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Structural Engineering Exam Practice Problem Books

Updated on January 16, 2016

Structure of Problems on the SE Exam

The new (since 2011) 16-hour structural engineering exam has a simple format. You have one choice to make: Buildings or Bridges. Either way, the exam format is the same.

There are four, 4-hour exam sections. Morning vertical and afternoon vertical are on Friday. On Saturday, two more 4-hour exams are taken. These are morning lateral and afternoon lateral. The morning portions are multiple-choice, 40 questions. This is the same as the PE exam and works out to 6 minutes per question. The afternoon portions are essay format. If taking the bridges exam, one question is 2 hours and the remaining two are each 1 hour. If sitting for the building option, there are four 1-hour essay questions.

Friday Afternoon Depth Questions:

There are 4 written response questions. There will be one each from the following:

  • Steel Structure
  • Concrete Structure
  • Wood Structure
  • Masonry Structure

Saturday Afternoon Depth Questions:

Again, NCEES poses four questions. Wind and seismic lateral forces constitute Saturday afternoon's subject matter. The four areas are:

  • Steel
  • Concrete
  • Wood and/or Masonry
  • General Analysis

NCEES provides examples of what the general analysis questions might be. These examples follow: "existing structures, secondary structures, nonbuilding structures, and/or computer verification."

Types of Problems on the SE Exam

There are two types of problems you need to practice for the SE. First, problems similar in format to the EIT and PE exams make up the first half of each day. These are 6-minute questions with 4 hours allotted to work them. The answers are best-answer, multiple choice. Answers are marked onto Scantron forms and machine graded. Staff rescore some of the Scantron forms to ensure accuracy of the process. Second, there are long response questions. These are 1-hour or 2-hour questions. These are all reviewed and scored by hand. (This is likely the reason the SE costs $1,020 to register.)

Do not waste the valuable time you have to review and study by searching for free sample problems for the NCEES Structural Engineering exam. Order some books. Pass rates are extremely low for the SE exam. Only about 2 in 5 pass the building exams. A little less than 1 in 2 pass the bridge exams. You need to prepare aggressively. That includes taking practice exams and learning the layout of reference manuals. You will need to work lots of problems.

After all, there is no such thing as a free lunch. As the Romans used to say, "nullum gratuitum prandium."

Toughest Portion of the SE Exam?

Which of the 4 parts of the SE exam will be most challenging?

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FREE Sample Problems and Solutions from AISC

Free: 928 pages of example problems and solutions. All these are geared toward using AISC 360. But, remember, nothing is free. They have a link there to purchase the Steel Construction Manual for $350. Use the Amazon link on this page to get cheaper options. You will save about $125.

See link at bottom of page.

16-Hour Structural Engineering (SE) Practice Exam for Buildings

16-Hour Structural Engineering (SE) Practice Exam for Buildings, 2nd Ed
16-Hour Structural Engineering (SE) Practice Exam for Buildings, 2nd Ed

The top pick for the SE exam. Whichever review books you choose, be sure to include example exams. Practice for the actual event as close as you can. This means taking practice SE exams.

 

Which SE Exam will You Take?

Buildings or Bridges?

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16-Hour Structural Engineering Practice Exam

This is a practice exam for buildings. If you will take the SE exam for bridges, this is not the title for you. However, if you have registered, or plan to register, for the SE lateral and vertical loads exam for buildings, this is a top pick.

Part of every examinees exam prep package are review books. This is mandatory. The code books and the other references used by NCEES to create the exam are also needed. But, learning the engineering from the code books is too cruel a thing to put upon anyone, especially yourself.

The 16-hour building SE exam practice test includes two 40-hour practice exams and two 4-essay exams. The format is created to match the content of the actual SE exam. Problems average out to 6 minutes to solve, each. The essays are designed for one hour each.

More than half of those who reviewed this exam prep book gave it the full 5 stars. The overall score is unfairly weighted down by one 2-star review notes that the code books referenced are already out of sync with the exam. However, the latest edition is published in May, 2014 and NCEES updated the references for the April and October 2015 exams. But, this is a still moot point. None of the code publishers updated their manuals for the 2015 exam update. In other words, this reviewer seems to be clueless.

This is the top pick for the SE exam. Whichever review books you choose, be sure to include example exams. Practice for the actual event as close as you can. This means taking practice SE exams.

The Best Structural Engineering Exam Sample Problems

The best SE exam sample problems will come from NCEES itself. About every six years, the NCEES board cycles out the old questions and brings in new questions. The questions are selected so as to best represent the current demands of the engineering profession.

