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RE: CE Exam - Taking Structural in the PM?

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I took the Civil PE Exam with the Structural PM.  Now, when I studied, I
buried my nose in the Civil Engineers Reference Manual big time.  In fact,
with all of the studying I did with that, I felt that prepared me VERY well
for the first half (the morning session) of the exam.  I also looked at the
type of question that, after going through some of the calcs, rationalized
if this was a question that could have been answered within, what, 5 or 6
minutes.  And that's really how I based my studying.  There is quite a bit
of information out there, some of which can be very engaging as far as time.
So, if it appeared very complicated, I opted to only familiarize myself with
the material so I knew where it was if it ever came up.  Then, I went on to
more information that I thought was more solvable.  This approach actually
served me quite well to the point that when I had gone through the exam for
the first round (and I'll get to this later), I was left with only 10
questions that I didn't know right off the bat.  On my second go around, I
had reduced that number down to 5.  By my third go around, I brought that
number down to 3, and those 3 questions didn't even look remotely familiar
from my studying, so I answered D, turned in the test, and went on my way.

The second half of the exam, which was the structural portion, I thought was
tough.  There was a post tensioned concrete beam analysis, along with MANY
unbalanced foundation loading.  There was even a question asking for some
load calculations using ASCE 7.  There was only a small portion that was on
structural steel, and I thought those questions were rather easy.  There
were a couple of questions on concrete beam analysis, but again, these were
rather easy.  And I believe there was a question or two with wood.  I wasn't
as successful after my first run through of this portion, having only
answered 1/2 of the questions without having to do any searching.  I think I
waded my way through the second half of the exam about 5 times before I was
left with about 8 questions I had absolutely no idea about, or didn't have
the reference material to help me through it.  Again, D was the answer for
these guys.

And to my gratification, I passed after the first shot.

My advice, though, is to study based on the content breakdown as located in
the front of the CERM.  There will be questions on this exam you will likely
not be familiar with.  I, for one, ran into water run-off questions.
*shrug*  I have never even seen a diagram like what was shown on the exam,
and I sure wasn't going to waste a whole lot of time trying to figure it
out.  So, when taking this test, remember you are on a time limit.  That's
why I took rounds of the test.  The first round was reading the question,
and if I knew immediately how to solve the problem, I did.  If I didn't,
over it I skipped (and there's my Yoda moment for the day).  My second
round, I looked for questions that I was at least familiar with through my
studying, went back and did a little looking around, and was able to find
the answer.  By the third round, you are pretty much left with questions
that are rather foreign to you and you have to do some searching for them.
By that time, you will have thumbed through your references enough to know,
if at all, where to look.  And if you don't, I recommend D, but you may have
your own preference.  I took this approach for both sessions, and it left me
feeling good after taking the exam, and it didn't totally destroy me.

That's how things worked out for me.  My time studying was based on
anticipated content.  I broke the test down into rounds.  And I didn't
stress about time.  And when I was done with the morning session, I was able
to leave a good hour before the first session was over and 30 minutes before
the second session was over.

And finally, I didn't look at any of the other exams.  Like the old saying,
"The grass always looks greener on the other side."  The practice test, I
focused on the structural second half.  And going into the real exam, I
didn't even look at any of the other sessions.  Before you know it, you are
taking about 3 different afternoon sessions, and when it's all said and
done, you are left with 3 afternoon exams that are about half done.  Pick a
path and stick with it, for better or worse.

...because that's how I roll.

Dave Maynard, PE
Gillette, Wyoming
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