Any engineers? Studying for Civil-Structural PE

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jf89
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Any engineers? Studying for Civil-Structural PE

Post by jf89 » Wed Jul 30, 2014 6:03 am

I'm not sure what kind of response I'll get here, but we'll give it a go.

I'm a structural engineer studying for the PE in the Fall and just trying to figure out which references are worth having and which are a waste of money. I've tried posting this on my go-to engineering forum as well, but they're normally not so good with non-technical questions.

1) Structural Reference: I've gotten mixed advice/reviews on PPI's Structural Depth Reference Manual (SDRM) for the afternoon session (CERM will be purchased along with the codes). Any thoughts here? While looking at it, it seems as though PPI's Structural Engineering Reference Manual (SERM) is certainly more complete and twice the size, as it's designed for the SE, and is only $10 more. I'm considering getting that instead of the SDRM (if at all), but worried that the format, codes, and depth of the SERM may be more trouble than it's worth for studying and using as a test-day reference.

2) Steel Manual: I've currently got the 3rd LRFD edition of the Steel Manual (that's the last one before they started the "combined" versions at 13). NCEES requires the 13th edition. The most recent is the 14th, which has been out for 3 years now. I'd like to buy a new Manual for work to replace my older edition as well, so I'm trying to kill two birds here. Will a more updated 14th edition give me the "wrong" answers on test day? Do you think if I buy the 13th edition and either have to wait until April to sit or don't pass and have to sit again in April (knocks on wood), they'll change the reference to the 14th edition for next year? Will any of this really end up mattering? Anyone out there in favor of using the 3rd edition for the test then buying the 15th edition whenever that comes out in the next few years? Other options?

Any help would be very much appreciated.
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nukewerker
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Re: Any engineers? Studying for Civil-Structural PE

Post by nukewerker » Wed Jul 30, 2014 6:26 am

You are in luck I took this in 2011 and passed on what was my 2nd try. My high level thoughts; if you want to pass the first try and not fool around with it. Take the PPI review class, I know its expensive. Get the civil structural kit from PPI. The SDRM and CERM are most of what I used. Don't study, work problems with your references. Studying for this test is like trying to memorize the phone book you are much better off taking the review course which forces you to study by watching the class what you absolutely have to know. Oh and know how to do transportation vertical and horizontal curves. There are 5 or 6 of these on almost every test in various forms-easy if you know how to do them. I like the NCEES sample tests/review books. But dont work those problems right away. By the time you are done, you should be able to work the problems in the NCEES book almost without a calculator and without paper.

I would get the 13th ed steel manual. There are problems on the test, i.e. beam/column sizing which are 2 min lookups if you have the 13th ed and 30 min problems if you don't. The 14th in general will get you the same answers as far as I know but why risk it. I think I picked up a 13th on ebay for $100.
Good Luck!

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Re: Any engineers? Studying for Civil-Structural PE

Post by cheesepep » Wed Jul 30, 2014 7:06 am

I passed the EE PE on my first time. I didn't attend any classes. I got the PDF which have the overview of the test and bought the official EE book. I then made semi-sloppy notes of every chapter according to the PDF of importance, then I hired a college person to rewrite all of my notes for $100 or $200, I forgot.

I ended up not using any of the notes on the exam. For the questions, I did not know, I used the index of their given book and found the proper equation and solved. For antenna related problems, which I had no idea what to do, I did educated guesses on all of them and applying basic triangle and distance formulas and surprisingly got a very similar answer almost every time.

It took me three hours for each part of them exam for six hours total of an eight hour exam.

