Things to Know Before Studying for the SE Lateral Forces Exam

Structural Engineering is one of those fields that requires specialization in terms of skills and education. Structural engineers play a vital role in designing structures for buildings, bridges, and other structures. The certification obtained after passing the Structural Engineering exam is a great way to boost employer’s confidence in your abilities. It shows that you are qualified to handle the complex nature of the job.


The structural engineering exam is different than other FE and PE exams since it is taken in two parts. The licensing rules also vary according to the state in which you are appearing for the exam. The exam is also longer than other FE and PE exams.

What is Structural Engineering Exam

The structural engineering exam has two components: Lateral and Vertical. The components deal with different aspects of structural engineering. The intensive 16-hour exam takes place in two parts, during the morning and afternoon. The lateral portion is only offered on Saturdays. The two vertical and lateral parts are to be appeared for on simultaneous days. Before you register yourself for the exam, check the requirements.

These are:

  • A Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in an engineering field.
  • Between two to five years of practical experience in structural engineering

The Lateral Forces Exam

The Lateral forces exam focuses on the wind and earthquake components of structural engineering. To prepare for the exam, it is important to find an SE Lateral Forces Course to review all the material. The exam is technical and preparation should be started well in advance. The exam will test the application of all the theoretical concepts you have learnt in college. Since the exam is timed, it is important to practice solving such problems within a time limit. Some problems might require extensive calculations, which you must be able to do quickly and efficiently.

Picking The Right Study Materials

To pick the right study materials, you will first have to determine how well you have grasped the basic concepts while studying. A master’s students will have a better understanding of the underlying concepts than a student who has only done his or her masters. Find an SE Lateral forces course that reflects your level of study. You might have to spend anywhere from a few weeks to a few months preparing.

Students can enroll for online classes, webinars or even live interactive sessions with instructors. Classroom sessions are also an option, but that depends on the amount of time you can spend studying. Pick a course of study that is flexible, especially if you plan on studying during work commutes or on the weekends. When you don’t have the luxury of time that is required to brush up on all concepts, the right format becomes your partner and not a hurdle while studying. Courses should focus on problem solving and application of core concepts.

Create a study plan for yourself. Do not start preparing haphazardly. The exam is long and demanding, but with proper preparation, you will get through.

Clearing SE Vertical Forces Exam Made Easy

What next after the FE and PE license? The next big leap after getting the FE and PE structural engineering license is the SE vertical forces exam. Structural engineers, armed with this license, will be the most-wanted professionals in the industry.

Female students at the libraryThe growth in this field of engineering is phenomenal. As a specialized branch of civil engineering, structural engineers are responsible for building stable, strong and rigid structures with minimal resources. The demand for structural engineers is rising with the construction industry booming.

About SE Exam

There are two components in the SE exam – vertical forces and lateral forces course. The exams for both these components are twice a year – in April and October. The notifications will be out in November for the April schedule and in May for the October schedule.

Students must take up a 16-hour long exam. Each of the components – lateral and vertical – is 8 hours each. Those with FE and PE license can take the 8-hour exam, get good scores and sit for the next 8-hour exam within the next five years.

The morning session of the exam is in the multiple-choice format. Corrections are through the OCR machine. In the afternoon session, students must write essay-type answers. This is to test the subject knowledge of the students. Evaluation of papers will be by the experts in the field. Generally, professors or structural engineers will evaluate the papers.

Open Book Format

The exams are in open book format. This means students can take the reference materials inside the exam hall. Text books and papers are also allowed. But avoid taking sticky notes unless they attached to the books.

The exam format itself is difficult to understand. To clear this exam, students must attend SE vertical forces course at a reputed institute like the School of PE, Kaplan etc,. Here, the students will have the opportunity to learn the nuances of clearing the exam at one sitting.


The results for both the components will be out within 10 days of the exam. The average scores of both the components are considered to declare a student pass.


  • Start preparing for the exam well ahead
  • Enroll at a reputed institute
  • Get instructors help you with the registration process
  • Concentrate in problems. Reasoning and logic are important
  • Get doubts cleared

Expert instructors will be able to teach the students even the most difficult concepts and problems. Check out this link to gain an insight on what this exam is all about and how to clear it at one sitting.