Engineering Test Guide

The Engineering Test Summary
What: The Fundamentals of Engineering and Principles and Practices in Engineering Exams
Who: Engineering graduates take the FE exam, and then, after four years of work experience, take the PE exam
Where: Exams are offered by state engineer boards. Locations vary by state.
When: Test dates are offered throughout the year. Dates vary by state.
How: Tests are multiple choice; some specialized tests include essay questions.
Type: The FE is closed book, while most PE exams allow reference materials.
Why: To become a licensed professional engineer, engineers must pass both exams.
Time: Both exams last eight hours.
Language: English
Preparation: The exams cover fundamentals taught in undergraduate engineering programs, as well as application of fundamentals learned through work experience. Candidates can brush up through study guides.
Cost: The cost varies greatly in every state.

By Erin Hasinger, Tests.com

The Fundamentals of Engineering exam (FE) is required for engineers who plan on seeking professional licensure. Once a candidate has passed the FE exam, an Engineer in Training (EIT) certificate is issued. After an EIT works for a specified number of years (varies in each state) under the supervision of a professional engineer, the candidate is eligible to sit for the Principles and Practice in Engineering exam (PE) and become licensed as a professional engineer.

Fundamentals of Engineering Exam

The FE exam is eight hours long, offered in two four-hour sessions with a break for lunch in between. The exam is comprised of 180 multiple-choice questions. Every exam candidate takes the same general engineering exam in the morning session, but during the afternoon session, candidates may elect to take either a specialized or general exam for the last 60 questions.

The first general session includes 120 questions that cover:

  • Chemistry
  • Computers
  • Electricity and Magnetism
  • Engineering Economics
  • Engineering Mechanics, Statics and Dynamics
  • Engineering Probability and Statistics
  • Ethics and Business Practices
  • Fluid Mechanics
  • Materials Properties
  • Mathematics
  • Strength of Materials
  • Thermodynamics

During the afternoon session, candidates may continue with the general engineering exam and be tested on:

  • Advanced Engineering Mathematics
  • Application of Engineering Mechanics
  • Biology
  • Electricity and Magnetism
  • Engineering Economics
  • Engineering of Materials
  • Engineering Probability and Statistics
  • Fluids
  • Thermodynamics and Heat Transfer

Or, instead of the general exam in the afternoon, candidates may elect to take a specialized exam in:

  • Chemical Engineering
  • Civil Engineering
  • Electrical Engineering
  • Environmental Engineering
  • Industrial Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering

Mechanical pencils and references are provided to test takers. Only approved calculators are permitted.

Principles and Practice of Engineering Exam

PE exam candidates can take a specialized exam in their chosen field. Each exam is offered in two, consecutive eight-hour sessions.

Exams include:

  • Agricultural
  • Architectural
  • Chemical
  • Civil
  • Computer
  • Control Systems
  • Electrical and Electronics
  • Environmental
  • Fire Protection
  • Industrial
  • Mechanical
  • Metallurgical and Materials
  • Mining and Mineral Processing
  • Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering
  • Nuclear
  • Petroleum
  • Power
  • Structural I and II

With the exception of the PE Environmental exam and PE Structural II exam, all exams are 80 multiple choice questions, with 40 offered during the morning session and 40 offered in the afternoon session.

The PE Environmental exam asks 100 multiple-choice questions, while the PE Structural II exam asks candidates to answer four essay questions out of eight possible choices.

Exams are open book, and test takers must bring their own reference materials.

Exam Eligibility

FE exam requirements vary in every state. Each state has standards that tend to include:

  • A four-year engineering or engineering technology degree from an ABET-accredited university, or
  • At least some coursework in a four-year, ABET-accredited engineering program, or
  • Some engineering work experience (minimum requirements vary from three to 15 years), or
  • Some combination of engineering coursework and work experience

Because state requirements vary so greatly, FE candidates must verify their qualifications with their state licensing board prior to applying for the exam.

In California, for example, someone without a degree, but with three years engineering work experience, is qualified to take the FE exam, but in Delaware, that same person would need at least 15 years experience. In Pennsylvania, only candidates with either an engineering degree or engineering work experience are qualified to sit for the exam, but in Minnesota, someone with a degree in any field may sit for the exam, so long as 32 semester credits are in engineering science coursework and 16 are in engineering design coursework. In West Virginia, only candidates with a four year engineering degree may take the FE exam.

Exam requirements for the PE vary widely, too. Most states require PE candidates to have received the EIT certificate and then have worked for a minimum number of years under the supervision of a professional engineer. This minimum number of years, usually four, though it ranges from three to five, must be completed after the candidate receives the EIT certification. Candidates will be asked to prove their work experience.

Exam Registration and Fees

Individual registrations are handled by the state boards. Thirty-seven states offer online registration through ELSES LLC at www.els-examreg.org. Here, candidates can select their state and create an account for registration. States not listed do not participate in the ELSES registration program, and candidates must contact the state board directly for registration instructions.

Exam applications may require college or university transcripts, exhibits of work, employment verification or recommendation letters. Application and exam fees vary greatly, just as requirements do.


Test takers receive their scores within 12 weeks of the exam by mail. Passing candidates are sent a letter of notification, while those who fail the exam also receive a diagnostic report that helps to identify areas of weakness.

Are you ready to start preparing for the FE or PE exam? Be sure to visit our FE Test Directory and our PE Test Directory to find handy study guides and other preparation materials.

Sources: ABET Inc., abet.org; California Licensing Board, pels.ca.gov; Delaware Association of Professional Engineers, dape.org; ELSES LLC, els-examreg.org; Minnesota Board of Architecture, Engineering, Land Surveying, Landscape Architecture, Geoscience and Interior Design, aelslagid.state.mn.us; National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying, ncees.org; Pennsylvania State Registration Board for Professional Engineers, Land Surveyors and Geologists, dos.state.pa.us/eng; Virginia Board of Architects, Professional Engineers, Land Surveyors, Certified Interior Designers and Landscape Architects, dpor.virginia.gov; West Virginia Board of Registration for Professional Engineers, wvpedbd.org