How I studied (and thankfully passed) the Mechanical PE Exam: Part 1

How I studied? Hard and a lot. Blog post over. 

When preparing for the PE exam, the advice I received on how to study from current professional engineers was extremely varied. I heard people who spent a year studying and others who said they took a couple days off before the test to begin hitting the books. I felt at a loss for where to begin, how to apply, what materials to purchase, and how much to study. My hope is that sharing my experience gives an additional point of comparison when figuring out how to study for your exam or the exam of someone you supervise. We will be posting again in the coming weeks about study materials, and methods so stay tuned! This post however, focuses on how to apply and requirements for application.


Part 2:

What materials to purchase for the Mechanical PE

How to apply: 

NCEES makes it clear what the broad requirements for application are. If you don't already have a profile, this should be step 1. Their documents are very helpful and they have a great online chat for asking questions. When I was going through the process, I was confused about the sequence of application as well as some details about the work experience information. First, on work experience, I remember hearing that if you interned under a PE in college, you could count that towards your four years of work experience. I cannot speak for all states, but in DC, MD, and VA, I found this to be only partially true. In my research, the only experience that counted was experience after your college degree was conferred to you. So, in theory, if you had an internship after you graduated college, it could count towards your four years of experience. This meant my full-time start date in June of 2013 was the starting point of my qualifying experience. On top of this, I didn't know when the four years of field experience had to be achieved; whether it was just in-time for the day of the exam or something else. Once I started filling out the PE application forms, I found that for DC/MD/VA this four year marker must be achieved when your application is submitted, not at the time of the exam. Each state's cut-off date for exam applications should serve as your guide for whether or not you make the cut. In the end, I was able to take the 2017 October exam after having started full-time work in June 2013. Besides these nuances, I felt like the order in which I was supposed to apply was a little confusing since NCEES and each state share responsibility in your certification. I wished there was just some step by step guide that someone had. Obviously this isn't a universal guide, but here is the sequence of application for my path towards a PE:

  1. Achieved ABET accredited BSME from the great institution of Grove City College

  2. Passed the EIT in Pennsylvania in 2013

  3. Retrieved my EIT Certificate from PA (a quick call to the state offices)

    • Didn't know I had to do this until 2017 when I was applying for the PE!

  4. Worked four years under the supervision of a PE. June 2013-2017

  5. Selected the Mechanical PE: HVAC & Refrigeration exam in the NCEES "Exams" tab. They directed me to the state website to apply to sit.

    • Side note: I work in the DMV area and though I live in VA, the DC and VA application cut-off dates made it better for me to take the exam in MD (see work experience section above). If you nearly miss the cutoff, consider looking at neighboring states to compare cutoff dates!

    • You have the ability to apply on the NCEES site for the exam even if you aren't approved to sit. DONT DO THIS! You don't want to make the payment for the exam without getting state approval first.

  6. Filled out and submitted the state application to sit materials.

    • This includes things like transcripts, verification of your EIT, character endorsements, etc. Typically these are emailed to the state board or uploaded to an online portal.

  7. Once i received an "approval to sit" email from MD, I registered with NCEES and the state for the OCT 2017 exam (usually two different payments).

  8. A few days before the exam, NCEES sent me an email to go and download an "Exam Authorization Notice" from their site which granted me entrance to the exam site. I had to present the notice at all times on the day of the test.

  9. Take and pass the PE exam!

Best of luck as you prepare and please comment if you have questions! Happy Engineering!