How to Study for the PE Exam as a Busy Professional and/or Parent

Studying for the PE exam is an achievement that not all people can boast about, since it is a rather complex process that requires strong willpower, perseverance, and desire to improve, especially for those who study PE Exam as a busy professional or have kids. It would be a lie to say that everyone can study and work when they have children; however, changing some attitudes or creating a couple of positive habits becomes much less complicated.

Here we bring you actionable insights on how to achieve the maximum in your upcoming PE Exam as a working professional or parent:

Should You Start Right Away?

Normally, it is advised for PE Exam attendees to start exam preparation three months in advance. However, your situation is miles different than average, and despite having more odds, you can play it smartly. You may start studying as early as 8-10 months, giving yourself enough time and not overstretching it.

That may seem like a big number, but it is enough to prevent you from the burnout of cramming through books when you only have a few weeks left to prep.

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Quick Additional Tips To Remember

  • Study way ahead of time: one of the main challenges to face is time management, which is often a very appreciated factor when you have young children and so many activities at the same time.
  • Your “family time” may be cut short, be ready: parents seek to give the family a better future through work, which is better paid with a higher degree of studies, which requires time. Thus, the hours for a family living are restricted.
  • Stress and fatigue are normal: finally, an almost unavoidable consequence is the stress and fatigue caused by being subjected to such activities, which in turn become part of the routine.
  • Bear in mind that the situation is temporary: the same everything will be less stressful when you finish your studies. Also, keep in mind that this effort will be rewarded at the work and financial levels.
  • Find moments in the day to promote family coexistence: these moments will also be ideal for getting out of the routine and putting aside the pressures and responsibilities.
  • Not holding on to perfection: it is important to allow yourself to make mistakes.

Tips to Help You Study PE Exam as a Busy Professional or have Kids

Taking into account the following tips, the study process will be much easier and more bearable while working as a parent. No matter the age or economic conditions, it is always possible to achieve the proposed goals, by having a clear plan and being patient.

  1. Use a calendar and put your daily activities on it
  2. Take advantage of every moment
  3. Use better study methods
  4. Don’t neglect your health
  5. Communicate your activities to others
  6. Seek spousal support
  7. Distraction-free hours
  8. Plan time for the preparation
  9. Get the NCEES® PE Reference Handbook

1. A calendar is a valuable tool

Use a calendar and put your daily activities on it. Now, it is important that you set this calendar in a place that is observable to you, as this will serve as a visual reminder of pending activities.

Currently, there are various applications for your smartphone that are used to plan your daily or monthly activities. Some have built-in alarms and even send reminders to your email.

Whether you use an app or opt for the most classic (the calendar hanging on the wall, for example), you will see that you can study and work at the same time in an organized way.

2. Take advantage of every moment

You can work and study if you consider every minute of the day as valuable. For example, during the working day, there are free moments to drink coffee or to transport yourself. Use these moments to carry out research activities, review or advance other assignments. This way, you will move forward with your academic obligations quickly!

3. Use better study methods

Mind maps and summaries are very effective in understanding and covering topics in a short time. It is proven that understanding is much more useful for learning than memorizing pedagogical materials, so its practice is one of the best tips for studying and working.

Likewise, applying the salient aspects of what you learn, as a daily topic of conversation, for example, allows you to become much better acquainted with the information you assimilate.

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4. Don’t neglect your health

Combining studies and work can be exhausting. Therefore, set aside time each week to do some outdoor activity, go to the movies, or play sports. This will avoid anxiety, the feeling of fatigue, and you will see that you can work and study alternately.

If you have achieved evening admission to UNAB, try to sleep an average of 7 to 8 hours a day. It is proven that the brain replenishes energy and learns information in these periods for an adult.

5. Communicate your activities to others

Most companies are interested in the academic improvement of their staff. Therefore, be frank and explain to your boss the schedules and implications of the career you are studying. You will be surprised to know that some companies offer hourly advantages so that you can study and work comfortably.

6. Seek spousal support

Having a supportive partner here is essential. Communicate your needs to them, and make them understand your priorities. Their role is critical because they will need to cover up for you in areas where you cannot show up.

Establish the fact that you cannot physically make enough for the family, and they would need to step up and take responsibility for household chores and other tasks at home. This means looking after kids, checking payables, getting groceries, often cooking, etc.

