How to Study for Structural Engineering Exam?

You might have registered for the SE exam months ago, having decided that this is what you want to kick start your career with. However, most applicants find it difficult to invest their time and energy in studying for the SE Structural Engineering exam. The 16 hour Structural Engineering exam (SE) is undeniably difficult, and the process of learning can drain your energy if you don’t have a proper study plan.

With a flexible and realistic study plan, there is no room for impossibility. Read further to know how to make the best out of the little time you have in your hands:

se-exam-prepHow long should I prepare for the exam?

Truthfully, the amount of time spent on preparing for the Structural Engineering exam (SE) depends on an individual’s ability to grasp the study material. Some may have cracked the exam with preparation done for just two months, while others would have spent six months in their study and research. According to successful examinees, one must invest at least 200 hours to prepare for the SE exam. Do you doubt having 200 hours in your hand? Then worry not, there is always hope. With the study plan briefed below, you can crack this exam like a piece of cake!

1. Collect the Material

When it comes to the requirement of reading materials for the SE Structural engineering examination, we’ve got plenty of them. Check for the highly recommended texts in NCEES website, where you’ll find additional textbooks which are a great tool for enhancing your knowledge of the field. Instead of buying your study material, it is always smarter to borrow it from the ones you know. You can also enroll into reputed SE review courses. Courses by educators like School of PE provide specialized notes that are an excellent study resource.

2. Plan

You have got a handful of material to sift through; it can be difficult to do it all in one go. It is impossible, in other words. Hence, break those huge numbers into chunks and start reading. There are three parts to planning:
• Overall planning
• Daily Planning
• Acting according to the Plan

3. Time it out

Find out how much you have got to study and try to figure out the number of days or months it would take to finish going through all the chapters. If you’ve got a perception that you can study for 18 hours a day in one go, then you must drop the perception. As a human, we can’t stay focused for that long and moreover, it isn’t healthy at all. Make sure to keep your plan realistic

4. Daily Plan

After you jot down your overall plan, plan your daily activities and efforts to cracking the SE Structural engineering exam. Plan how you would spend your morning and nights. Figure out which part of the day works best for you to retain as much information as possible. Make sure that you spend at least an hour or two in studying for the exam every day.

5. Work! Work! Work!

Now that you’ve got it all figured out, it is time to execute the plan. Work your mind and hands according to the needles of the clock. Stick to your plan and be realistic. Engage in relaxation activities now and then. You can’t stay focused for hours, give yourself a break. But never give up your schedule, work hard and it will surely pay off!
Get to your work right away and crack those mighty numbers!

Everything you need to know about becoming a Structural Engineer

Structural engineering is an off-shoot of civil engineering. Unlike in civil engineering, in structural engineering, the job responsibilities of a structural engineer are far sophisticated and critical. There is no room for error, since even the slightest miscalculation can cause disastrous results, both financially and otherwise. Perhaps, it is this high risk nature of the profession that attracts the best engineering minds to become structural engineers.

se-exam-course.jpgStructural engineering is composed of several sub-disciplines each of which, like building blocks, when assembled together stand tall as a complete structure. The various sub-disciplines of structural engineering include:

  • Facade engineering
  • Fire engineering
  • Earthquake engineering
  • Wind engineering
  • Roof engineering
  • Aerospace structures
  • Mechanical structures
  • Medical structures

What it takes to become a structural engineer?

A structural engineer must obtain license from the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) ( in order to practice as a professional SE. The licensure process is divided into 2 exams: Fundamentals of Engineering and Professional Engineer Certification.

The FE exam is taken after completing a degree in engineering or related disciplines. After passing the FE exam, the candidate must obtain 4 years of working experience with a professional engineer and also take simultaneous SE exam courses to become ready for the exam. On completion of the PE exam, the candidate will become entitles to practice as a professional engineer.

Engineering professional with PE qualification are also entitled to practice as professional Structural Engineers. Only in certain States, is an engineer required to take additional exams relating seismic principles to become a qualified Structural Engineer.

Is it worth the effort?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the number of Structural Engineering jobs to grow at 19% from 2010-2020. The average salary ranges for structural engineers in United States as of 2015 ranges from $54,000 p.a to $109,000 p.a. Most of the States are also witness to a steady increase in the pay packages, in some states as high as 25%.

These statistics confirm a promising career ahead for those who are signing up for SE review courses. The industry is marching on with a steady gait and with the advent of smart cities and mega township projects, there are plenty more job opportunities opening around the world for Structural Engineers.

Other alternative career to opt for

A Structural Engineer has a myriad of engineering possibilities laid open. If civil engineering is not exciting, there is other disciplines to opt for like Architect, Civil Engineering Technician, Aerospace structural engineer, etc. Structural Engineers can also launch their own individual practice with a firm name attached to them.

SE Exam Study Tips

There will be a perpetual need for buildings that are both functional and structurally strong. All you structural engineers out there be rest assured that the world will need your services so long as the need for new buildings exists. The job of a structural engineer is an extremely rewarding one in terms of monetary benefits and professional satisfaction. At the same time it is a challenging profession in which you need to stay updated with the latest industry trends for maintaining the competitive edge. One of the best ways to establish your credibility as a Structural Engineer is to clear the SE Vertical and Lateral Forces exam. Here is what you gain by clearing the SE exam:

  • Wider scope for career opportunities
  • Better recognition among peers
  • Better pay packages


The perks of clearing the SE exam are no doubt attractive, but passing the exam is equally challenging. Some of the engineers who have attempted the exam claim that the SE lateral forces part was extremely difficult to clear. The SE exam requires mammoth preparation, which is focussed and progressive for success in the exam. Here are some effective study tips for SE exam:

  • Gather exhaustive reference material before you start studying
  • Work out a study plan that focuses on theory and practical aspects
  • Start preparing well in advance
  • Ensure that you solve as many practice papers as possible
  • Identify areas of weakness and put in extra efforts for improving these areas
  • Focus on time management
  • Work on improving speed and accuracy in problem solving

Even if you put in hours of self-study and work out practice papers, unguided preparation will not fetch you the desired results. You need expert guidance and streamlined practice for clearing the SE exam. Enrolling for a SE Vertical or Lateral Forces review course is the best preparatory method with proven success in the exam. Once you enroll for a prep course, you can be assured of guidance from expert instructors who have in-depth knowledge of SE concepts and updated information on critical exam topics. Working closely with such instructors will help you improve your weak areas in SE and also improve your speed and accuracy in problem solving. Not just that you are also provided ready reference material that is designed by subject matter experts for maximum coverage of concepts. Working on the practice papers provided by the prep course can improve your time management and boost your confidence in tackling critical exam topics.

There are a number of reputed educators offering review courses for SE Vertical and Lateral forces exams. Kaplan, Testmasters, School of PE and ppi2pass are some institutes worth considering. These institutes offer flexible course delivery options from which students can choose from as per their convenience.

Wading through the difficult SE Vertical Forces exam can be simplified by enrolling for the right review course. Choose the right course and ace the SE exam.