Is The FE Exam Hard? Here’s What To Expect

If you’re wondering if the FE exam is hard, the short answer is: YES!

The Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam is a test administered by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES®). The test covers a wide range of topics in most engineering professions. The best method to prepare for the FE exam is to study intensively and with others, use a variety of materials, and get lots of rest.

However, unlike most tests, it is generally suggested that you prepare for FE for several months in order to achieve a decent result. If you find it difficult to prepare for the test on your own, you can attend private training classes to help in the preparation process.

The FE exam is taken to obtain certification as an Engineer in Training (EIT) in the United States. The assessment consists of 110 multiple-choice questions on many engineering-related subjects. These include physicschemistrystatisticssoil mechanics, and electrical engineering. The exam lasts eight hours and is scored as pass/fail. Results are usually reported two to three months after sitting down for the test.

Let’s dive in a bit deeper and see what exactly makes the FE exam hard and what to expect when taking it for the first time.

Is The FE Exam Hard?

Is The FE Exam Hard

How hard is the FE electrical exam?

There are a couple of factors that make the FE exam difficult. Some problems on the exam require the students to point and click, drag and drop, or fill in the blank, making them more difficult to predict.

Examinees who have completed a four-year degree in electrical engineering are likely to be familiar with the FE exam’s content.

Let’s look at a breakdown of what the FE exam is like:

The total exam time is 5 hours and 20 minutes. One hundred and ten questions are broken up into two halves. You can take a 25-minute pause between portions in the second part of the examination, which has 50-60 problems. Since the allotted time for the exam is 5 hours and 20 minutes, a 25-minute interval somehow does not count against that time. If you do not take a break, you will not be able to spend time dealing with problems in the second quarter of the exam.

An accessible pdf-like edition of the FE Reference Handbook will be available to you during the FE test. There are almost 500 pages of equations in the FE Reference Handbook to help you with any difficulty you run into. All of the exam-related formulas are contained in this reference guide.

Because many theoretical problems do not require equations, the FE Reference Handbook is of no value during the exam. Conceptual-theoretical challenges account for 15% of the topics you will find.

School computer examination halls are restricted to the use of only FE-approved calculators. The exam proctor will provide thin markers and a spiral book for you to use for a manual calculation.

Considering that the test lasts for more than five hours, it can be psychologically and physically taxing. Taking the FE exam and having to apply everything all at once is a completely different ballgame.

So yeah, the FE exam is difficult and challenging.

What Does The FE Exam Consist Of?

What Does The FE Exam Consist Of

The FE test covers material covered in an EAC/ABET, Inc. approved B.S. engineering degree program. It covers a wide range of engineering topics in a suitable manner. The test consists of 110 problems to solve.

Most college students studying an engineering field have the opportunity to take the FE exam while still in college. One of the best ways to prepare for the FE exam, for two reasons, is to study while completing an engineering degree. First, it is very likely that the information has been studied recently and is fresh in mind. Second, if there are questions about the study material, there is likely quick access to classmates, instructors, courses, or books that can help answer those questions.

It is best to use many small efforts over a long period of time when studying for FE. Regardless of whether someone preparing for the FE exam is still in college or graduated, studies must begin no less than three months before the test date. Some find it helpful to take just one or two subjects per week for the first month, so there is a constant focus on the subjects in question. Taking FE practice exams can also help. As the test date approaches, sample issues from all engineering-related areas should be examined to help ensure that the material is less likely to be forgotten.

A very helpful tip for FE exam preparation is to make sure you get the correct study materials. It is certain that the university exams of personal property or available from acquaintances have all kinds of relevant problems that can help in the study. NCEES® offers many study materials for sale, including books containing sample questions and answers. The NCEES® Study Book is valuable because it indicates the exact format of the questions in the FE.

What’s The Experience Like Of Giving The FE Exam?

Experience Of Giving The FE Exam

In your first attempt at the exam, do not attempt to answer any questions that you are unsure about. Every second counts when it comes to passing the FE exam, so don’t waste it. When you take your exam for the first time, only answer the questions that you are absolutely sure of. Don’t answer questions that you’re unsure of, and come back to them later if you’re confident in your answers.

There is no time to waste, so you must get as many questions correct as possible. Regardless of how difficult the questions are or how much you know about the subject matter, many people take the exam, dealing with one problem at a time. A drawback of this strategy is that it may avert you from attempting to answer other questions which you could easily answer because you didn’t have enough time to get to them. To avoid this mistake, focus on the easier problems first and then tackle the more difficult ones later.

One of the most common mistakes made by students is to hand in their exams early, even though they have plenty of time remaining. Double or triple-check all of your answers on both halves of the exam. As an example, if you get through half of a test early, don’t just hand it in and move on. Double-check your answers to any questions you had difficulty with, especially those that were difficult for you.

The difference between passing and failing an exam may be as simple as finding a mistake in one or two of the questions. Use the extra time to double-check or recalculate any answers that you were unsure of. Even though time is a major consideration, DO NOT rush through the exam!

Preparing for an exam by taking practice exams in a timed environment will help you better understand how long each problem takes, so you don’t rush through it and make mistakes. Once again, a single blunder can mean the difference between passing and failing an exam.

What’s The Passing Ratio For The FE Exam?

The current FE Exam pass rates are as follows:

  • FE Chemical: 73%
  • FE Civil: 62%
  • FE Electrical and Computer: 73%
  • FE Environmental: 70%
  • FE Industrial: 62%
  • FE Mechanical: 71%
  • FE Other Disciplines: 65%

Is The FE Exam Difficulty The Same For Every Candidate?

No, NCEES® provides a scaled score for exam comparisons because the difficulty level of the exam varies from person to person, and the scale is necessary for that purpose.

A large, volunteer-sourced NCEES® problem bank has been used to generate unique exams for the exam. The NCEES® sets passing scores that are not influenced by the achievement of other examinees. When you take a look at the pass rates for each exam, you’ll see that they vary year over year.

What’s a Passing Score on The FE Exam?

The average passing score for the FE exam is 70%. To be on the safe side, keep in mind that these figures are subject to sudden shifts. This is because the board uses the test takers’ minimum ability score as a basis for calculating the score. Test scores may not reflect the difficulty of a test if the number of people taking it is higher than average. The fluctuation in the passing score may not be an accurate reflection of the tests’ difficulty. Take care to ensure that the preparations are adequate to deal with these issues.


The FE exam can certainly be challenging, but it is not insurmountable. With some dedicated studying and a positive attitude, you can pass the exam and begin your engineering career.

So, is the FE exam hard? It can be, but it doesn’t have to be. With some hard work and dedication, you can succeed. Good luck!

Wasim Asghar – P.E, P.ENG, M.ENG

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.