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Re: Any engineers? Studying for Civil-Structural PE

Post by nukewerker » Wed Jul 30, 2014 7:45 am

While I commend you on passing the EE PE the first time, Its not the same as the Civil/Structural PE exam. If you look at the volume of references for all the disciplines taking the exam, the civil structural guys are the ones with the suitcases, not because they are over zealous but because there are that many condes/references covered on the exam. The timber NDS code alone is 4 volumes, bridge manual is 700 pages, then you have the building code, masonry, steel, concrete, prestress, transportation, geotech, environmental and hydraulics. The cerm helps reduce the volume of references. Don't get me wrong I am sure there are people out there who pass the first try with no references, that doesn't mean its a good idea. My approach for the first time I took the test was to do the 50 or so problems in the NCEES book. That didn't work out well. The second time I probably did 5 or 600 problems and honestly felt like I got all the answers correct.

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Re: Any engineers? Studying for Civil-Structural PE

Post by laughlinlvr » Wed Jul 30, 2014 7:58 am

Very happy to read that there are other civil/structural engineers on this forum.
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Re: Any engineers? Studying for Civil-Structural PE

Post by user5027 » Wed Jul 30, 2014 8:16 am

nukewerker wrote: If you look at the volume of references for all the disciplines taking the exam, the civil structural guys are the ones with the suitcases, not because they are over zealous but because there are that many condes/references covered on the exam.
You always new the Saturday the PE exam was being given on campus. There was a line of people going into the building lugging suitcases and pushcarts stacked with milk crates full of text books.

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Re: Any engineers? Studying for Civil-Structural PE

Post by dbCooperAir » Wed Jul 30, 2014 9:46 am

laughlinlvr wrote:Very happy to read that there are other civil/structural engineers on this forum.
2nd, just don't forget us lonely MEP folks who may need to run a pipe thru the building. No complaining when we toss a 10,000# chiller on your wood roof either :happy

Good luck with the PE, this is the one field I know we need more people from civil/structural to MEP. Its a field that has its ups and downs but its been a lot of fun for the past 25 years for me anyway.
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Re: Any engineers? Studying for Civil-Structural PE

Post by Boomer01 » Wed Jul 30, 2014 9:50 am

I passed the civil/transportation PE, but it took two times. What helped me the most from the first to second time was practice problems. I worried less about marking/memorizing the material in the reference books and worked as many problems as I could get my hands on. Good luck!

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Re: Any engineers? Studying for Civil-Structural PE

Post by shaboob » Wed Jul 30, 2014 11:51 am

Passed Mechanical first try. Brought a suitcase of books. Onlys used Lindberg on the test. He writes a Civil book too.
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jf89
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Re: Any engineers? Studying for Civil-Structural PE

Post by jf89 » Wed Jul 30, 2014 6:22 pm

Thanks everyone for your two cents.
nukewerker wrote:You are in luck I took this in 2011 and passed on what was my 2nd try. My high level thoughts; if you want to pass the first try and not fool around with it. Take the PPI review class, I know its expensive. Get the civil structural kit from PPI. The SDRM and CERM are most of what I used. Don't study, work problems with your references. Studying for this test is like trying to memorize the phone book you are much better off taking the review course which forces you to study by watching the class what you absolutely have to know. Oh and know how to do transportation vertical and horizontal curves. There are 5 or 6 of these on almost every test in various forms-easy if you know how to do them. I like the NCEES sample tests/review books. But dont work those problems right away. By the time you are done, you should be able to work the problems in the NCEES book almost without a calculator and without paper.

I would get the 13th ed steel manual. There are problems on the test, i.e. beam/column sizing which are 2 min lookups if you have the 13th ed and 30 min problems if you don't. The 14th in general will get you the same answers as far as I know but why risk it. I think I picked up a 13th on ebay for $100.
Good Luck!
nukewerker:
I actually just secured a 13th Edition Steel Manual to borrow at work today, so question number two is at least decided for the exam... now it's just whether I want to wait for 15 whenever that comes out. I think I'll do that.

