7 Must Have PE Exam Resources

7 Must Have PE Exam Resources are the items I’ve found to be essential to pass the PE Exam.


To be successful in any area of life, its important to develop a strategy for getting from where you are to where you want to be. This applies to your career, your health, your finances; basically anything that’s worthwhile needs to be strategically planned.

The PE Exam is NO exception!

You’ve worked hard for many years and at a substantial financial cost to get to this point. It makes sense to put together a well thought out strategy for achieving your goal.

Below are 7 Must Have PE Exam Resources that continue to top the list whenever I’m engaged in a discussion on what’s essential to pass the PE Exam. Some of the items on the 7 Must Have PE Exam Resources list are tangible, others are intangible.

Do not overlook the importance of each one.

1. A Test-Day Resource Library©

loadsa-books-1568319The Test-Day Resource Library© is #1 on the 7 Must Have PE Exam Resources for anyone taking any of the PE Exams.
Whether this is your first attempt or you’ve taken the exam several times, a well constructed resource library can mean the difference in passing or failing.

What should you include in your resource library? Here’s a partial list:

  • Example problems with solutions for every topic listed at NCEES.org.
  • Information, charts, and tables for every topic
  • A comprehensive list of equations and conversion factors

2. The Right Calculator
7 Must Have PE Exam Resources
  • NCEES has adopted a calculator policy to protect the integrity of the exam and to make certain everyone is using similar devices.
    • Don’t fight it!
    • Don’t test it!
    • Don’t think for a minute that your old HP scientific calculator will be fine. If its not on the list, do not take it to the exam.
  • Extra batteries. Even if you are absolutely, without a doubt positive the batteries in your calculator are brand new, take a second set … just in case.
  • Verify acceptable calculator models with the NCEES calculator policy prior to exam day.
  • The NCEES acceptable calculator list (as of October 2016):

7 Must Have PE Exam Resources

3. An Exam Strategy
7 Must Have PE Exam Resources

An Exam Strategy is two-fold:

  1. Your Exam Preparation Strategy
    • Deciding which exam to take
    • Applying to your state board and to NCEES
    • Planning how much time to adequately prepare
      • Number of months/weeks/days
      • Number of hours per day
        • reviewing the exam topics
        • working example problems
        • taking practice exams
        • assembling a Test-Day Resource Library©
      • Having a plan to gain the knowledge or resources you may be lacking for a particular topic or topics
    • Gathering additional resources
    • Finding the exam location
      • Getting accurate directions
      • Knowing where to park (free parking or toll)
      • Determining trip time (including time for unexpected incidents)
    • Making hotel reservations if needed
  2. Your Exam-Day Strategy
    • Getting a good night’s sleep (see #4)
    • Allowing plenty of time to get dressed, eat, and get under way
    • Eating the right breakfast (see #5)
    • Making certain you have all your supplies (see #1, #2, & #6)
    • Packing your lunch and snacks (see #5)
    • Getting to the exam site early
    • Setting up your Test-Day Resource Library for easy navigation
    • Timing each problem
      • Theoretically, you have 6 minutes per question (8 hours x 60 minutes per hour ÷ 80 questions).
      • In these 6 minutes you have to:
        1. read the question
        2. figure out what the question is really asking
        3. find the right resources (if needed)
        4. work the problem
        5. mark your answer on the answer sheet
        6. move on to the next question
      • This does not allow any time for you to go back and recheck previous answers.
      • I recommend targeting an average of 5 minutes per question. This way, when you spend more time on some questions, you should still have +/- 15 to 20 minutes left at the end of both sessions to recheck your answers.
      • Make yourself a checklist of where your progress should be at any different intervals
        • For example, if your exam begins at 8:00 am:
          • at 9:00, you should be starting question #12
          • at 10:00, you should be starting question #23
          • at 11:00, you should be starting question #34
          • at 11:40, you should be finishing question #40
          • from 11:40 until 12:00 you can go back through the exam answering any unanswered questions or checking your work on others
          • also during this time, you can review the types of questions for any lunchtime course corrections you need to make

4. A Good Night’s Sleep


This one sounds like a “no-brainer”, but the number of people who stay up late the night before or get up early to prepare for an exam is huge. The reality is they’re either (1) not prepared or (2) they think the last minute cram session will somehow give them the extra edge in passing the exam.

People who can quiet their mind, go to sleep quickly, and remain asleep for the majority of the night are more rested and better prepared to meet the challenges of the day.

