Preparing for the FE ECE exam

3 minute read

I took the FE Electrical and Computer Engineering Exam on May 15th 2018. This post will have the things I learned to successfully pass the exam.

The Motivation (Why)

The Professional Engineering license can be an important asset to an engineer who especially works on large scale, substantially sized applications of Engineering used either by public or businesses, such as power plants, water treatment plants, road infrastructure or any other applications that require extensive planning and design. It’s a license that officially gives an engineer the opportunity to be the one to seal the plans and take ownership for those designs. However, to get licensed, completing a four-year college degree isn’t enough, you will have to work under a licensed Professional Engineer for 4 years minimum, pass two comprehensively intensive competency exams and earn a license from respective state’s licensure board.

  • Step 0: Get a legit BS degree
  • Step 1: Pass the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE)
  • Step 2: Pass the Principles of Engineering (PE)
  • Step 3: Complete 4 years of “training”

The Breakdown

Now, FE is offered in seven disciplines, including Industrial, Mechanical and Chemical. The exam is composed of two parts, Part 2 has the real meat pertaining to the the discipline chosen while Part 1 has all the stereotypical concepts an engineer should know or “love” like math, statistics etc. Part 2 tests you (at least me, per the classes I took at UIUC) on 200-300 level courses. For example, part 2 tests for the following concepts:

  • Circuit Analysis - ECE 110
  • Linear Systems - ECE 210
  • Signal Processing - ECE 210, ECE 310
  • Electronics - ECE 342
  • Power - ECE 330
  • Electromagnetics - ECE 329
  • Control Systems - ECE 486
  • Communications - ECE 310
  • Computer Networks - ECE 438
  • Digital Systems - ECE 290
  • Computer Systems - ECE 385, ECE 391
  • Software Development - CS 225

I was half excited, quarter daunted and quarter annoyed. I was excited to register and take this exam because it meant having to review and jog my memory through the material I had studied in those 4 years, but it’s daunting to get tested on such a broad discipline. It’s also annoying because I had to review concepts I am unlikely to use in my career.

Part 1 tests on the following:

  • Mathematics - MATH 221, MATH 231, MATH 241 (Calc 1, 2, 3)
  • Probability and Statistics - ECE 313
  • Ethics and Professional Practice - ??
  • Engineering Economics - ??
  • Properties of Electrical Materials - Chemistry, Thermodynamics, ??????? (RIP) 😢
  • Engineering Sciences - PHYS 211, PHYS 212 (Classical Mechanics, E&M)

The Approach

The top 5 categories with largest chunk of questions across both the parts of the exam are:

  • Mathematics (min 11)
  • Circuit Analysis (min 10)
  • Power (min 8)
  • Digital Systems (min 7)
  • Electronics (min 7)

These 5 topics would account for minimum 40% of the exam.

The Resources

The breakdown helped me jog my memory regarding my strong and weak points. As I reviewed them, I realized my memory was far more rusty than initially assumed. I didn’t dive too deep into each of them, I did a basic review. I have linked few external resources that helped me with the review:

Conclusion

The practice exam published officially by NCEES offers a good, easier-looking glimpse into the actual exam. Part 2 began with a few challenging questions that required more than the usual time you’ll need per question. For example, my first question dealt with an RCs - MOSFETs circuit. As expected, questions in Part 2 had less generic formulaic problem solving and more topic specific knowledge. In fact, sections like communications and computer systems had text Q&A. I had to recall the purpose of a router, its role in processes, OSI framework, the role of an amplitude checker, what kind of modulations are best suited for which applications, the kind of requirements for a bandpass filter and more. A week later, I was absolutely ecstatic when I saw the small green box on the website.🎉

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