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Best PE Exam Prep Courses
Our in-depth guide to the best PE review courses on the market
Given that you’ve been out of school for a few years when getting ready to take the PE exam, you very likely are going to need a review course to help you prep. This high-stakes exam simply carries too much weight to go it without proper prep materials. But with so many different courses available commercially, all with varying study materials, features and teaching formats, how do you which one is best? Well, our team has the done the hard work for you and reviewed each course in detail, so you can make an informed decision on which is right for your studies.
Civil Engineering Academy (CEA) not only makes our list of best PE review courses, but also nabs the editor’s choice pick, for one big reason – value. This prep course costs just a fraction of what other companies charge and provides serious bang for your buck, but more on this below.
It’s not just all budget pricing with CEA – they also provide some of the highest quality study materials we’ve reviewed. The course revolves around 10 modules that consist of video lectures and practice problem explanations. Your instructor and founder of CEA, Isaac, provides high level instruction surrounding each of the topics that correspond to the breadth portion of the exam. He covers high level theory, notes, and must-know equations, before diving into practice problems.
That is where you’ll get the meat of your value with CEA – the video practice problems. Isaac efficiently and effectively cuts through problems by cross-referencing formulas in the Civil Reference Manual and solving for the given facts. I personally loved these short practice problem videos. Now, if there are two things to knock with the CEA course is that it covers PE Civil only (sorry everyone else) and has no live classes. If you’re the type of student that needs live instruction, I’d suggest looking elsewhere (maybe PPI). But if you prefer driving your own studies and hammering practice problems, this is likely your course.
Bang For Your Buck Pricing
As mentioned above, CEA is all about the value. Whereas other courses cost upwards of $2,000, you can get access to all of CEA’s materials for six months for a shade under $700. In other words, this course costs about a third of what you’ll pay for PPI live courses and half of most School of PE courses. If you’re looking to pass the PE while keeping some dough in your pocket, CEA will be a strong option.
Tons of PE Practice Problems
The other highlight of the CEA course is their abundance of practice work. They provide two full-length practice exams for the breadth portion of the PE Civil exam and a practice exam for each of the 5 depth sections. In addition, you’ll get some bonus theory questions and supplemental questions through purchasing their recommended practice books (CEA leans on PPI2Pass print materials like the Civil Reference Manual). Again, if you’re the type of student that doesn’t want live lectures and just wants to work and review practice problems and study on your own, CEA will be a great option.
When engineering professionals think of the PE exam, they think of PPI2Pass in one way or another, and for good reason. PPI2Pass has been prepping engineers for the PE exam for close to five decades, and provides some of the best study materials around. In fact, PPI provides such stellar reference manuals and other print materials that other prep courses use PPI’s materials as the basis of their written content. In addition to these legendary books, PPI also provides robust lectures, live and on demand, that we found to be some of the best around.
Their instructors are simply excellent, and provide serious value to preppers. And to round out their package, PPI provides practice questions with in-depth explanations, simulated exams, quiz generators, performance reports and more. In short, while not the cheapest option available, PPI2Pass provides one of the surest and most comprehensive prep packages around for your PE prep.
Legendary Print Materials
PPI2Pass provides some of the most respected and widely-used engineering reference manuals in the field. If you’re a civil engineer, you’ve almost certainly used, or at least heard of, PPI’s PE Civil Reference Manual. This reference provides every last detail you could possibly ever need for the breadth portion of the PE Civil exam and beyond. And it’s not just PPI’s PE Civil materials that are good. Their print materials across all disciplines are rock solid and generally regarded as the gold standard for textbooks and references.
Michael R. Lindeburg, the primary author of these PPI books, manages to take extremely complex and difficult material and distill it down to easily understandable and actually readable sections. I personally found the style and formatting of the books to be particularly helpful with the callouts to the most important equations and key points. That said, these books are hefty – many of them 1,000+ pages long. But they have to be given the amount of material covered. Bottom line, other courses use PPI’s books a for a reason – they’re the best in the game.
Powerful Live Classes
In addition to their comprehensive guides and reference manuals, PPI2Pass is also known for first rate live classes. Their instructors are some of the best teachers in the engineering field, and do a great job communicating difficult topics. As I’m sure you’ve seen in your college courses, some instructors have a great mastery of their material they teach, but can’t actually teach for a darn. However, the PPI instructors masterfully deliver smarts and clear communication.
No matter which exam you’re studying for, the format and delivery of your live class will be the same. Your instructor appears in the bottom corner of the screen via webcast, and makes notes on the digital whiteboard on screen. There’s also a useful chat function in the bottom corner as well to interact with your teacher and peers. Together, it’s a well-designed package that we found to be highly effective for delivering live lessons.
