Common Reasons Why You Might Not Pass the PE Civil Exam

PE Civil Exam

Almost every civil engineer in the United States dreams of passing the PE Civil exam and earning a professional engineering license. However, even after working hard for months, a majority of these engineers still fail this exam. Taking so much time and effort preparing for this exam and not passing can be disheartening and embarrassing too.

So after you get yourself registered, you must ask yourself what can you do to increase your chances of passing? What can you do differently than others? Well, to begin with, you can amp up your PE exam prep or FE civil exam prep. You can learn about the things that might prevent you from passing the Professional Engineering exam. 

A lot of factors can lead to you not being able to pass the PE exam. Identifying these mistakes that many other engineers have made over the years while you prepare can help you. To ease the preparation process for you, here is a list of some of the common reasons why you might not pass the PE Civil exam. Check out these reasons, avoid them as you prepare, and give yourself a great chance to pass the PE Civil exam.

Taking the PE Civil Exam Lightly

Perhaps the first mistake you make without even realizing is being overconfident about the PE exam. Do not think that you can flip through the course pages for 3 weeks and you are just as ready to ace this exam as anybody. Even if you were the class topper in your engineering class, you would still need to start from the beginning as you study for this test.

Many candidates fail to realize that this is the ultimate civil engineering exam. The difficulty level for this exam is not like any other test. You should take it very seriously and study with dedication for at least 3 months before the main exam. Do not skip any concept, no matter how hard or easy it is.

Not Solving Practice Exams

Your preparation for the PE Civil exam is not complete until you solve several practice papers. Ignoring the need for practice exams is the second biggest mistake you could make. If you have completed the course well within the time before the exam, you should solve practice papers every day instead of carrying out the entire course revision. A candidate who has solved a handful of practice papers will feel more confident walking into the exam room than the one who hasn’t.

Engineers who challenge themselves at home by setting up an exam-like environment to solve these practice papers will get a better understanding of the PE Civil exam. Practicing at home makes it easier to learn how to go about the exam, how much time you should spend on each question, and more. Practice papers allow you to identify the areas you might still need to work on.

Not Tracking Your Progress (Identifying Your Strong and Weak Zones)

As you prepare for 3 or 4 months, you must track the progress you have had so far. For example, if you have studied for a month now, look back and see how much you have done, how much is left to do, etc. Go according to a plan so that you can cover everything on time. 

Tracking your progress is also helpful in identifying your strong and weak zones. Before exam day, you should know what concepts you find easier and what you find difficult to work with. It’s crucial because this will help you go through your exam more effectively and efficiently. You can solve all the questions you are confident about quickly and then work on the harder ones later on.

Not Seeking Expert Guidance

This is one of the most underrated factors that could affect your chances of passing the PE exam. You could study everything given in the reference materials and courses but the tips and tricks provided by an expert cannot be found elsewhere. Along with the course learning, it’s best for you if you could gain insights about the exam from professionals.

They could help you understand how to go about the exam, the major challenges you find in the exam room, and more. The knowledge you get from engineers who have taken the PE exam before will give you an edge over your competitors. If you have enrolled in a quality PE review course, you can get these insights from the experts there only.

Not Resting Properly

You need to rest your mind and body before the main exam and failing to do so can prove costly. Many candidates spend the last day of preparation buried in books for hours and end up burning themselves out. This will never be helpful as you need to be fresh and ready when you enter the exam hall.

All your preparation and revisions must be completed two days in advance so that you have 24 hours to rejuvenate. You can spend this time just resting, doing some exercise, eating healthy, relaxing with your family, etc. Make sure that you get to sleep on time the night before the exam. Otherwise, you will find it hard to concentrate and will be sleepy the whole time.


Passing and failing are common for any exam but in the PE Civil Exam, the stakes are higher than usual. This is why the preparation should be carried out more effectively and you should try to eliminate all the factors that could prevent you from passing. Apart from the useful tips, we have listed above, don’t forget to enroll in a professional PE review course. 

Civil Engineering Academy is your one-stop destination to find all the relevant course material and expert learning for the PE exam. We also have NCEES-based practice papers for you to solve. Whether you want to join a course for the PE or the Fundamentals of Engineering Exam, we have everything you need here. Get in touch with the team at Civil Engineering Academy now.