Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Get Licensed - Tips for preparing for the PE Exam in Computer Engineering

What is this NCEES exam and why would I want to take it?

The NCEES is a governing body that is allowed to license people and companies to practice engineering.  Any company with "Engineer" in the title needs to have a professional engineer (PE) or they may get sued by the professional engineering society for the state it is in.  The Principal and Practice exam is one requirement  prior to becoming licensed as an engineer.  This is an eight hour test that once you pass it, you are on your way to be licensed to officially perform the practice of engineering and run you own engineering company.  

People with a PE license are highly regarded in their field of expertise as it is no small feat to getting licensed.

My Tips

This applies to the Electrical and Computer : Computer Engineering exam, but the same methods and most books should work for the Software Exam.  Although the book list will need to be adjusted somewhat.

I spent many long hours studying for both this FE exam and then the PE exam, and now I have an engineering license to practice software engineering.  I wish I had some help along the way and someone to clue me in to what I needed to do.  Maybe my study methods can help you prepare for this exam.

To prepare for the PE test in October, I started studying five months in advance.  So, to take the test in October, I began studying in May a couple hours a night for most nights.  I figure I put about 300 hours of studying to get ready for this test.  Your needs may be different than mine as I wanted to make sure I did not have to take this eight hour test again.  Really, who wants to take this exam again.

Tips for passing the PE Exam

  1. Start studying five to six months in advance.
  2. Try for at least 300 hours of studying.
  3. Get to know your reference materials well.  Get everything you need early.  You will need to use them under stress and finding what you need quickly is key.  
  4. Use a calculator that you are allowed to take to the test.  Learn it well.  I used the Casio Fx-115ES.
  5. Spend the time to mark the Table of Contents, and where the Index is in all your books with sticky tabs.  You will be thankful later when you can just grab a book and start looking through the index quickly instead of fumbling for it. 
  6. Take all the sample tests you can until you feel comfortable with the material.

Here you can see the yellow tabs.  It is a good idea to mark the table of contents,
the start and end of the index for quick access.

The Books (Computer Engineering version)

To get the booklist, I started with the exam specifications from NCEES and made sure the books I selected covered most of those topics.  If you are taking the software only exam, you will not find as much use for the Electronics Engineers' Handbook.
  1. The Computer Science and Engineering Handbook, Tucker - This book was the best single resource for the test, it is a hefty beast, though.
  2. Electronics Engineers' Handbook, Christiansen - This book also was a great resource for the test.  It's big, but covers a lot of ground.
  3. Operating Systems: Internals and Design Principle, William Stallings  
  4. The Camara Books - Some people don't like his books.  I didn't either at first, but it turned out they were actually useful for me - especially the sample problems:
    1. Electrical Engineering Practice Problems for the Power, Electrical/Electronics, and Computer PE Exams, Camara
    2. Electrical Engineering Quick Reference for the Power, Electrical and Electronics, and Computer PE Exams - This one is expensive and not as good as the Electronic or Computer Science Engineering Handbook.
    3. Electrical Engineering Sample Examinations for the Power, Electrical and Electronics, and Computer PE Exams - The sample problems are a must.  You should be able to solve these using just your reference materials.
  5. PE Electrical and Computer: Computer Engineering Practice Exam - The sample test from NCEES.
  6. Guide to the Software Engineering Body of Knowledge (SWEBOK) - Absolutely necessary.  I used the 2004 version and this book was quite handy for the project management details.  A newer version is available.
  7. Schaum's Outlines - I got these books but didn't really need them for the test. Your mileage may vary.  If you need to target specific holes in your knowledge, they may be a good resource.
    1. Schaum's Outline of Digital Principles
    2. Schaum's Outline of Computer Architecture
    3. Schaum's Outline of Software Engineering
    4. Schaum's Outline of Operating Systems
  8. Microelectronic Circuit Design, Jaeger
  9. Introduction to Computer Engineering: Hardware and Software Design, Booth
  10. Microelectronics (Mcgraw Hill Series in Electrical and Computer Engineering), Jacob Millman

Good luck!

If this list does help you, please consider clicking on +1, post a LOL cat photo, or whatever.


  1. Admiring the time and effort you put into your blog and detailed information you offer. Tricitiesengineering.com offers Foundation Design services in Tri Cities. For the more details you can visit on PEMB Foundation Design tri cities

  2. I enjoyed reading your post. I will share it with my other friends as the information is really very useful. Keep sharing your excellent work. Best Engineering College India