Fundamentals of Engineering Exam

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The Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) examination has been administered by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) since the examination debuted in 1965.[1]

The FE examination is fundamentally overhauled every six to eight years. This process involves a content survey study which ensures that the examination thoroughly tests the skills and knowledge critical for modern engineering licensure, but also remains grounded in current engineering program curricula.[2] As of 2011, the NCEES was seeking volunteers for a content review for the FE examination.[3]

In 2011, the NCEES chose Pearson VUE to be its computer-based testing partner as it developed an electronic form of the FE exam.[4] Prior to January 2014, the FE examination was administered as a pencil-and-paper exam which took eight hours to complete, including a four-hour morning session with 120 questions and a four-hour afternoon session with 60 questions.[5] Now the FE exam is only available as a computer-based examination.[6] As part of the transition, the examination has been reduced to only 110 multiple-choice questions administered during a six-hour exam appointment time slot, of which five hours and twenty minutes is spent answering questions.[7]

Function of the Test

The FE is most commonly taken by students who have either completed or will soon complete an undergraduate degree in engineering and who wish to eventually earn the Professional Engineer (P.E.) license.[7] It is commonly taken as part of the process of applying for a license to practice engineering. Every state has its own licensing or registration board for engineers, so the requirements for taking the examination and the consequences of passing the examination may vary from location to location. Candidates are encouraged to check the specific requirements of the state(s) in which they intend to practice.[8]

The FE is available in seven different forms which focus on various subfields of engineering. The examination forms, along with the pass rates of first-time test takers, are presented below:

FE exams and pass rates [9]
Exam Pass Rate
FE Chemical 70%
FE Civil 68%
FE Electrical and Computer 70%
FE Environmental 78%
FE Industrial and Systems 72%
FE Mechanical 80%
Pass Rates of other EAC/ABET degrees
Exam Pass Rate
Agricultural 0.82
Architectural 0.67
Bio-Medical (not Biological) 0.83
General Engineering 0.76
Mechanical 0.9
Mining/Mineral 0.74
Naval Architecture & Marine 0.87
Petroleum 0.74
Structural 0.89

In each subfield, the FE also serves as a precursor to the Practice of Engineering (PE) examination. Passing the FE examination is required before taking the PE examination, and passing the PE examination is required to receive a P.E. license.[8]

Test Administration

Because licensure requirements and the licensing process vary from state to state, candidates are encouraged to carefully the guidelines provided be the state(s) in which they intend to practice before attempting to register for the FE examination. For example, some licensing boards may require candidates to file a separate application and pay a separate fee to the state itself before being allowed to take the FE examination.[2]

The examination is offered in four testing windows throughout the year:[2]

  • January–February
  • April–May
  • July–August
  • October–November

The FE examination is offered only at Pearson VUE testing centers. The exam may be scheduled through the MyNCEES website. Appointment times must be scheduled at least one full business day in advance. The fee for taking the FE exam is $225.[2]

Per the NCEES's rules, candidates may only attempt to take the FE exam one time within a given testing window, and no more than three times within a twelve-month period. Some state licensing boards may have a stricter retesting policy, however.[2]

Candidates who require special accommodations for a documented disability may indicate this need during the exam registration process. These candidates must submit supporting documentation per the NCEES Examinees with Disabilities Guide.[10]

Test Format

Sections of the Fundamentals of Engineering Test
Fundamentals of Engineering Test Subject Areas Number of Items
Mathematics 11
Probability and Statistics 4
Ethics and Professional Practice 3
Engineering Economics 3
Properties of Electrical Materials 4
Engineering Sciences 6
Circuit Analysis 10
Linear Systems 5
Signal Processing 5
Electronics 7
Power 8
Electromagnetics 5
Control Systems 6
Communications 5
Computer Networks 3
Digital Systems 7
Computer Systems 4
Software Development 4
Total 100

Test Environment

For admission, candidates must bring a government-issued photo ID. Candidates may also bring a calculator, and a light sweater or jacket into the testing center. The FE Exams consist of a period of six hours. There is an 8 minute instructional tutorial, a five hour and 20 minute exam, and a scheduled break of 25 minutes. There will also be a brief survey at the end of the exam.[11]

Test Structure

The Fundamentals of Engineering offers exams that cover seven different focuses: Fundamentals of Engineering Chemical, Civil, Electrical and Computer, Environmental, Industrial, Mechanical, and Other Disciplines. Each exam allows five hours and twenty minutes to be completed, and consists of 110 multiple choice questions. [12]

