How Many Questions Are on the FE Exam?

Have an utmost desire to be officially called an engineer?

Then the very first step that you will have to take to turn your dream into a reality is to pass the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) Exam.

The FE Exam was established by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES®) to assess the technical competence required in the engineering industry.

The students can take the FE exam either in the final year of their undergraduate studies or shortly after graduation.

In the United States, taking and passing the FE exam is a requirement for becoming a licensed Professional Engineer (PE), after which you can officially write “engineer” before your name.

The FE exam can be challenging, and not knowing the type of FE exam questions and the exam pattern will only add more to your worries.

So to help you not get trapped in that black hole of worries, we will be going to tell you everything about the FE exam in this blog. We will cover everything in detail, from the number of FE exam questions, passing score, and exam pattern to the difficulty level and the time you should devote to each question.

What Score Do You Need to Pass?

Understanding Scaled Scores

The National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES), the organization that administers the FE Exam, keeps the exact passing score a secret. Instead, they use a statistical method to account for slight variations in difficulty between different exam versions.

Here’s a simplified explanation

Imagine two versions of the FE Exam, Version A and Version B. Version A might be slightly easier than Version B. To ensure fairness, NCEES scales the scores. This means that a candidate who scores 70% on the somewhat more difficult Version B might achieve the same passing outcome as someone who scores 75% on the easier Version A.

What Does This Mean for You?

The key takeaway is to focus on thorough preparation rather than a specific number of questions to get wrong. Here are some resources from NCEES to help you prepare effectively:

  • FE Exam Information Bulletins: These provide detailed information on the specific content areas covered in each FE Exam discipline. (https://ncees.org/)
  • Practice Exams: NCEES doesn’t offer official practice exams, but many reputable prep materials providers do. Taking practice exams under timed conditions can help you identify your strengths and weaknesses and refine your study approach.
  • Focus on Strengths and Weaknesses: Utilize practice exams and study resources to identify your strengths and weaknesses in different content areas covered by the FE Exam. This lets you target your studying more effectively and ensure you’re well-prepared across all topics.

So, without any further ado, let’s dive right in.

How Many Questions Should I Attempt Successfully to Pass the FE Exam?

The NCEES® does not specify the number of FE exam questions that must be answered correctly to pass. Instead, the NCEES® states that a passing score is determined using psychometric statistical methods without clearly defining the exact passing score.

But:

As an estimate and according to the reviews of most students, you’ll need to get 50 to 60 percent of the FE exam questions right out of 110 to pass the exam.

In addition:

The NCEES® only marks accurate answers – incorrect and blank answers are not considered, nor is there any negative marking for them.

So:

It’s always advisable to make an educated guess on the FE exam questions that you’re entirely unsure of. It is important to prepare well and not take things lightly. We suggest going through FE exam study tips to maximize your chance of acing the exam.

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What is the Pattern of the FE Exam?

The FE exam is computer-based and offered year-round at Pearson VUE examination centers accredited by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES®).

The CBT FE examination procedure is six hours in duration and comprises the following:

  • Nondisclosure agreement (2 minutes)
  • Guidelines/Instructions (8 minutes)
  • Examination (5 hours and 20 minutes)
  • Scheduled break (25 minutes)

The exam contains 110 questions and is split up into two central portions:

  • The morning test portion
  • The afternoon test portion

Each portion consists of 55 FE exam questions categorized by knowledge area, and you can take a 25-minute break between these two sessions.

No topics encompass both exam portions. If a topic is covered in the first exam session, it will not be included in the latter.

Moreover, you can be asked various FE exam questions, such as the multiple-choice questions (MCQs) and the alternative item types (AITs). AITs involve the following types of questions:

  • Multiple correct questions
  • Point-and-click questions
  • Drag and drop questions
  • Fill in the blank questions

If you need more clarity, here’s what to expect on the FE exam day.

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Is FE Exam Hard to Pass?

Based on who you ask, the answer to this query will vary from person to person. Some students find the FE exam relatively easy, while the rest find it extremely hard. Because everyone has a varied level of expertise and understanding, none of the responses as correct or incorrect.

However, if you are well-prepared and have a thorough comprehension of the knowledge areas, you should be able to do well on the FE exam.

However:

Several aspects contribute to the toughness of the FE exam. Some of the FE exam questions require students to point and click, drag and drop, or fill in the blanks, making them challenging to answer.

Plus, the extensive exam duration of six hours can be mentally and physically exhausting.

Considering these factors, it won’t be wrong to conclude that the FE exam is challenging, but sealing that answer would not be the wise decision too!

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How Much Time Should I Spend on Each Question of the FE Exam?

As discussed earlier, the FE exam lasts six hours, including the 25-minutes lunch break and the 10-minutes tutorial at the commencement. So, you are left with 5 hours and 20 min to deal with the 110 FE exam questions.

