Saturday, October 30, 2010
P. E. Exam Day
I made sure to load up on coffee. I arrived early (they threaten you with not letting you in if you show up late) and the other test takers, being engineers, also showed up early. It was a pretty interesting sight there, all the engineers with their suitcases full of books. Wish I had taken a photo.
One nice thing: the proctors were extremely efficient and courteous. They kept the exam on time (unlike when I took the F.E.) and you didn't notice them during the exam, as it should be.
The exam was flat out hard. There's no other way of putting it. The test makers are extremely paranoid about content being posted, so I'll skip through that. I'll say that there were a few of my strengths that were completely absent from my question bank.
The morning section I was almost finished after 2 1/2 hours. There were a few questions I struggled with the rest of the time.
The afternoon section was far harder than the morning (although it matched up with my areas of expertise more). Each question took much longer. I used all the time allotted to me.
Especially in the afternoon, you've got to move quickly. There's no time to look through solved problems (I tried in the morning and it didn't help). The references that are the best are those that provide shortcuts or are tabulated data. A book full of tabulated data (like Keenan and Keyes or Crane 410) beats out the equations. I now know how all the old farts were able to launch a rocket to the moon with slide rules and all. It was those books of tabulated data. They are awesome and go a long way towards cutting down on calculation errors.
Out of the entire suitcase of books, here's what I actually touched during the exam:
The MERM (all hail the MERM). I also xeroxed the index (3-hole punched and bound, so it met the rules). That saved a lot of time.
Keenan and Keyes Steam Tables
Mark's Standard Handbook. I was able to pull a problem from one of the weirder tables inside.
Keenan's Gas Tables. A book I really, really wished I had studied with more.
Engineering Unit Conversions. A must. Big time saver.
Cameron Hydraulic Data. All the info in Cameron is in the MERM, but Cameron is so much handier. I think I also may have used Crane 410.
Shigley's Machine Design. I think I used it once.
Pocket Ref. Flipped through it for a value on something, I think.
All other texts in my giant suitcase were useless. For all of the code questions (CFR/ASME/etc.), they gave you the section of the code and you had to interpret it.
The best thing I did, honestly, was my own 3-ring binder full of material. I had several psychrometric charts, tons of Wikipedia data on the molecular weight of common gases, etc. I was flipping through that almost as much as the MERM.