Principles and Practice of Engineering Examination

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Principles and Practice of Engineering Examination
TypePencil-and-paper exam; Computer-based exam (Select exams only)
Developer / administratorNational Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying
Knowledge / skills testedAnalytical reasoning, quantitative reasoning, discipline-specific subjects
PurposeProfessional licensure
Year started1966 (1966)
Duration8 hours
Score / grade rangePass/Fail
OfferedTwice annually (April and October); Year-round (Select exams only)
Countries / regionsUnited States
Prerequisites / eligibility criteriaVaries per state; generally the examinee must have passed Fundamentals of Engineering Exam and have four years of professional experience.
FeeVaries per state
Scores / grades used byProfessional state licensing boards

The Principles and Practice of Engineering exam is the examination required for one to become a Professional Engineer (PE) in the United States. It is the second exam required, coming after the Fundamentals of Engineering exam.

Upon passing the PE exam and meeting other eligibility requirements, that vary by state, such as education and experience, an engineer can then become registered in their State to stamp and sign engineering drawings and calculations as a PE.

While the PE itself is sufficient for most engineering fields, some states require a further certification for structural engineers. These require the passing of the Structural I exam and/or the Structural II exam.

The PE Exam is created and scored by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES). NCEES is a national non-profit organization composed of engineering and surveying licensing boards representing all states and U.S. territories.[1] [2]

Exam format[edit]

Exams are offered twice a year, once in April and once in October, and are discipline-specific.[3] With the exception of the Structural exam, each exam is eight hours long, consisting of two 4-hour sessions administered in a single day with a lunch break. There are 40 multiple-choice questions per session. Several disciplines require a common morning breadth exam which broadly covers the discipline and then a more detailed afternoon depth exam where the test taker selects a more detailed area of the discipline. Other disciplines essentially have morning and afternoon breadth exams.[4]

The Structural exam is 16 hours long and administered over two days, with two 4-hour sessions and a lunch break per day. Morning breadth sessions consist of 40 multiple-choice questions, while the afternoon depth sessions require essay responses. An examinee must earn a passing score on both days' exams in order to pass overall, but need not obtain those scores during the same administration of the exam.

NCEES began the process of transitioning exams to computer-based testing (CBT) in 2011. NCEES has successfully converted some of the exams and all other NCEES exams are currently in the conversion process and scheduled to launch in computer-based format between now and 2024. Some CBT exams are administered year-round. Other CBT exams that have a smaller examinee population use a different high-stakes testing model and are administered on a single day each year.


PE exams are offered for the following disciplines:

  • Agricultural and Biological Engineering (new specifications for the April 2015 exam)
  • Architectural
  • Chemical
  • Civil: Construction (new specifications and design standards for the 2015 exams)
  • Civil: Geotechnical (new specifications and design standards for the 2015 exams)
  • Civil: Structural (new specifications and design standards for the 2015 exams)
  • Civil: Transportation (new specifications and design standards for the 2015 exams)
  • Civil: Water Resources and Environmental (new specifications and design standards for the 2015 exams)
  • Control Systems
  • Electrical and Computer: Computer Engineering (Study Guide: Computer Engineering Compendium)
  • Electrical and Computer: Electrical and Electronics
  • Electrical and Computer: Power
  • Environmental
  • Fire Protection
  • Industrial
  • Mechanical: HVAC and Refrigeration
  • Mechanical: Mechanical Systems and Materials
  • Mechanical: Thermal and Fluids Systems
  • Metallurgical and Materials (new specifications and design standards for the 2015 exams)
  • Mining and Mineral Processing
  • Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering
  • Nuclear
  • Petroleum
  • Structural[5](with design standards for the 2015 exams)

Unlike the Fundamentals of Engineering Exam, outside reference sources are allowed for the PE Exam. The general rule is that any such materials must be in some sort of permanent binding (book, three-ring, spiral, etc.); loose papers and notes are prohibited. No writing tools or scratch paper may be brought in, and only calculators specifically approved by NCEES[6] may be used. Examinees are provided with mechanical pencils and may use the test booklet as scratch paper for solving problems.

Pass rates[edit]

The PE exam is a professional exam much like the examinations required for public accounting, law, and other professions for which protection of the public is of the utmost concern. Consequently exam candidates typically spend large amounts of time preparing for the exam.[7] Exam pass rates vary by discipline module and test date, for the April 2010 exam, the pass rates for first time test takers ranged from 85% (Naval Architecture) to 46% (Structural I). The pass rates for repeat test takers is considerably lower.[8]

October 2016 Exam

Exam First-Time Takers Repeat Takers
Volume Pass Rate Volume Pass Rate
PE Agricultural and Biological (April 2016) 29 72% 5 60%
PE Architectural (April 2016) 86 86% 6 33%
PE Chemical 296 71% 66 32%
PE Civil Construction 742 55% 708 29%
PE Civil Geotechnical 505 63% 295 27%
PE Civil Structural 1347 66% 590 43%
PE Civil Transportation 1421 68% 815 33%
PE Civil Water Resources and Environmental 1430 71% 613 35%
PE Control Systems 229 79% 49 45%
PE Electrical and Computer: Computer Engineering 21 62% 7 29%
PE Electrical and Computer: Electrical and Electronics 104 78% 43 60%
PE Electrical and Computer: Power 1003 66% 509 38%
PE Environmental 242 62% 114 37%
PE Fire Protection 148 64% 72 38%
PE Industrial and Systems (April 2016) 72 78% 15 13%
PE Mechanical HVAC and Refrigeration 495 83% 154 48%
PE Mechanical Mechanical Systems and Materials 553 73% 147 47%
PE Mechanical Thermal and Fluid Systems 643 73% 204 47%
PE Metallurgical and Materials 45 67% 7 57%
PE Mining and Mineral Processing 51 65% 11 27%
PE Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering (April 2016) 56 75% 10 10%
PE Nuclear 25 72% 10 70%
PE Petroleum 192 66% 55 40%
PE Software (April 2016) 9 56% 6 33%

See also[edit]


  1. ^ [1] About NCEES
  2. ^ NCEES Calculator Policy
  3. ^ [2] NCEES; Exam Schedule
  4. ^ [3] Exam formats
  5. ^ "NCEES: PE Exam". NCEES. National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying. Retrieved 17 November 2014. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  6. ^ "PE Exam Approved Calculators". Retrieved April 3, 2021.
  7. ^ [4] NCEES; Study Materials
  8. ^ [5] Recent Exam Pass Rates

External links[edit]