I Took the Professional Engineer Exam Twice Before I Passed

Original post date: May 26, 2015.

Got my results and… drum roll please… I PASSED THE P.E.!!!!!! For those who aren’t familiar, the P.E., or Professional Engineer exam, is basically the equivalent or the Bar Exam for lawyers. It is an 8-hour, 80-question multiple choice exam that’s only administered twice a year (Spring and Fall). If you pass, you receive a license to practice engineering in the state in which you took the exam. And yes, most questions are math-based (!). Slight caveat: you can technically practice engineering without a P.E. license, but it is a well-known, industry-wide benchmark. Most engineering students dream about it early on and start watching that 4-year eligibility clock soon after graduation.

Anyway… from the time my P.E. application was accepted, my 1.5-year journey to becoming a licensed Professional Engineer did not play out as I’d envisioned. My journey took more time, but ultimately set me on the path I feel I was meant to be on: construction management.

When I started studying for this mammoth exam at the beginning of 2014, I prayed a scary prayer midway through my efforts. I felt prompted to ask God to not let me pass the P.E. exam that year, if I were to learn or gain something else in His plan for me. I prayed it once or twice and left it at that. After I took the exam in Spring 2014, I found out that summer that I did not pass.

So, not only did I study for months, but also per standard practice, I was forced to wait an excruciating 6 weeks for results. It was a hard season, full of doubt of what my next steps were. Should I take it again? (The 2nd time passing rate is not much higher) Where did I go wrong? (I put in the recommended 200-300 hours of study time) What am I doing here? (Unfair and dramatic, but hey, that’s what temporary pain looks like)

As I contemplated how this would impact my career, I took some personal inventory and ownership of what I truly needed and wanted. After inquiring about different opportunities and a few conversations with management, I made a big move at work and switched work groups. An internal transfer was not often pursued at my company; our main groups were siloed because we each provided very different services to very different clients.

In this new group, I landed an amazing project: working on a state-of-the-art fire suppression system at the iconic Eisenhower Tunnel. The second time around on the exam, I also decided to switch tracks from Civil: Construction to Civil: Transportation. This meant I needed to acquire new study materials, but it also meant I would learn more relevant topics for my job as an onsite Project Engineer on the owner’s construction management team.

Through these decisions, God affirmed for me how He placed just the right people in my path at the right time. Helpful managers who loaned me very expensive study materials for free. New colleagues who gave advice willingly and repeatedly. Supportive husband and friends who celebrated just the task of taking the test (again) and took me out for drinks afterwards (again).

It’s worth mentioning that when I didn’t pass in 2014, I soon realized I needed to collect myself before hitting the books again. Waiting a whole year to try again paid off so much for a few big reasons: 1) it’s way easier to study in the winter when it’s cold outside (hello, summer distractions—where’s my patio weather crew?!), 2) I wouldn’t have known then, but switching exam tracks was ultimately the best choice for my career interests and skills, and 3) I would not have had the access to study materials I needed by Fall 2014, since that’s when I officially transferred and switched work groups.

On May 26, 2015, and still today, I am grateful to Jesus for this experience and equipping me to achieve this goal, despite failure the first time around. I am grateful to have the most caring friends and family in the world. I am grateful for the MANY professionals who can relate to my experience, whether near or far, knowing the sacrifice, diligence, and sheer willpower it takes to study for months on end. Looking back now, 5 years later, I learned a significant amount of technical material that I rely on in my career today, a lot of which I was not exposed to in my undergraduate courses.

Side note: the second time I took the test, I did pray repeatedly that I would pass… 🙂

Published by Christi

I'm a civil engineer and novice writer who loves connecting the built world to our humanity. I love the beach, chocolate, and any form of traveling. And so many more things that can't possibly fit into one life.

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