How To Study For The FE Exam?

If you are unsure about how to study for the FE exam, keep reading. There are 110 questions on the FE test, so it is clear that the vast majority of them are multiple-choice. There are no repercussions for speculating on problems. Drag and drop, point and click, multiple responses, and blank questions appear to be a few of the more difficult ones.

The FE test covers a wide range of topics from a typical four-year engineering degree. What really contributes to the FE test is the fact that all courses must be taken at the same time and in the same location. You may want to check out the FE test Prep course for further information. There are many factors that can affect your exam preparation experience.

Completion rates for the FE test show that it is a difficult test in and of itself. According to NCEES® statistics, those who take their exam near the end of their engineering degree or even within a year of it have a much better chance of passing!

To get a PE license, an engineer must first pass an exam known as the NCEES® Fundamentals of Engineering Examination (FE). Preparing for the FE computer test can be intimidating, given that many of our alumni believe the FE exam to be more difficult than the PE exam (CBT). FE students have reported spending up to 300 hours preparing for the difficult exam.

Wow, that’s amazing!

We have compiled a list of our top 16 suggestions for the preparation for the FE exam. We bring these insights from professionals who acquired firsthand experience after passing the FE exam in civil, mechanical, and electrical engineering is summarized in the following list. Members who have passed the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) test share their best practices with us.

The FE Electrical and Computer Certification Examination:

  • Computational methods for analyzing electrical material properties
  • Circuit analysis and engineering sciences
  • Linear systems, signal processing, and electronics are all examples of this
  • Electrical, magnetic, and control systems
  • Communication, computer systems, software development, and digital systems all fall under one umbrella

1. NCEES® FE Reference Handbook is the best place to start

During the exam, the NCEES® will supply you with a digital copy of the reference book, but studying it in advance can help you make better use of the resource. You can use the guidebook as a reference as you answer practice questions, and be sure to familiarize yourself with the index. On test day, you will be able to quickly and easily find the information you need.

For test-taking purposes, the FE Reference Handbook provides you with the formulas, tables, and charts you need. Exams for engineering economics and ethics are expected to include questions based on probability and statistics.

2. To prepare for the FE exam, familiarize yourself with the whole list of questions

For those who are familiar with the FE exam’s breadth, the NCEES®, the organization responsible for creating the FE exam, maintains a list of all the categories that could be covered on the FE exam. The FE exam will not come as a surprise to you if you know exactly what you’re going to be tested on, not simply the overall category, e.g., statistics.

3. Begin with your weakest and most important subjects

About 14 distinct topic categories/subjects are included in the FE test depending on the FE you are taking. It is possible some of these groups will have extra questions on the exam. On the civil exam, for example, electrical and computer science engineers might anticipate seeing only 4-6 computational problems but 10-15 signal processing or circuit analysis ones. Look over the different categories of exam topics and pick which topics you need to review first based on the number of probable exam questions and how informed you now feel in that area.

4. Do not leave topics at all

Two topics that may not have been covered in your undergraduate engineering coursework may come up in the FE test. When it comes to areas like Linear Systems or Engineering Economics for electrical engineers, this can be the case at times. You may be able to learn enough about these subjects on your own to prepare for the exam, but it will take a lot more time than preparing for the topics you saw in class. Our advice is not to avoid these topics, but rather to review the last. First, focus on the questions you are more likely to get right.

5. A comprehensive and well-organized FE Exam preparation source should be used

There is a good chance you have a few engineering practice problems on hand. You may also be able to find some on the internet. In theory, these strategies could work, but they could leave gaps in your knowledge that could affect your performance on the exam. In order to pass the FE exam, you must use a well-structured and comprehensive review source. Even if you have been out of college for a long time, you may still find FE review materials that contain lecture videos, albeit they can be more expensive.

We highly recommend resource materials like this study guide, practice FE exams, and courses. It’s also best to sign up for additional FE exam study guides such as the FE Electrical & Computer Exam Preparation Course.

6. Practicing questions with a sense of purpose will help you feel like you are taking a test on an actual day

You will have 5 hours and 20 minutes to answer 110 questions in the actual FE. That works out to about three minutes for each question. Although not all questions will require equal amounts of time to solve, for example, an ethics question may take 45 seconds while an electronics question may require 5 minutes.

When performing practice problems, try to answer questions as quickly as possible to get into the habit of doing so throughout the exam. Prepare for the exam by solving practice problems under the same rushed and stressful mentality that occurs during the genuine FE exam.

FE practice examinations are a popular feature for psychologically preparing for the genuine FE exam experience.

