What is SE Structural Engineering Exam and How to Prepare for it

The SE Structural Engineering exam determines the ability of an engineer. The ability to build safe structures, especially in areas of high seismic and high wind.

Civil Engineer At Construction Site

Exam basics

This 16-hour exam takes place for 2 whole days, with 8 hours modules per day. There are 4-hours each of morning and afternoon sessions each day.

Exam type and schedule

There are two components to the exam in breadth and depth style.

The morning sessions test the breadth modules. This consists of 40 multiple-choice questions. The depth module is essay type and requires the students to write in detail.

The SE structural engineering exams occur twice a year. Once in April and once in October. Students can register for the same on the NCEES website. They can also decide on the suitable exam date.

Completing both the components

It is not necessary to complete both the components in two consecutive days. An engineer must complete both components within a span of 5 years. This ensures success and the license for practice.

Reference materials

The SE Structural Engineering exam is open book style. This indicates that students can take their own references to the exam hall. The only requirement is that all reference papers must be in binders.

Preparation technique

This detailed exam needs a great effort to clear both the components. The website talks about the knowledge areas/blueprint required in attempting the exam through all four sessions. These blueprints work as an excellent guide to your prep sessions.

There are good review courses too, that help with preparing the topics. These courses also provide reference materials and lecture notes. They also conduct workshops for practicing different problems to aid solving them easily. This is a great way to refresh theories and to work with a planned approach. For people who have lost touch with the basics and need a refresher, review classes are an easy way out.

SE Structural exam pass percentage

The pass percentage for this exam is generally less than 50%. In 2016, the pass percentage is around

  • 35 for lateral force bridges
  • 38 for lateral force buildings
  • 67 for vertical force bridges, and
  • 45 for vertical force buildings

This clearly shows the need for thorough study and enough time to prepare for the exam. The multiple-choice questions are machine graded while subject-matter experts grade the essay type questions. The examinees receive their results in 10-12 weeks of time.

SE Structural exam is highly competitive and needs careful planning. You need the right approach to clear both the components. To score well in the finals you must

  • Prepare from the right reference materials
  • Solve the practice problems regularly from a variety of popular books
  • Keep taking mock exams

How to Select the Best Structural Engineering Course

We quite frequently get a question from aspirants of structural engineering. The question being “There are so many structural engineering courses. How do I choose the best for me?” Yes it is true that today there are plethora of structural engineering courses, or commonly known as SE engineering courses. It is definitely not easy to choose the one which is best for you. To help you, we have put together important points that you must consider before deciding which course to take up. We will not give you a list of colleges; rather we will put across a structured way of going about taking this decision.

se-engineering-coursesStep 1: You:

Yes, the most important criteria for choosing the best SE engineering courses is you! The journey of choosing the best among the several structural engineering courses starts with what exactly do you want to do after completing your education? For example, do you want to build roads and bridges? Or, do you want forensically investigate if/when structures collapse accidentally? Or, maybe become demolition expert? Your specific career aspiration should always be the starting point of short-listing the first set of courses that has the required specializations that match your career aspirations.

Step 2: Budget:

The institute offering SE engineering courses can be either public or private. The government funds public schools so they offer lower fees, while the fee in private schools is high. So, the next step is to select schools that fit in your budget. Consider including those schools in your list whose fee may be high, but which offer good scholarships.

Step 3: Masters or doctorate?

Generally, schools that have renowned PhD programs prefer to take students who do masters from the same school. So, if your career plan requires a doctorate then you should shortlist those schools that have masters as well as doctorate structural engineering courses that you would require.

Step 4: Ranking:

Rankings from reputed ranking agencies or news publishers play an important role in filtering the best among the many structural engineering courses. You must consider the following kinds of rankings:

  1. Global ranking of the school as well as of the individual structural engineering courses offered by that school
  2. Country level ranking which also can be found out easily online
  3. Ranking within the state where the school is located. Choose the schools and structural engineering courses that are ranked among the top 3 in that state. This is important because all local businesses typically hire from local renowned schools offering great SE engineering courses.

