The Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam is the first of two examinations that engineers must pass in order to become licensed professional engineers (PEs) in the United States. There are actually six separate exams covering six engineering disciplines as well as one general exam for those who are unsure of which engineering career they want to pursue.
Having a PE license can open up engineers to new job opportunities and higher salaries and also give them the ability to sign and seal plans, drawings, and reports. Passing the FE and Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE) exam the first time is essential for engineers wanting to focus or expand their careers quickly.
Because each FE exam is challenging and detailed, many companies offer exam prep courses to help engineers pass their exams the first time around. We reviewed over a dozen FE exam prep courses and selected the best based on teaching methodology, learning styles, accessibility, cost, and more. Here are those we think are the best.
The 6 Best Fundamentals of Engineering Exam Prep Courses of 2020
Best Overall: PPI2Pass
Founded in 1975 and purchased in 2018 by Kaplan Professional, PPI offers engineering, architecture, and design test prep, educational services, and professional licensure programs. We chose it as the best overall since it offers a comprehensive, guided review course with extensive student support and tips and tricks for taking the FE exam.
PPI offers FE exam prep courses in all six disciplines (civil, mechanical, chemical, electrical and computer, industrial, and environmental), as well as general engineering. All courses are available either live online or on-demand and include access to the PPI Learning Hub, which includes a study plan, practice exams, quiz generator, and more. Each course includes between 26 and 70 hours of lectures, problem-solving demonstrations, exam strategy sessions, and office hours.
PPI’s Live Online courses meet for three hours, two days a week for 10 weeks. Students can receive support and feedback from their instructor, interact on discussion forums, watch recordings of classes they miss, and receive grades and feedback from their instructor on homework assignments. Students who fail their FE exam after taking a Live Online class are eligible to take PPI’s OnDemand course for free.
PPI’s OnDemand courses let students watch lectures and problem-solving demonstrations on their own time and get help staying on track with structured reading assignments. They can also download presentation slides, assess exam readiness with the PPI Learning Hub, and hone their test-taking and time-management skills.
Live Online Courses
- Weekly Subscription: $105
- Monthly Subscription: $295
- 3-Month Subscription: $795
- 6-Month Subscription: $995
- 1-Year Subscription: $1,695
Runner-Up, Best Overall: School of PE
Founded in 2004, School of PE offers FE, PE, and SE exam review courses and has trained individuals and employees from over 6,000 businesses, the U.S. Navy, Army, and federal and state agencies. We chose it as the best runner-up because it offers both live and on-demand courses, a 30-day free trial, and pass rates that are 10% to 20% higher than the average.
School of PE offers Live Online and Ondemand courses for all six engineering disciplines. Both formats are taught by multiple subject-matter experts and feature 80 hours of reviews plus FE exam practice sessions. Students also get access to a study hub, where they can review lecture videos of classes, download course materials, and more. Students who don’t pass their PE exams after taking a School of PE course may also be eligible for a free repeat.
School of PE’s Live Online courses run for three hours every weekday for five weeks. Students can connect to instructors during each lecture with live chat and get access to recorded videos after each online lecture is completed. Students can also review refresher notes, access workshop problems, review videos of basic engineering math, and learn time-saving calculator functions.
School of PE’s Ondemand courses offer everything in the Live Online courses, minus the live lectures. These are replaced by 72 hours of pre-recorded lecture videos that include student interaction from the Live Online courses. As with the Live Online courses, Ondemand courses also feature access to a study hub.
In addition to the pricing below, School of PE also offers a 30-day free trial that gives students access to selected videos and the study hub:
Live Online Courses
- $1,090 one time payment
- Monthly Subscription: $290 per month
- 4-Month Subscription: $1,090 for four months
- 6-Month Subscription: $1,290 for six months
- 8-Month Subscription: $1,490 for eight months
Best for Accessibility: Civil Engineering Academy
Civil Engineering Academy offers practical practice exams that are modeled and ranked in difficulty close to the actual FE and PE exams. The exam prep course uses videos that cut through dense theory and provide students with step-by-step practice problems. We chose it as the best for accessibility because it offers a growing library of video-based lectures and video exercises that can be accessed on any device with an internet connection.