Every other person I've spoken with says the PPI structural kit (priced at $709 with 9 books and covering only about 60% of the exam, for those of you following along at home) is a waste of money. What exactly is in the Concrete, Timber, Steel, and Bridge Design books in that set? It was my understanding that they were just problems with small sections of explanation that I could get from the CERM and SDRM. Do they dive into the codes a bit more?
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Re: Any engineers? Studying for Civil-Structural PE

Post by MikeWillRetire » Wed Jul 30, 2014 6:37 pm

Wish I could help, but I took that test 25 years ago, when the test was still done by hand!

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Re: Any engineers? Studying for Civil-Structural PE

Post by LadyGeek » Wed Jul 30, 2014 7:10 pm

This thread is now in the Personal Consumer Issues forum (reference texts).

Sorry, my background is electrical (now "electronic").
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Re: Any engineers? Studying for Civil-Structural PE

Post by nukewerker » Wed Jul 30, 2014 7:35 pm

One of the best parts of the kit is the books provided are thin concise books instead of the all inclusive CERM. The timber you could probably skip as the NDS example book that comes with the code is pretty good. The bridge one was worth 1 or 2 easy answers and you avoid having to buy the bridge code. I took a bridge design class in grad school so I have a portion of an older bridge code though. I may be different but I love having resources. I use the books from that kit all the time in practice and they usually explain it better than my textbooks and provide more examples than the CERM. To be honest the SDRM in my opinion is more geared for the SE exam and not the PE. But my company paid for the class & kit so it was a no brainer for me. I would look at it this way; if someone offered to give you your license for $2000 or so would you buy it. I think if you buy the kit and take the class you are almost guaranteed to pass the test if you can fog a mirror.

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Re: Any engineers? Studying for Civil-Structural PE

Post by jf89 » Wed Jul 30, 2014 9:19 pm

nukewerker wrote:I would look at it this way; if someone offered to give you your license for $2000 or so would you buy it.
Is this a test? I've already passed the ethics portion, so I know that would be wrong! :D

My [dumb] joke aside, that's a good point. I almost forgot that, while my company doesn't pay for study materials, there's an automatic pay raise associated with the PE. If I were to buy the structural depth kit plus the CERM and a practice exam or three, I'd still be well under half the first year's raise... leaving me with the ability to maintain my current spending and increase future savings rates (see how I brought that back on-topic for the forum?).

Thanks for all the advice. Just have to get my state to approve my experience now.
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Re: Any engineers? Studying for Civil-Structural PE

Post by nukewerker » Thu Jul 31, 2014 7:21 am

sounds good-best of luck to you. I think a lot of people I talk to still have the college textbook mentality where "you'll never use this again why buy the book" or buy used, etc. At this point this is your chosen profession and I see nothing wrong with a few extra structural books around even in the event you don't use them. They can also be sold used if desired. I've met people who took the test three times and didn't pass. You don't want to be that guy haha.

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Re: Any engineers? Studying for Civil-Structural PE

Post by surveyor » Thu Jul 31, 2014 8:04 am

I took the civil/transportation Spring 2013. Departing the exam I felt that I was on the passing bubble. I really wished I would have purchased and brought a $200 reference book that I didn't want to spend the money on. In the end I passed but that memory still lingers.

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Re: Any engineers? Studying for Civil-Structural PE

Post by cal91 » Fri Jan 20, 2017 6:28 pm

jf89 (or anyone else who's recently taken the test),

I'm taking the PE civil structural test in April.

I've got the CERM and relevant codes, and plan to do 2 or 3 practice tests on a couple saturdays leading up to the big day.

Do you believe the CERM was sufficient, and do you have any tips?

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Re: Any engineers? Studying for Civil-Structural PE

Post by MrNewEngland » Fri Jan 20, 2017 7:03 pm

I passed the PE back in '08. I took the Civil/Environmental exam.

There's a series of books called "Six Minute Solutions" that I found to be a great resource. They were very representative of what was on the exam.

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Re: Any engineers? Studying for Civil-Structural PE

Post by an_asker » Fri Jan 20, 2017 11:16 pm

MikeWillRetire wrote:Wish I could help, but I took that test 25 years ago, when the test was still done by hand!
I took it about two decades ago; scored a 97. Company that I worked for did not value it at all; I was hoping for a raise and/or a promotion. Got $100 for dinner. Two years later, I quit the profession.

