The Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam, also referred to as the Engineer in Training (EIT) exam, and formerly in some states as the Engineering Intern (EI) exam, is the first of two examinations that engineers must pass in order to be licensed as a Professional Engineer in the United States. The exam is open to anyone with a degree in engineering or a related field, or currently enrolled in the last year of an ABET-accredited engineering degree program. Some state licensure boards permit students to take it prior to their final year, and numerous states allow those who have never attended an approved program to take the exam if they have a state-determined number of years of work experience in engineering. A selection of states allow those with ABET-accredited “Engineering Technology” or “TAC” degrees to take the examination. The state of Michigan has no admission pre-requisites for the FE. The exam is administered by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES).
The exam is eight hours long altogether, split into two four-hour sessions with a 60 minute lunch break in between. This accounts for the time required to collect the morning exam. Morning admission typically begins around 7:15 A.M. Failure to appear before the doors are closed (around 7:40 A.M.) will result in the student being turned away from the testing site. It typically takes 20 minutes for the proctors to pass out the materials and go over the exam procedures, so that the morning session begins at 8:00 A.M. Similar procedures are followed in the afternoon session, with admission starting around 1:15 P.M. and ending around 1:30 P.M.; the test itself begins between 1:30 and 1:45 P.M.
The morning session is a 120-question general exam for which all examinees must sit, while the afternoon session consists of 60 questions and is more discipline-oriented. For this second half, examinees choose one of the following seven tests: chemical engineering, civil engineering, environmental engineering, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering,industrial engineering, or other disciplines (similar in content to the morning exam, but far more detailed). Prior to April 2010, the other disciplines test was called the general test, but it was renamed to better reflect who should take it. As of the October 2010 exam, the choice of afternoon exam is required to be made when registering. Prior to this, at the start of the afternoon session, examinees were given a booklet containing all seven exams and could decide at that time which one to take.
The topics covered by the general exam are covered in the courses taken by engineering undergraduates, and include (as of 2011):
- Engineering Probability and Statistics
- Ethics and Business Practices
- Engineering Economics
- Engineering Mechanics (Statics and Dynamics)
- Strength of Materials
- Material Properties
- Fluid Mechanics
- Electricity and Magnetism
A scaled score of 70 is required to pass the exam. This does not mean one needs to answer 70% of the answers correctly to pass, however. A portion of previous exam questions are then given on subsequent exams. After the exam, a statistical analysis of these questions is used to equate the new test to the benchmark test. This makes all of the tests more or less equal in difficulty.
Examinees receive their results approximately 2 months after the test date. Those who pass the exam are designated Engineer In Training or given an equivalent designation, such as Engineer Intern, by their state’s licensure board for engineers, and are partway through the certification process. After completing an apprenticeship (the length of which is set by state law and based on the type of degree received), an EIT may qualify to take the Professional Engineer (PE) exam. Certification is awarded upon successful completion of the PE exam. The standard time of apprenticeship under a Professional Engineer is 4 years of work experience for graduates of an ABET-accredited engineering program.
Taking the exam
Writing tools and scratch paper may not be brought to the testing site. Mechanical pencils are issued to all examinees, and the test booklet may be used as scratch paper for working problems. No calculators are allowed except for those specifically approved by NCEES and listed below; these models have no programming or communications capabilities which could allow people to cheat. The only reference material that may be used is a handbook which is issued to examinees in the morning; it must be left in the room after each session. For study purposes, this handbook may be obtained by downloading from the NCEES website or by purchasing a hard copy. However, examinees may not bring their own copies to the test site; they must use the ones issued to them by the proctors and may not write in them.
NCEES allows only the following calculators to be used on the Fundamentals of Engineering Exam:
- Casio fx-115 (all models)
- Hewlett-Packard HP 33s and HP 35s
- Texas Instruments TI-30X and TI-36X (all models)
The calculator must clearly display its model number so that exam proctors can quickly identify the calculator and approve for use during the exam. The list of allowed calculators is revised each November. It is crucial that any examinee check the NCEES website to verify their calculator is acceptable. Absolutely no other calculators are allowed. Using a non-permitted calculator after the exam has begun will result in the examinee having his or her exam confiscated immediately and the exam will not be scored. All selected models, depending on student background (HPs are Reverse Polish Notation) are efficient in solving problems.