Preparing for the PE and wondering how long you should study for the PE exam? I’ve been there before, twice actually. And I’ve also looked at a lot of data from other engineers to find out how long you should study to pass the PE exam.
Generally, you should study for the PE exam for about 200-300 hours if you want to pass. The average study time is around 215-230 hours over a 3-month period. Few engineers study less than 100 hours or over 300. You may think you need less time, but studying more is worth it if it means you pass.
How you study, including where, when, and what, has a major effect on how much time you have to put in to pass. If you choose the right resources, it will be easier to make an effective study plan and pass on your first (or next) try.
Making a study plan isn’t easy, unless you get outside help. Other engineers might give you recommendations for their study plans, but by far the easiest way is to just purchase a prep course. I highly recommend School of PE. It’s how I passed and how many of my friends did, too!
I’ve done some research to find out what other engineers’ experiences were while studying. I also found some tips on how to plan your study and make it more effective.
Let’s get into it!
How Long Other Engineers Have Studied
I looked at a few different sources online to see how many hours other engineers studied for the PE exam. I calculated averages of all the good answers I could find on each thread. Here’s a summary of what I learned from each:
- This EngineerBoards thread showed that the average time people studied was about 230 hours. There were some older responses from around 2010 in here, so I mostly included those in recent years.
- One Reddit thread I found had an average of 215 hours studied. There were a lot of these and I didn’t average all of the threads I could find, just one of the most recent.
- A survey of those that took the Power PE showed that the most common amount of study time was 200-300 hours, with over 500 hours coming in second. That surprised me as anything over 300 was an outlier in my other sources.
While this isn’t the best way to get the exact statistical average of how many hours people study for the PE, it’s the next best thing. Most of the answers gave a range anyway, and most people didn’t actually record how much they studied.
So this may not be precise, but it’s accurate enough to give you an idea of how long you should study, which is all you really came for, right?
There were a few other things I learned while scanning through the comments that were golden advice for studying, which we’ll get into now.
Advice for How Long You Should Study for The PE Exam
By far the most common thing people said when talking about how long you should study was “it depends.” That’s a sort of cop-out answer, which is why I’ve focused on the numbers. But in the end this is really the truth.
How long you need is really up to your confidence levels. But like I mentioned earlier, you are going to be much happier over studying than understudying. If I had studied more hours and passed the PE on my first try I would have made thousands of dollars more from getting my license sooner than I did.
A lot of the comments confirmed this, too. They didn’t mind the extra work because they were much happier feeling completely confident on test day than if they had just tried to wing it. I had a cousin go in without studying much and he really regretted it! Thankfully he passed on his second try though.
Another huge piece of advice I saw was that it’s way easier if you take a course. And I completely agree. This is the #1 advice I’d give you if you were in the room with me right now asking for tips on passing the PE. I only passed after I invested in School of PE, and I don’t think I would have passed if it weren’t for them! I’ll talk more about that in a minute though.
I also saw that those who studied under 100 hours didn’t usually pass on their first try. Even then, there were not very many people who had studied that little and passed. They were the outliers. I’d say maybe 1 in 20 of the answers I saw mentioned studying less than 50 hours. So don’t think you can get by easy, it’s pretty rare to be able to pass with so little practice!
The most interesting comment I saw was something that I felt even after I’d bought School of PE’s course. The person mentioned how they were 100 hours in and went from feeling good and even ahead of schedule at times to feeling completely hopeless at others. I think this kind of thing is inevitable and you should be prepared for it. Even when you’re on the right track that sudden fear that you’re not going to pass will strike randomly.
I hated when I felt this way, especially because I’d invested so much time and money into preparing. But this brings me to one last piece of advice that I’ll end this section with.
You’re going to need to ignore how you feel and just keep working if you want to pass the PE exam. Even when you’re imperfect. Especially when you’re missing a lot of problems. Don’t let discouragement and fear make you give up. Keep working and you will pass!
How Many Hours I Studied For The PE Exam
I studied for 126 hours on the first try and failed, then over 300 hours on my second attempt and passed. On my second attempt I took School of PE’s course and it was way easier. I didn’t have to waste time making a study plan and finding resources to study, which probably took the first 5-10 hours of my study time on my first attempt.
School of PE is worth the money if you want to pass the PE exam. Check out my review of them right here to learn more about how they helped me. Or you can just go to their website and sign up for a trial to see what it’s like!
Planning Your Hours and Study Time
Most of the people in these threads mentioned they started studying around 3-4 months before test day. Any earlier than that and they’d forget some of what they’d study at the beginning. And any later and they’d end up with not enough time.
3-4 months was about right for me too. I took the test in April and October of 2019. I started studying in January for the April exam and in June for the October one. I wish I’d had more time for my attempt in April though, so to be safe you should go with four months.
A lot of the time what people will do is study in the morning, evening, or on weekends. You want to take your available free time and just plan on using it for hours of studying. It’s tough to do when you’re working full-time, but it’s well worth it to become a PE.
1-2 hours in the evening and 4-6 hours on weekends seemed to be pretty common for most people.
Say you plan to study for 3 months. If you put in 2 hours each evening and 6 hours on weekends, that comes to 264 hours of studying. That’s perfect, especially because it leaves you with some wiggle room. You’ll need that for days that you’re too tired or weekends you want to take a break and go on vacation!
While you’re studying, it’s vital that you maintain your health. Spend time with other people, exercise, and get enough sleep in the hours that you’re not studying. Don’t just sit around your house and watch YouTube. Help your brain get the recovery it needs and it will reward you with an awesome performance on test day.
No matter how many hours you put in, working hard to become a PE is worth the effort. It feels amazing, as well, to know that you took on a massive challenge like this and beat it. I know that’s how I feel after passing the PE and getting my license!
If you want to pass the PE, shoot to study for about 230 hours. Start 3-4 months before the exam and use weekends and evenings to study. And to make it all way easier, buy a course to help!