If you've taken or plan to take the Fire Protection PE Exam - this one's for you. Cheers.
Note: If you took the PE Exam in the last four years, and took part in our online PE Prep Series, we’d love to know if you passed the exam. This article is exploring the data from just that information.
This data below is live, so it will update with your information you email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
AN EXTREMELY COMMON QUESTION
Today on the blog I'm going to look at an extremely common question that comes up every single year for participants in the Fire Protection PE Exam:
How does the MeyerFire content compare to the actual exam?
And - probably more importantly - how do the scores on the MeyerFire content translate to actual performance on the exam?
Before you comment below this article - I will say this - it's complicated.
ANECDOTAL & EMOTIONAL EXPERIENCES
Anecdotally, since I first wrote the first edition of the PE Prep Guide, I've been obsessed with trying to match the level of difficulty in the practice questions with the level of difficulty on the actual exam.
Now I know what level of difficulty I personally experienced when I took that exam.
Many others who have taken the exam have their own experience.
The problem with my own experience is that I had so much emotion wrapped up into that exam.
I remember talking about it to my wife at the time, and I said it might not be the most difficult exam that I've ever taken, but I'm pretty sure it's the most important. And because of that, I put a lot of undue pressure on myself to knock it out in that first attempt.
I think we all, just because of the importance on what that little 85-question exam can do for our career, place an undue pressure on ourselves when we take that exam.
I say that, because I think the context of how we experience the exam affects how difficult we think the exam is.
Did the practice problems look anything like the exam?
Well, it probably will depend on who you ask.
Well - let's say we're going into the exam. We're extremely well prepared. Our mind is clear. We spent six years and sixteen thousand hours studying for the exam. We hired personal assistants to manage our life, fire protection experts to whisper code in our ears while we slept, and fitness consultants to keep the fire protection experts alive and upright to whisper throughout the night.
Ok, so no one has done that. (Joe why'd you have to make this so weird?)
But there are legitimately people who are excellent at exam prep and taking the exam.
That is not me, but I know they exist.
How? Because they absorb all the prep content I've created like it's a child's flipbook and ask me questions that are three levels deeper than a question was ever intended to go.
I mean, there are superhuman fire protection wizards out there (maybe lizard-people do exist?).
Those people walk out of the exam with confidence, and report back that the content we've created is spot-on with the level of difficulty and concept types on the actual exam.
How could they not say so? Their DNA speaks NFPA 92.
THE REST OF THE WORLD
I'm not one of those people. And I would contend that most people who take the exam are not in that group either.
On the opposite end of experience, some of us take the exam like I did the first time I took heat transfer.
I studied a whole lot less than I should. I figured it was open-book and I could dial in the answers while taking the exam. I was busy with other things, and I mailed it in. I actually got physically sick the night before the first exam, and didn’t do my normal ‘cram study’ like I had always done.
I just about failed that first exam, and dug myself a hole I struggled to dig out of the rest of the semester.
[Coincidentally, the courses I always did the worst in were the courses that were all fire-protection-related.. that doesn’t mean anything, right?]
Some people experience the PE Exam that way (not just fire protection).
Perhaps we don’t have the time to study. Perhaps we didn’t plan ahead, or crammed to much, or whatever different reason. We do have lives, I totally get it.
There are many, many smart people I know who did not pass the exam on the first go around.
It absolutely happens.
When we have a terrible, stress-filled experience on an important test – it’s an awful experience emotionally.
When we rush through questions in a frantic manner, there’s no chance that our stress-filled experience is going to lend itself to a clear mind, nor a calm understanding of “oh I’ve seen this question before” or “I know this one by heart.”
It’s just too hard for that.
I get a feedback from just a few test takers each year that have an experience like this. And they offer feedback that nothing prepared them for the exam.
Difficulty, subject matter, or otherwise. Doesn't matter - nothing prepared them for what the exam looked like.
SO WHERE IS REALITY? WHO IS RIGHT?
So if one group says we’re spot-on, and another says we’re nowhere close, then what is reality?
The truth is obviously got to be somewhere in the middle.
I’ve been on the good end of exam taking, and the bad end. I’m right there with you.
Not to go all philosophical, but the whole reason I started this site was to help share ideas and support the awesome community that is the fire protection industry.
I want to be all about transparency.
So, each year, right before the exam, that question comes up over and over – how does the prep material (not just MeyerFire, but everyone’s) compare to the actual exam?