Test Content

  • Sample PTCB Questions:
  1. Which of the following statements about therapy for hyperlipidemia is true?
    A. Patients taking statins should have periodic monitoring of kidney function
    B. A common adverse effect of niacin is headache and flushing
    C. Gemfibrozil is taken once daily, after the evening meal
    D. The desired total cholesterol level is more than 200 mg/dL
  2. Which vitamin may be toxic if taken in excess due to accumulation in the body?
    A. C
    B. B1
    C. Potassium
    D. K
  3. Which of the following statements about topical corticosteroids is ture?
    A. They are used for infection
    B. Corticosteroid cream and lotions are interchangeable
    C. They should be applied liberally
    D. A week's supply of superpotent steroids should not exceed 50 g
  4. Which of the following drugs is contraindicated in pregnancy?
    A. Warfarin
    B. Amoxicillin
    C. Ondansetron
    D. Enoxaparin
  5. You are reviewing a refill prescription for atorvastatin. The prescription is missing the quantity. In previous prescriptions, the quantity has been 30. What is the correct course of action?
    A. Add the quantity of 30 in since this is what the previous quantity has been.
    B. Give the prescription back to the patient to have their physician rewrite the prescription.
    C. Call the prescriber for clarification
    D. Ask the pharmacist for help.
  6. What type of antibiotic are dicloxacillin, amoxicillin, ampicillin, and piperacillin?
    A. Bacteriostatic
    B. Penicillin
    C. Cephalosporin
    D. Quinolones
  7. A podiatrist wants 30 grams of cream containing 2% butenafine and 5% melaleuca alternifolia oil. How many grams of each product will be in the cream?
    A. 6 g butenafine, 15 g melaleuca alternifolia oil
    B. 1.5 g butenafine, 0.6 g melaleuca alternifolia oil
    C. 6.7 g butenafine, 16.7 g melaleuca alternifolia oil
    D. 0.6 g butenafine, 1.5 g melaleuca alternifolia oil
  8. A physician has ordered a prescription for AMBIEN for a patient having difficulty sleeping. The pharmacy substitutes zolpidem. What type of formulary allows for this change?
    A. Open forumulary
    B. Closed formulary
    C. Equivalient formulary
    D. Restrictive formulary
  9. What is the minimum standard for an employee to receive a performance appraisal?
    A. Monthly
    B. Annually
    C. Every 5 yearls
    D. When performance is lacking


The FE exam comprises 110 multiple-choice questions administered by computer. Candidates' results are based on the total number of correct answers given on the test. This means that there is no penalty for guessing; wrong answers and answers left blank are counted the same way.[2]

There are no set passing scores or passing percentages on the FE exam. Candidates' raw scores are converted to a scaled score which accounts for slightly different levels of difficulty from one version of the exam to the next. This scaled score is designed to represent the candidate's true ability level. Each candidate's ability level is compared to the minimum acceptable ability level determined by subject-matter experts through psychometric statistical methods in order to determine who passes the examination and who fails the examination.[2]

The pass rates for the different forms of the FE exam are given in the "Function of the Test" section above.

Recent/Future Developments

Starting January 2014, the NCEES retired the old pencil-and-paper FE examination. The FE exam is only available as a computer-based examination administered at Pearson VUE testing sites. The new examination has been reduced to only 110 multiple-choice questions administered during a six-hour exam appointment time slot.[7]

Answers to Sample Questions

1;B 2;D 3;D 4;A 5;C 6;B 7;D 8;B 9;B


  1. ^ History of the NCEES March 21, 2018
  2. ^ a b c d e f g NCEES Examinee Guide June 2014 June 15, 2014
  3. ^ NCEES seeks volunteers for FE exam content review June 6, 2014
  4. ^ NCEES chooses Pearson VUE for FE, FS exam delivery June 6, 2014
  5. ^ NCEES Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) Examination 2009 June 6 2014
  6. ^ NCEES: Computer-based testing June 6, 2014
  7. ^ a b c NCEES: FE Exam June 6, 2014
  8. ^ a b NCEES: Licensure June 6 2014
  9. ^ FE Sections March 21, 2018
  10. ^ NCEES Examinees with Disabilities Guide June 6 2014
  11. ^ Exam Content 14 July 2014
  12. ^ FE Exams 14 July 2014