What are the Biggest Challenges in FE Exam Preparation?

If you are reading this, you have likely considered taking the FE exam. The FE exam is one of the toughest licensing exams to prepare for, and for a good reason.

There are countless challenges students encounter during the FE Electrical and Computer exam preparation. For many students, the FE exam season is very stressful, and stress causes many problems that students must deal with to prepare well and pass the FE exam.

In this article, we will address the four biggest challenges that students face during FE exam preparation. Furthermore, we will also discuss some strategies for dealing with these challenges so that you can fear less and prepare more!

So without any further ado, let’s get started.

The 4 Biggest Challenges in FE Exam Preparation

Following are the four most significant challenges that candidates have to deal with during the FE Electrical and Computer exam preparation:

  1. Lack of motivation
  2. Exam preparation resources
  3. Busy schedule
  4. A broad range of exam topics

1. Lack of Motivation

When it comes to the exam preparation, the biggest challenge that many students struggle with is finding the motivation to keep going.

We know that one has to put in a lot of effort and hard work to pass the FE exam, and while it can be rewarding when you pass, most candidates don’t feel an intense sense of accomplishment. That’s why even the most dedicated students often feel burnt out when the FE exam season hits, and they find it hard to stay motivated when they feel like they are not preparing well or making any progress.

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Actionable ideas to overcome this challenge

  • Find ways to keep yourself energized and excited about the FE exam preparation process.
  • Take a break from the exam prep every now and then.
  • Find other people who are also preparing for the FE exam and compare your progress with theirs; it will help you stay motivated to be ahead of others.
  • Make sure to keep your goals and expectations in check and focus only on the exam preparation when you have the most energy and time to dedicate.
  • Placing motivational quotes on your study table may also help you stay motivated when you’re feeling down.

2. Exam Preparation Resources

Studying is not enough to pass the FE exam, but studying from the right exam preparation resources is! But with many study materials available in the market and on the internet, many students find it challenging to pick up the most appropriate ones.

Plus, it becomes a hard nut to crack when it comes to purchasing reference materials without having to throw in a hefty amount of cash. In fact, it is not just a matter of spending money; it is also about the time you’ll be putting in over the next 3-4 months while using these resources. Surprisingly not, for most students, the more significant cost involved in this process is that of their time.

All in all, you will have to consider the quality of the resources, the cost of acquiring them, the time it takes to prepare for the exam, and the impact they will have on your passing grades.

Therefore, it is essential to make sure that you are choosing the right exam preparation resources that can help you streamline your efforts and make the most out of your input.

Actionable ideas to overcome this challenge

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3. Busy Schedule

Another challenge many people face when preparing for the fe exam is the amount of time it takes to study, especially when they have a busy schedule.

Typically, engineers take the FE exam after being out of school for 3-4 years. Generally, at this point in their careers (for some, it’s even later), they start seeing real value in a PE license. Most of them are already working full-time, which means that exam preparation has to be carried on after a full working day or over the weekends.

On top of that, if you have a family to look after, it becomes incredibly challenging to set aside time for studying and fulfilling social and work-life commitments. This makes FE exam preparation very daunting because it takes at least 3-4 months to adequately prepare for it, which is a considerable amount of time commitment.

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Actionable ideas to overcome this challenge

  • Start managing your time effectively by making a strict study schedule and following it rigorously until it becomes a habit.
  • Prioritize your exam preparation process and say no to family and friends not-so-important event invitations.
  • Talk to your family and friends about your goal of passing the FE exam and what it means for your career.
  • Try to find some time during the day to dedicate to the exam prep, even if it’s only thirty minutes or an hour. But if this isn’t possible, it is best to find a time on the weekend when you can allot two to three hours to study.
  • An often overlooked component of time management is “focused effort”. You’d be surprised to see the significant productivity improvement that comes with ‘‘focused effort’’ compared to ‘‘distracted half-hearted effort’’. In fact, with focused effort, you might even reduce your study time by as much as 20-50%, which can give you extra time to carry on with your regular routines.

4. Broad Range of Exam Topics

No one likes studying. Especially not for a test with so many subject areas, it becomes hard to know where to begin. The FE exam is no exception. It covers 17 sections that encompass almost the entire four years of Electrical and Computer Engineering undergraduate coursework, which can be very overwhelming. Because of this, many prospective FEs find themselves stuck in the massive amount of topics and complexity they involve, making them hard to narrow down their focus.

Besides that, students also fear that they might start forgetting the concepts from earlier chapters as they progress with the exam topics. Moreover, some students have not even taken coursework for all 17 sections in their undergraduate program. It is because courses such as Controls, Computer Networks, Computer Systems, and Software Engineering are considered ‘‘technical electives’’ in some schools. Students specializing in power system engineering generally don’t take these courses (at least not all).

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Actionable ideas to overcome this challenge

  • Make sure to allocate time/effort to each section proportional to its exam weightage. For example, Math, Circuits, Electronics, Power Systems, and Digital Systems are the five most heavily weighted exam topics. It is vital to give them attention and invest sufficient time and effort.
  • Consider grabbing the low-hanging fruits first, i.e., Maths, Engineering Economics, Ethics, Probability & Statistics, and Properties of Electrical Materials.
  • Break down the entire exam specification into mini-milestones and prepare for each section as a mini-exam within a comprehensive exam.
  • Remember that everyone has some strengths and weaknesses. Some sections will be outright boring for you, but it’s essential to know that you are not trying to have fun at the moment but working hard towards your goal.

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Every engineering student, at some point, struggles during the FE Electrical and Computer exam preparation, and breaking through these barriers is an essential aspect of the learning process, especially when you have multiple responsibilities. These problems might be anything from temporary setbacks to persistent demotivation and hectic schedules.

The key is to understand that these challenges can be overcome with the right and positive mindset, even though it can feel like it takes incredible determination.

We hope this article provided you with valuable information and solid insight into students’ extreme challenges during the exam preparation. If you want to read more informative engineering articles, we suggest you go through our blog section.


Licensed Professional Engineer in Texas (PE), Florida (PE) and Ontario (P. Eng) with consulting experience in design, commissioning and plant engineering for clients in Energy, Mining and Infrastructure.