Frequently Asked Questions
How should I approach prep for the FE Exam?
For most, choosing a program for the FE Exam is like walking through the freezer section at your local market in search of dinner.
What initially comes across as convenient, ends up being over-processed, underwhelming and stale when you get it home and on to the table.
It’s not surprising then that so many individuals are struggling to pass the FE Exam.
This week, we get you out of that freezer section to a more nutrient-dense approach to preparing for the FE Exam.
Engineers around the world are coming out of academia and jumping right in to starting their careers – as they should.
But 5, 10, 15 years in they begin to feel the pressures of the bureaucratic red tape erected around them and the impact of not having their professional engineering license, or even EIT, has had on their professional progress.
Performance reviews come and go, yet one can’t help but notice those around them advancing much faster and in to positions they had always wanted and feel they deserve.
And this is what brings us to today’s honest discussion revolving around the very reality for many.
This past week, a student came to Prepineer seeking guidance and clarity on how they should go about getting prepared for the FE Exam.
But the discussion didn’t start on the typical exploration note, it was seeded in deep despair.
In this particular case, the question came in after a long days work, raw with emotion that was seeping through in it’s content.
These are the situations we at Prepineer are so passionate about because it’s at these points that the effort and guidance have real life impacts.
So with that, this is how it all started:
I am grateful to have a job, but after 9 years in this position, I continue to come out of my performance reviews more and more discouraged. I have been honestly taking their feedback each year and trying to apply it the best that I can, but it doesn’t seem to even matter.
I have seen 4 of my co-workers who were hired after me promoted in to positions that I have expressed an interest in – not to mention, they are all younger than me.
I hope this isn’t coming across as whiny, I just truly need change and I know not having passed the FE Exam is a major contributor to me stalling out. Only problem, I have been out of school for 12 years and don’t even know how to approach getting prepared.
I see a lot of mixed opinions all around, but consistently see that you have helped others and so I wanted to reach out and get your advice on how I should approach this exam based on my situation?
I do value your input and appreciate your time.
In many homes across the world, engineers are returning from work unfulfilled and wondering what is next.
They are tired, uninspired and looking for something to reinvigorate their spirit.
Maybe this is where you are today?
You know passing the FE Exam is something that you need to get done, but like many in your same shoes, you find yourself lost in the freezer aisle, searching for and joining FE Exam programs that are designed around pigeon holing you in to the old linear academic approach of preparing for an exam.
Only problem is, we are all outside academia – some 5, 10, 15+ years – and this just doesn’t work outside the academic context.
You see, academia provided much more to us than just theoretical learning.
It provided support, community, open discussion and challenge.
We had professors, academic advisors, peers and others who were able to step in when we needed that extra push – that bit of detail for better understanding.
Without these components in place we would have found ourselves floundering much of the time – yet, this is where many find themselves today.
They got the frozen dinner, brought it home and are now trying to figure out why it’s not tasting that good.
The are confused and spending hours spinning their wheels trying to understand concepts they “used to know”.
They are flustered and frustrated, many unfortunately chalking it up as if they “just don’t have what it takes”.
It shouldn’t be this way.
So let’s get at this question in this way:
How should I approach prep for the FE Exam?
At Prepineer, we’ve worked with so many talented engineers around the world who were at this point, on the brink of just letting go of their dreams and aspirations. What they didn’t realize is that it wasn’t that their potential was tapped out, it was just a matter of, first, recognizing the unique challenge of exam prep outside of academia and then, second, getting the right structure in place that would support them in the pursuit.
Our core program belief is that successful test prep goes far beyond just words written on a page.
It comes from strategically building a program around the unique needs of each individual student.
It comes from specializing in the details, tailoring every review, problem set, Cram Session and Calculator Training to ensure that no matter where the student is, that they are equipped and acquiring understanding fast without wasting time.
It comes from ensuring clarity on the path, providing confidence that they are on the right track to get it all done in the time they have.
It comes from holding one another accountable, coaching students with expert advice that encourages and motivates them to continue putting in the work despite the inevitable obstacles.
All these components are needed for a successful run, without one and the whole journey suffers.
Have them all, and you are humming a harmonic tune towards success on the day of your exam.
So that would be our leading advice to anyone about to start the journey of preparing for the FE Exam, or has attempted to start in the past and floundered.
Know that you can’t approach the FE Exam in the same way you approached exams in college.
Though conceptually, we are going to be executing on all those same theories we learned, we are doing this all outside the silent structure of the community and support we had in college.
So before you open a single page to review, be intentional in getting that structure established – in which, there are three components that are crucial, let’s touch on each.
One of the biggest pitfalls for any individual getting after the FE Exam is vision.
In college, we had a goal, a vision for where we were headed and we got after it with relentless pursuit.
A vision gives us a light at the end of the tunnel, establishing a tangible benefit that makes efforts much more palatable.
Problem is, post-academia, that vision is much harder to grasp without a defined path sketched out for us, and because of that, it’s hard to see, and adopt, what really are the possibilities after successfully getting it done.
