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How to Prepare for the California Electrical Engineering Exam

by Christopher Cascio

Preparing for any professional-level licensing test requires careful planning and determination. The Principals and Practice of Engineering Exam in electrical engineering is the test you'll have to take in California, and it is given in the same format nationwide. This open-book exam consists of two four-hour sections of 80 multiple-choice questions that cover all of the core knowledge in the field. Furthermore, these questions aren't grouped according to subject area, but are designed to stand alone.

Construct a Study Plan

Before you take any practice exams or sit down with any study materials, formulate a specific and rigid study plan that gives you ample time to prepare for the exam. Schedule study sessions that are consistent and that fit reasonably with your regular work schedule. Additionally, schedule normal study sessions as well as sessions specifically for taking practice quizzes and exams so that you can monitor your progress with the material. Assessing your available preparation time will also help you decide whether you can manage taking a formal review course, or whether you should instead use a self-study method.

Enroll in a Review Course

A popular option for preparing for the California electrical engineering PE exam is to take a formal review course. Several commercial companies offer courses, including Belmont, California-based Professional Publications, Inc. The in-class version of this course includes more than 40 hours of live instruction, detailed explanations of the most difficult test material and practice questions similar to those you'll encounter on the actual exam. PPI also offers an online version of this course, which includes the helpful feature of recording every class session so you can easily catch up if you miss a class. PPI guarantees a passing score with each version of its review course.

Collect Study Materials

Whether you enroll in a course or decide to study on your own, you'll need to collect comprehensive, up-to-date review materials. For example, Kaplan Test Prep offers study guides that focus on individual PE exams, as well as a full learning system for each engineering discipline that includes a manual of problems and solutions and a sample exam. PPI's "Electrical and Electronics Reference Manual for the Electrical and Computer PE Exam" contains more than 750 pages of detailed review material, more than 300 solved example problems and a section on study tips and exam preparation. Cory Lanza's "Spin-Up for the Electrical and Computer Engineering PE Exam" contains five sample exams for a total of 400 sample questions with answers.

Join a Study Group

A study group can supplement your preparation for the exam, according to Cameron H.D. Wright, an associate professor of electrical engineering at the University of Wyoming. Furthermore, according to Montclair State University, working with a group can help ease test anxiety, and the different perspectives among group members can cultivate deeper understandings of the material. Having scheduled meetings with a group also helps to counter procrastination, because others are relying on your participation for their own benefit just as much as you are relying on their help for your own.

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