Should it be called "preparing" or "prepping" for the PE (Principles and Practice of Engineering) Exam?
If you've studied for the exam and spent hours and hours covering thousands of pages of material - it just might feel more like "prepping" for doomsday more than anything else. The required references for 2019 alone now cover 9 different books, 12 volumes and over 6,500 pages.
This week I'm covering a review of the 2018 exam and some updates to 2019 for the Fire Protection PE Exam.
Discouraging 2018 Results
The overall results from all 241 examinees came in December, and the results were not great.
Pass rates for first-time examinees fell to 56%, the lowest this decade. The pass rate for repeat takers also fell to 28%, the lowest rate since 2015. These results are published annually by NCEES.
4th Toughest Exam for First-Timers
We once again maintain a distinction for having one of the most difficult exams to pass. The 56% pass rate for first time examinees ranks 4th toughest of the 24 different PE disciplines, behind only software, civil (construction), and power systems.
The overall pass rate (first-time and repeat takers combined) isn't much better with fire protection having the 7th most difficult pass rate.
On a related note one of the adjacent fields where some people working in fire protection get their PE is mechanical and architectural. Architectural used to have an overall pass rate above 80%, but that appears to no longer be the case. The Mechanical PE on Thermal & Fluid Systems has an overall pass rate of 60%, higher than fire protection but not by a large degree.
Raw Cut Score about 70%
With the popularity of the Weekly Exam Series (a 20-week series of mini-exams for Fire Protection PE examinees), I've gathered significantly better analytics on the difficulty of the actual exam and how well studying translates to passing the exam.
We're now able to better estimate the raw cut score (the percentage of questions correct to pass the exam), and how the difficulty of the Weekly Exams compares to the actual exam.
From the 2018 exam, we've estimated an overall raw cut score of 69-70%.
MeyerFire User Pass Rates
The statistic I love and get asked about more than anything is what the pass rates are for people buying the PE Prep Guide and what the pass rates are for people doing the Weekly Exams.
In short, it is very difficult to calculate this value now that the Prep Guide has become so popular. Consider this - on the 2018 exam over 2 out of every 3 examinees had the 2018 edition in their hand when they took the exam. Many who didn't have the 2018 edition brought a copy of the 2017.
In concept, if nearly everyone has a copy of the book on the actual exam, then it becomes more of a prerequisite to taking the exam than it does a boost only to the person using it. Where I have found differentiation, though, is between examinees who get a copy, study early, and study thoroughly. Somewhat obviously - the best prepared tend to do better on the actual exam.
As for pass rates of the Weekly Exam - I'm trying hard to get those exact values. If you used the Weekly Exam Series in 2018, I would be very grateful to hear from you and how the test went.
While I've reached out to everyone, I still haven't heard from the following users: Pepe Sylvia, GingerSnap, RoundONE, JT, Ginger, AB, JDB Falcon, onebadshark, MAXCRYPT, Senior, Old Guy, Ryan, Tip Top, na, dot dot dot, and yeass. [if you can't tell, we have a lot of fun on the Weekly Exam Series]
If you're one of these people, please shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Your input helps craft future editions and support success for others going forward.
A Checklist of Resources
Are you planning to take the 2019 exam? If so, you'll want to see our list of every resource we know to be available to you. The list includes formula sheets, practice exams, reference materials, Prep Books, Study Communities, and Courses. It's all here: https://www.meyerfire.com/pe-tools.html
Changes to the 2019 PE Exam
Once again the exam writers can't help but make tweaks between each edition of the PE Exam. While published articles as old as five years ago suggested a narrowing of required references down to just the NFPA and SFPE handbooks, the actual exam references have done anything but condense.
For 2019, there's a few notable changes from the 2018 Exam (as published by SFPE):
Here's the year to year changes, with edition, additions or subtracted changes highlighted.
The 2019 PE Prep Guide Release
Fortunately this year, SFPE released the required references earlier than in years past. As a result the 2019 PE Prep Guide, which usually would ship in June, will ship earlier. At this time I'm estimating a mid-may shipment of these editions for anyone who pre-orders a copy. Of course if you'd rather get a copy in your hands now, we still have the 2018 edition available.
Weekly Exam Prep Series
Back for a third year the Weekly Exam Prep Series will kick off June 3rd. If you're looking to get as much regular practice as is available anywhere in a fun exam-simulated pace, then this is for you. See where you rank and get access to over 400 questions with the Weekly Exams. Learn more about the Weekly Exam Prep Series here.
2019 vs. 2020 Exam
Big changes are ahead for the 2020 exam. Not only will the Fire Protection PE Exam transition to a computer-based exam, but the legacy of bringing in volumes and volumes of references will go away as well. As we understand it today, there will be a single, condensed reference book with formulas and charts that can be used on the exam - and that's it. It'll be a different delivery, different problem types, and a different reference.
It'll be a big change and without a doubt make 2020 examinees feel like guinea pigs in the sense of trying out something new to everyone involved (examinees, the exam writers, and prep material producers). That could be intimidating or could be an opportunity depending upon how you look at it.
Know someone interested in taking the PE Exam? Feel free to send them this article today.
Are you "prepping" for the 2019 PE Exam? Here's some related past articles on the topic:
A 2018 PE Exam Summer in Review
Updates for the 2018 Fire Protection PE Exam
Thoughts on the 2017 PE Prep Season
5 Tips to Crush P.E. Exam Prep
Fire P.E. Exam Ranked 3rd Toughest, 6th Overall
Collaborate with Others Studying for the PE Exam
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Joseph Meyer, PE, is a Fire Protection Engineer in St. Louis, Missouri. See bio on About page.