How To Study For Fe Civil Exam

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How To Study For Fe Civil Exam

Civil Engineering Fundamentals of Engineering Exam is a basic requirement to become a Professional Engineer. However, passing the FE exam is not a piece of cake. For some students, it seems like mission impossible but for you, this article explains in detail how you can easily pass the Civil Engineering FE exam in 2021.

Generally, there is no fast track to sitting for an passing an exam except due preparation. The Fundamentals of Engineering exam is not left out. To sit for this exam once and pass, you would have to prepare rightly for it.

You may have heard or seen countless articles that explain how hard it is to pass the Fundamentals of engineering exams. While there may be an atom of truth, it is definitely not the whole truth. This article explains in details how you can easily sit for your FE exam and pass.

Actually, the first step lies in your thorough understanding of the nature of exam you are about to write. So, this article will explain in details what FE is and how you can easily pass it even at a sitting.

A glance at the table of contents below will reveal all the subtopics discussed in this piece.

  1. What Is Fundamentals of Engineering Exam?
  2. Who Organizes the Civil Engineering FE Exams?
  3. What is the Nature of Fundamentals of Engineering Exam?
    1. How Long Do I Have to Answer FE Exams?
    2. What Can I Take into The Exam Room?
  4. Who can take the Fundamentals of Engineering exam?
  5. How Do I register for the Fundamentals of Engineering Exam?
  6. How Do I Prepare for My Civil Engineering FE Exam?
    1. How to Easily Pass FE exam for Civil engineering students
    2. Topics you must cover for Civil Engineering FE exams
  7. Where Can I take Civil engineering FE Practice Exam
    1. Paid FE Civil Engineering Practice Exam
  8. What score do you need to pass the FE exam?
  9. Civil Engineering FE Exam
  10. Is the fundamentals of engineering exam hard?
  11. What is on the fundamentals of engineering exam?
  12. How many times can you fail the FE exam?
  13. How long should I study for the FE exam?
  14. How long does FE license last?
  15. Conclusion
  16. References
  17. Recommendation

What Is Fundamentals of Engineering Exam?

The minimum requirement to become a civil engineer is a bachelor of science in civil engineering. Upon graduation fro a civil engineering undergraduate program, students sit for and pass the FE exam to become Professional Engineers.

It is usually referred to as the Engineer in Training exam or Engineering Intern exam. This is the first of two examinations that engineers must pass in order to be licensed as a Professional Engineer.

Looking forward to becoming a professional engineer? Apply to this Fully-Funded Scholarships for engineering students now.

Who Organizes the Civil Engineering FE Exams?

The FE exams for Civil engineering graduates is organized by NCEES. NCEES is an acronym that stands for National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying.

It is a national nonprofit organization that houses U.S engineering and surveying licensing boards in all 50 states, U.S territories, and the District of Columbia.

It organizes the exams used for engineering and surveying licensure in the United States. Also, this nonprofit organization promotes professional mobility through its services for licensees and its member boards.

What is the Nature of Fundamentals of Engineering Exam?

Like earlier conversed in this article, understanding the nature of FE exams will aid you to prepare properly for one.

Firstly, the exam’s sole eligibility criteria are graduation from an accredited engineering program.

Upon registration, students have the liberty to choose one of the 7 freestanding disciplines of engineering.

This simply means Civil Engineering students can choose to sit for Civil Engineering FE while Industrial engineering students can sit for Industrial Engineering FE.

Another discipline-specific of the FE exam include:

  • Chemical
  • Electrical and Computer
  • Environmental
  • Mechanical and others

Secondly, irrespective of the discipline, the FE exams contain 110 multiple-choice questions. It is a computer-based test written by students in only Pearson VUE test centers.

This simply means students are not allowed to write this engineer training exam from their personal computers except they are of course Pearson VUE approved. Remember you can only write this exam if you are:

A recent graduate from an Engineering Program or about completing your undergraduate engineering degree.

How Long Do I Have to Answer FE Exams?

Generally, NCEES organized FE exams are sectioned into a tutorial, the exam proper, a break, and a survey. And, students are given a 6-hour appointment to commence and complete this engineering training exam. The sections are broken into:

  • Nondisclosure agreement (2 minutes)
  • Tutorial (8 minutes)
  • Exam (5 hours and 20 minutes)
  • Scheduled break (25 minutes)

However, you just have 5 hours and 20 minutes to answer all questions in the FE engineering exam. You should bear the notice below in mind.

You can only take the FE test at an approved Pearson VUE test center.

What Can I Take into The Exam Room?

