Tips to Pass the FE Civil Exam

Do you want to grow your career in the field of engineering? If you do, then the FE exam or Fundamentals of engineering examination is one of the first steps towards becoming a licensed professional engineer. The exam stretches over 6 hours and consists of 110 questions that cover a wide range of topics related to civil engineering.

In some cases, you would be required to take the FE exam while you are still in school, whereas for some, you might have to undertake this exam to enhance your career. On passing the Fundamentals of Engineering examination, you receive the title of EIT or Engineer-in-Training. If you are at an entry-level job, you need to have an EIT certification. In this article, we help you with some simple yet effective tricks to help you pass the FE Civil exam. Before digging further, let’’s have a look at the FE Civil exam.

About FE Civil exam

The Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) examination is usually the first step in the process of becoming a certified qualified engineer (PE). It is designed for recent graduates and students who are close to completing an EAC / ABET-accredited undergraduate engineering degree. The FE exam is a computer-based exam conducted year-round at Pearson VUE research centers that are accredited by NCEES.

The Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) examination is usually the first step in the process of becoming a certified qualified engineer (PE). It is designed for recent graduates and students who are close to completing an EAC / ABET-accredited undergraduate engineering degree. The FE exam is a computer-based exam conducted year-round at Pearson VUE research centers that are accredited by NCEES.

 Fundamentals of engineering examination, FE Civil Exam

Top 8 Tips to Pass the FE Civil Exam

Review the FE Reference Handbook:                    

NCEES tells you everything that is going to be on the exam in this handbook. The reference handbook can be downloaded for free from the official website. It lists 18 separate areas of topics and the number of questions you can expect per topic in the exam. You do not need to memorize the questions in this handbook, instead consider it as a general guide. Knowing the format of the handbook will help you save time in searching through it on the day of the exam.

Ensure to Get a Copy of the NCEES FE Exam Formula Book:

Now that you have access to the handbook, you would see that it includes a lot of math problems. So it’s better that you get a copy of the NCEES Formula book. You can find this on the official website and download it for free. This book consists of virtually every formula that will prove helpful to you. Once you get a copy of this book, you must make yourself familiar with the layout of the formulas and how it is used. Doing this exercise helps you save time in the exam as you would very well know what pages the formula that you need are on and do not need to waste time flipping through.

Additionally, these formulas will be of great use to you. If you are attending lectures to prepare for FE civil exams, many professors use this formula book to set tests and quizzes. Similarly, if you take up online practice tests, you can make use of this formula book and have real-time experience. So first, make sure that you understand a concept. Once you are confident about that, focus on how to use that concept into a calculation and which formula is to be used from the book.

Brush up on General Math Skills:

All of the Fundamentals of Engineering examination, including that of Civil Engineering, test your math skills. Some of these concepts include analytic geometry, roots of equations, calculus, differential equations, probability distributions, regression, and so much more. Additionally, you will be permitted calculators like Casio FX-115 models, HP 33 and 35 models, TI-30x, and 36x models. So get these calculators and try to get a good grasp on the functionalities. This will help you save a lot of time in the exam.

Purchase Practice Tests:

Practice tests are a great way to gauge your understanding of topics and areas of improvement. However, there are not many high-quality practice tests for FE Civil exams for free. You can easily access and purchase these practice tests from the NCEES official website. These practice tests are priced at $29.95 each and consist of 100 questions along with the solution set. It might seem a little pricey, but if you are serious about passing the Fundamentals of Engineering exam and earning a professional engineering license, then this can prove to be a great study tool. When you purchase a practice test, you can get a fair idea of how well-prepared you are and still have enough time to work on topics that require improvement.

Find the Right Books and Online Resources:

Once you start searching for books, you will find that there are dozens of recommendations and more books with various editions out there. If you get lost and confused, here is what you can do. Find the three best books that you can, keep it simple, and stick to minimalism. The most popular and widely used books are the Micheal Lindeburg series by PPI and Brightwood, formerly known as Kaplan. Some of the other paid platforms include –

  • Testmasters priced at $550 per student with self-paced classes: The FE-CBT Civil Exam Test Prep Course for Testmasters is designed for students who have been out of school for some time. We realize that from college you may not have practiced many of the subjects covered at the exam. Our goal is to give you a concise, detailed, and organized overview of the key topics required to pass the test, and we use our workshop sessions to ensure that you are having the experience of implementing these topics in an atmosphere that solves problems.
  • Prepineer, a part of EITE priced at $250 per month with self-paced classes: You will learn everything you need to know in order to pass the FE Exam now in this comprehensive course developed in line with the most current NCEES specifications.
  • Brightwood (mentioned above) priced at $800 with self-paced classes: This textbook offers a concentrated overview of the principles, expressions, calculations, and analytical techniques applicable to the computer-based FE / EIT Civil Engineering test. This book includes solved examples and chapter problems, in addition to conceptual review.

