What to Expect on the PE Exam Day

If you have an engineering degree and have cleared the FE examination, you’ve definitely heard that acquiring a Professional Engineer (PE) license can increase your income and open up more job prospects.

That’s why the Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE) exam is the next thing you want to take, but you’ve heard it’s challenging and are unsure where to begin.

We acknowledge how stressful uncertainty can be, but if you are mentally ready for everything that might occur, there is nothing to be scared of.

This article will provide detailed information about what to expect on the PE exam day to reduce your tension and pull you out of the pit of anxieties. These specifics will cover the structure, duration, and rules of the PE exam.

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

Structure of the PE Exam

Structure of the PE Exam

The NCEES® PE exam is based on a computerized-based testing format and is offered year-round at Pearson VUE examination centers.

The number of questions varies depending on the PE exam discipline but lies in the range of 80-85 problems.

For clarity, the PE exam for Power, Civil, Mechanical, Chemical, and Environmental disciplines comprises 80 questions, whereas the rest contains 85 problems.


The PE exam is broken down into two main portions:

  1. The morning exam portion
  2. The afternoon exam portion

It means:

Each portion encompasses approximately 40-42 PE exam problems categorized by knowledge areas. The topics are not precisely outlined, nor their starting or closing is indicated.

In addition:

The two PE exam portions do not cover the same topics. It means if a subject is addressed in the morning exam portion, it won’t be included in the afternoon test section.

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Duration of the PE Exam

Duration of the PE Exam

Knowing the duration of the test before the PE exam day is crucial. This helps in anticipating the time limits and planning how to deal with them.

So, the PE exam lasts a total of nine hours. A two-minute nondisclosure agreement will be presented at the commencement of the PE exam. This entails a vow to never post or reveal any PE exam questions or answers, in full or in part, on any websites, chat rooms, online forums, or any other kind of electronic transmission.

Following that, you will be given an eight-minute tutorial explaining the PE exam patterns, guidelines, and rules.

Last but not least, there is a fifty-minute long scheduled break that you can take in between the two PE exam portions.

It means:

A candidate has a total of eight hours to complete the PE exam. This indicates that you will have roughly six minutes to answer each PE exam question.

What to Do on the Day of the PE Exam?

What to Do on the Day of the PE Exam

On the PE exam day, disable your wristwatch’s hourly and quarterly notifications. Leave your smartphone in the car. You should put it on silent if you must bring it.

It would be best to reach the testing center at least 30 minutes before the PE exam begins. This will give you enough time to seek a suitable parking spot, take your belongings into the examination hall, adjust the space and seating, and settle down.

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The Day Before the PE Exam Day: Things to Do

Things to Do Before the PE Exam Day

Allow yourself the day before the exam to relax. Avoid cramming. The most effective method to begin the exam is with a good night’s sleep. If you live far from the test location, consider booking a hotel room for the night. Practice preparing your exam workspace.

Ensure that you have everything by using your checklist. Make sure your PE exam materials are prepared and packed. Estimate when you will wake up, then set the alarms on two clocks. Choose and organize your clothing and breakfast items. Place your water bottles in the refrigerator if the PE exam day is scheduled on a hot day. Make sure your car has sufficient fuel and that you have some cash with you for emergencies.

Here’s a checklist that we’ve prepared for you that you might find helpful:

  • A government-issued ID, a valid passport, or military identification
  • A printed copy of your exam authorization is required.
  • Calculators that are approved by NCEES® like TI-30X and TI-36X.
  • A wristwatch that isn’t smart.
  • Glasses without the case.
  • Straightedges.
  • Ruler.
  • Protractor.
  • Triangle.
  • Scale.
  • Reference materials that are bound and include no loose papers.
  • Earplugs.
  • Handheld magnifying glass that isn’t electronic.
  • Protein bars for snacking.
  • Water, soda, or non-alcoholic beverages.
  • Cell phones, iPads, and smartwatches should be left at home or in the car.

Policies for PE Exam

The rules and regulations for the PE exam are as follows:

  1. Don’t bring any extra resources to the NCEES® PE exam for guidance; doing so could result in a cheating penalty or a disqualification.
  2. All items prohibited from being brought into the exam hall must be placed in specified areas outside the testing room.
  3. You are not permitted to bring mobile phones, Bluetooth devices, or smart-watches; doing so will automatically disqualify you and could result in a permanent ban.
  4. Don’t bring any writing materials into the exam room; NCEES® will supply everything you need on the day of the PE exam, including pencils and a scratchpad.
  5. You may only bring a calculator if it satisfies the requirements set by the NCEES®.
  6. Examinees must return from their scheduled break promptly. The same amount of time an examinee is late will be subtracted from the time permitted for the second PE exam portion.
  7. Reusable Pearson VUE booklets cannot be used before the exam has started, cannot be taken outside the examination center while the exam is being conducted, and must be returned to the test administrator as soon as the exam is finished.
  8. You are prohibited from indulging in fraud, dishonesty, or other aberrant activity when taking the NCEES® PE exam.
  9. Students must raise their hands and remain seated until an administrator comes for assistance.
  10. You are highly forbidden to pretend to be someone else, carry illegal items, communicate with test participants or anyone outside the testing location on a smartphone, irritate other test-takers, or jeopardize testing center security.

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Even if the exam stress might be difficult to manage, knowing what to expect on the PE exam day will help alleviate your anxiety and calm your worries.

Once you get relaxed and mentally ready, you can ace the PE exam by studying assiduously and keeping a positive attitude. Keep in mind that persistence and constant hard work are the keys to success. So instead of panicking, focus on your studies and do your best to get prepared for the PE exam.

We hope this article provided sufficient information and solid insight into what to expect on PE exam day.

If you are seeking sound advice to clear the exam, you can check out our blog on the best tips for passing the PE exam.

We also suggest you go through our blog section for more informative engineering articles.


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.