Here are 7 Steps to Better Sleep from the Mayo Clinic:

  • Stick to a Sleep Schedule
  • Pay Attention to What You Eat and Drink
  • Create a Bedtime Ritual
  • Get Comfortable
  • Limit Daytime Naps
  • Include Physical Activity in Your Daily Routine
  • Manage Stress

Get prepared early – take a day or two off – review – and then spend the last day before the exam making certain all your supplies are packed and ready to go.

Then go to bed and get a good night’s sleep … happy dreams.

5. The Right Breakfast and Lunch


Are you the type of person who gets up at the last minute, rushes to get ready for the day, and grabs a Pop-Tart® on the way out the door?

This may fit your normal, everyday lifestyle or preference, but its something you’ll want to change (at least temporarily) for taking the PE Exam.

As with the rest and energy from a good night’s sleep, you are going to need the right “brain fuel” to make certain all your neurons are firing correctly.

Here’s a list of 12 Best Brain Foods to Eat Before Taking a Test (although there’s actually 13):

  • Nuts
  • Apples
  • Yogurt
  • Blueberries
  • Curry/Turmeric
  • Salmon
  • Pumpkin Seeds
  • Broccoli
  • Sage
  • Bone Broth
  • Dark Chocolate
  • Dark Leafy Greens
  • Eggs

All of these together would probably not make for a very tasty meal, but you can combine a few to get those benefits.

For example, combine broccoli, spinach leaves, eggs, and some cheese to make a healthy breakfast frittata. And have yogurt and apples or blueberries to make a near-perfect exam-day breakfast.

Nuts and dark chocolate are great snacks to have on hand during the exam.

And for lunch, I find it best to go easy. Take along an apple or two, some berries, and maybe an assortment of nuts and seeds. This way during your lunch break, you can find a quiet spot, eat, and reflect on the morning session to see if there’s anything you need to review (from the resources you left in the car.)

While everyone else is out looking for fast food, you can eat, relax, and maybe take a walk. In any case, you’ll be better prepared for the afternoon session.

7 Must Have PE Exam Resources

6. Accessories

The accessories you need or want as part of the 7 Must Have PE Exam Resources for the exam will be specific to you. These items are intended to relieve stress (stress ball, gum), manage your time (watch, clock), curb your appetite and give you energy (snacks, drinks), and help you answer the exam questions (straightedge, ruler. eyeglasses, etc.)

Decide early in your preparation time and make a list of those items you think could benefit you in the exam.

  • Wristwatch or small clock
  • Stress ball
  • Snacks (such as nuts and dark chocolate; see item 5 above)
  • Nonalcoholic drinks (I recommend water – no soda or energy drinks)
  • Two straightedges, such as a ruler, scale, triangle, or protractor
  • Eyeglasses (no case)

7. The Right Frame of Mind – the Right Attitude

7 Must Have PE Exam Resources

And the last of the 7 Must Have PE Exam Resources is the Right Frame of Mind – the Right Attitude.

Preparing for and taking any of the PE Exams is both an exciting journey and a burdensome trek. (Check out this post Make PE Exam Prep Fun)

You will at times be excited about the future when you are a licensed professional engineer. Signing and sealing your own designs (and perhaps the designs of others), not waiting for someone else to review and seal your work, and perhaps maybe even going out on your own. The possibilities are truly limitless when you are a PE.

You can also be excited about how far you’ve come in a relatively short time. Not long ago you were a college freshman, not really knowing where you’d end up. Now, you’ve graduated from an engineering program (no small feat) and worked under the supervision of a professional engineer for at least 4 years. The law says you are now competent enough to design buildings, systems, equipment, or processes that could affect society. That’s a big responsibility.

But the process of preparing for the exam can be tough. You may have to go back and review/re-learn information that you haven’t used since college (or maybe never.) You have to gather resources that will aid you on exam day. You have to be absent from your family and friends to study. You have to make plans to be gone from work for the exam. All of this can become overbearing if you don’t keep a positive attitude.

So take time during your journey to stop preparing, realize what you’re working towards, and understand that in the big picture of your life, this is but a small inconvenience that is so worth the time and effort you have to spend. You will be glad you made the trip.

Also, check out the NCEES Examinee Guide for additional information.

You can find PE Exam preparation resources at


If there is anything I can do for you, please do not hesitate to ask.

To Your Success …

Jeff Setzer, PE
7 Must Have PE Exam Resources

Use the form below to ask any questions or make any comments about the 7 Must Have PE Exam Resources or about the PE Exam. I’d also like to hear of any resources or items you found beneficial on exam day.


7 Must Have PE Exam Resources


Translate »