How long should I study for the FE 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.

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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.

Exam Pass rate Volume (1st time & Repeat Takers)
Chemical 72% 2,682
Civil 55% 22,604
Electrical & Computer 57% 6,424
Environmental 68% 2,714
Industrial 58% 728
Mechanical 71% 12,277
Other Disciplines 62% 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.

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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

See topic-specific, FE practice problems→