Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Fundamentals of Engineering/EIT Exam Strategy



I wrote some general tips for the Fundamentals of Engineering Exam in a previous post (link). Here are test taking strategies to go along with those.

exam answer bubbles
FE Exam: Multiple Choice
Overall strategy: Become an expert in the subject areas that you are most familiar with and know the basics of all other subjects. There is a reason the engineering profession is split into specialties (civil, mechanical, etc); there is so much to know that it is almost impossible to be an expert in everything. Furthermore, we all have our own ways to solve problems. Those thought processes might work especially well on certain subjects and not so well on other subjects. I found that it is much more productive to focus on the subjects that I have a background in rather than try to learn an unfamiliar subject from scratch.

Guessing: The entire test is multiple choice with four possible answers. This means that if you completely guess, theoretically you have a 25% chance to get the correct answer. Further, if you are able to eliminate one of the possible answers, you now have a 33.3% chance to pick the right answer. Eliminating two possible answers leaves you with a 50% chance and, according to my study manual, a passing score on the FE Exam is a bit less than 50%. So, theoretically, if you were able to eliminate two possible answers for every question on the test, you should pass. Of course, this is not practical. In reality, there are some questions where you absolutely know the answer and some questions where you have no idea, but this does highlight the effectiveness of strategic guessing.

Subject areas: In the front of the NCEES handbook, there is a breakdown showing what percentage of the test is related to each subject area for the morning and afternoon session. I reproduced the breakdown for the morning session below:

Mathematics: 15% (equivalent of 18 questions)
Engineering Probability and Statistics: 7% (equivalent of 8.4 questions)
Chemistry: 9% (equivalent of 10.8 questions)
Computers: 7% (equivalent of 8.4 questions)
Ethics and Business Practice: 7% (equivalent of 8.4 questions)
Engineering Economics: 8% (equivalent of 9.6 questions)
Engineering Mechanics (Statics and Dynamics): 10% (equivalent of 12 questions)
Strength of Materials: 7% (equivalent of 8.4 questions)
Material Properties: 7% (equivalent of 8.4 questions)
Fluid Mechanics: 7% (equivalent of 8.4 questions)
Electricity and Magnetism: 9% (equivalent of 10.8 questions)
Thermodynamics: 7% (equivalent of 8.4 questions)

I suggest you approach this is to separate the subjects into two categories: subjects that you are comfortable with ("good subjects") and the subjects you are not comfortable with ("bad subjects"). Personally, I felt comfortable with Math, Computers, Ethics, Economics, and Electricity. Now, set a goal that you will get a score of 75% on the "good subjects" and 33% on the "bad subjects." Note that 75% is pretty high goal - this means that you get three out of every four questions correct. I chose 33% for the "bad subjects" because it corresponds to the probability of guessing when you have eliminated one possible answer. This come from the idea that you should be familiar enough with your "bad subjects" to have a general idea if one answer is out of whack. If you want to get really nerdy, you can create a table to see what you would score if you followed achieved this goal. The one I made is below:

Subject Percentage of Test Content My Score (Out of 100) My Weighted Score
Mathematics
0.15
75
11.25
Probability & Stats
0.07
33
2.31
Chemistry
0.09
33
2.97
Computers
0.07
75
5.25
Ethics
0.07
75
5.25
Economics
0.08
75
6
Statics & Dynamics
0.10
33
3.3
Strength of Materials
0.07
33
2.31
Material Properties
0.07
33
2.31
Fluid Mechanics
0.07
33
2.31
Electricity & Magnetism
0.09
75
6.75
Thermodynamics
0.07
33
2.31
TOTAL SCORE (%)
52.32

If I exactly followed my projections on the test, I would score over 50% for the morning section. In reality, I am slightly more confident in certain “bad subjects” and slightly less confident in some “good subjects” but this at least gives me a baseline goal to achieve for a passing score.