School of PE is like PPI2Pass in many ways – they offer live class instruction, course notes/handouts, textbooks, practice problems, quiz generators, and much more – but for roughly 2/3 the cost. So if they offer the same type of study materials for a fraction of the price, you’re probably wondering, what’s the catch? Well, while School of PE does offer these robust resources, the quality is a close second to that of PPI. The School of PE materials are excellent in their own right, and we loved the streamlined curriculum and supplemental resources – it’s just that they don’t quite bring the juice that PPI does (which is hard to do given that PPI has been doing it for 45+ years).
But comparisons aside, School of PE is going to be an excellent option for students that want a quality course at reasonable rate. They provide an exceptionally-designed curriculum, well written lecture handouts, good practice problem explanations, and tons of practice work and simulated exams. Our team was a big fan of School of PE’s coursework, and found them to be a close second to PPI2Pass in terms of overall quality and strength.
One of the highlights of the School of PE courses is their streamlined curriculum. We found that their study plan flows naturally, with subject matter grouped into sequential lessons that just make sense. Other courses (which don’t appear on this list) have curriculums that jump around and just feel sporadic. This can make building a foundation of knowledge and building on that tough. However, School of PE has a streamlined curriculum that efficiently cuts through subject matter in a logical and methodical way that made learning (or often re-learning material) very easy – at least for the PE Civil course I took. If you like things orderly (like me), you’ll really like their curriculum structure.
The Bonus Resources
The other big selling point of the School of PE prep courses is their abundance of extra study resources. They do not shy away from piling on the supplemental study tools. This includes calculator usage tips, discussion forums, and the ability to ask instructors questions, among others. Of these, I really liked the quick lesson on how to most efficiently and effectively use your calculator on exam day. It seems like a small resource, but is HUGELY helpful. Knowing exactly how to quickly calculate every complex equation you may need will save you valuable time on test day, and I loved their pro tips on calculator usage.
In addition, I made good use of their instructor email hotline. I sent numerous messages asking detailed questions, and always got solid responses with good substance. They may not be the quickest to respond in the world, but I’ll take a day-and-a-half wait for an answer over being left to study alone. Bottom line, School of PE provides some great resources that we found extremely valuable and helped elevate them to our list of the best PE courses.
While perhaps not as widely known or popular as PPI2Pass or School of PE, Excel Test Prep makes our best list as a solid all around course. Our team found Excel’s instructors to be really good, and we loved that they teach to the exam, not the concepts. More on this below, but Excel’s content reviews teach what you need to know to pass, not a refresher of your college classes. Their live class sessions, while very long and tedious, are thorough and led by some extremely knowledgeable instructors. This is important when you’ll be spending all day in a study session.
Most of Excel’s classes take place over 7 or 8 hours on Saturdays and Sundays, which can make for a very long weekend. Given this time commitment, you need a teacher that not only knows the material well, but can also keep you engaged and focused, which Excel’s instructors do well. That said, one knock we did have is that the whiteboards can often become cluttered and hard to read. It’s not the end of the world, but it can disrupt you from time to time.
And their study materials, including their own manuals, are excellent. Whereas other companies’ prep books focus almost exclusively on equations and concepts, Excel does a nice job working in tips and tricks for taking the exam into their print materials. All in all, we found Excel Test Prep’s PE course to be a well-rounded course that was worthy of our best list.
Streamlined Lessons That Teach to The Exam
One of the things we quickly noticed when taking the Excel Test Prep course was that they teach to the exam, not the theory or concept. And this is critical to remember – you’re not studying to become the most knowledgeable and well-rounded engineer around – not even close. You’re studying to pass a series of very specific questions that allow you to earn your license. So keep that in mind. We loved that Excel targets their lessons, practice work and study materials on the exam questions. It’s not that other courses don’t do this – PPI and the other two courses mentioned above do this as well – but it just felt like a point of emphasis with Excel. Overall, this was the highlight of their course for our team.
Very likely, yes. Although the material you need to know may still be somewhat fresh in your head from college, the PE exam tests material in a very unique and complex manner. Your best bet for passing the exam on the first try is a prep course that spoon feeds just the information you need to know, as well as helpful test taking strategies.
How much does a PE prep course cost?
PE prep courses range widely in price, from just a few hundred dollars all the way up to $3,000+. While that is a large disparity, most students will spend $1,500+ on a course on average.
What is the best PE course?
Which PE prep course is right for you totally depends on what type of learner you are, how deep of a review you need, and what your personal situation is. Read our full analysis for which is best for you.