Ever since my surgery, I haven’t really been exercising. I not only had to recovery physically, but I also had the an important exam to take-my Professional Engineer (PE) licensing exam. So most of my time was with my nose buried in the books.
Once you have your engineering license, you can stamp drawings and become accountable for that design. Ultimately, if there are problems, you will be the one who is contacted. But that wasn’t my main reason for taking the exam.
One of my work goals is to become more technical and gain more experience with the engineering design. My first couple of years working were focused on Building Information Modeling (BIM) and integrating it into my work’s practice-not being technical with engineering. Studying for this exam allowed me to brush up on the engineering basics and also learn more about the in depth HVAC engineering that I haven’t had a chance to experience yet at work.
I wanted to make sure that it was recognized that not all engineers need their PE to have responsibility and be technical. Those who are in research are most likely not going to need one. Also, depending on how you got to where you are, it might not make sense. If you already have so many years experience-you already have built up your knowledge base and may even be in a more business development or project management role where the PE is not necessary.
For me-it just made sense. I have the information more fresh in my mind since it is only a year past my initial eligibility date (you need to pass the Fundamentals of Engineering exam and then have 4 years experience) and I have a boyfriend who is getting his PhD and has a ton of work to do. I might as well study while he is doing work!
What is the exam like?
The PE is an open book, 8 hour exam. The first 4 hours focused on general engineering and the second half on a more specialized topic (for me it was HVAC). Or if you are a structural engineer, you have TWO days of all structural engineering testing. That sounds terrible, but I am glad the people who stamp drawings for building structures and bridges to have both their belts and suspenders on!
Now-I said this exam was open book. So the first thing that may come to your mind is that it is easy. Contrary to this belief, I think it is actually more difficult. You can bring in a gazillion books, but if you aren’t familiar with them or know you stuff-they are useless. This is a timed exam so if you don’t know how to do the problems, you can waste all your time trying to figure out how to do it. Another point is that engineering requires so many different equations, charts and references, so open book just makes sense. Knowing where and how to find the information is also part of the challenge. Here’s what was in my suitcase…
I used almost every source I had and knew them very well. If I didn’t know my sources well, then I would have wasted a lot of time. The guy next to me was wasting a lot of time and also kind of frustrating to sit next to. He was encroaching on my space and was huffing and puffing a lot. Very distracting. If there is a next time, I will bring in ear plugs as they suggest. Not going to lie…I flipped my book open right on his stuff because he was using so much of my space. I think he got the message though because he moved over 🙂
There are a lot of people who pass the first time but there are also a lot who don’t. Reading a lot on the forums (…I know I think I got way dorkier during this experience…), there are actually a decent amount of people who have had to take the exam 3 times to pass! Now that’s persistence! A lot of the people I met at the exam were taking it for their second time and even told me they had a coworker take it FOUR times. This made me feel a little more okay about if I don’t pass it the first time.
I also know that studying for this has helped me learn a lot technically and about myself in general. I like learning the technical background behind how something works even if it takes me longer than someone who it might come more naturally for.
Soooo? How did it go?
After spending countless hours studying before work, during lunch, after work, on the weekends and even taking vacation days for it, I took this darn exam.
I remained fairly calm. I took the technique suggested by my coworkers to attack problems I know to get my motors running. I didn’t dwell on problems I knew would take a long time until the end. But I don’t know if I passed. The exam answers are designed to have answers built off of common mistakes people will make with each problem. I know that I probably fell for some of these. However, there could be a chance that I just squeaked by. The test, though scantron, goes through an extensive grading process and the scores are on a curve. I won’t find out until December-ish. Hopefully I have a great early Christmas present and find out I passed!
So what’s next?
RELAXING!!! And focusing on catching up with friends, work, and getting back in shape and the BLOG world!
Dave is pretty excited I am done with my exam. One weekend he even told me, “I would rather you talk about running or barre all the time instead of how you tabbed your reference books and about a psycho chart (psychrometric, but nicknamed the psycho chart)”.
Dave-be careful what you wish for! 😉