Breaking Down the Latest PE Exam Updates: What Changed in April of 2024?

The PE Exam

The Civil Engineering PE (Professional Engineer) examination is a standardized assessment conducted by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) within the United States. This exam evaluates the proficiency of engineers seeking their Professional Engineer License.

The exam consists of 80 computer-based questions that cover all areas of civil engineering including construction, geotechnical, structural, transportation, and civil water resources and environmental.

The test is made up of two sections:

  • The Fundamentals of Engineering (FE Exam): The FE exam is the first step towards becoming a licensed Professional Engineer and can be taken right out of college to become an EIT, Engineer in training. This exam covers the fundamental principles and skills that are needed for an entry-level engineer including creative thinking and problem-solving. 
  • The Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE Exam): The PE exam is taken after a civil engineer has gained several years of professional experience. This exam assesses the applicant's knowledge in applying engineering principles and practices in the civil engineering discipline.

What Has Changed as of April 2024?

As of April 2024, all five PE Civil Exams including construction, geotechnical, structural, transportation, and civil water resources have removed the common knowledge section and now test solely on the depth portion. Eliminating the common knowledge content results in a revised distribution of topics and subtopics to align with more targeted exams. The updated exams will emphasize specific subjects and include current terminology relating to each industry. Additionally, the Transportation & Water discipline will introduce a new subtopic to their exams, distinguishing it from others.

The PE Civil Exam specifications underwent updates in 2024 to center the exams around engineers' professional expertise. NCEES aims to enhance the evaluation of engineers within their particular discipline by removing the general knowledge areas that were assessed in the PE Civil Exams.

Below are the exam specifications and design standards based on each civil engineering discipline. 

Civil: Construction

Civil: Geotechnical 

Civil: Structural

Civil: Transportation

Civil: Water Resources and Environmental

What is NOT Changing?

The exam is not changing its format. It will still be a 9-hour, 80-question, computer-based exam for engineers with 4+ years of professional work experience in most states.

Prep Practices for the Updated Exam Format

PE Civil Exams are typically available to engineers with 4+ years of post-college professional experience in many states. The updated emphasis on specific disciplines is expected to narrow down studying practices. Established engineers will now focus solely on preparing for topics, subtopics, and terminology that pertain to their industry. This eliminates the need to allocate extra time to study general civil engineering content that may not be as relevant in their specific facet of civil engineering. 

These 10 tips can help you when preparing for the PE exam:

  1. Understand the Exam Format
  2. Create a Study Schedule
  3. Use Official Resources
  4. Review Fundamentals
  5. Practice Problem Solving
  6. Simulate Exam Conditions
  7. Focus on Weak Areas
  8. Stay Organized
  9. Seek Support
  10. Take Care of Yourself

To learn more about the April 2024 Updates to the PE exam, visit The NCEES Updates Specifications for PE Civil Exams.