the FE exam. Registration can be completed through the state licensing board, or by using the Engineering and Land Surveying Examination Service (ELSES) online. Only certain states used the ELSES service, so it is important to make sure if that service is able to be used in the state in which licensing is required. The FE exam is given in April of every year, and dates can be found on the NCEES website. Specific testing times and locations can either be found on the ELSES website or by contacting the specific state’s licensing board for details.

The FE exam is an eight hour, paper and pencil examination. The exam consists of two sessions, both taken on the same day. These sessions are morning and afternoon sessions, and each is four hours in length. The exam consists of 180 multiple choice questions: 120 questions during the morning session, and 60 questions during the afternoon session. A reference handbook is supplied for use during the examination, and this handbook can be viewed online on the NCEES website prior to the examination.

The morning session of the FE exam is a general engineering exam that tests general knowledge common to all engineering disciplines. There are 120 questions in the morning session. These questions deal with the following topics: mathematics (15%), engineering probability and statistics (7%), chemistry (9%), computers (7%), ethics and business practices (7%), engineering economics (8%), engineering mechanics- statics and dynamics (10%), strength of materials (7%), material properties (7%), fluid mechanics (7%), electricity and magnetism (9%), and thermodynamics (7%). Further details about the contents of the general exam can be found on the NCEES website.

The afternoon session of the FE exam is either a general engineering exam or a discipline specific examination. The afternoon session contains 60 questions. The disciplines that can be tested include: chemical engineering, civil engineering, electrical engineering, environmental engineering, industrial engineering, and mechanical engineering. The chemical engineering exam tests the following topics: chemistry (10%), material/energy balances (15%), chemical engineering thermodynamics (10%), fluid dynamics (10%), heat transfer (10%), mass transfer (10%), chemical reaction engineering (10%), process design and economic optimization (10%), computer usage in chemical engineering (5%), process control (5%), and safety, health, and environment (5%). The topics tested in the civil engineering exam include: surveying (11%), hydraulics and hydrologic systems (12%), soil mechanics and foundations (15%), environmental engineering (12%), transportation (12%), structural analysis (10%), structural design (10%), construction management (10%), and materials (8%). The electrical engineering exam tests: circuits (16%), power (13%), electromagnetics (7%), control systems (10%), communications (9%), signal processing (8%), electronics (15%), digital systems (12%), and computer systems (10%). The environmental engineering exam tests the following topics: water resources (25%), water and wastewater engineering (30%), air quality engineering (15%), solid and hazardous waste engineering (15%), and environmental science and management (15%). The topics tested on the industrial engineering exam include: engineering economics (15%), probability and statistics (15%), modeling and computation (12%), industrial management (10%), manufacturing and production systems (13%), facilities and logistics (12%), human factors, productivity, ergonomics, and work design (12%), and quality (11%). The mechanical engineering exam tests the following topics: mechanical design and analysis (15%), kinematics, dynamics, and vibrations (15%), materials and processing (10%), measurements, instrumentation, and controls (10%), thermodynamics and energy conversion processes (15%), fluid mechanics and fluid machinery (15%), heat transfer (10%), and refrigeration and HVAC (10%). The general engineering exam tests the following topics: advanced engineering mathematics (10%), engineering probability and statistics (9%), engineering economics (10%), application of engineering mechanics (13%), engineering of materials (11%), fluids (15%), electricity and magnetism (12%), and thermodynamics and heat transfer (15%). Further details about the contents of these specific examinations can be found on the NCEES website.

The FE exam is scored using a scaled score. A scaled score of 70 or higher is required to pass the FE exam. This scaled score represents the minimum number of questions that must be answered correctly to meet the minimum performance standard required. A process known as equating is used to take into account the differences in varying forms of the examination. Results are mailed to all test-takers within 12 weeks after completing the exam.

In preparing for the FE exam, familiarization with the exam content and structure is crucial. The exam content outlines, which can be found on the NCEES website, can provide a framework for exam study and review. Answering sample questions and taking sample tests can also help indicate content areas which may need additional study time or review. A list of reference books can also be found on the NCEES website, and these may be helpful as well. During the examination, it is important to answer all test questions, so using an educated guess if the correct answer is not known is advised. In addition, test-takers are allowed to use calculators during the examination. A list of approved calculators can be found on the NCEES website. Reviewing the list of approved calculators is essential. In addition, during the exam, all test-takers will be provided with a FE supplied-reference handbook. This handbook contains information that may be of use during the exam. The handbook is also available on the NCEES website, so reviewing it before taking the exam may be of use as well.