Unlike the other exam prep providers we reviewed, Civil Engineering Academy only offers courses for the civil engineer FE exam rather than for all disciplines. Nonetheless, its unique learning approach and in-depth content make it an excellent resource for those looking to pass the FE civil engineering exam.
The course offers 90 video practice problems that walk students through the problem-solving process step-by-step. Every problem and lecture can also be downloaded beforehand to be worked on before viewing the videos. Students can also take two 110 question practice exams.
Because the "NCEES FE Reference Handbook" is the only reference students are allowed during their exam, Civil Engineering Academy heavily references the manual in its lectures and problems so students will know where to find every equation and graph on exam day. Students also get access to a private Facebook community, where they can ask questions and post problems or anything else related to the civil engineering FE exam.
Civil Engineering Academy offers one-month, six-month, or one-year access to its Ultimate Civil FE Review Course. It also offers a 15-day money-back guarantee:
- One-Month Access: $297 per month
- Six-Month Access: $697 or 4 x $179 per month
- One-Year Access: $897 or 4 x $229 per month
Best Value: NCEES
The National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing professional licensure for engineers and surveyors. The organization is responsible for developing and scoring the FE and PE exams for engineering licensure. We chose it as the best value since it offers the most accurate and up-to-date FE practice exams for less than $30 each.
Unlike the other exam prep providers we reviewed, NCEES does not offer any actual study review materials. Students won’t find instructor-led videos or practice videos. Instead, NCEES sells printed practice exams designed by actual test creators, along with free PDFs.
Each practice exam contains questions from past exams and simulates the format, style, and level of difficulty or each one. NCEES’ review materials also offer solutions and feedback on performance in each topic. The organization also offers the "FE Reference Handbook." Since this is the same reference document that is available onscreen during the actual exam, reviewing the handbook can help students familiarize themselves with the charts, formulas, tables, and other reference information for easy access on exam day.
Printed practice exams may be returned to NCEES in unused condition within 30 days of the date received. Each practice exam costs $29.95 for the printed version, with the exception of the "FE Reference Handbook," which costs $19.95.
Best for Self-Paced Learning: Capstone Learning
Capstone Learning offers online PE and FE exam prep programs with a unique review methodology that accurately mimics the conditions of the exam to prepare students for the actual exams. We chose it as the best for self-paced learning since it’s built to let students learn at their own pace and offers additional tutor support from a professional engineer and experienced exam instructor if needed.
Capstone Learning offers FE exam prep for all divisions with the exception of industrial and environmental. Instead of trying to re-engineer old review material to match the new FE exams, the company forces students to practice using the same computer-based environment constraints and format of the actual FE exams.
Capstone Learning’s courses combine expert narration with instructional graphics, exam approved references, authentic practice problems, fundamental tools and formulas, and easy-to-follow best practices for solving problems. Students can also get responses to course-specific questions from a certified exam instructor and discuss exam topics with other engineers in an online forum.
Capstone Learning’s Fundamentals of Engineering Exam Preparation costs $699 for a one-time purchase. Students can also enroll for a free sample course before purchasing the full package.
Best Live Training: Excel Test Prep
Since 2003, Excel Test Prep has been offering virtual and classroom test prep courses for college and engineering exams. The company’s course materials include heavily researched and developed test manuals based on stringent quality standards. We chose it for the best live training because it offers in-depth, live online classes with instructors who are not only experts in their field but also trained in test-taking.
Excel Test Prep offers live online courses for only four PE disciplines: civil, mechanical, electrical, and chemical. They are best suited for students who have been out of school for a while and designed to provide a concise, intensive, and structured review of important exam topics. Each course consists of six live online classes of seven hours each plus 78 to 106 hours of online videos depending on the discipline.
The Excel Test Prep courses focus only on helping students pass the exam, unlike other courses that tend to cover FE theory. The courses review important concepts and extensive problem-solving practices, allowing students to get used to solving the types of problems encountered on the exam.
