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How Does The Current CBT PE Exam Format Look?

If you will be taking the PE civil exam in the coming future, you will already know that the exam format has transitioned from pencil-and-paper to computer-based testing. And if you are not aware of the changes that have taken place with this transition, you need to worry. This article reveals everything you need to know. So stay tuned!

  • You can’t take reference materials to the exam center

During the time when the PE exam was paper-based, candidates had the privilege to bring their own reference materials to the exam center. In fact, some people were seen carrying bags brimming with books of all sorts. But this is something that no longer happens.

During the CBT PE exam, you will only have access to the reference handbook developed by NCEES for your discipline. This will include the codes and standards associated with your depth section in that particular discipline. Additionally, you will have access to them in the form of searchable PDFs on your assigned computer.

Since you already have an NCEES account, you can simply download the NCEES handbooks from it without paying anything extra. That means you don’t have to spend anything extra on books, as they are up for grabs at no cost.

But the only downside of using these books is that they are not as detailed as they should be. These offer only a brief and superficial coverage of the subjects. To put it simply, you cannot simply rely on their material to get you through this examination.

  • The forms of questions have diversified

While the exam is still 80 questions long and the majority of questions asked during the exam are still multiple-choice, there is an inclusion in the form of Alternative Item Type (AIT) questions. These questions include:

  • Multiple-correct

As the name indicates, you will be required to select all the correct choices from the list you’re given.

  • Point-and-Click

In these types of questions, you will be asked to click on a single target that you feel is the correct answer.

  • Drag-and-Drop

For such questions, you will essentially need to sort, place, rank, or label different items by dragging or placing them in their correct spots.

  • Fill-in-the-Blank

Here, you will see a blank space that is required to be filled with the correct answer. But before answering, make sure you have read any given instructions meticulously.

One thing we would like to highlight here is that there is no partial credit applicable for AIT questions. Simply put, they are either correct or incorrect.

  • Every examinee will have a different question paper

The CBT system is known to embrace the LOFT algorithm, which picks out different questions from NCEES database for every examinee. That means peeping out at your neighbor’s screen won’t pay you any dividends. Rather, it will be a mere waste of time.

  • You can take a break after answering half of the questions

When the PE civil exam was paper-based, the scheduled 50-minute break would commence simultaneously for every task-taker. But ever since the implementation of the CBT system, things have altogether changed.

Once you have answered the half set of questions (40 to be precise), your 50-minute break will start there and then. It doesn’t matter how much time it took you to answer them.

  • You can take this exam year-round

This is one of the compelling advantages of the PE civil exam that is likely to bring a million-dollar smile to your face. Depending on your discipline, the CBT-PE exam can be taken year-round.

While it is a rule implemented only for a few disciplines and for others, the exam is still offered on a single day of the year. That means you are advised to check the availability of your exam on the NCEES website.

  • Administered at Pearson Vue Test Centers

When the PE exam was paper-based, candidates had to figure out travel logistics as they were required to go to neighboring states for the examination. To further add fuel to the fire, the test was usually taken up in crowded conference rooms. Luckily, this has changed with the PE exam going CBT.

Presently, tests are administered at NCEES-approved Pearson Vue test centers. These centers are filled on a first-come, first-served basis, and you have the authority to choose the center of your choice when registering yourself. The wonderful side is that, currently, there are many more testing locations available. So, it is possible that you will be able to find a location near your local area.

  • Results are declared faster

Another downside of the paper-based PE exam was that you had to anxiously wait for a period of 10 weeks to get your results. This is something that has been taken care of in the current format.

To your knowledge, it only takes 7 to 10 days for the results to be out. You will get an email from NCEES detailing how you can access your scores and what the next course of action should be if you pass. If somehow you were not able to clear out this time, you will have a detailed diagnostic report before you highlight the areas in which you struggled. As a result, you can work on those areas and begin the preparation right away.

This change in the format has been lauded by many out there. Why? Because if you are unable to pass the exam, you will probably know within a week. This makes it easier for you to get back to your study schedule and take the exam in the next testing window. What’s more, concepts will also be fresh in your mind.

Professionals at the Civil Engineering Academy are there to assist

The importance of enrolling in a review course cannot be understated if you intend to pass the PE civil exam. You can connect with the professionals at the Civil Engineering Academy. Be it related to the PE civil exam or the FE exam prep study guide, they are available to assist.


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