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Best FE Exam Prep Courses
Our comprehensive guide to the best FE review courses to help you pass on the first try
You may be fresh out of college, or even still in school, but that doesn’t mean that the engineering material in your head is going to be enough alone to pass the FE exam. The FE is a challenging exam that tests material in complex ways and requires rigorous prep work. But when trying to pick a prep course to guide your studies, how do you know which one to choose? Our team of experts, including a licensed PE who’s been in your shoes, breaks down the best available FE prep courses on the market.
Civil Engineering Academy (CEA) provides an excellent all-around FE review course, but nabs the top spot on our best list for one primary reason – bang for your buck pricing. With a course offering that costs a fraction of what others charge, CEA has immediate appeal to those students still in school, or fresh out of college with student loans.
However, CEA is much more than budget pricing – they also provide some of the best study resources we’ve reviewed. Of course, this course is only offered for the Civil version of the FE exam, and that is one of the biggest drawbacks for those taking the FE other disciplines. But assuming you’re taking the FE Civil, CEA provides a rock solid series of 14 module-based lessons, hundreds of practice problems with video explanations, and two full-length practice exams.
Your instructors, brothers Isaac and Mark Oakeson, provide high level overviews of the most pertinent FE exam-related subjects in each module, before diving into the nitty gritty of practice problems to show you how these concepts play out in practice. The modules are comprehensive and helpful, and our team loved the downloadable lecture slides that you can take notes in as you follow along. Combined with realistic practice problems and superb video explanations, we found the CEA course to provide serious value. If you’re a self-driven studier prepping for the FE Civil, we think this course could be an excellent option.
Value, Value, and Oh Yeah, Value
As alluded to above, CEA brings home the bacon with their value pricing (or at least keeps some of the bacon in your pocket). This course option is designed for those working on a budget. At roughly $700 for the 6-month version of the course, the CEA offering prices out at about one-third the cost of PPI2Pass and about half the cost of School of PE (discussed below). This CEA course doesn’t provide the same level of material and features as these more expensive courses (including notably, live class sessions), but honestly, I’m not sure you need all the extra bells and whistles. This is a dang good option for the price that should get the job done for most FE Civil students.
NCEES FE Handbook References
One of the highlights of this CEA course that doesn’t get much fanfare is their heavy use of the NCEES FE Reference Handbook. As I’m sure you know, the FE exam is a closed book test, EXCEPT for this reference manual from the makers of the exam. As such, the CEA instructors reference this handbook frequently during the course for equations that you’ll need.
This has the advantage of getting you used to using the NCEES Handbook, so you’re completely familiar with it on test day and don’t have to inefficiently waste time looking for the equation you’re after. Just one more small, but important feature of the CEA course.
When it comes to FE exam prep, PPI2Pass has become nearly synonymous with the term for one reason or another. For engineering students and professionals alike, the first thing they likely think of when they hear the word PPI is their series of legendary textbooks and reference manuals. PPI simply provides the most authoritative and useful print materials on engineering around, for FE prep, PE prep, and practice.
In fact, a number of other exam prep courses even leverage PPI’s reference manuals in teaching their course – that’s how good these print materials are. But PPI is much more than a set of widely-respected books. Beyond the reference manuals, PPI delivers some of the best lectures and practice materials in FE exam space.
Their lessons, which can be taken live in-person or live online, are led by top flight instructors and spoon feed you everything you need to know for the FE exam. Like their texts, these classes are nothing short of excellent. More on these classes below, but they are insightful, well-designed and our team had nothing but good things to say about them. In addition, PPI delivers realistic and helpful practice work for students that like to learn by doing.
Specifically, you’ll get 460 questions that mimic exam question content and difficulty, as well as a quiz generator with thousands of practice problems for hammering specific concepts. If there is one thing to knock with PPI2Pass, it’s their price – they are more expensive than other courses on average. But, like most things in life, you get what you pay for, as our team found their course to be one of the most well-rounded and highest quality prep packages available.
Helpful Live Classes
Though known mainly for their print materials, PPI’s live classes are some of the best in the game. Their instructors are masters of the material covered on the FE, and are pretty decent communicators to boot. My instructor was very personable and engaging, and I had no issues staying focused during the long lectures. In addition, the design of their curriculum is incredibly intuitive. The flow of the class is methodical and moves from topic to topic in a manner that allows you build on foundational knowledge. Our team was really impressed with this aspect of the live course.
And if you’re wondering what these live classes look and feel like, I took the live online class and generally liked the delivery format. Your instructor appears in the bottom corner of the screen and gives his lesson as he makes notes on the digital whiteboard that takes upon the lion’s share of the screen. There is also a chat function to ask questions and interact with classmates. All in all, we were really impressed with PPI2Pass’ classes and would recommend that if you need the accountability or commitment that come with a live class format, you should strongly consider this course option.