One thing I got confused about OP though - in my time, there was just one PE for all of Civil. I am pretty sure I did the Hydrology and maybe even the Structural section, but it is so far ago that I've completely forgotten. Is it now split by specialization?

All the best, OP. Just sound out folks who took the exam recently among your colleagues and/or in other companies working in Structures.

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Re: Any engineers? Studying for Civil-Structural PE

Post by jf89 » Fri Jan 20, 2017 11:52 pm

cal91 wrote:jf89 (or anyone else who's recently taken the test),

I'm taking the PE civil structural test in April.

I've got the CERM and relevant codes, and plan to do 2 or 3 practice tests on a couple saturdays leading up to the big day.

Do you believe the CERM was sufficient, and do you have any tips?
Thought it was weird to see this thread back near the top! The CERM is excellent, and I would recommend no other reference book. I had a copy of the All-in-One as well during prep and at the exam and it was zero help. I reiterate: zero help. That includes the practice test that came with it... don't waste your money or time. My other big tip is to have and familiarize yourself with all of the recommended codes (the correct editions with updates). There will be at least one question designed to make sure you know how to find basic information in a code and have the right edition. Every single person I talked to had that question on their exam that their "friend" got wrong because the weld distance used to be 1-1/4" but is now 1-1/2" in the new steel manual (or the lumber moisture content requirements change... or soil equations get different multipliers in the updated edition... or a new analysis method means that the two-way slab table has slightly different values...). Don't skimp on these (or try really hard to talk your employer into buying them).

Try to sit and take as many stand-alone practice problems as you can after work and on weekends and take notes in one place on why you messed problems up. PPI makes a really good problems book for the morning and I'd recommend their structural problems book, as well. I used post-its to mark equations and tables in the reference materials and codes that I used or should have used for these problems. Pages that were marked more than once or tables that I had particular trouble with got a permanent post-it for the test and equations that I misread or didn't know how to use got notes written directly on the page labeling what I got wrong (the transportation problems regularly switch between using feet, stations, and percent without sufficient explanation, so these had lots of notes during studying). Some of these notes I used, some I didn't. The notes I marked and used were like little pats on the back while in the exam knowing I had prepared for that question I just answered and could confidently move on.

I took practice tests in three sittings: Once the morning session for four hours, a separate sitting taking the afternoon for four hours, then a week before the exam blocking off an entire day to take a full test (including sitting alone for an hour to decompress in between). Definitely get NCEES's official practice exam. Mike's was the other popular one a couple years ago when I took it and was very close to the actual exam. Taking all this time to basically do school work after working a full day/week sucks, and your friends/colleagues might think it's overkill, but having to study for that [as many expletives as you can think of] test again is even worse. Do yourself that favor and get the mindset that you are going to demolish this exam ONCE then never think about it again.

A few more little tips: Do everything your state board recommends. Bring every piece of paper they send you so you get in with no problems. Check your calculator. Bring a spare calculator. Drive the route to the testing site beforehand. Get there early and stand in line. Bring your own food (leave it in your car). Don't have ANY loose papers (That includes paperclipped or stapled papers. I've since been a proctor a few times, and it absolutely kills me when I have to take someone's notes simply because they didn't follow the simple instruction to bind it in a three-ring binder instead of stapling.). I'd also highly recommend taking the day before off so you can sleep in, get your materials in order, drive the route to the test site again, fill your car up with gas, and in general get your head straight. Do something fun and mindless the day before (go golf or play tennis or something... play video games... read a good book).

And above all remain calm. You can do this if you prepare.

