Which PE Exam Should I Take?

Are you done with your engineering degree and intend to attempt the licensing exam? It is indeed a very good idea, but choosing the right PE exam is quite confusing. The choice of the exam determines whether you’ll become a professional engineer or fail the test wasting your time and money. Therefore, it is better to choose wisely.

This article is all about your question, “Which PE exam should I take?”. We will discuss all the aspects related to choice. Therefore, keep reading to get all your queries answered.

PE Exam Engineering Disciplines

PE Exam Engineering Disciplines

The “National Council of Examiners conducts PE exam for Engineering and Surveying®” (NCEES®). Everyone with a four years engineering degree can take this exam. You can choose the engineering discipline matching your degree from their website. Following are some of the disciplines mentioned on their website:

  • Chemical engineering
  • Mechanical engineering
  • Nuclear engineering
  • Civil engineering
  • Architectural engineering
  • Computer engineering
  • Metallurgical engineering
  • Naval engineering
  • Fire protection
  • Mineral processing
  • Industrial systems

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Which PE Exam Should You Take?

PE Exam Should You Take

After clearing the FE exam, a graduate engineer can take a PE exam immediately. As mentioned earlier, the PE exam can be taken in many engineering disciplines. However, choosing the right discipline for your exam is a very important decision to take. This decision will decide the type of your engineering license. Therefore, be vigilant enough and decide to consider all the relevant factors.

The following two factors are very important to consider:

1. Based on your Interest & Professional Background

It highly depends upon your interest in the discipline and whether you will pass the exam or not. Clearly, you will have a sound grip on your subject of interest, and it would be relatively easier to pass.

Therefore, don’t lose your chances by experimenting with new subjects. For instance, if you enjoy studying chemical engineering, then never go for an electrical one.

The second important thing is your professional background. Your experience matters the most. If you have worked for two years as a nuclear engineer, you would automatically know more about nuclear stations than marine engineers. Thus, choosing the field according to your degree gives you an extra edge.

2. Based on PE Exams Difficulty Level and Passing Rates

Another important factor is the difficulty level. Some exams are relatively more difficult than others. For instance, the water resources PE exam is one of the easiest engineering exams, while structural depth is considered the hardest. It may not be right for you, but many students go with this opinion. On the same grounds, you can compare the difficulty levels of other disciplines by asking freshly licensed students.

Passing rates are also different for different disciplines. According to 2023 statistics, the passing ratios are as follows:

PE Exam (Jan 2023)Pass Rate (First-Time Takers)Pass Rate (Repeat Takers)
PE Chemical58%38%
PE Electrical and Computer: Power59%41%
PE Environmental72%53%
PE Mechanical: HVAC and Refrigeration72%53%
PE Mechanical: Machine Design and Materials63%40%
PE Mechanical: Thermal and Fluid Systems71%47%

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Does It Matter Which PE Exam You Take?

Does It Matter Which PE Exam You Take

To answer this question in a single line, we would say, “No, it doesn’t matter”. You can take a PE exam of your choice regardless of your degree. This exam will bring you a license to be recognized as a professional engineer, nothing else. Therefore, choose the discipline matching your interest and take the exam to perform best.

If you could perform well enough to get a license, then it will add value to your resume. Employers will also trust you more and job opportunities will increase. Thus, your only focus should be on performing better, not the type of exam.

Which PE Exam is the Easiest?

We can’t say exactly which exam is the easiest as it varies from person to person. The exam that seems easiest to me might be the most difficult for you. However, many engineers believe the water resources PE exam is the easiest to pass.

As mentioned in the above table, the passing percentage was 71% for the water resources exam. Similarly, transportation PE was 2nd rank (70% pass percentage) and so on. Also, most of the engineers cleared it in the first attempt.

Which PE Exam is the Hardest?

According to NCEES® stats, the structural depth and geotechnical exams are the hardest of civil PE exams. Only 64% and 55% of students managed to clear it in the first attempt. You will have to consistently prepare for the PE exam for 3 to 6 months to clear it, no matter which exam. But again, it depends on your interest and efforts.

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What Exactly Should I Study for the PE Exam?

In its portion of exam-specific material, the NCEES® website specifies the topics and roughly how many questions will appear on the various PE examinations. You can find relevant information from this source. You can print the PDF files after downloading them.

Of course, if you take an electrical PE review course, you’ll have a better notion of what to concentrate on because someone else has already done the legwork for you!

Don’t try to learn everything at once. Concentrate solely on the topics that are most likely to appear on our PE exam.

Frequently Asked Questions:

1 - Which PE exam is the easiest?

From the statistics concerning PE exam passing rates, it is found that 82% of candidates passed the PE Agricultural and Biological Engineering, PE Fire Protection, and the PE Metallurgical and Materials exams on their first attempt.

But remember that evaluating the relative ease of PE exams based on pass rates can be misleading. It’s crucial to select a PE exam aligned with your expertise and career goals rather than relying solely on pass rates. Read our detailed blog on which PE exam is the easiest.

2 - When should I start studying for PE?

For adequate preparation for the PE exam, you must commence your studies at least 200-300 hours in advance. If we calculate it as 5 hours per day, you need at least 3 months with a margin of 1 month of revision for important concepts to allow for comprehensive coverage of the PE exam syllabus.

3 - How long do you need to prepare for PE?

For success-oriented preparation for the PE exam, you must invest at least 200-300 hours in your PE exam preparation. This timeframe ensures you fulfill a comprehensive coverage of the exam syllabus, thorough problem-solving practice, and ample time to address any areas of weakness, ensuring a well-rounded and confident performance on the exam day.


This article was a complete guide to your question, “Which PE exam should I take?” We hope you got all your answers and have become better able to compare different exams. It is good to consider statistics, but your interest should be your priority.


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.