When I first started teaching a mechanical engineering PE exam review course, sometime in the early 1990’s, the course was taught in a classroom with PowerPoint slides and an overhead projector 200-301. I know, old school indeed. But I learned a lot about what worked and didn’t work teaching variations of this course over the years. In the end, I discovered that 20 weeks of review time was optimal for a PE Exam review. And that’s why all my online PE exam review courses are based on a 20-week time frame. I do offer shortened or extended versions of these courses, but they are all based on this 20-week ideal. So what is it about 20 weeks that works so well? Let’s take a look back at some of the experiences that led to this realization.
Back in the 90’s, as now, the exam was offered twice a year in early to mid-April and late October or early November. With the first classes I taught, through the Industrial Extension Service of the College of Engineering at North Carolina State University, the schedule was dictated by the university semester calendar. As a result, the courses started 10 weeks before the exam. Teaching with a partner, we held one 3-hour class per week. I remember taking the first part of my first night to provide an overview of the exam, an exam strategy, and other information about what to bring, or not to bring, to the exam. Then it was it was pretty much a firehose of information transfer.
At some point we were asked by a former student to conduct an ME PE review at their company. We decided to expand the course and slow things down. We went from 10 weeks to 15, which worked much better. We were asked to do the review the following year and we slowed it down even more to 30 weeks, meeting for only 2 hours a night instead of 3, with time off for summer vacations. That time-frame turned out to be way too long. Somewhere around 20 weeks appeared to be optimum, and we also realized that we needed more than just us presenting material. Devoting more time to working problems was critical to success.