If you are on a very tight budget, you can find many free and low-cost online resources as well as courses that would also cover all the topics and offer additional free resources for practice. In fact, you can also find PDFs to these resources and make the most of it. Some platforms that offer free courses on FE civil are –

  • Coursera
  • Marshall University YouTube channel with 16 hours of instructions and self-paced video course
  • The Texas A&M University YouTube channel with over 45 videos
  • EITE YouTube channel with more than 85 videos and calculator tutorials
  • Daily FE Exam YouTube channel with 34 videos

Pairing With a Study Buddy:

Another great way to stay focused is to find someone who is studying for the exams at the same time. Pairing yourself with a friend or a group, you will be able to stay on track, eliminate distractions, and learn from mistakes. When you are in a group, you are accountable to not only yourself but also your peers. This will help you stay motivated even when you are down and help you follow a routine. Additionally, you will also be in the company of those who understand the coursework and can help you in the event that you face challenges. The best way to study with peers is to set certain ground rules. You can also work with your group to decide the topics to study each day. In fact, you can even take the FE practice exams together and review them with another one another.

Apart from just studying together, you can even vent out your frustration and stress and find positive ways to focus that energy on productively practicing. With study buddies, you have the benefits of using active study strategies. In other words, you are in the company of those who can help create a concept map, teach one another, outline the different notes and lectures they have access to, and together accumulate more study material than you could have if you were to study alone. When you study in groups, you can use various effective strategies and resources that enhance your knowledge and help you prepare with confidence for the exam.

Try the ABC Approach:

Once you start taking the practice tests, you can take the ABC approach. This approach helps you calculate your approximate test score. The base score to pass the FE exam is 60%. So with that score in mind, let’s run through a small example. When you appear for practice tests, the final results that you get will be a tabular format divided into three columns – A, B, and C.

There are 110 questions in all, and so you can easily find the high and low percentage by dividing the range by 110. Let’s say that in column A you scored 36.4% which was 85% correct for which the value is (34.9% x 85%) 30.9%, for B column the value is (39.1% x 60% correctly answered) 23.5% and for column C the value is (24.5% x 25% correctly answered) 6.1%. When you summarize these values you get (30.9% + 23.5% + 6.1%) 60.5% which is higher than the pass percentage of 60%. This might not always be the case, but this is a great approach to plan your exam strategy.

Don’t Aim at Achieving Perfection:

If you read through the NCEES website carefully, you will notice that they have not really published official passing scores. However, historically the passing scores have been around 50 percent. This trend might not have changed much over the years, but it is safe to say that 60 percent will easily get you through. Even with the Computer-Based Testing format or CBT, this calculation would not have changed to a great extent. You need not stress to learn as much of the content as possible. If you stress as such, you are not focused on the test.

Rather, try to strengthen your energy on focusing on the subject that is your strength and work on areas that need improvement. If you want to make the most of your time, you need to define which problem questions are worth solving and which should not. To figure this out, you must prioritize the topics that are your strongest suit and aim to get the most answers right. Similarly, determine the subjects that you are weak in and aim to solve the basics. This simple tactic helps you make the most of the time at hand in the exam.


Passing the Fundamentals of Engineering Civil exam is a must! Don’t let the fear of exams intimidate you. Keep practicing as many problems as possible. These will give you an idea of how effective your study strategies are and will help you familiarize yourself with the way the exam works. But remember to rest.

Grab the right resource, have the right attitude and get practicing. Passing the FE Civil exam is not that difficult. What matters is hard work, disciple, and smart work. So head over to the NCEES website and download all required practice papers, reference books, notes, sample papers, essay examples, and notes that you need today!

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