7. Every time you get a question wrong, start from scratch and do not look at the answer

To avoid becoming frustrated, do not just glance at the answer and think, “OK, this makes sense,” and then move on to the next problem. Opt instead for an in-depth study into the solution to gain an understanding of the problem. Do this issue again, but this time without consulting the solution. Re-do this problem by talking to yourself out loud. To ensure that you understand precisely what to do in the event that you come across the same issue on the FE, you should practice solving it in advance.

8. Do not get bogged down in the details of the practice problem’s theory, but don’t be afraid to learn the basics

It is possible that certain FE problems will be “plug ‘n chug,” but others will not. Also, the FE likes tossing you a curveball from time to time. As a way to fool you, they will purposely figure out a problem wrong and then include that answer as a possible solution.

In order to avoid being tricked by the FE, you must comprehend the fundamentals of the practice problem. Make sure you do not spend too much time delving into the nitty-gritty theory aspects because there are so many distinct areas to review.

Go beyond the standard “plug ‘n chug” theory and grasp the fundamental concepts. In other words, do not give up studying other things because you have spent a lot of time studying one area. Having a working knowledge of the fundamentals is all that is required.

9. Use your calculator’s advanced features to your advantage

Invest in an FE exam-approved calculator. Before the exam, get used to it. Our recommendation is the TI-36X Pro because it is inexpensive, has a lot of useful functions, and many of us have used TI calculators in high school.

The problem solver, integration, and derivatives are all covered in detail in another post on the site that may be found here. Using these calculator features can save you a lot of time on the exam.

10. Work problems backward

Attempting to solve engineering problems by trial and error is usually inefficient. It is possible to go off the rails while trying to solve an issue through trial and error, i.e., stating what is supplied and then seeking various equations that might fit together.

Reverse engineering a problem can be done by:

  • Determine the variable that the problem statement requires.
  • Find the equation in the FE exam Reference Handbook that includes this variable as a variable.
  • Pick the equation with the fewest unknowns if there are multiple equations with the required unknown variable in them.
  • Assume that all of the unknown variables have been entered into the equation, and then begin solving for the remaining variables.
  • Using the equation from step 2 to solve for all unknown variables, return to the problem statement’s unknown variable.
  • Become intimately familiar with the most recent edition of the FE Reference Handbook PDF by practicing with it. The FE Reference Handbook will be your go-to source of information during the exam.

11. Remember the following

In general, the more familiar you are with the manual, the less time you’ll have to spend searching for formulas and tables

In order to rapidly find what you’re looking for, use CTRL-F or CMD-F. You will not be able to use a physical copy of the FE Reference Handbook during the exam, so get used to using a digital version instead.

12. A few issues can be “checked out” from the manual.

Certain problems (such as ethics and other conceptual issues) may have simple answers given there, while others may be a simple “plug ‘n go” with only one formula.

13. Unit conversions are time-consuming and prone to simple errors.

FE Reference Handbook’s unit conversion tables are an excellent resource. Check to see if the FE Reference Handbook has been updated. Over time, the manual has undergone a significant amount of revision (equations have been added/removed).

14. Do not try to cram for the exam the night before.

The evening before the exam, try to sleep more than you typically would.

Do not stress the evening just before the exam if you feel compelled to do so. Not even worth it. Keeping up most of the night will jeopardize all the hard work you have put in over the past several days or months.

Give your brain a break before the exam so that it is powered up and ready to go. When you spend weeks or months studying a subject that might only crop up once in the 110 questions on the exam, it is a waste of time.

15. Do not waste your time studying obsolete materials because the FE changed in 2020

The FE test will begin using a revised list of exam topics in July 2020. There are a lot of study guides out there that have not been updated in a while, and many contain outdated information.

You may find additional resources on the web that tout on being able to adapt to changes quickly. These resources allow you to select the date and time of your test. Either a website or mobile app will immediately modify to present you only the questions relevant to your schedule. In addition, resource material constantly refreshes and enhances its question bank so that you can learn the most efficiently.

16. Prepare for Exams by Practicing

Doing as many practice tests as possible will help you better prepare for the exam. You can take practice tests from the National Council of Examiners for Engineers and Surveyors’ website. We have tried to cover everything on how to study for the FE exam in this guide, however, if you have any questions, feel free to ask us in the comment box.

As a result, you will be able to practice answering questions comparable to those that will appear on your exam by taking these exams. Keep in mind the amount of time it takes you to answer each question when you begin your preparation. Practicing questions so that you can solve them in two minutes or less is essential because of the exam’s time limits.


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.