The PE Exam Guide

The PE Exam Summary
What: Principles and Practices in Engineering Exam
Who: Engineering graduates who typically have worked up to four years, 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: Most PE exams allow reference materials.
Why: To become a licensed professional engineer.
Time: 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

Once a candidate has passed the Fundamentals of Engineering 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.

Exam Eligibility

Exam requirements for the PE vary widely. 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.

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 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 PE exam? Be sure to visit 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