PE Exam - Tips on studying

How do I start preparing for the PE Exam?

How do I start preparing for the PE Exam

I get asked the same general questions a lot:  It has been so long since I took the FE exam… How to I start preparing for the PE exam?  I don’t remember anything from the general engineering courses… How do I start preparing for the PE exam?  I only recently decided to get my PE license after 15 years of experience… How do I start preparing for the PE exam?

One of the most difficult steps to preparing for the PE exam is determining where to start!  Just because you have been working as an engineer for the past 4+ years does not mean you remember everything from your undergraduate education.  Maybe your job focuses on hydraulic design, but you never use dynamics, mechanics of materials, machine design, vibrations, HVAC… (the list can go on and on).   How do you relearn all that material?  It can seem overwhelming just to get started in the preparations for the exam.

How do I start preparing for the PE Exam?

So what is the best way to start preparing for the exam?  There are many ways to begin, and it may depend on how much you do remember from your undergraduate years.  Many people get the Mechanical Engineering Reference Manual (otherwise known as the MERM) and read it from cover to cover.  Other people grab all their old engineering textbooks and start reviewing.  Some people take review courses.  Those are all good ideas, but I would like to offer another idea that you may not have considered.

Grab your Physics book to start reviewing!

I think a great way to begin your preparations for the Mechanical PE Exam is to review an undergraduate Physics book!  Yes… I am talking about the general ‘Introduction to Physics’ books used for a freshman level college Physics course.  Yes… I realize that the PE exam is an ‘engineering’ exam not a ‘physics’ exam.

So why would you start reviewing with a physics book?  Think about it… what material does an introductory physics book cover?  They cover the concepts of statics, dynamics, fluid mechanics, thermodynamics, heat transfer, vibrations, and electrical circuits.  All of those topics are on the PE exam!  Reviewing a physics book will give you a quick refresher on all those topics in a way that is typically easy to understand.  It is a fast way to get your mind back into the basic concepts required for the PE exam.  Also, if you don’t have a physics book you can probably find one online for a great price or go get one from a library.  If you want to buy a new one go here.


Now, you are not going to be fully prepared for the PE exam just by reviewing a physics book.  Once you get your quick refresher from the physics book, then you can read the MERM from cover to cover or start reviewing old textbooks to get more detailed in your review.  You will go into your detailed review with a good foundation of the basic concepts.

What do you think?

So, the idea of using a physics book to review for the Mechanical PE Exam may seem odd.  I personally think it is a great place to start when you need a good general review.  What do you think?  Leave comments below with your thoughts.  Also, as always, it is a big help if you share this information.  If you found this helpful help spread the word with the share buttons.  You can also go like the Mechanical PE Academy Facebook page to get updates and other information.

4 comments on “How do I start preparing for the PE Exam?

  1. It is 45 years since I passed the PE. We had a local group of professional engineers who offered a refresher course. So, twelve or so practicing engineers lead a topic in which they excelled each week. The course was divided up into topics like Thermodynamics, Fluid Mechanics, Strength of Materials, Metallurgy, Math, Economics, Electrical, etc. Most of us were MEs, but some were from other disciplines. I think most of us who took this course passed the EIT and the PE on the first try.

  2. I am taking an online review course with ppi2pass. The class itself is ok but the books they give you to study are excellent. The MERM referenced above is an excellent study guide, especially for someone working 40+hours a week. The textbook, along with multiple problem solving books are included in the review course.

  3. Heya i’m for the first time here. I came across this board and I find It truly useful & it helped me out much. I hope to give something back and help others like you helped me.

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