Best of luck!
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Re: Any engineers? Studying for Civil-Structural PE

Post by jf89 » Fri Jan 20, 2017 11:55 pm

I forgot to mention that I actually still reference my CERM at least once a month. A lot of engineering isn't knowing the answer but knowing where to go for the answer... even if it's not necessarily your field, because some client somewhere is going to expect you to know it. So it actually keeps paying for itself after the fact, too!
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Re: Any engineers? Studying for Civil-Structural PE

Post by gmc4h232 » Sat Jan 21, 2017 6:23 pm

NCEES puts out a list of references recommend for each exam. Just buy them as cheaply as possible and DO NOT write in them so you can resell them afterwards. Also deduct their cost on your taxes. NCEES will specify editions of codes to use, I would recommend getting these editions, since codes change and the problems are based on the codes specified by NCEES.

Also take the review course. Dont cheap out, it's deductible as well, or get your employer to pay for it.

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Re: Any engineers? Studying for Civil-Structural PE

Post by RudyS » Sat Jan 21, 2017 11:02 pm

jf89 wrote: I'm taking the PE civil structural test in April.
A few more little tips: Do everything your state board recommends. Bring every piece of paper they send you so you get in with no problems. Check your calculator. Bring a spare calculator. Drive the route to the testing site beforehand. Get there early and stand in line. Bring your own food (leave it in your car). Don't have ANY loose papers (That includes paperclipped or stapled papers. I've since been a proctor a few times, and it absolutely kills me when I have to take someone's notes simply because they didn't follow the simple instruction to bind it in a three-ring binder instead of stapling.). I'd also highly recommend taking the day before off so you can sleep in, get your materials in order, drive the route to the test site again, fill your car up with gas, and in general get your head straight. Do something fun and mindless the day before (go golf or play tennis or something... play video games... read a good book).

And above all remain calm. You can do this if you prepare.

Best of luck!
Really good advice on getting mentally and physically set to take the test. I took and passed the ChE exam many years ago,andI feel that this is important advice.

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Re: Any engineers? Studying for Civil-Structural PE

Post by CULater » Sun Jan 22, 2017 8:51 pm

I can't help disclosing that I was a test development specialist (Ph.D. measurement psychologist) with a prominent testing company, and used to work with NCEES creating the PE exams. I would meet with groups of engineers, who would gather twice annually to select the questions for the exams and we assisted with the technical/statistical part of constructing the exams, determining the passing scores, and all that. It was quite a process, and you can believe the PE was one of the best-constructed professional exams there is. You can also bet that it is one of the toughest exams out there -- engineers don't know how to write easy questions (we kept trying to get them to). It's interesting to hear from some the folks who actually sit for the exam and hear some things from their perspective. I wish all of you former and prospective examinees all the best in tackling the PE and eventually getting your licenses!
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Re: Any engineers? Studying for Civil-Structural PE

Post by wvmtnbkr » Mon Jan 23, 2017 12:07 pm

user5027 wrote:
nukewerker wrote: If you look at the volume of references for all the disciplines taking the exam, the civil structural guys are the ones with the suitcases, not because they are over zealous but because there are that many condes/references covered on the exam.
You always new the Saturday the PE exam was being given on campus. There was a line of people going into the building lugging suitcases and pushcarts stacked with milk crates full of text books.
I'm not a PE, but most of my co-workers are. Several used a little red wagon to haul reference materials into the exam. Books aligned with the spine pointing up for ease of use. Also facilitated having a specific volume (or two) open for general reference if needed.

Stephen

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Re: Any engineers? Studying for Civil-Structural PE

Post by swift15 » Mon Jan 23, 2017 2:06 pm

Highly recommend PPI review class and the reference books.

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Re: Any engineers? Studying for Civil-Structural PE

Post by Radjob4me » Tue Jan 24, 2017 10:21 am

This has been an interesting read. As a physician, very familiar with testing and ongoing professional education, I honestly didn't know that there were certifying exams for Engineers. Is this an optional exam or required in some states or by some companies?

And also somewhat interesting that it is an open book exam? Physicians also have long, multihour exams, but they are predicated on memorizing as much as possible. As recently as 2014 for my re-certification, no books or external information of any kind was allowed.

