The Principles and Practice of Engineering exam is the examination that is required to be passed before one can become a Professional Engineer (PE) in the United States. It is the second exam required after the Fundamentals of Engineering exam. Upon passing the PE exam and meeting other eligibility requirements such as education and experience that vary by State, an engineer is then eligible to be 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. PE exams are offered in the following engineering disciplines:
Metallurgical and Materials
Mining and Mineral
Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering
Exams are offered twice a year, once in April and once in October. Three disciplines offer a choice of concentration as of 2010, chiefly Civil(5), Mechanical(3), and Electrical and Computer (3).
Principles and Practice of Engineering exam format
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 or 100 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. 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, while the test booklet may be used for working problems.
Principles and Practice of Engineering exam 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. 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.