Category: PE Exam – Tips on reference books

PE Exam Book Review

PE Exam Book Review

It is critical to have good reference books for the PE exam, so I wanted to do a PE exam book review.  I have several suggestions of reference books on my site. The book I am going to review in this blog can be added to your list of references, but it may contain a lot of information you will not need.  The book is called Engineering Drawing and Design.


PE exam book review

What is in the book?

The book has a lot of information!  As the name of the book implies, it does contain a lot of information about engineering drawing.  However, the PE exam does have a section on interpretation of technical drawings.  This book can also help with engineering terms and symbols, including GD&T symbols and a great section on weld symbols.  It discusses drawing views such as section views and auxiliary views.  The rest of the information on drawing is probably not useful for the PE exam, but it is a good overall review.



What I really like about the book is the remaining content.  It covers a ton of important information on fasteners, materials, manufacturing methods, and power transmission.  There are sections that discuss fits and tolerances, screw threads, springs, casting, forging, materials, belt drives, chain drives, gear drives, couplings, clutches, brakes, bearings, cams, linkages, and hydraulics.  That is a lot of information for one book.

Can this book replace my other reference books?

The quick answer to this is ‘no’. It should be used to supplement other references or be used to help you prepare for the exam. The main reason I say ‘no’ for this is the lack of calculations. For example, the book has a great section on fasteners. It talks about the different types of fasteners and how they are used. The book does not, however, have calculations for designing bolted connections. I do feel that it does a better job describing the fasteners compared to a lot of other books.

Final thoughts

I know this was a very short review. I think this is a very good book, but I don’t know if I should add it to my recommended references list. It does a fantastic job of providing overview information on a lot of topics but lacks calculations. Regardless, it is a very good reference book. You should at least consider using it for your PE exam references.  Let me know what you think.  If you need more help preparing for the exam, check out my study guide.


Mechanical Engineering Reference Manual

Should you use the Mechanical Engineering Reference Manual for the PE Exam?

For most mechanical engineers planning to take the PE exam, the Mechanical Engineering Reference Manual (also called the MERM) is the most common reference book.  Click the link below to save 15% on the Mechanical Engineering Reference Manual using promo code MPA15.
mechanical engineering reference manual
In fact, to many engineers preparing for the exam the MERM is considered essential. Some people believe that the MERM is a required book for the PE exam (that is not true by the way). So why am I even writing this blog to question using the MERM? Frankly, because the MERM may not be the best option for everyone.
Let me start by saying I do think the Mechanical Engineering Reference Manual is a good and complete reference manual for the PE exam, and I do own a copy. I am also not telling you that you should or should not use it for the PE exam. Personally I did not use it for the PE exam. In fact, I didn’t even take it with me to the exam. I barely used it to prepare for the PE exam.

Why didn’t I use the MERM?

Let me explain my reasoning. Prior to taking the exam I spent several years in academics teaching undergraduate engineering courses. In that time I became VERY familiar with a LOT of different textbooks! The PE exam requires finding information from reference books very quickly. For me, I could find information in the textbooks I used over and over again much faster than I could find information in the MERM. To the point… using the MERM for the exam would have actually slowed me down in working problems.

What is the moral of this story?

OK… so what is the point of this blog?
I am basically trying to tell you that you should not feel like you absolutely must use the MERM for the PE exam. If you like it… use it. If you don’t like it… don’t use it.  Just know you have options.
You can use other reference books during the exam, and you can use study guides or other materials (such as review courses) to help you prepare for the exam. In the end, you need to use reference books during the exam that allow you to find information quickly. Use old textbooks if you like them. Use other engineering handbooks. Collect information from the web and use it for the exam. You need to pick what is best for you.  I will say that the MERM is a GREAT option for most people, but not the only option.

Tell me your story

I know this blog may be a bit controversial. I may get some bad comments about not personally using the MERM. Did you use the MERM for the exam? If you are currently preparing for the exam, are you using the MERM? What are pros and cons of using the MERM? Let’s start a friendly debate.


How many books should I take to the PE exam?

How many books should I take to the PE exam

Never memorize something that you can look up.”

~ Albert Einstein

You probably don’t want to memorize all the information you learned during your studies to become a mechanical engineer.  Luckily you don’t need to for this exam, because the PE exam is an open-book exam.  Basically, you can take any books you want.  This blog is not intended to tell you which books to take to the PE exam… for my recommendations of reference books for the exam please go here.

So the question I get a lot… how many books should I take to the PE exam?  This is tough for me to answer, because it depends a lot on you… the test-taker.  I have seen people take the exam and only have a few reference books.  I have seen people with suitcase loads of books.  Though I don’t remember exactly, I think I used around 10 – 12 books and I had around 3 – 4 binders with miscellaneous information.  The biggest thing to remember here is that you don’t have a lot of time to search through several books to find an answer to any problem!!  Pick the minimal number of books that you feel covers the required material for the test.  Too many books will make it hard to find material.  If you have too few books you are risking not having the information you need.

A very useful tip is to pick the books you think you need when you start your studying, and use them as you prepare for the exam.  Store those books in a specific area so you know that is what you plan on using.  Over the time you prepare you will fine-tune the book selection.  You will determine that some books you thought you needed you actually never use while studying.  Modify your book selection as needed, and by the time you take the exam you will have optimized your book selection.