Unarguably, you should arrive at your exam center in time. To gain uninterrupted access into the test center, you should come along with the following items:

  • Your identification card
  • NCEES- approved calculator
  • Keys to your test center locker
  • The reusable booklet provided by Pearson VUE.
  • Eyeglasses
  • light sweater or Jacket
  • All items included in the Pearson VUE Comfort aid List
  • An electronic version of the FE Reference Handbook

Not yet a Civil engineer? See how to Become a Civil Engineer in 2021

Who can take the Fundamentals of Engineering exam?

Depending on your state, licensure requirements for Civil Engineers may vary. However, FE exams are Professional Engineers preparation exams written by recent graduates of the civil engineering undergraduate program.

In a bid to become a PE, the Fundamental of Engineering exam is one of the two exams written to get licensure.

Only students who have completed a four-year degree program from an ABET or EAC accredited engineering college can sit for the exam.

How Do I register for the Fundamentals of Engineering Exam?

To register for the FE exams, it is important you earn a degree in engineering from an accredited college of engineering. Usually, registration opens 3–4 months ahead and closes 4–6 weeks before the exam date. Usually, registration costs about $175.

Then log on to the NCEES official website to register an account or simply log in to your account if you are an old-time user. Click on the register button to create an account.

You will need a username or email address alongside the password to log in to the registration page. Also, during registration, you should select your discipline which is obviously Civil Engineering.

Upon completion of registration, you will receive an email notification that authorizes you to register.

Simply log in to MYNCEES and select the schedule button. Follow the instructions below to choose the exam venue and date.

To get a Civil engineering Degree Online, click here.

How Do I Prepare for My Civil Engineering FE Exam?

The best time to write the Civil Engineering FE exam is right before or after you graduate. While you can sit for the exam twice or thrice a year, it will be interesting to sit for it once.

To achieve the latter you must prepare rightly and begin preparation in time. The best way to prepare for the FE exam for civil engineers include:

  • Purchase NCEE FE computer based practice exam
  • Practice with the past questions available
  • Apply the Tips on how to easily pass FE
  • Cover all sub topics before exam date.

How to Easily Pass FE exam for Civil engineering students

To pass the Civil Engineering FE exam, you must follow the tips below strictly:

  • Register for the FE exam in time
  • Get a copy of NCEES handbook early enough to know what topics to cover
  •  Get the specific practice exam for Civil engineering
  • Begin studying months in advance
  • Prepare with books and digital tools
  • Cover all topics for your discipline.
  • Take a prep course and tons of practice exams
  • Review simple maths
  • memorize formulas that are not provided in NCEES handbook
  • Take two days or one day break from taking practice exams
  • Get a good night sleep a night before your date
  • Eat a good meal to avoid any form of discomfort
  • On exam day, read problems and instructions carefully before ticking the answer boxes.

Topics you must cover for Civil Engineering FE exams

If you get a copy of the NCEE handbook very early, then you will have ample time to cover all suggested sub-topics for FE Exams.

For Civil Engineering Students, the FE exam questions are drawn randomly from 18 knowledge areas. Below is a list of topics you should expect questions from.


Students should expect 7-11 questions from the following subject areas:

  • Analytic geometry
  • Calculus
  • Roots of equations
  • Vector analysis

Probability and Statistics

4-6 questions will be drawn from the following subject areas

  • Measures of central tendencies and dispersions
  • Estimation for a single mean
  • Regression and curve fitting
  • Expected value (weighted average) in decision making

Computational Tools

4–6 questions will be drawn from the following subject areas.

  • Spreadsheet computations
  • Structured programming

Ethics and Professional Practice

4–6 questions will be drawn from the following subject areas.

  • Codes of ethics
  • Professional liability
  • Licensure
  • Sustainability and sustainable design
  • Professional skills
  • Contracts and contract law

Engineering Economics 4–6

4–6 questions will be drawn from the following subject areas.

  • Discounted cash flow
  • Cost
  • Analyses
  • Uncertainty

Statics 7–11

7-11 questions will be drawn from the following subject areas.