All of Excel Test Prep's instructors are highly qualified and specialize in the subjects they teach. They have taught FE and PE courses for many years and come from academia and companies like Texas Instruments, Ericsson, Fluor, and The City of Austin Electric Utility.
Each Excel Test Prep course costs $999 as a one-time fee.
What Are the Fundamentals of Engineering Exam?
The Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam is a group of seven separate exams administered by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES), one for each of six different disciplines and one for general engineering. Engineers must pass at least one of these exams in addition to the Practice of Engineering (PE) exam in order to become a licensed professional engineer (PE).
The average pass rate for the FE exams is 68%. Exam prep courses help familiarize students not just with the materials covered but with the format and constraints of the exams themselves. As a result, some boast higher than average pass rates and many allow students to take their exam prep courses again for free if they don’t pass the first time.
FE vs. PE Exam
The FE exam is the first of two exams that must be passed in order to become a licensed PE in the United States. It is for recent graduates and students who are close to finishing an undergraduate engineering degree.
By contrast, the PE exam tests for a minimum level of competency in a particular engineering discipline and is for engineers with a minimum of four years of post-college work experience in their chosen discipline. After passing the PE exam and meeting other eligibility requirements that vary by state, an engineer can then become registered in their state to stamp and sign engineering drawings and calculations.
What Do FE Exam Prep Courses Include?
FE exam prep courses are often organized in two different ways. The first is in an online self-structured format consisting of video lectures students can view at their convenience. The second format is a series of live, online, instructor-led classes that meet at set times over a course of weeks.
Neither the self-paced nor live online courses are inherently “better.” It really just comes down to a student’s individual learning style and the time they have to commit to studying. Both formats also typically include additional downloadable or printed study materials (like handbooks and flashcards) and practice exams to help students get familiar with the format of the exam.
What Is the Cost of an FE Exam Prep Course?
Live online prep courses are available for a one-time fee of between $1,000 and $1,300. Self-paced video courses are subscription-based and typically cost around $300 per month, with special pricing available in three-, six-, and 12-month increments.
How Much Do Licensed Engineers Earn?
According to the National Society of Professional Engineers, the average salary of engineers without a PE license is $94,000. The average salary of engineers with a PE license is $99,000. Additionally, only licensed engineers can submit plans and drawings and be in charge of work in the private sector, allowing them far more career possibilities. Finally, licensed engineers can work in any state beyond the one in which they were licensed.
Engineers can only officially call themselves engineers if they have a PE license. This means they can’t include engineers as a title on business cards and letterheads or call themselves an engineering consultant. Engineers who want to gain experience before taking the FE exams can still work in a variety of engineering roles, including industrial design, machinists and tool and die makers, technical support engineers, CAD designers/technicians, assistant civil engineers, and more.
Is Taking an FE Exam Prep Course Worth It?
Since slightly more than half of the engineers pass their FE exam the first time, a prep course can dramatically increase the chance of passing the exam and opening up new career opportunities. Most exam prep courses also allow students to access their course again for free if they don’t pass the exam, making a prep course a smart career investment.
How We Chose the Best FE Exam Prep Courses
We looked at over a dozen exam prep courses as part of our review. We looked first at providers that offered a variety of course formats or that specialized in one format over another. We also focused on courses that helped students directly with passing the exam rather than just covering broad engineering concepts.
Finally, we tried to choose providers that also offered human interaction such as communication with instructors through live chat or with other students via a forum or other community platform. Even with the best study materials, being able to ask specific questions and share experiences can make the difference between understanding a problem and actually solving it.
Civil FE Review Course. "The Ultimate Civil FE Review Course." Accessed June 22, 2020.
National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying. "FE Exam." Accessed June 22, 2020.
National Society of Professional Engineers. "Engineering Salaries Continue to Rise Despite Concern Over Shortages." Accessed June 22, 2020.
Monster. "The Power of the PE License." Accessed June 22, 2020.
Global Talent Idaho. "Job Options For Engineers Without A Professional Engineer (PE) License (Electrical And Civil)." Accessed June 22, 2020.