Vision is likely the most common reason people don’t start their journey of becoming a registered Professional Engineer — and when they do, it’s the reason they fail to see it through.
It’s human nature to fear what is unknown.
It’s human nature to shy away from doing things that we don’t see anyone else doing.
And if you don’t know any successful Professional Engineers, going down this road in becoming one is completely uncharted territory.
If you don’t really believe it’s ever going to happen, then why would you start in the first place?
If you don’t really believe that it will make an impact on your overall value to the market, why would you try and push through the resistance that you are sure to feel once you are going down the road.
Look, if you never associate with PEs, you don’t know their mindset, how they managed to get to where they are in their careers, or what kinds of actions they take every day.
You have nothing to model your own behavior on.
In Engineering, we are all about modeling, so…
What are you basing your model on?
The most common answer is – *crickets*.
In college we had peers and upperclassmen who modeled the everyday efforts of what it took to get to that end goal of a diploma in hand…but where are those models today?
If the *crickets* are continuing to resonate, here’s what you need to do.
Find other engineers who have taken on this journey and represent that which you want to be – and do your best to spend as much time around these individuals as you can.
If you want to increase your probability of success and energy to drive towards your goals, associate with people who have those things now.
Success can be Contagious, get out and put yourself somewhere you can be infected.
There aren’t many out there that can operate efficiently in the dark all by themselves.
Most of us, including myself, need to tap in to the power of accountability to make things happen.
You see when we put ourselves out there, we subconsciously feel that other people have expectations…this feeling can be an instigator in taking action if we capture it just right.
So move to put in to place an accountability structure by getting out there and finding other engineers who are going after this exam at the same time that you are.
Heck, they don’t even need to be engineers, just other individuals you know that are tackling personal growth and progress in their own lives.
Meet regularly, in person, over Zoom, email, text or whatever.
Each week, commit to a specific Next Action — then let your accountability partners know about that commitment.
It really doesn’t matter how big or how small the actions are, what is important is that you are leveraging the powerful nature of accountability.
When others are looking to you for results, you step up, you stay the course, you execute.
If you are in a need of a community of engineers getting it done, come join our private Facebook community, doer’s only.
We lack mentors, not often by choice, but that’s just life.
Because of this, we buy into a false narrative that progress towards a certain goal is linear; that’s just what we see – an event (the success) but not the process (the struggles and effort it took to get there).
No one who has found success has found it traveling a linear path, no one – zilch.
Anything as challenging as becoming a registered engineer has hiccups, dead ends, and false starts.
So plan for that.
Don’t think that because your current circumstance doesn’t line up with how you initially envisioned things would be, that you are off track in reaching your goal.
Be consistent and stay focused on that goal, but be willing to allow flexibility in the ways that you get there.
I know when I was preparing for both the FE and PE, I had great Plan A’s that were quickly route with potholes.
I needed guidance, I needed direction, I needed encouragement – but found myself spinning my wheels without having anyone in place that could step in and provide the words of wisdom I needed to hear.
Do you have someone you can ask for advice?
Someone who you can turn to when you are feeling discouraged and know that they will help you set that sail back straight by speaking some encouraging words in to your life?
If not, get one in place – those ups and downs are going to feel much more manageable with someone co-piloting the journey alongside you.
So what’s all this to say?
We become licensed engineers through the process of examination.
But as far as exams are concerned, taking this set of exams comes in a very different stage of life.
So today, we challenge you to slow down and consider how you are approaching exam prep.
Everyone knows that they need to use some method to get prepared adequately, but I see pursuing method without consideration for the reality of exam prep post-academia is the root to many of the struggles students who come to us after multiple failed attempts are having.
If you want to play it safe and feel like you are doing the right thing, then don’t overthink your direction.
Walk down that freezer aisle and just grab one of the big name dinners (programs), because at the end of the day, you are going to feed your belly, you are going to get something, and sometimes, that’s just fine.
But for a moment, consider this.
The freezer aisle is stocked with meals for the masses.
There isn’t necessarily a focus on special nutrition or quality of product, just efficiency in manufacturing, production and distribution – the bar is set at “simple consumption”.
But maybe you do need a bit more – most do.
Maybe you do need organic, or gluten free, or sugar free – in this case maybe you need to skip the freezer aisle and walk to the area where these specialty meals are produced. Meals where the chefs and artisans are creating not only nutritious options, but are concerned with your overall well being.
Just maybe that is the aisle you should be walking down as you navigate this road of preparing for the FE Exam.
An aisle that prioritizes the structure of pursuit as much as the execution knowing that a well thought out, well rounded approach is more likely to serve the individual far past just a moment in time.
So be intentional, take to heart what I have outlined in this guide.
Identify where you are falling short and move to put into place the components to work in your own life.
The more structure you have, the more positive momentum you can build, and the less operating post-academia will have you wondering why you aren’t making progress.
Start small, develop positive habits, and collaborate with a community of action takers, mentors and others that will hold you to driving towards personal and professional growth.
You’ll be amazed at how small, consistent progress in the secondary structural components can develop into great things.
You got this, we are here to help.
As always, with love, Prepineer