  • Resultants of force systems
  • Equivalents of force systems
  • Equilibrium of rigid bodies
  • Frames and trusses
  • Centroid of area
  • Area moments of inertia
  • Static friction

Dynamics 4–6

  • Kinematics (e.g., particles and rigid bodies)
  • Mass moments of inertia
  • Force acceleration (e.g., particles and rigid bodies)
  • Impulse momentum (e.g., particles and rigid bodies)
  • Work, energy, and power (e.g., particles and rigid bodies)

Mechanics of Materials 7–11

  • Shear and moment diagrams
  • Stresses and strains (e.g., axial, torsion, bending, shear, thermal)
  • Deformations (e.g., axial, torsion, bending, thermal)
  • Combined stresses
  • Principal stresses
  • Mohr’s circle
  • Column analysis (e.g., buckling, boundary conditions) Composite sections
  • Elastic and plastic deformations
  • Stress-strain diagrams

Materials 4–6

  • Mix design (e.g., concrete and asphalt)
  • Test methods and specifications (e.g., steel, concrete, aggregates, asphalt, wood)
  • Physical and mechanical properties of concrete, ferrous and nonferrous metals, masonry, wood, engineered materials (e.g., FRP, laminated lumber, wood/plastic composites), and asphalt

Fluid Mechanics 4–6

  • Flow measurement
  • Fluid properties
  • Energy, impulse, and momentum equation
  • Fluid statics

Hydraulics and Hydrologic Systems 8–12

  • Basic hydrology
  • Basic hydraulics
  • Pumping systems
  • Water distribution systems
  • Reservoirs (e.g., dams, routing, spillways)
  • Groundwater (e.g., flow, wells, drawdown)
  • Storm sewer collection systems

Structural Analysis 6–9

  • Analysis of forces in statically determinant beams, trusses, and frames
  • Deflection of statically determinant beams, trusses, and frames
  • Structural determinacy and stability analysis of beams, trusses, and frames
  • Loads and load paths
  • Elementary statically indeterminate structures

Structural Design

  • Design of steel components
  • Design of reinforced concrete components

Geotechnical Engineering 9–14

  • Geology
  • Index properties and soil classifications
  • Phase relations (air-water-solid)
  • Laboratory and field tests
  • Effective stress (buoyancy)
  • Stability of retaining walls (e.g., active pressure/passive pressure)
  • Shear strength
  • Bearing capacity (cohesive and noncohesive)
  • Foundation types
  • Consolidation and differential settlement
  • Seepage/flow nets
  • Slope stability (e.g., fills, embankments, cuts, dams)
  • Soil stabilization (e.g., chemical additives, geosynthetics)
  • Drainage systems
  • Erosion control


  • Angles, distances, and trigonometry
  • Area computations
  • Earthwork and volume computations
  • Closure
  • Coordinate systems (e.g., state plane, latitude/longitude)
  • Leveling (e.g., differential, elevations, percent grades)

how many hours to study for fe civil exam

The typical study time for the Fundamentals of Engineering exam is about 2 to 3 months. This is according to our users at PrepFE and a community survey, and we’ll break down some of the results in this post.

Source: PrepFE

The distribution of preparation time for the FE exam falls nicely onto a bell curve. The average time spent is 3.3 months, but this is inflated by some outliers in the 6+ months range. A more useful stat is the median which is a study time of 2.7 months.

Jump to section

Average study time

How long to study if you’re a recent graduate

How long to study if you graduated 3+ years ago

How to study for the FE in 1 or 3 months

As an additional check on our data, we asked the community at r/FE_Exam on Reddit how long they studied for the FE exam, and the poll results we got there aligned well with our data.

Source: Reddit r/fe_exam

Now, one big thing that is missing here is the total amount of hours spent. When people study for 2-3 months, it’s not a full-time commitment. Most of them are studying a handful of hours during the week and several hours on weekends while working or completing their degrees. We hope these results can help you with setting your own study schedule.

Plan to study for 2 to 3 months if you’ve been out of school for 2 years or fewer

We recommend planning to study for at least 2 to 3 months before your FE exam date. Once you get started practicing problems from all of the different topics covered, you’ll have a better idea if you need to spend more or less time preparing. This can vary a lot depending on if you are fresh out of school, still completing your degree, or several years out from graduation, which we explore more below.

One thing to note is that curriculum and number of engineers taking each FE exam aren’t all equal, so prep time can actually vary depending on whether you take the Civil, Mechanical, Electrical and Computer, Environmental, Chemical, Industrial and Systems, or Other Disciplines FE exam. Why does this matter? Well, not only are the questions different amongst exams, but the number of test takers is different for every exam, and therefore the poll results can be biased towards certain engineering disciplines.

Here’s what we mean: FE Civil is the most taken FE exam by far with roughly 22,000 exams taken per year followed by FE Mechanical with 12,000 and FE Electrical and Computer with 6,000. Because the engineering licensure is so common in the civil engineering industry, many civil engineering undergraduate college programs have their own FE exam prep review courses where they solely focus on preparing their civil students for the FE exam. These semester-long college prep classes can do a good job at getting civil engineering students ready for the FE exam, so many of them only need about a month of additional studying as they’re only looking to iron out a few weak topics and not study for the exam as a whole a second time.