It means:

You will have approximately three minutes (two minutes and 54 seconds, to be exact) to solve each FE exam question.

However:

It is imperative to note here that some FE exam questions, such as the theoretical ones or the ones you don’t know how to answer, can take slightly more time to solve. In contrast, problems such as the conceptual ones may get solved readily and swiftly. Learning how to solve complex problems with an FE-approved calculator and gaining familiarity with the NCEES® FE Reference Handbook can also help you answer them quickly.

Check out these articles if you want to grab the best FE-approved calculators and find out what the latest NCEES® FE reference handbook can help you with.

The Long-Term Value of the FE Exam 

Passing the FE Exam is significant, but its benefits extend beyond the initial test date. The FE Exam is a stepping stone towards a rewarding and lucrative engineering career. Let’s explore the long-term implications of passing the FE Exam and how it paves the way for professional growth and increased earning potential.

The Gateway to PE Licensure

The FE Exam is the first hurdle to becoming a licensed Professional Engineer (PE). A PE license is a credential recognized across most jurisdictions and signifies your competency to practice engineering independently. This licensure opens doors to a broader range of career opportunities, including:

  • Leadership Roles: Licensed engineers often seek leadership positions within engineering firms or project management teams. Their expertise and experience make them well-suited to oversee complex projects and guide junior engineers.
  • Greater Responsibilities: A PE license allows you to take on projects requiring a stamped seal of approval from a licensed engineer. This signifies that the engineering design or analysis meets relevant safety and regulatory standards.

The Earning Power of Licensure

The long-term financial benefits of obtaining a PE license are undeniable. Studies by the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE) consistently show that licensed engineers earn significantly higher salaries than their non-licensed counterparts. This salary gap widens with experience, making the PE license a valuable investment in your future earning potential.

For instance, a 2023 NSPE survey revealed that the median annual salary for entry-level PEs was $77,000, while for non-licensed engineers with similar experience, the median salary was $68,000. This translates to a nearly 13% difference in starting salaries. Throughout a long career, this gap can accumulate into a substantial financial advantage.

When you pass the FE Exam and pursue PE licensure, you validate your engineering knowledge and invest in a future filled with professional growth, leadership opportunities, and a significant increase in your earning potential.

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What Is a Passing Score on the FE Exam?

Long story short, there is no such thing as a specific passing rate for the FE exam. The exam result is either pass or fail – there’s nothing in between.

Yes, you have read that right.

It is because:

In the NCEES® FE exam, the examinees’ minimum competence level is assessed. The FE exam score is treated as a raw number during the exam marking. Standard methods are then used to turn the raw score into a scaled score. This scaled score indicates an examinee’s competence degree which is then compared to the FE exam’s baseline ability level, which is determined in advance by the NCEES® for each exam season.

However:

The median passing score for the FE exam is 70%. It’s critical to remember that these figures are subject to rapid change. This is because the NCEES® set the benchmark score on the examinee’s minimal ability score. The variability in passing scores may not accurately depict the exam difficulty level.

Emphasize Understanding Over Memorization 

The FE Exam tests your knowledge of core engineering principles, but memorizing formulas won’t guarantee success. Acing the FE Exam requires a deeper understanding of those formulas’ underlying concepts. This shift in focus allows you to tackle familiar problems and apply your knowledge to solve novel scenarios you might not have encountered before.

Building a Strong Conceptual Foundation

Imagine encountering an FE Exam question that presents a situation you haven’t seen in a textbook. If you solely relied on rote memorization, you might struggle to identify the relevant formula or approach the problem effectively. However, by focusing on understanding the engineering concepts behind the formulas, you’ll be equipped to:

  • Analyze the problem: Break it into its fundamental components and identify the relevant engineering principles.
  • Apply your knowledge: Select the appropriate engineering concept and adapt it to the problem’s specific context.
  • Arrive at a solution: Even if you can’t recall the exact formula, understanding the concept will guide you toward a logical and well-supported solution.

Practice Makes Perfect

Memorization might offer a temporary solution for a specific formula, but true understanding comes through applying your knowledge to solve problems. Here’s where practice exams and question banks become invaluable tools. Many online resources offer practice problems designed to mirror the FE Exam format, allowing you to:

  • Test your understanding: See if you can apply the concepts you’ve learned to solve real-world engineering problems.
  • Identify knowledge gaps: Practice problems will reveal areas where your understanding might be shaky, allowing you to focus your studying efforts.
  • Develop problem-solving skills: The more you practice, the more comfortable you’ll become with applying your engineering knowledge to solve diverse problems.

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Conclusion

Although the FE exam questions can be challenging to deal with, it is not impossible to pass the exam. You can pass the FE exam and start your engineering career with intense studying and a strong mindset. Keep in mind that persistence and unwavering hard work are the keys to success. So, instead of stressing, focus on your studies and prepare well for the online FE Electrical exam prep course.

wasim-smal

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.