Structural Engineering Exam Practice Problems

The Structural Engineering (SE) exam is all about how effectively you manage time and how skilled you are at your basics. Structural engineering exam practice problems are a sure way to improve your scores.

strucutral engineering course

Why should you give the SE exam?

Few jurisdictions do not allow licensing a structural engineer when he/she appears for just general professional engineering exams. You must write a separate test for qualifying as a structural engineer. California is one such unique jurisdiction.

It is inevitable that structural engineers are skilled enough to construct buildings that stay strong in high seismicity and high wind areas. This SE exam tests your skills in vertical forces and lateral forces and ensures you are technically strong to work as a professional.

How do practice problems help?

The importance of practicing is often underrated. Students spend so much time studying and memorizing for an exam. On the D-Day, they are not able to remember half of what they studied because there was not enough practice.

You can approach structural engineering exam questions easily and with more confidence if you have been working on mock/practice questions regularly. Practicing helps in more than one way.

  • It improves your speed. Speed is important in this 16-hour exam
  • It gets you used to different types of problems
  • It makes you more confident
  • It helps you remember key information

Unlike most competitive exams, this also includes two sessions of an in-depth (written) test. On both days of the exam, the first half has multiple-choice questions and the afternoons have essay type questions. If it was several years since you wrote an exam, practicing a couple of times is even more important.

How can you use practice problems to make yourself better?

  1. Question banks

Question banks are very important for your everyday preparation. These include hundreds of problems and detailed solutions from all topics from the vertical and lateral forces. As and when you finish preparing a particular topic, take out the question bank, and solve from it.

  1. Mock/ Practice exams

Take up timed practice exams for the MCQs. You have to solve 40 problems in four hours. Every question will need detailed analysis and understanding. Find out if you are taking more time than required for each problem and change your working style based on it. Such timed exams make you very confident and focused.

Question banks and practice exams are important SE exam study materials that you cannot ignore. Have a plan on how to approach both the morning and the afternoon sessions. If you are spending more time than you decided on a question, let go and move on. Ensure you leave time at the end to be able to answer these questions later.

The SE exam is definitely a level more difficult than other PE exams. However, if you plan right, practice well, and know what you are doing, it is not an impossible target.

Structural Engineering (SE) Vertical and Lateral Sample Questions

Structural Engineering exam is specifically designed for Civil Engineering professionals and has a different exam format than Professional Engineering (PE) exam. To pass in the exam, one should have a basic knowledge about structural engineering exam sample questions to solve them confidently.

In this article, we will cover few practice problems for both vertical and lateral components.

structural engineering

Vertical Forces Sample Questions:

1.You are hired as a quality control associate on a project and you have noticed a possible hazardous condition at the site. What would be your first action?

(A) Inform the condition to the owner
(B) Halt the construction
(C) Inform the condition to OSHA
(D) Bring this to contractor’s notice.

2.The beam displayed is administered to a constant load and a moving concentrated load.

Design details:
Uniform live load: 1 Kilopounds per Linear Foot (KLF)
Concentrated live load: 10 Kilopounds

The constant live load may lengthen the beam from A to C.

The ultimate live load shear (kips) on the right of Support B is most nearly:

(A) 36
(B) 46
(C) 32
(D) 40
Lateral Forces Sample Questions:

1.The below figure shows the view of a tilt-up concrete wall warehouse roof.

Design Code:
ASCE 7: Min. Design Loads for Buildings and Other Structures, 2010.

Design Data:
Roof: 26 feet, A.F.F.
Top of panel: 26 feet, A.F.F.
Roof DL: 15 psf
Panel DL: 70 psf


Assumption: Cs = 0.15

The seismic chord force (Kilopounds) at Point A is most nearly:

(A) 21.1
(B) 11.3
(C) 45.5
(D) 24.9

2.The below figure shows the plan of a rigid floor diaphragm.

Design Codes:
IBC: International Building Code, 2012 edition (without supplements).
ASCE 7: Minimum Design Loads for Buildings and Other Structures,2010.

Design Data:
There are shear walls on all the four sides.
The calculated story of a seismic shear is 75 Kilopounds.
The calculated center of gravity is shown.

The total torsion (ft-kips) is to be distributed to the shear walls is most nearly:

(A) 563
(B) 375
(C) 0
(D) 750
These are some of the sample problems and you can see more sample questions from the study guides or from any other offline or online resources.

A Practical Guide to Preparing for SE Exam

The SE exam conducted by the NCEES is something you should pass for you to be able to practice as a structural engineer in any state. Here is a practical guide for you to register, prepare, and write the SE examination.

  1. se exam study guideGet all information on the exam

Visit the NCEES website and go through all information under the structural engineering section. You can collect all details including registration deadlines, special accommodation procedure, exam specification and other details. The better informed you are before the exam, the easier will it be to prepare.

Keep referring the website regularly and if there are any changes or information passed on, you will be up-to-date on it.

  1. Know more about the exam pattern

Understand the depth of the exam to get an idea of how much you will need to prepare. This is a 16- hour test and it is quite tedious. You will have 4 modules of 4 hours each and questions in vertical and lateral forces. The morning session for both forces will be multiple-choice questions while the afternoon sessions would require you to answer in depth.

The exam specifications give you the details of the weightage of individual topics. Keep this as a base and prepare.

  1. Get hold of the right materials

Make sure you study with the right SE exam study materials. This is an open-book exam. It means that you can bring your own sources and refer from them. Therefore, the better and more structured your references are, the easier will it be to find the right information.

Reference books with detailed indexes and references that cover all topics important are intelligent choices.

  1. Study the right way

Start creating a pattern when you study. Use tabs and labels throughout the references to ensure you are quickly able to reach the right topic. Have your own notes that will give you an overall compressed version of all information you have prepared on.  Use the same books to study and to refer during the final exam.

The in-depth structural engineering exam questions require you to understand concepts in detail. Make sure you are clear on what you study. If you feel like you need extra help, do not hesitate to join a prep course. It is good to be fully prepared.

  1. Practice and practice more

Spend considerable time on practicing sample questions. You can find sample questions and answers online and you can even buy few full-length tests and try taking them. The more you practice, the more comfortable you will get and the faster you will be during the final examination.

The pass percentage for SE exam has been average compared to other streams. Lateral forces have around 35-38% while vertical forces are slightly better. This means that you will need to plan right and give it your best shot. Keep track of time, read the questions completely, and be confident.