ExamPass rateVolume (1st time & Repeat Takers)
Electrical & Computer57%6,424
Other Disciplines62%4,385

Plan to study for 3+ months if you’ve been out of school for 3 years or longer

Another variable affecting how much prep time you need for the FE is how long you have been out of school. The FE exam covers a LOT of different topics, and it’s expected that you’ll forget those nitty-gritty details that can make or break a correct problem solution. For those people taking the FE exam a few years after graduation, we recommend you place yourself on the right side of the prep time bell curve and review for more than 3 months. Even 6+ months is appropriate for those that need to balance work and other responsibilities. We also believe that some of the PrepFE users that have studied for 6+ months are people who thought they were in good shape for the FE exam, but once they got into studying, they realized how much they underestimated the prep time they would need.

Whatever your situation is, we wish you the best of luck preparing for the FE. You made it this far, and there’s no reason you can’t successfully overcome the FE exam.

How do I study for the FE exam in 1 or 3 months?

1. Get familiar with the topics that will be asked on the FE exam.

Don’t just work hard. Work hard and smart. Familiarize yourself with the different topics asked on the FE exam. Take a brief look through this list just to make yourself aware of what’s on the FE exam for your engineering discipline. You will keep this information on the back of your head as you start strategizing your FE exam prep.

Screen Shot 2021-02-16 at 2.40.30 PM.png

2. Take a short diagnostic practice exam to help you identify your topic strengths and weaknesses.

You can take one of PrepFE’s timed, practice exams to help you identify which topics you are currently the most and least prepared in. Taking a diagnostic practice exam will help you identify which topics you are mostly prepared for, which topics need a little bit of practice, and which topics you are completely clueless about.

See practice exams →

3. Categorize the FE exam topics into different buckets.

You will then take your diagnostic practice exam results in conjunction with the complete list of FE exam topics to help you categorize the different FE exam topics into five buckets. Just categorize these topics (e.g. fluid mechanics, statics, mathematics, etc) for now and later on we will use this information to set an oder for your FE exam prep.

FE Exam Buckets Strategy (1).png

4. Determine how many study blocks you have available until the FE exam. Set a study plan.

For the sake of uniformity, we will assume you are able to study for two hours per FE exam prep study block i.e. 2 hrs (1 block) Monday, 2 hrs (1 block) Tuesday, 6 hrs (3 blocks) Saturday etc.

~3 months until the FE exam (e.g. 40, 2-hr long study blocks).

  • If it’s been fewer than 2 years since you graduated from school, we suggest you allocate 40% of your study blocks to weaker topics w/ more questions bucket, 30% of your study blocks to weaker topics w/ fewer questions bucket, 10% of your study blocks to topics I am good at bucket, 15% of your study blocks to topics never seen in school bucket, and 5% of your study blocks to remainder of topics bucket. These allocation percentages are certainly subjective. Feel free to adjust the allocation percentage of each bucket as you see better fit as you progress through your studying. You might find out that in one topic you are a little bit weaker than you expected, so you might move that topic from one bucket to another. The key here isn’t so much the precise percentage of time you should allocate to each topic. The key here is knowing which topics are your weakest and also have the largest impact on the exam. You need to practice those topics more and first relative to other topics that have fewer questions or you are currently better in shape for. Additionally, you need to prioritize the order of your studying. It’s important that you study with an order in case you run out of prep time and there are still topics you haven’t studied. If you studied in order of biggest impact, then you will be minimizing the damage caused by running out prep time as you prioritized topics that had the biggest impact on you passing the exam. In summary: classify the FE exam topics into the different buckets. And then decide roughly what percentage of your study time you want to allocate to each bucket. And then begin prepping by doing practice problems from said bucket in this priority order: weaker topics w/ more questions > weaker topics w/ fewer questions > topics I’m good at > topics I never saw in school > remainder of topics.
  • If it’s been more than 2 years since you graduated from school, we think it’s very possible you’ve forgotten quite a bit of engineering school. Don’t worry, it’s normal. However, you’ll have to do a bit more work to prepare. In this case, we suggest you evenly distribute your study blocks amongst all the FE exam topics and study said topics in this order: weaker topics w/ more questions > weaker topics w/ fewer questions > topics I’m good at > topics I never saw in school > remainder of topics.

~1 month until the FE exam (e.g. 14, 2-hr long study blocks).

  • Regardless of whether you graduated from school fewer or more than two years ago, there’s not a lot of time available to set up an elaborate study plan. In this case, we recommend you evenly distribute your time among all the different FE exam topics and study said topics in this order: weaker topics w/ more questions > weaker topics w/ fewer questions > topics I’m good at > topics I never saw in school > remainder of topics

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