Gathering information is as crucial as analyzing that information. Seek advice from professional structural engineers or online resources to understand how one seeks the course. Experts can post their comments below to give assistance for the course.

Structural Engineering Exam Practice Problems

This article will provide you valuable inputs for your structural engineering exam. Learn the vital details to increase your chances of success. Read on to understand the exam.

Your exam planning requires absolute dedication. This 16-hour exam is difficult.  The fraction of applicants clearing this exam is low. Nevertheless, this should not confuse you. Your proper study will easily see you through.


The study material related to structural engineering exam questions is vast. It is, therefore, advisable to start early. It will eventually reap you benefits. Your regular studies will make you feel secure. It is vital for your success. Start at least 6 months before the exam date. Try for at least 20 hours of study every week.

Let us discuss the format and the challenges involved.

The length and breadth

The exam has 2 parts spread over 2 days. It is a length and breadth exam. The length modules are in the morning followed by the breadth modules.

The breadth module has structural engineering exam questions covering all topics. You will have multiple-choice questions in this section.

The breadth modules focus on a specific area. This can be either buildings or bridges. The questions require essay type answers.

You are to clear both the exam components within a 5-year period.  The exam fee will vary from state to state.

Candidate’s Assessment

You will get grades in the morning session exam. Computers will do it. The performance in the afternoon sessions has a different evaluation. Subject experts will review your answers. You have to provide essay type response to structural engineering exam questions. The evaluation of answers is as per a scoring plan.

You receive will receive your scores via e-mail or post. You need to attain a minimum score in both the parts.

Compile and Read the Reference Material

Structural engineering exam practice problems are available in various materials. The reference material and specific books on particular topics are crucial. This is an open book exam. Therefore, your choice of reference material is important. It will aid not only during preparation but also on the exam day.

Make a plan for your studies.  Do not let your likes and dislikes dictate your studies. Make a ‘to-do list’ and follow. Make targets on a weekly basis. Highlight the important topics.

Structural engineering exam practice problems are complex in nature. Your practice will ease things for you. Put labels on the pages. It helps you to locate topics faster.

No shortcuts

For clearing the exam, you need rigorous study. Have a strategy.

During the exam, make an effort to answer all the questions. There is no negative marking here.  Therefore, try to ensure that you have enough time in the end for review.

Read the structural engineering exam questions carefully. It will test your knowledge to the maximum. Do not overlook any data provided in the questions.

In multiple choice sections, attempt the ones you are familiar with. It will boost your confidence.

Finally, keep in mind one important fact. Getting the right answer during the exam is crucial. However, evaluation of your knowledge and concept application is a major point to remember. It should reflect an engineer’s mind. Your competency is also a criterion of evaluation.

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 setrainingclasses.wordpress.com to gain an insight on what this exam is all about and how to clear it at one sitting.

3 Simple Steps for Top Score in SE Vertical Forces Exam

Structural engineers play a vital role in creating the durable and functional physical world we live in. The onus of maintaining the structural integrity and strength of any structure is on structural engineers. Principles of structural engineering focus not only on the design of the structure, but also on the external forces that act on the structure. Every structural engineer aims to bring about a perfect blend of aesthetics and functionality well within the budget. The established route to becoming a qualified structural engineering is by completing a professional course or through a certification. Further specializations like SE lateral or SE vertical forces qualify the engineer as expert structural engineering forms.


SE Exam Educational & Licensing Requirements

Acquiring a degree or an equivalent in structural engineering is only half the battle won. In order to become market-ready, you need to gain considerable work experience and acquire the Structural Engineer (SE) license. The table below provides the prerequisites for taking up the SE exam.