PPI’s Famous Print Materials
PPI2Pass provides some of the most authoritative texts and reference manuals relating to the FE and PE exams available, and they are generally regarded as the gold standard in the engineering field. Although you may just be taking the FE exam now, as you move on to the PE exam and beyond, you’ll continue to use these manuals. For purposes of the FE exam, when you sign up with PPI2Pass, you’ll get a copy of their subject-based FE review book. In other words, take the FE Civil course and get the FE Civil Review book. Take the FE Mechanical course, and get a copy of the FE Mechanical Review book. You get the picture.
In any case, you’re getting a book that has been vetted for 40+ years and provides more detail and equations than you could ever need. While these books are crazy comprehensive, I also found them to be extremely readable. The books take mass amounts of material and masterfully distill them down to the most essential elements, while still providing the detail where needed. They are well-written, thoughtful and nicely structured. I guess this isn’t surprising given the length of time they’ve been around, but kudos to author Michael R. Lindeburg on that.
Generally one of the popular picks among engineering students, School of PE provides a great all-around prep course that is not so unlike PPI2Pass. They both offer live online lectures, in-house print and digital content review materials, practice problems, full-length simulated exams, and more. But one main feature the two differ on is price – whereas PPI2Pass live online classes generally carry a price tag in the $1,800 range, School of PE classes can generally be found for around $1,400, and often even less with frequent promos. That would seem to make the decision easy, right? Well, not really. While our team likes the School of PE FE exam prep package overall, we found it to be a close second to PPPI2Pass in terms of quality.
That said, the study resources and tools are every strong in their own right. Of particular note, we were really impressed with the structure of School of PE’s coursework, as well as the quantity of resources you get with this course. All in all, it is a fantastic FE review course that may be a great option if you’re looking for a PPI2Pass-type course, but with a slightly lower price tag.
Engineers generally like things orderly (sorry, not to stereotype, but this is generally true). And that is one reason our team really liked the curriculum that School of PE follows for their FE prep. It is well-structured and smartly builds on foundational concepts within subject matter groupings, before moving onto the next topic. Other courses can be sporadic and jump from topic to topic depending on the day, but School of PE has intelligently designed their course to make material comprehension and retention as easy as possible. And that’s a very good thing when trying to learn (or refresh) as much material as you need to on the FE exam.
Another highlight of the School of PE course is their slate of supplemental resources that company the primary course materials. These include student discussion boards, calculator trainings, refresher notes, instructor email access, and more. School of PE heaps on the extras to make sure you feel as supported and prepared as possible, and like you are getting your money’s worth. For some students, they may never touch these resources, but for many others, they will probably use these often.
For our team, the most important bonus resource was the instructor email hotline. If you have a question regarding just about anything – a comment in a lecture, a practice problem setup, an explanation of an answer – you can shoot the School of PE instructor team an email. Their response may not be lightning quick, but we always found it to be really helpful. In addition, another small but immensely helpful tool was their calculator training. In about an hour, the School of PE helps you learn some handy functions and shortcuts for your Casio that will shave valuable minutes off your exam time.
Though not as widely known as their FE prep counterparts, Excel Test Prep makes our best list for being an all-around solid course with an emphasis on teaching to the exam. As discussed further below, one of the key highlights of the Excel Test Prep course, and in large part why they make our list of best FE review courses, is their focus on cutting out the extraneous information and focusing on the exam. This exam-based curriculum is led by a team of excellent instructors, who earn high praise from our team. The Excel Test Prep teachers are all individuals who know the exam inside and out. In addition, we found most of them to be excellent communicators.
Though maybe not the funniest instructors in the world, they did an excellent job breaking down difficult subject matter and conveying it in a way that was easily understandable. The Excel Test Prep course also offers the same general resources as PPI2Pass and School of PE, but we weren’t as impressed with their materials as we were with the aforementioned. They are serviceable and do the job, but there is a clear quality difference when seen side by side. In the end, if you want some lessons that are grounded in exam-based principles and led by some excellent instructors, Excel will be worth a good look.
Curriculum Teaches to The FE Exam
One of the few highlights of the Excel Test Prep FE course, we liked how the curriculum narrowly focused in on the exam. Other courses sometimes drift into the realm of theory and concepts that likely may not be tested on the FE, or maybe just tested tangentially, but Excel Test Prep keeps their lessons tight. The curriculum is structured to cover only the exact specifications from the NCEES, so you’re getting what’s tested – no more, no less. This is major benefit for those with limited to study.
In our team’s opinion, yes. While the material you need to pass the exam may still be fairly fresh in your mind from school, you’ll need a prep course to recap the most essential information and teach you HOW to take the FE exam.
How much does a typical FE prep course cost?
FE review courses range pretty widely in price, from just over $500 up to $2,500+. That said, these courses vary drastically in terms of quality and quantity of study materials.
What is the best FE course?
Which FE prep course is best totally depends on the individual. You need to consider how deep of a review that you need, your budget, and your preferred style of learning.