Top positive review
Essential Reference for Every Engineer
Reviewed in the United States on April 9, 2014
I just recently passed the mechanical PE exam (fluids discipline), and I thought I would share the studying strategy that seemed to work for me. The very first thing you should do is purchase this book, the Mechanical Engineering Reference Manual (MERM), even if you do not plan to take the PE for several years. This is an excellent book that is useful for any mechanical engineer to have. Plus, if you begin to use it now, it will only help to make you more comfortable with it for the exam.
Begin your study about 5-6 months before the exam. At this point you should also purchase the associated Practice Problems for the MERM. Each day, read a chapter and then try to work the practice problems from that chapter. This will take you about 1-2 hours per day. The key is to not burn yourself out, so begin early and only do a set amount per day. On some days when the chapter is short, or you have extra time you could read and work problems for an extra chapter or two. Also, I decided to skip the math and statistics chapters because I felt like I still remembered the basics and there are no general math questions on the exam. So if you feel the same way, you can eliminate 12-13 chapters right off the bat. At this pace, in about 3 months you will have read the entire book (around 1500 pages) and at least attempted every single practice problem. At this point you will be in full panic mode, because you won’t feel comfortable with any of the practice problems because as I said, they are much harder than what is on the exam. Relax! The practice problems for the MERM are infinitely more complicated than what you will encounter on the exam. So do not worry too much if you don’t exactly know how to do them. Just try to work each problem, if you get stuck just read through the solution and try to understand. Keep in mind that no one can work all the problems in that book, so you are no different. Just do your best. When you have finished the book, it should be right about the time that you have to choose your specific mechanical discipline for the exam. Since you have seen all the types of problems, you should be able to make an informed decision on which of the three that you are best at.
As a general rule of thumb for the exam, anything you can think of that will save you any time is worth it. The MERM is absolutely jam-packed with charts, tables, graphs, etc. As you are reading through and working problems, you will start to notice you refer to some of them fairly often. It’s a good idea to put a tab on the page where the useful information is located. By the time I took the exam, my MERM had tons of tabs.
When you have finished the MERM and its practice problems, purchase ALL THREE (fluids, mechanical systems, HVAC) sample problems and solution booklets from the NCEES. The first 40 questions are exactly the same in the three booklets, but the next 40 will be different. It’s still worth it to buy all three, because in the morning session of the exam, you could encounter any of these problems. Make yourself out a schedule where you work 10-15 problems per day. This time, you will need to actually be able to do the problems, unlike the MERM problems. These problems are designed to represent what is on the test, and also to be able to be completed in 6 minutes. You will start to feel a lot more comfortable at this point because the questions are much easier than what you’ve seen so far. Work all 160 questions over and over in groups of 10-15 per day until the day of the exam. By now you should be very comfortable, and ready to tackle whatever they throw at you.
Update in response to some questions: On test day, you will see people walk into the exam with dozens of books. Some even stand up all the books vertically on their table like a little library bookshelf. You will immediately wonder if you did not bring enough material. Rest assured! If you go into the test relying on this many books, then you are in trouble. There simply isn't enough time to think about which book to open and then search for the answer. I went into the exam with only the following materials and it was more than enough:
Mechanical Engineering Reference Manual
Practice Problems for the Mechanical Engineering Reference Manual
NCEES Sample Questions and Solutions (Thermal and Fluids Systems)
NCEES Sample Questions and Solutions (Mechanical Systems and Materials)
NCEES Sample Questions and Solutions (HVAC and Refrigeration)
A 1" Three Ring Binder of helpful equations, saturation tables, and conversion factors that I accumulated during the study process
I hope this has helped, and most importantly, good luck!