Done, onto the next one – On passing the FE/EIT exam

Done, onto the next one - On passing the FE/EIT exam - My science career rebooted - Heather Fireman Jackson

Great news! And it’s not about the Dacia Sandero.

After a marathon 2-month study program, 8 hours in the exam room, and 6 weeks of suspense, the California Board for Professional Engineers sent me my shiny new Engineer-in-Training certificate. That’s right, I passed the FE/EIT exam!

In hindsight, I feel a bit silly for making such a big deal out the test.

The FE Review Manual and its practice tests were, in fact, more difficult than the actual exam. I had heard this in advance, and I’m sure this is by design. If you’re prepared to handle more difficult or time-consuming problems (or just a greater proportion of hard, tedious problems) then the real exam will seem easier in comparison.

So the good news is that if you buy the book, do the homework, and take at least one or two practice exams (on the clock!), you will be more than prepared to crush the real thing on exam day. On my practice tests, I was racing the clock. On the real exam, I finished the afternoon session an hour and a half early.

However, it’s something of an anticlimax. Gaining this certification earns one…the right to take another exam. I won’t be doing anything with it up front. However, I feel good about meeting my objective of re-learning the material. Sure, for the exam, it’s all about learning the quickest way to answer the most questions.

In the long run,what makes an engineer isn’t the ability to do arbitrary math problems, it’s the ability to see how math is applied in real-world situations. Nor is it the ability to solve textbook engineering word problems, but the ability to have a real-world situation thrown at you, with all its complications, and draw from an arsenal of tools to tackle it. Your judgment tells you which are the right principles to apply, which equations describe the system, which complications can be safely ignored, and which complications are essential to an accurate description of the system.

And you never know when familiarity with the fundamentals will come in handy. For instance, soon after my exam, I interviewed for a position in hardware engineering for consumer devices. More than a couple of my interviewers posed questions involving stress and mechanics. Preparing for the exam totally refreshed my mind on this material, some of it for the first time since college, and I handled it like an expert!


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