Educational requirements Under graduation in civil engineering with ABET accredited institute
Work experience 2-4 years (varies in each state)
Additional Skills Strong math and science skills
Basic understanding of structural design
Excellent analytical and problem solving skills
Software proficiency Knowledge of AutoCAD and other designing software

All You Need to Know About SE Exam

The SE exam spans for 16 hours totally: 8 hours of SE vertical forces and 8 hours of SE lateral forces exam. You need to focus on both these components for a high score in the exam. Once you meet the prerequisites for the exam, you need to focus on the following:

  • Understand exam specifications and design standards
  • Get familiar with exam pattern and content
  • Understand the scoring and reporting methods
  • Know the pass rates for the exam

Gathering this information helps students work out an effective study plan for a high score in the exam.

3 Highly Effective Ways of Preparing for SE Vertical Forces Exam

The next step after gathering basic information about the SE exam is to fix the exam date. Students should create a study plan with the exam date in mind such that ample amount of time is allocated for review of topics, practice and revision. Here are three steps to SE exam success:

1) Plan well ahead of the exam date
Your study plan must include a thorough revision of topics, exhaustive practice on numerical problems and complete review of the entire syllabus. The best approach would be to break the overall plan into daily timeframes for easy review of progress. The study plan must also allow for any unexpected delays in the review schedule.

2) Practice, practice and more practice
Practice is the key to success in the SE vertical and lateral forces exams. The more you practice on full-length practice papers, the better will be your time management skills. In addition to this, you will gain more familiarity with the exam pattern and difficulty level.

3) Revise thoroughly on exam critical topics
A thorough revision of the entire syllabus enables easy recall during the exam. Ensure that your study plan allocates time for revision of topics, with special focus on your weak areas.

A comprehensive SE vertical forces exam review course enables guided preparation for the exam. Increase your exam preparedness and boost your confidence by enrolling for a review course right away.

7 Must Have Features in A SE Lateral Forces Exam Prep Course

The growth prospects in the structural engineering industry are tied up with challenges at every stage of your career. Carving a niche in this industry not only requires consistent hard work, but requires some smart career moves. So, what does it take to build a rewarding career in structural engineering? If you thought creating a good impression on your employer fosters a brilliant career, you would be limiting yourself to short-term career growth. A brilliant academic record does not always translate to a successful career. What then is the right way to build a progressive career in structural engineering? Have you ever considered taking up the structural engineering exam (SE)? The SE exam evaluates your knowledge in structural engineering concepts and theories in great detail and also tests your problem solving capabilities.

se-lateral-forces-exam-prepPath to clearing SE exam

The path to SE license is not all that easy: you need sit through a 16-hour exam that is divided into 8 hours of SE lateral forces and 8 hours of SE vertical forces exam, that tests your structural engineering concepts in-depth. Furthermore, each state has separate license requirements which you need to carefully evaluate before taking up the exam. There are many tried and tested ways of preparing for the SE exam, some of which are discussed in the following sections.

What do you gain with SE license?

Given the above challenges put forward by the exam, you may start wondering if it is worth taking up the exam. Consider the following advantages, before you decide on taking up the exam. The SE license:

  • Is a great value addition to your job profile
  • Paves way for better career opportunities
  • Attracts better pay packages
  • Increases your recognition among peers
  • Establishes your authority in structural engineering

How to prepare effectively for SE lateral forces exam?

As discussed above, the SE exam consist of lateral and vertical forces sections, each of which span8 hours. Even before you start preparing for the exam, you need to be clear about the licensing requirements of the state in which you would be taking up the exam. Once you are clear about these requirements, you need to gather information about the exam format and content. After the initial spade work, next comes the preparation strategy for the exam. One of the most reliable ways of ensuring that you clear the exam in the first attempt is to enroll for a SE lateral forces exam review course.

Do not settle for just any review course; ensure that the course offers these features for a good performance in the exam.

1) Offers an overall study plan that covers all the exam critical topics and allocates time for practice and revision
2) Lays emphasis on solving full-length practice test papers
3) Provides highly experienced tutors
4) Enables seamless connect with peers and tutors
5) Focuses on time management
6) Provides instant feedback on performance in practice tests
7) Adheres to latest exam format
Above all these points the reputation and performance track record of the educator is equally important while choosing the course.