The most representative questions will be found in the Sample Problems and Solutions book.

NCEES Structural Engineering Sample Problems

Structural Engineering Sample Questions and Solutions
Structural Engineering Sample Questions and Solutions

NCEES uses old exam problems to create the Sample Problem books the sell. This book provides "40 multiple-choice questions and 7 essay questions for each of the two exam components."

 

NCEES Sample Questions and Solutions

This is just simple wisdom. Buy this review book. Other authors and publishers typically provide questions either easier or more difficult than the actual exam problems. Often, the difference is reported by those who recently took exams as more difficult for the morning session (so the real problems feel easier.) They also say the afternoon problems were more difficult to solve than those they practiced.

This should not be the case for those who use the NCEES Sample Problems books. These typically have fewer examples. But, because they provide an excellent approximation of the difficulty level, content, and style of the problems, this is one review book you add to your list.

Concrete Problems for the SE Exam

Concrete Design for the Civil PE and Structural SE Exams, 2nd Edition
Concrete Design for the Civil PE and Structural SE Exams, 2nd Edition

The top-reviewed SE review book for the NCEES exam.

 

Concrete Design for the Civil PE and Structural SE Exams

This one is written by a PhD. So, we can hope Mr. Buckner's depth of knowledge transfers well to the book he authored for examinees. According to the reviews, he did just that. An average 4.8 stars really says something when the book is in the engineering category. (Engineers are tough reviewers, it seems.)

Concrete design is either something you do or don't do often. If, like most structural engineers, you only design foundations to support your steel and wood buildings, then this title is for you. If you are a reinforced concrete design pro, this remains a valuable addition to your shelf. And, it just might provide that uncommon bit of knowledge you need to round up your essay response to full points.

October 2014 SE Exam Pass Rates- First Time Takers

Exam
Examinees
Passed
SE Lateral Forces Bridges
26
42%
SE Lateral Forces Buildings
263
40%
SE Vertical Forces Bridges
29
48%
SE Vertical Forces Buildings
293
41%
This table shows the number of people who took the SE for the first time, and their pass rate.

Best Price for AISC Steel Construction Manual, 14th Edition

Steel Construction Manual
Steel Construction Manual

Use this link to see a price comparison of what is available on Amazon.

 

AISC 360, 14th Edition

NCEES recently updated to the 14th Edition for their exams. Be sure you understand how to use every last table and all the lettered sections when you walk into the exam. The tables really save time.

Here is an SE exam sample problem which uses AISC Table 4-22 to save a lot of time in determining the axial capacity of a column. All the properties of steel sections are provided in Section 1. You are promised one steel problem on the SE exm, so the tables will be a valuable time saver.



October 2014 SE Exam Pass Rates - Repeat Takers

Exam
Examinees
Passed
SE Lateral Forces Bridges
51
39%
SE Lateral Forces Buildings
195
31%
SE Vertical Forces Bridges
22
41%
SE Vertical Forces Buildings
197
24%
Pass rates for people who took the SE exam more than once.

Structural Engineering Reference Manual

Structural Engineering Reference Manual, 7th Ed
Structural Engineering Reference Manual, 7th Ed

432 page, 2.2 pounds (1 kilo). You get your money's worth. From the sales description, here are the eight topical areas covered in the SERM:

• reinforced concrete design

• foundations and retaining structures

• prestressed concrete design

• structural steel design

• timber design

• reinforced masonry design

• lateral forces (wind and seismic)

• bridge design

 

Topics Covered in the Structural Engineering Reference Manual

From the sales description, here are the eight topical areas covered in the SERM:

  • Reinforced concrete
  • Foundations and retaining structures
  • Prestressed concrete
  • Structural steel
  • Timber
  • Reinforced masonry
  • Lateral forces (both wind and seismic)
  • bridge design

Reference Books for SE Exam Updated January 5, 2015

This is the January 2015 reference book update from NCEES. All exams taken after this date require the following code books. Remember: answers given using the incorrect reference book or code book will not receive points. (See the note at the bottom of this list from the NCEES website.)

SE Exam Reference Books (January 5, 2015)

Design Standards for the Structural Engineering Exam, 2015.
Design Standards for the Structural Engineering Exam, 2015. | Source

Updated Standards for 2015 Exams

Not all the standards are changed. Note the following:

PCI Design Handbook

AASHTO LRFD Bridge Design

ACI 318

IBC

NDS

How the SE Exam is Scored

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