Principles and Practice of Engineering Examination

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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]

Exam format

Exams are offered twice a year, once in April and once in October.[2] Each of the discipline-specific PE Exams is eight hours long and consists of two 4-hour sessions administered in a single day with a lunch break. The exam consists of 80 multiple choice questions, the only exception being the essay style responses of the PE Structural II Exam. 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.[3]


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
  • 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
  • Nuclear
  • Petroleum
  • Software
  • Structural[4](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 may be used. Examinees are provided with mechanical pencils as the test booklet may be used for working problems.

Pass rates

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.[5] 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.[6]

April 2015 Exam

Exam First-Time Takers Repeat Takers
Volume Pass Rate Volume Pass Rate
PE Agricultural and Biological 24 79% 7 43%
PE Architectural 88 83% 12 42%
PE Chemical 215 69% 73 22%
PE Civil Construction 869 57% 754 24%
PE Civil Geotechnical 460 63% 283 22%
PE Civil Structural 1163 67% 339 23%
PE Civil Transportation 1112 66% 973 32%
PE Civil Water Resources and Environmental 1073 71% 550 34%
PE Environmental 222 64% 155 32%

See also


  1. [1] About NCEES
  2. [2] NCEES; Exam Schedule
  3. [3] Exam formats
  4. "NCEES: PE Exam". NCEES. National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying. Retrieved 17 November 2014. 
  5. [4] NCEES; Study Materials
  6. [5] Recent Exam Pass Rates

External links