What are my chances of passing the Civil PE Exam?
This article was last updated on June 1, 2021.
Gauging your preparedness for the NCEES Civil PE Exam can be difficult and stressful. The exam is a milestone in the career of Civil Engineers and the last many will take in their life. While taking measures to prepare is essential to build confidence in the examination, it is also important to understand how others have done on the exam in the past in order to set expectations for study time and results.
What are the past rates for each depth section of the Civil PE Exam?
The figure shown above tracks exam pass rates based on yearly data released by NCEES and provide a number of important takeaways:
- Structural Depth exam takers have trended lower over the past 7 years. We have no information on the cause for this trend but the intuitive assumption for any practicing structural engineer might be the increasing complexity of building codes.
- Water Resources Depth exam takers have consistently outperformed other examinees.
- Construction Depth exam takers tend to underperform other examinees. Again, given no data, an intuitive assumption might be that individuals taking the Construction Depth exam work in Construction Management or Construction Engineering - a segment of civil engineering that represents a massive range with niches that may not lend themselves to exam preperation.
How many people take the PE Civil Exam?
The figure shown provides insight into the number of exam takers over the past six years and also provides a number of key takeaways.
- The number of examinees for the Year 2020 dropped significantly due to exam cancelations brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. If trends stay consistent we can expect a jump in this curve to around the peak in 2018 based on the backlog of aspiring Professional Engineers.
- The number of examinees is trending upward year after year. Given the growing need for Civil Engineers along with a rise in online test preparation that accommodates the constrained schedule of working professionals, we can anticipate the license to be ubiquitous in the future engineering/construction workplace. Employers will no longer list the license as a preferred qualification and will slowly transition to make it required for mid-level roles across all subdisciplines.
How long do I have to study for the Civil PE Exam?
The number of hours required to study for the exam obviously varies from person to person. A recent Reddit poll on the r/PE_Exam subreddit gauged the amount of time studied based on several hundred individuals with the following results:
The figure reflects no set target one should aim for in terms of studying for the PE Exam, rather, it reflects a broad range of backgrounds, academic, and work experiences attempting the exam. Examinees should avoid feeling discouraged if it appears they are spending more or less time preparing for the exam than their peers.
Results and effort hours required vary among individuals, but a few things are clear:
- The prevalence of the PE license is on the rise and taking the exam remains a valuable investment in an engineer's future.
- Statistically, the majority of people who attempt the exam pass.
- The effort required for the exam varies widely, examinees should limit the amount they compare study time/effort to their peers.