Your partner’s supportive role will play a long way in relieving the ball of stress hovering above you while you are studying. Not having to worry about kids or the family, your energy and concentration will be better channeled into tackling the complex practice questions you will be taking on.

7. Distraction-free hours

It is ideal to have a couple of hours reserved for you. This means you are locked in a room without a notion of the rest of the world. It also means that you may have to power off your phone, silent email notifications, put out all distracting sounds, and especially ask your family not to bother you for these hours.

These are power hours where you will crank up your brain activity to a notch. Your energy and sweat will be consumed more than average, and this hustle will help you actually do some hard PE Exam preparation.

8. Plan

This is the most important point of all. You must plan ahead of time for the preparation, keeping room for mistakes, fallouts, moments of distractions, etc. Having work and a family can often pull you out of the studying zone while you are most concentrated. While this is not a significant problem because you would be mentally prepared for this and create compensating hours for the lost time.

Your studying plan may be entirely different from an average attendee of the PE Exam.

9. Get the NCEES® PE Reference Handbook

While we have made it clear that you must purchase and study from the right source materials, the NCEES® PE Reference Handbook is hands down the most resourceful guide, you can find. All successful candidates spent hours and hours scouring this book and committed enough time to it. You are more or less in the same situation, and you must resort to it in every studying session.

If you’re looking for a comprehensive resource for your PE Power exam preparation, explore our PE Exam prep program for PE Power.

Our proven, on-demand content and live training have successfully helped thousands of students pass their PE exam.

Creating a Realistic PE Exam Study Plan 

Juggling a demanding professional career with PE exam preparation can feel like an insurmountable challenge. The good news is with a well-crafted study plan, you can conquer both responsibilities. Here’s how to create a time-management masterpiece that optimizes your study efficiency.

Taking Stock: Assessing Your Starting Point

The first step is to understand your current knowledge base. Familiarize yourself with the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) PE exam specifications. Consider taking a practice exam or reviewing sample questions to identify areas requiring the most focus. This initial assessment helps you allocate study time strategically, ensuring you dedicate sufficient effort to your weakest areas.

Scheduling Success: Making Time for Knowledge

Treat your study sessions with the same importance as work meetings. Block out dedicated study time in your calendar and stick to it religiously. While large chunks of free time might be scarce, be creative! Utilize smaller pockets throughout your day or week for focused review sessions. Can you squeeze in 30 minutes before work or dedicate your lunch break to studying key concepts? Every bit counts.

Prioritization is Paramount. Not all topics are created equal. The NCEES exam specifications outline the weight distribution of different topics. Leverage this information to prioritize ruthlessly. Focus the bulk of your study efforts on heavily weighted subjects or areas where your knowledge gaps are most significant.

Chunking the Material: Bite-Sized Steps to Mastery

The vast amount of exam material can feel overwhelming. To combat this, break down the syllabus into smaller, more manageable chunks. This could involve dividing the material by topic, reference list chapters, or specific practice problems. Taking this step-by-step approach prevents feeling bogged down and allows you to track your progress more effectively, keeping you motivated throughout your study journey.

Active Learning: Engaging with the Material

Don’t fall into the trap of passive studying! Simply rereading textbooks is unlikely to yield optimal results. Incorporate active learning strategies to solidify your understanding. Create flashcards for critical concepts, summarize complex topics in your own words, or explain concepts to a study partner. These active learning methods enhance information retention and improve your recall during the exam.

Building in Breaks and Rewards: Maintaining Momentum

Long stretches of studying can lead to burnout. Schedule short breaks throughout your sessions to refresh your mind and prevent information overload. Take a walk, stretch, or clear your head for a few minutes. Additionally, reward yourself for achieving study milestones. This positive reinforcement keeps you motivated and focused on your ultimate goal of passing the PE exam.

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Frequently Asked Questions:

1- How many hours should I study for the PE exam as a Professional?

As a working professional or one juggling a family, it is important that you start preparing for the PE exam early, about eight months ahead of time. This will require you to study a minimum of two to three hours a day.

2- How do I study for the PE exam as a Professional?

Create your plan. Communicate to your family and employer. Cut distractions, outgoings, and take plenty of advantage of your day-offs. Use the right source material; the NCEES® PE Reference Handbook is highly recommended.

3- How hard is it to pass the PE exam for a Professional?

While the PE Exam can be really competitive, it still depends on how well you prepare for it. The more you are confident in your abilities, the less it may seem frightening.


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.