How to get a FE Exam Quick Win...Today (A Step by Step Tutorial)
One of the most common statements I hear from a student just beginning their studies for the FE Exam is this:
“With all the material that is covered on this exam, how do I even get started?”
This was a huge road block for me…
I was just flat out confused as to where to start, overwhelmed with a fear of failure, and not confident in what or how I needed to study.
Because of this, I was not taking action…and that’s what you have to do today…take intentional action.
Instead of controlling the situation myself, the situation was controlling me.
I was overwhelmed, and the residual affects of this mindset was spinning me in to a perpetual state of doing absolutely nothing.
This was a dark and frustrating time for me, but I want to share a strategy that worked for me and the students we work with everyday at Prepineer.
Let’s face it, you are only eligible to take the FE Exam so many times in any single testing period…if you allow overwhelm to drive your direction, it will keep you stuck in the same place for years, or even decades.
It's time for ACTION
Like almost everything else in life, you’ll get most of your results from just a few key actions (Pareto’s Law), which tells us 20% of our efforts will lead to 80% of our results.
Learn those actions, refine the use of them, and you’re golden.
Can you spend the rest of your career perfecting your discipline? Can you add refinement after refinement to keep growing beyond your original goals?
Absolutely. Lots of people do. But here’s the deal…you have to get moving first.
Successfully preparing for this exam is done one micro step at a time. If you never get moving, you’ll definitely never get there.
So what you need is a “Quick Win”
Whenever we start on a journey, regardless of what it is, we need to establish a Quick Win to help build our morale and give us a sense of achievement and enhanced momentum towards our ultimate goal.
Today we are going to go step by step Quick Win framework that will focus you in on the 20% of the subjects that will provide you 80% of your results and momentum throughout your studies…and going in to the day of the exam.
This framework won’t only get you started, but will speed up your studies and make them far more efficient along the way.
Here’s the framework:
NOTE: One quick note before we go through this framework is that it is strictly developed to help you get moving. I am not telling you that you don’t need to brush up on all the subjects for your specific discipline, I am saying that you can make huge progress forward by focusing on a few subjects that are going to get you the most results come exam day.
So what we will do is go step by step through this framework, illustrating what it would look like as a Civil Engineering Student. This process can be replicated step by step for any other discipline without alteration.
Step one is to visit the NCEES website and view the specifications for your discipline.
Next we get a piece of paper and draw a line down the center:
Write down all the subjects as they appear on the Civil spec on the left side of the paper along with the number of potential problems per subject.
At the bottom of the left column, write out the number of total subjects, which is 16:
Multiple this by .2…16 x .2 = 3.2 round up to 4 because we can’t study a partial subject:
The next step is to set our goal for how many problems we want to get correct on the exam.
So let’s set our goal of getting 70% of the problems correct on the exam. This is just our “Quick Win” getting started point….we will be working far pass this number to ensure we are adequately prepared…but our goal right now is to get our Quick Win.
We will set our Quick Win goal at 70%, or 77 problems correct…this is a starting point, and we can continue to prepare to exceed this from here.
NOTE: There is no set passing percentage, the NCEES sets this pass/fail line test by test based off a statistical measure of a control group who takes each exam prior to it being given.
But let’s move on with our 70% goal.
Paretos law tells us that 20% of these subject in the left column are going to bring us 80% of our results, so our mission now is to determine what 20% of these topics are best to start with?
There are a total of 16 topics, 6 of which have a high range of 10+ potential problems on the exam…
So for step 7…let’s start with these:
The top 3 topics have the potential to represent 38 of the 77 problems we are aiming to get right on the exam…that’s potentially 49% of your goal right there.
Let’s pick one more topic out of the 3 we have remaining.
Looking at the first 5 subject areas of the Civil specification as well as the range of questions for each, we see that up to 23 problems are directly related to Math (Math, Probability and Statistics, and Engineering Economics).
So am I saying to throw Math in to the mix as the fourth topic to focus on?
Well how many of the other subjects involve Math? Let’s take a look…
The final 10 subject areas of the exam are the topics of Statics, Dynamics, Mechanics of Materials, Materials, Fluid Mechanics, Structural Analysis, Structural Design, Environmental Engineering, Construction, and Surveying
How many do you feel have elements of Math…I would suggest that 100% have some sort of Math included.
So yes, I would say proportionally speaking, although Math as a topic makes up a potential 11 problems on the exam, it remains the foundation of every other topic you will encounter, making it a huge win.
Excluding any of the problems from the other subjects, add these 11 problems towards our goal, we now have a potential 49 problems of the 77 that we are aiming for.
So now we have 20% of the subjects identified that will get us 80% of the way towards our goal.
But, you may be saying to yourself, 49 problems is only 65% of the way there…
You are right, but we haven’t taken in to account our “Giveaway subjects”.
For the Civil Engineering spec, I suggest Computational Tools and Ethics as Giveaway subjects:
These giveaway subjects have the potential to represent 12 of the 77 problems we are aiming to get correct on the exam.
Add that on to the 49 we already have, and now we are looking at a potential 61 problems of the 77 we are looking to conquer…79% of our goal.
So the lesson here is, STOP STRESSING…you don’t need to stress about studying ALL the subjects right now. Focus on the 20% NOW, the quick wins, that will get you 80% of the way there.
Whatever the subjects end up being for you, focus on those for the next few weeks to a month. Master them, run through practice problems until your eyes bleed. live them, love them….they are going to set you on the fast track to passing this exam.
And it’s a heck of a lot less stressful and more manageable to focus on a small handful of subjects rather than looking at all 16, right?
It’s going to inch you forward, closer to your goal…that’s the first win…a Quick Win.
But where do you Start?
The material that makes up these subjects is huge, yes, They can be intimidating subjects, yes,
But we know this, and it is precisely why we developed the material deployment tools in our FE Exam program Prepineer…to reduce overwhelm and keep you on pace moving forward.
Bottom line, at the end of the day, whatever method you choose to use to get your “quick win”, You need to start small. Very small, one subject at a time, from the basics and build on it until eventually (faster than you may think) you will have the subjects dominated.
We’ve built Prepineer to do this for you. If you are in need of a turnkey program that performs for you, click here.