And, anecdotally, each experience (because we’re human) can vary widely.
So if emotionally, it’s difficult to tell, then what does the data say? Can the numbers answer that question for us?
Yes, but again, it’s complicated.
The numbers we do have are the scores from the online PE Prep Series from 2019 to 2022 (four years of individual online scores).
WHAT WE WANT TO KNOW
What I really want to know are two things: (1) if the scores on the actual exam are similar to the scores on the MeyerFire prep content, and (2) how do scores compare on the MeyerFire series compare to exam performance?
These can be answered, but only with very limited data.
Here is a summary graph showing the average score on a MeyerFire PE Prep Series Exam. This is an average of all exams taken. The highest-possible score is a 10.0, lowest possible is 0.
On the y-axis, we have the score on the actual exam.
Only the red dots are confirmed, non-passing scores on the exam. We only have a few data points for those which have kindly been shared with us (again, we keep this anonymous).
The orange dots are non-passing results, but we don’t have scores from the exam.
The green dots are passing results. Why are they all at the same score? When someone passes the PE Exam, they don’t get the results, only a “pass” score.
In the last four years, the lowest non-passing score we’ve seen has been a 65 percent, which suggests the raw pass rate for the PE Exam is somewhere around the 66-70% range.
WHAT DOES IT SHOW?
Because we don’t know the actual passing scores, and we only get limited feedback from users, it’s hard to pull correlations on the data.
However, we can see a few things.
First, is that the likelihood of passing rises significantly with better scores on the MeyerFire online series.
It’s difficult to tell from the graph, but if you check this table below, it becomes a little more apparent:
MEYERFIRE ONLINE PREP SERIES SCORE VS. PASS RATE
This is a live chart, so it’s being kept up-to-date with each new piece of information that comes in.
Again, if you’ve taken the PE Exam in the last four years and took part in our online series, tell us how you did on the exam, so we can give you (and future users) better data.
The encouraging trend is that the better you perform on the online series, the more likely you are to pass the actual exam.
Yeah, thanks Joe, duh.
But what’s new today is some of the actual numbers from past examinees.
OVERALL PASS RATE?
So Joe, is this overall pass rate the actual pass rate for MeyerFire examinees?
No; because it’s not representative of all users.
First, this is only the pass rate from the sample size that we’ve gathered. It is not reflective of all users. We will absolutely (with some certainty) have a sampling bias here, because the respondents are not going to be representative of the actual user group. If someone doesn’t pass the exam, we’ll hear from them and add an additional free year on the platform. If someone passes the exam, we usually won’t hear from them and they don’t get counted.
Second, this rate might be undercompensating for passed exams due to our setup. We give a free additional year on the online series if someone doesn’t pass the exam. So if that person takes the exam twice, we represent each attempt at the exam here separately. That’s not true of the inverse condition – if someone passes the exam the first time; they are always counted once.
So when people ask “what’s your pass rate from users of your material?” it’s a great question, but a very difficult one to answer.
WHY AIN'T I IN THAT DATA?
I write all that today with the hope that you’ll let me know if you’ve taken the exam in the last four years, but also for future test-takers.
FOR FUTURE EXAIMINEES
With this information finally published, there’s at least some confidence in how your preparation would suggest you’d perform on the exam, based on past performance.
Now of course, past-performance is not an indication of future trajectory. We know that from every stock-trading commercial on TV today. But, we can still look for trends and have some degree of confidence based on the historical data.
SO IS MEYERFIRE THE SAME DIFFICULTY AS THE EXAM?
So is the MeyerFire content the same difficulty as the actual exam? Yes, and no.
That’s largely going to depend on your perspective. I’d trust those who just recently took the exam to answer it better than I could. And there's plenty of good that discussion on the facebook group about it.
But – does that actually matter? That’s an interesting question, because what actually matters is whether or not we pass the exam, not whether or not the questions are the exact same level of difficulty.
My hope is that some of this data will help answer those questions and give confidence for future examinees heading into the big day.
Thanks for reading, I hope you’ve found this interesting and somewhat insightful. Feel free to comment below, and if you’re one of those examinees who took the exam and the online material, do shoot me an email at email@example.com and help us prop this up for future users.
Thanks & have a great week.
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Joe Meyer, PE, is a Fire Protection Engineer out of St. Louis, Missouri who writes & develops resources for Fire Protection Professionals. See bio here: About