Frequently asked questions.

Let us help answer the most common questions about the NCEES FE exam.

Will the FE exam topics change after June 2020?

Yes, starting July 2020 many FE exam topics are to be added or removed. We encourage you to use study prep material that is up to date. Many of the prep textbooks out there are now outdated and include topics that are no longer relevant for the FE exam. Click here to see a detailed list of the exam topic updates.

What percentage of the FE exam are the "new" alternative item type (AIT) questions?

We believe it's around 10%.

Is the FE exam open book or open notes?

During the exam, you are provided a reference handbook that has all the equations you might need. However, the reference handbook DOES NOT show worked-out example problems. You are not allowed to bring anything into the exam aside from an approved calculator

Can you go back to first half of exam?

No. You can revisit problems during the first half of the exam, but once you move onto the second half, you cannot go back to the first half.

How is the FE exam scored?

Results are based on total number of correct answers. There are NO deductions for wrong answers, so make sure to answer everything. Since exam questions may vary, scores are scaled for difficutly, accordingly. The NCEES does not publish a passing score and claims that no predetermined percentage of examinees pass or fail.

How do I find FE exam test dates?

Unfortunately, you will have to register with the NCEES and pay a $225 exam fee in order to see and select a date.

What is a passing grade on the FE exam?

Exam results are reported pass/fail. If you did not pass the exam, you will receive a diagnostic report indicating subject areas of relative strength and weakness. The diagnostic report can assist you if you decide to retake the exam. Download a sample diagnostic report (PDF).

How long is the FE exam?

You are given 6 hours total.

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

Is the FE exam hard?

The FE has an approximate 70% pass rate for first time takers. Adequate prepping will ensure smooth passing. You can find specific pass rates for various exams on the NCEES website.

How many times can I take the FE exam?

One attempt is allowed per quarter. Quarters are as follows: January-March, April-June, July-September, and October-December. And up to three times per 12 month cycle. The cycle starts the month you take the FE for the first time.

How much does the FE exam cost?

The Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam costs $225.

Why take the FE exam?

The FE exam is a prerequisite exam in order to take the PE exam later on. Passing the PE exam allows you to become a licensed engineer in the US.

What type of scrap paper, markers, pad, notepad, notebook, or dry erase is provided during the FE exam?

You will be provided a 9-page laminated, spiral-bound notebook with grid markers and a marker during the exam. Make sure to try using the marker before your exam starts. If you run out of space, do not spend time trying to erase anything. Raise your hand and request a new notebook.

If I pass the FE exam in one state and move to a different state, do I need to retake the exam in the new state?

Your Engineer-in-Training (EIT) or an Engineer Intern (EI) designation is valid in any state, but it's prudent to check with the appropriate state licensing board when moving to make sure there are no issues in the transition.

Is there a best time of the year to take the FE exam? Does the difficulty vary?

The 100 problems on FE exam will vary, so the difficulty does vary slightly among examinees. Additionally, there are 10 interspersed problems that don't count towards your score but are trial problems included by the NCEES which can change how difficult the exam feels.

However, the overall exam difficulty doesn't vary based on time of year. The best advice is to schedule it such that you have the most amount of time to prepare thoroughly.

Does it matter which FE exam I take?

No. You may take any FE exam discipline to get EIT certification, and it does not matter for your PE license. For example, some people who desire to get the environmental PE opt to take the civil FE instead of the environmental FE.

Which calculators are allowed on the FE exam?

A few different calculators are allowed on the FE. We personally recommend the TI-36x Pro as it is affordable and full of features such derivatives, integrals, vector operations, and more. The FE exam will provide you with a on-the-screen, digital calculator if you need it. We don't recommend you rely on it as typing on it is very slow. We recommend you bring your own NCEES-approved calculator.

What kind of questions are on the FE exam?

The majority of questions are multiple choice. A handful of questions will be point-and-click, drag-and-drop, or fill-in-the-blank. The specific exam topics vary depending on which FE exam you take. In general, the exam is comprehensive and covers the great majority of the classes taken in an engineering undergraduate program. You can find a detailed list of exam topics here.

What is using the FE Reference Handbook actually like during the FE exam? Can you search on the Reference Handbook during the exam?

Yes, you can search on FE Reference Handbook that you are provided during the exam. There's no better example than seeing a video demonstration of this directly from the NCEES here.
Make sure you are using the most up-to-date version of the FE Reference Handbook as it is this version the one you are provided during the actual exam. The Reference Handbook actually changes quite a bit from time to time, so it's worth it to make sure you're using the most up-to-date version of it.

What is the exam-day experience like?

You will take the FE at a Pearson VUE test center computer lab, looking something like this.

Can every FE exam question be referred back to a section in the FE Reference Handbook?

No, many questions cannot be answered with the help of the Handbook . The FE Reference Handbook will provide the great majority of the formulas you'll need to do number-crunching FE problems. However, the FE exam stills expects you to recall from memory fundamental engineering theory that is part of the different FE exam topics/categories. We estimate the FE to be roughly 15% theoretical questions that often the Reference Handbook is of little to no help in answering. PrepFE's questions include review for concept-heavy topics as well.

What is the best way to study for the FE exam?

The most time-effective thing you can do is WORK PRACTICE PROBLEMS over and over. Those who have passed the FE exam, academia, and the best test prep providers all suggest this should be your primary focus. A common mistake when prepping is flying through the questions after you get them wrong. If you get a question wrong and end up seeing it again, you should be able to solve that repeated problem from beginning to end without ever looking at the PrepFE solution. Many people look at the solution, agree that it "makes sense" and then move on. Instead, you should rework that problem on your own w/o looking at the solution to see if you truly understand it.

How many questions are on the FE exam?

There are a total of 110 questions on the exam

  • 50-60 questions for the first half
  • Optional 25 minute break
  • 50-60 questions for the second half