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Design Standards for the NCEES Civil Construction Professional Engineering Exam

Updated on July 11, 2015

Which Reference Books are Used for the Construction PE Exam?

In preparing for the PE exam, you must determine which books you need, and then acquire them. I personally wasted a lot of time looking for the best price. Let me save you some time in that: the best price will be on Amazon- if they carry that title. Some societies only sell their code books themselves.

However, if it is on Amazon, the largest book seller in the world, you have a guarantee. They have the lowest price. All Amazon contracts with publishers and sellers include a clause stipulating the item cannot be sold elsewhere for less- not even on the copyright holder's own site.

There are two categories of books you will need. First, you need the design and reference standards upon which the NCEES test makers based the questions. Second, you need NCEES and/or third party books to prepare you for the exam.

This article is about the first part: the books upon which the questions are based. The following books are for the Civil: Construction professional engineering exam.

For prep books for the Construction depth module: Civil: Construction Exam Review Books

AISC Steel Construction Manual

Steel Construction Manual 14TH Edition
Steel Construction Manual 14TH Edition

AISC published the 14th edition in 2011. The NCEES now references the 14th edition, AISC 360, as of January 2015.


AISC Steel Manual

The AISC Steel Construction Manual is often just called the Steel Manual. Other times, it is referenced as AISC 360-10. However, what you need to know is what is inside.

There are fifteen main sections. Each reads like a small technical manual. Some of these sections have tables. It takes a few minutes to review the tables. Learn how they are used, and how they apply. Some very difficult solution procedures can be bypassed using tables. Skip long calculations and checks, and find the answer on a table.

Be sure to emphasize chapters 3 and 4. Both have several tables on column compression capacities (chapter 4); equations for moments, shears, and reactions for beams (Table 3-23); and available moment vs. unbraced length (Table 3-11, one of my favorites.)


The steel manual also has a commentary in the back. The commentary here can really make you a better engineer. It explains the applicability of the different equations, tables, and design procedures of AISC 360. It also covers research and standards upon which the AISC 360 series is based.

Be sure to review the MISC section. It's second from last. It has conversion tables from SI sections to US shape profiles (both ways, obviously.) Tables 17-10 to 17-21 contain valuable steel properties like coefficients of expansion and steel yield stresses by grade (e.g. A36 steel is 36.26 KSI.) Tables 17-24 to 17-28 are geometric and trigonometric formulas (illustrated, too.)

Be sure to review the entire book carefully. After years of use, there will still be more aha! moments. "I didn't know this is in here!" or "Oh, I forgot this table existed."

Civil Construction PE Exam Books

A collection of the current materials with the highest ratings from Construction Module PE Examinees.
A collection of the current materials with the highest ratings from Construction Module PE Examinees. | Source

NDS for Wood Construction

The three main construction materials are steel, concrete, and wood. The PE exam covers all three. In addition to the steel manual, you need to know the NDS books.

Like the steel manual, it is important you familiarize yourself with the four books of the wood design set. For those who purchase the full set, be sure to go through the "...Solved Example Problems" book. Wood design has a lot of coefficients and can be cumbersome if you have not previously worked designing wood.

Be sure to note the applicability of each set of tables. They seem repetitive. But, they are not. Each table applies to a specific type of construction material and/or connection type. Usually, this is made plain in a title bar at the top of each page. In the introductory page of each set of tables, the NDS guide explains each of the relevant factors, how they apply, and how to calculate them.

The good news is, once you understand how to use one set of tables, the same principles easily transfer to the other sets. Learning the second, third, and later tables is a cinch.

Standard Practice for Bracing Masonry Walls Under Construction

Standard Practice for Bracing Masonry Walls Under Construction - Dec 2012 Edition
Standard Practice for Bracing Masonry Walls Under Construction - Dec 2012 Edition

An important aspect of construction management is shoring (bracing) of walls, beams, trusses, rafters, joists, and other elements during construction. The final structure will be mutually bracing. But, temporary bracing may be required during the process.


Most Important Civil Construction PE Exam Reference Book?

Which Construction exam reference book is most important?

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Best Book for the Civil Construction PE Exam

The reference from this list of engineering books that becomes most important to you in practice will depend very much on the kind of construction you work in. My clients are primarily steel contractors. So, for me, the AISC 360 steel manual is the most used reference book on my shelf and desk (mostly on my desk!)

For the Construction PE exam, the most important book depends on the topic(s) covered by the book. Likely, the volume of the book will also be important. Of course, how well you know the content of the book also effects how well you can use it to score points on the exam.

For example, the NDS book has a long, ugly calculation to determine a group reduction factor for bolts or lag screws in a row. However, flip the page to Table 10.36 and you will find easy look-up tables based only on a ratio of the area of the main member to the area of the side member. A 4 minute calculation with many opportunities for error becomes simple math and a table look-up value.

Knowing the content of the Construction exam reference books is important. The references you know best will be the ones where you will find answers during your exam. Make the references valuable by familiarizing yourself with them. The best books for the Civil Construction PE Exam will be those with which you are well familiar.

Additional Books for the Civil: Construction PE Exam

NCEES references a few more titles upon which test material is based. These are:

  • ASCE 37 - Design Loads on Structures During Construction
  • ACI 347 - Guide to Formwork for Concrete
  • MUTCD- Part 6 Temporary Traffic Control, US FHA

There are also reference categories, listed as follows:

  • construction surveying
  • construction planning and scheduling
  • construction equipment and methods
  • construction estimating
  • construction materials
  • construction design standards (listed on this page)

These are all related to the NCEES Construction depth module for the afternoon PE exam.

29 CFR 1926 The OSHA Construction Industry Standards
29 CFR 1926 The OSHA Construction Industry Standards

Believe it or not, this book is sometimes unavailable. If you see copies available when you look for it, be sure to buy it, pronto!


Formwork for Concrete, 7th Edition

Formwork for Concrete 7th edition
Formwork for Concrete 7th edition

This is published in 2004. But, it remains the reference for the April and October 2015 Civil Construction exams.

An overview of how to prepare for the PE exam. From developing a study schedule, to how to find the best books and free resources, to what to eat for lunch, and even an easy hack to improve your score 5%.
An overview of how to prepare for the PE exam. From developing a study schedule, to how to find the best books and free resources, to what to eat for lunch, and even an easy hack to improve your score 5%. | Source

Excellent All-around Tool for Civil Professional Engineering Exam

One of the most popular review and study books for the PE exam is the Civil Engineering Reference Manual, by Lindeburg (aka, 'the Lindeburg book.') This books covers many construction topics and also covers all the topics found in the morning exam.


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