To become a licensed professional engineer, you need to pass the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam. You can appear for the mechanical FE exam after completing the undergraduate engineering degree that generally lasts for four years. Passing the FE exam is not difficult if you understand the essential aspects of the examination. Before going into the details of how to pass the FE exam; you need to be thorough with the exam pattern to strategize a plan.
FE exam pattern
- The mode of exam is CBT or Computer Based Test, and electronic reference is allowed.
- In the exam, the questions use both SI units and the US Customary System units.
- A total of 110 questions will be asked during the exam.
- The exam duration is 6 hours, out of which the initial 2 minutes are for the nondisclosure agreement;, 8 minutes for the tutorial, 320 minutes for the exam, and 25 minutes for intermittent breaks.
The NCEES conducts the exam throughout the year and charges a fee of $175 for appearing for the test. With the high exam fee, you need to make sure that you pass the exam in the first attempt. Now that you know the exam pattern, the next important step is to analyze the exam syllabus. That depends on the course you are applying for. Usually, most applications for the FE exam are from mechanical engineering students.
Mechanical FE exam
The overall pass percentage of the FE mechanical exam is around 79%. So, that suggests it is possible to pass the exam in the first attempt if you plan correctly. The first step is to collect reading materials and exam guides. Once you decide that you have to pass the examination, you need to collect the materials that you will read. Here are some materials that will give you the edge in the mechanical FE exam.
NCEES Exam specifications book
The NCEES exam specifications book outlines the guidelines and specifications of the FE exam. Your FE exam prep should start from this book as it lists all the topics required for the examination. So, you have to prepare for only those topics that are listed in the book. After going through this book, you will get an idea of the questions and the syllabus.
Reference Handbook for NCEES FE exam
You can download the free PDF version of this book; by visiting the official website of NCEES and creating an account. It is a useful handbook as it lists all the theories and equations in one place; making it easier for you to prepare for the exam. The book also includes graphs and charts to give a visual representation of the equations.
NCEES practice exam questions
It is the best book for practicing your knowledge. As NCEES prepares the test questions, they are up to date and relevant from an examination point of view. Solving the questions will instill confidence in you and also prepare you for the exam.
How to prepare for the Mechanical FE exam?
Your preparation should start by strategizing and creating a solid plan. If you want to pass the examination in the first attempt, you have to create a study plan. Unlike the general belief; you don’t need to spend hours mugging up the theories and equations to pass the FE exam. All you need is a detailed study plan.
The first step in your FE exam prep would be to decide; how much time you are going to devote to each topic. Moreover, you can set aside anything between 40 to 80 hours for the examination. Also, you can take the exam after graduating, the topics would be fresh in your mind.
- If you start preparing immediately after your final year exams: a minimum of 8 hours of reading will suffice.
- If you are a fresher: Eight hours of study is the minimum requirement.
- And if you have taken a gap: Revise all the concepts before starting again. Set aside 40-50 hours for revision.
Which areas should you focus on?
You need to answer 70-75% of the questions correctly. The minimum passing score is around 55%; but you need to score more than that to increase your chances of a successful career. The ethics section requires light reading, but you cannot ignore it altogether. Some people practice mathematics more than other concepts, but that is the wrong approach. The questions on mathematics and economics are essential; and you need to practice a few questions to get the hang of it.
Sections need to cover for Mechanical FE exam
Here are some of the steep sections that you need to cover.
Statics – 9 to 14 questions
Equilibrium of rigid bodies, the moment of inertia, and force systems are some of the important topics under this section. Practice FBD or Free Body Diagrams to solve force-based questions quickly. Memorize and apply some fundamental equations like F=ma, KE= ½ mv2, and Friction= µsN. Also, in the equilibrium questions; try to equalize all the forces by creating FBDs and thinking of possible ways to derive equations.
Dynamics – 10 to 15 questions
The dynamics, vibrations, and kinematics form a separate section in the FE exam prep syllabus. Kinematics can take a lot of time, so prepare for it in advance. Newton’s law for rigid bodies is very important for the exam; and most of the questions will be asked from that area. Also, the impulse-momentum for rigid bodies requires special attention as the questions can be tricky from that segment.
Mechanics – 9 to 14 questions
Practice maximum questions on shear, stress, and strain caused by different loads. So, understand the mechanics of axial, bending, and torsional loads to derive equations from them. Some questions can have combined loads, so practice those questions as well. Deformations and elasticity of materials is an important topic that you need to practice well.
Fluid dynamics – 10 to 15 questions
Memorize all the laws and theorems to implement them in the exam. Also, internal and external flow, along with isentropic flow relationships, make up a significant number of questions in the exam. Analyze performance curves to predict the answers to the questions. ‘Fluid properties’ is an important topic, and you can expect significant questions from it.
Thermodynamics – 10 to 15 questions
Your FE exam prep would be incomplete without practicing questions on thermodynamics. Understand the laws of thermodynamics and how to apply them in the exam. Power cycles, heat pump cycles, and refrigeration equations also carry a lot of importance. Students often ignore the psychometrics section, but that is where you can score more.
Mechanical design – 10 to 15 questions
The analysis is an integral part of the mechanical design segment. A lot of questions are from failure theories and analysis, so practice questions from that area. Geometric dimensions and drawings are also a significant part of this segment.
The mechanical FE exam allows the use of calculators. Although high-end calculators are not allowed, you can still use the basic calculators. Practice sample questions and devote time for studies to ace the exam in the first go.