Another summer on its way, and another year of feedback says that the Fire Protection PE (Principles and Practices of Engineering) Exam ranks as one of the toughest disciplines based on pass rate.
Here are some figures for first-time examinees from the Fall of 2019:
And here's what we saw for repeat examinees:
Why So Tough?
Why is the Fire Protection PE a tough one to crack? Most people say its the variety of subjects that the exam covers. While many might think of "sprinkler systems" when they think "fire protection", the industry isn't limited to just NFPA 13.
The representative exam covers fire dynamics, water-based suppression, special hazards, detection & alarm, smoke control systems, explosion protection and prevention, passive building systems, means of egress, and human behavior.
If you're like me, your day job might not cover the wide breadth that the fire protection industry represents. Studying for the exam usually involves a multi-month process of learning parts of the trade with otherwise little to no experience in it. I can say firsthand, it's tough!
What's New in 2020?
This is a big year for the Fire Protection PE Exam. The long-awaited transition to computer-based testing has shaken up the exam with plenty of new offerings, new standards, new questions styles, and stirred up the prep-community too.
I'll start with the exam first - this fall will mark the first Fire Protection PE Exam that's computer-based. They'll be given on a single-day this fall (October 22, 2020) at Pearson-Vue test centers.
The exam is moving from an 8-hour, 80-question, multiple-choice only question style to an 8.5-hour, 85-question, varied question style exam.
Why the change? The exam will start to feature "alternative item type" questions that have shown to better test knowledge than the multiple-choice style questions. The can consist of multiple-correct answer questions, point and click, sequencing, drag and drop, or fill in the blank style answers.
While there isn't an expectation that all the exam questions will be this style, it'll be introduced for the first time this fall and should become more prevalent in future exams going forward.
Gone are the days of lugging 75-pound suitcases full of hardcover books into the exam room. I say definitively say 75-pounds, because that was the limit the airline accepted when I took the exam.
The new exam features ready-access to PDF versions of multiple standards, and a new NCEES supplied reference manual. Here are the changes across the board, by year:
In 2020, we're seeing a total of eleven references for the exam. This now consists of ten different standards, but pulls out the two largest volumes with the SFPE and NFPA Handbooks from the exam.
While this is opposite of the direction we've been told the exam would take for a long time, it will do a good job of reducing the sheer quantity of content that's referenced by the exam into more practical deliverables.
New 2020 Prep Guide & PE Prep Series
The MeyerFire PE Prep Guide is getting an overhaul, as it does most years, to update to the latest exam standards. This year is taking some extra work and we're still looking to ship out by the end of May. The 2020 Prep Guide incorporates all the standard changes and has some new question styles, too.
Each year is a bit of a writer's jam between when the exam standards are published and when I get the 2020 PE Prep Guide out for printing. This year has been especially busy and I sincerely appreciate the patience while I get this edition updated so that it's helpful for you, the user. If you've pre-ordered a copy and are dying to get started studying, reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll see if I can set you up with materials in the interim. Thanks again for your patience.
The PE Prep Series will start the first week of June. It's our most adaptive and robust series of questions we have - the difficulty is closely monitored to help mirror the actual exam, all of the questions are timed, it's entirely computer-based, and it incorporates the question styles of the exam itself. Learn more about that here.
New PE Roadmap
The prep-space is updating as well. One of the frequent requests I've gotten the past few years is about studying - what should I study? When should I study? Am I on the right track? How do I keep myself accountable?
In the past there's only been a study course or two to help with this.
I'm now proud to say there is another option for those looking to go beyond the PE Prep Guide & online questions, but who might not be a good fit for a full-fledged course. It's the PE Roadmap by Chris Campbell. He's an Adjunct Lecturer at the University of Maryland, a Senior Fire Protection Engineer, the writer at the Building Code Blog, and a great guy.
With the PE Roadmap, he's building on the book and the online questions I've written with his own guidance on when & how to study with study schedules, guidance on study content, and one-on-one personal check-in calls. Check the full offering here: www.buildingcode.blog/pe-roadmap
Thanks & have a great week!
While couped up in our house I've been binging on creating cheatsheets instead of Netflix. Sorry Tiger King.
This week I'm debuting an overview of the components for seismic bracing in fire sprinkler systems. Seismic bracing is a nuanced and complex topic, but my hope with this overview cheatsheet is that you'll have a starting point for reviewing all the different requirements that go into seismic bracing.
As always, be sure to check the code, the commentary, and any other information you can find on these topics to make sure your work or your reviews are top notch.
That being said, here's the two-page introductory cheatsheet for seismic bracing in sprinkler systems under NFPA 13. If you find this content helpful, please considering sharing with colleagues and subscribing to resources like this here: www.meyerfire.com/subscribe.
Thanks and have a great rest of your week!
A couple weeks ago I sent a sprinkler obstructions cheatsheet for the options with standard spray sprinklers and ceiling-mounted obstructions where the sprinkler cannot throw over the obstruction.
Thanks to some great suggestions, I've now incorporated some visuals that might help. As always, thanks for the feedback! You can download the updated cheatsheet here:
A New, Free, Fire Protection App
In case you missed it last week - there's a new free fire protection app on the market.
It's free and was developed by Michael Swahn and the helpful engineers over at Sebench Engineering out of Atlanta. It's now live on both Google Play Store and the Apple App Store. Here's links to get it:
Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=al.pragmatic.sebench.android
The app has quick-calculations for Fire Pump Tests, Hydrant Flows, Equivalent K-Factors, Flow/K-Factor/Pressure Calculations, and Friction Loss. Download it today with the links above.
NFSA Expert of the Day Handbook Coming Summer 2020
One of the major projects I've been working on since last fall is development of the National Fire Sprinkler Association's Expert of the Day Handbook. It is a two-volume hardcover compilation of thousands of informal interpretations by NFSA's Experts, spanning 2004 through 2018.
The set will be available through NFSA later this summer (likely by July). I'm thrilled to be a part of compiling these in a searchable, organized manner that could very well be the go-to resource for suppression design, inspection & testing outside of the standards themselves. There will be plenty more on this as the book becomes available for sale, but wanted to share a little of the good news on this exciting undertaking.
Thanks & I hope you have a safe and great rest of your week!
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Joseph Meyer, PE, owns/operates his own Fire Protection Engineering practice in St. Louis, Missouri. See bio on About page.