The FE Exam, aka the Crazy Test

Last weekend I had the pleasure of sitting in the UMass Boston penthouse ballroom to watch the sun rise and set over Boston harbor. Floor to ceiling windows and a seat overlooking the water, it was quite a beautiful view. Only downside was I was there for an 8 hour exam testing me on every single bit of STEM knowledge I learned over the past four years. It was honestly one of the most difficult and mentally exhausting exams I’ve taken in my life. I say that because it’s basically an exam where you have to pull different problem solving procedures and engineering knowledge from your brain non-stop for 8 hours. Another thing, I’d say is that it was also a really easy exam if you knew the material but it’s incredibly easy to simply not know entire portions of the exam. Now why would I ever decide to subject myself to this torture? Technically, the purpose of this exam is to be eligible to call yourself an “Engineer in Training” (EIT). This allows you to eventually take the PE exam to become a licensed Professional Engineer that can sign off on designs and offer consulting work. This kind of certification is only really important in the public sector and consulting industries where accountability and public welfare are of utmost importance. Only after I decided to follow through with taking this exam did I realize how little importance the certification means in my field of computer engineering. In fact there are so few licensed PE’s in my field that it’s actually difficult to find one to train under to fulfill the experiential requirement to the PE license. Still, I decided to follow through with it all the way to the end simply as a matter of personal pride. I wanted to prove to myself that I did in fact learn something in my years at college and it wasn’t all just for show.

To summarize the contents tested on the FE would be to list off all the topics covered in all the STEM classes on my transcript and add another semester’s worth. It covered math topics from Calculus I-III, Differential Equations, Linear Algebra, Probability, and Statistics. Sciences such as Chemistry, and Physics I/II. An unusually large amount of Mechanics topics in statics, dynamics, strength of materials, thermodynamics, and fluids. Then there are the obscure topics of engineering economics, and ethics. And from my field of specialty I got to enjoy a refresher on electromagnetics, electronics, signals, communications, power electronics, linear circuits, computer architecture, programming, and all that good stuff. There’s probably more that I forgot, but I just can’t recall right now. I spent two months studying for this exam coming home brain dead from work only to work through topics night after night. It made me realize how much knowledge they stuffed down our brains in engineering school. Kinda made me feel all fuzzy on the inside actually reviewing it all, so many memories made learning it all.  It was also just so much to relearn and that I admittedly wasn’t able to cover everything. I had to be smart near the end reviewing topics I can understand after a quick refresher and completely ignoring topics I have to learn from essentially nothing. Most notably, I found myself generating random numbers to answer the fluid dynamics questions, not my finest moment but I can expect to get about 25% of those questions right. Overall though, I felt confident leaving that test an hour early that I gave a passing effort. It’s now just a waiting game to see if that feeling is a reality.

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