Time per question: For the morning session, you have 4 hours to complete 120 questions. This works out to 2 minutes per question. For the afternoon session, you have 4 hours to complete 60 questions. This works out to 4 minutes per question. In general, I would say that time is not an issue on the afternoon portion. Many people finish early and leave. The morning session, on the other hand, is a race against the clock. I believe my overall strategy can be applied here. As I said, it is pretty much impossible to be an expert in every single subject on the test. Thus, there will be questions where you completely guess. Taking into account the time to read the question and fill in the answer sheet, a guess should take about 20 seconds. Suppose you guess on 20 questions throughout the morning portion; this frees up 33 minutes and 20 seconds to be distributed among other questions. If that is distributed evenly, it results in an extra 20 seconds per non-guessing question. That extra time can be applied to questions where you know you are on the right track but need more time to make sure you have the right answer.

Morning/Afternoon session weight: Both the morning and afternoon portions are weighted equally, so 1 correct afternoon question is "worth" 2 correct morning questions. Basically this means you should not neglect studying for the afternoon session because it is your major/specialty and you feel confident in that material. The afternoon questions are difficult so you need to study for those too. Since there are fewer questions, the stakes are higher to solve each one.

Good luck on the exam!

14 comments:

  1. I like your blog, provides with very useful information. If you can expand some more, maybe finding out what is the most common correct choice for morning and evening test. Some time remaining two choices seems reasonable but picking most common choice may give a better edge. And also if one pass the morning exam but not evening than does the individual have to take both exams the next time or only one that wasn't passed. And may be provide few links of practice tests in blog. Thanks for the current info. and keep up the good work.

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  2. If you dont pass one section (morning/afternoon) you have to take the whole test over again.

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    Replies
    1. All the points add up and pass/fail is based on total points. No differentiation. Morning and afternoon sections each account for 50% of total points but remember that there are fewer questions on the afternoon. So, technically each afternoon question is "worth more."

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  3. If we assumed that the passing score for this year is 70%.
    Do I'll be considered as passed if I scored less than 50% (e.g. 45%) in the morning and 95% in the afternoon with total score of 70%.
    In other words do I have to pass the morning and afternoon separately.

    Thanks a lot for your nice blog.
    Emad

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    Replies
    1. You would pass in that scenario. You do not have to pass each separately.

      And this can actually be a strategy - if you feel especially good about a certain section you can emphasize that in your studying.

      Just remember that the morning session has 120 questions and the afternoon has 60 questions, so an individual afternoon question is "worth" twice the amount of an individual morning question. But the sections as a whole are weighted equally.

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  4. Great post! I linked to both of your FE/EIT posts from my blog.

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  5. i m giving FE exams for last 3 times and all the time for morning session i m getting about 62 questions right and for afternoon session 31/33 questions right but still i have not been considered as pass student...so i m really confused..

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  6. Good writing is something I can appreciate. You have made your points in a smart way. I am impressed with how interesting you have been able to present this content. Thanks for sharing a nice information.
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  7. It's not 50 percent.its way more than 50 percent to pass.trust me I know

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  8. I got 65% on my first take last October 2012 and 70% in April 2013 FE Exam. Morning Exam is a matter of time so if you don't know how to answer a problem just guess the answer. Mark the number if you think you can solve the problem and just go back if you still have time to answer it. I failed on my first take because I spent more time trying to answer all the items and when the last 15 minutes called I panicked because I still have to answer 20 questions. So I ended up guessing those last 20 items realizing that I know how to answer some of them.

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  9. Thanks a lot for these information about the FE exam and I have a question about what are the suitable books to study to remember all the subjects especially I graduated more than 14 years and the FE review manual is not enough and it is very concise but it is stoll veru good source to pasd the exam. Thank you again.

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  10. It's not necessary to invest time that you performed when you analyzed it, but simply just ensure you employ a fair comprehension of the subject matter for pass the test .

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  11. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  12. I scored 59 correct out of 180 questions and received a diagnostics report. But it does not say what is my split for morning sessions and afternoon session. Nor does it give my overall % scored. Any idea how to figure it out from the diagnostics report?

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