Just interesting to compare. I could envision for both disciplines a hybrid exam with non-open book for the basics, then open book/open source for more complicated problems, as we all should have a knowledge core, but then knowing how to use other resources to help with complex problems. Interesting to consider.

And good luck with your exam!

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Re: Any engineers? Studying for Civil-Structural PE

Post by enrohT » Tue Jan 24, 2017 6:09 pm

Anyone have suggestions on qualifying for taking the exam? I worked at a MEP engineering firm for about a year 1/2 before switching over to project management with the Federal Govt. While I enjoy what I do much more now, I really don't perform much above spec/drawing review or estimating/take-offs. I'm interesting in getting my PE for professional/resume reasons, but would certainly not use it in my current capacity. I've passed the EIT. Thanks!

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Re: Any engineers? Studying for Civil-Structural PE

Post by Mudpuppy » Wed Jan 25, 2017 2:11 am

Radjob4me wrote:This has been an interesting read. As a physician, very familiar with testing and ongoing professional education, I honestly didn't know that there were certifying exams for Engineers. Is this an optional exam or required in some states or by some companies?
The certification process is not just about passing this exam. You first have to pass a Fundamentals of Engineering exam (FE exam) right before or after graduating with your bachelor's degree in engineering. Then you have to complete a certain number of years of engineering training before you can even sit for the Principles and Practice in Engineering exam (PE exam). You must be successful at all stages of this process before you can be certified as a Professional Engineer by state licensing boards (the definition of successful varies by state, such as the number of years of training or the score needed to pass the PE exam).

The requirement to be licensed as a Professional Engineer varies by area of engineering and by state. However, most states will require someone with a Professional Engineering license to sign off on plans / projects that have to be approved by the government before commencing, such as building plans or electrical plans for a building. So it's very common for civil and structural engineers like the OP to seek this licensing since that sort of work is the vast majority of what they do.
Radjob4me wrote:And also somewhat interesting that it is an open book exam? Physicians also have long, multihour exams, but they are predicated on memorizing as much as possible. As recently as 2014 for my re-certification, no books or external information of any kind was allowed.

Just interesting to compare. I could envision for both disciplines a hybrid exam with non-open book for the basics, then open book/open source for more complicated problems, as we all should have a knowledge core, but then knowing how to use other resources to help with complex problems. Interesting to consider.
Your hybrid concept is somewhat how the whole process of becoming a licensed Professional Engineer works. The FE exam only allows a certified reference guide during the exam. It's the FE exam that shows basic engineering competency. The PE exam on the other hand is an open book exam where you can bring whatever reference materials you wish. The PE exam is meant to demonstrate more advanced competency in that area of engineering.

Also keep in mind that most engineers will be working with their references available. It's more important to know how to look up xyz formula than to memorize xyz formula because you're rarely going to be "engineering" in a situation where no reference materials are available. Doctors on the other hand need to have memorized "doctoring" knowledge and skills because they might be called upon to act as a doctor when there are no references available.

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Re: Any engineers? Studying for Civil-Structural PE

Post by cal91 » Wed Jan 25, 2017 5:41 pm

Thanks for the thorough response jf89! I'm gonna do exactly that, take the practice exams/familiarize myself with using the codes. I appreciate it.

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Re: Any engineers? Studying for Civil-Structural PE

Post by vanl » Fri Jan 27, 2017 12:49 pm

You might also hear people say that you shouldn't bring a reference book which you have not ever used before.

I disagree. I spent my last hour of the exam re-checking answers and I found (what appeared to be answers) to 3 questions in reference books which I had never cracked open before. Just sharing.

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Re: Any engineers? Studying for Civil-Structural PE

Post by cheesepep » Fri Jan 27, 2017 1:27 pm

Helpful hint: for some questions, looking up a keyword in the word problems in one of your books can prove to be most helpful.

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