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Efforts To Better Understand The Relationship Between Civil Engineering Student Preparation And Success On The Fundamentals Of Engineering Exam

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Civil Engineering Division Poster Session

Tagged Division

Civil Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.448.1 - 15.448.11



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Paper Authors

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James Bowen University of North Carolina, Charlotte

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Efforts to Better Understand the Relationship Between Civil Engineering Student Preparation and Success on the Fundamentals of Engineering Exam


Like many other programs in Civil and Environmental Engineering, the majority of students at our University take the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam. While not currently required for graduation, students, faculty, and employers alike see passing the FE exam as an important first step in a Civil Engineering career. Historically, FE pass rates at our University have slightly trailed both national averages and those for our Carnegie classification-based comparator group for those students taking the Civil Engineering specific afternoon exam. The relative difference in pass rates, however, has been quite variable over the years. Recently, department faculty have responded to this situation by conducting an analysis of curriculum issues related to student preparation for the FE exam and by implementing new measures designed to improve student preparation and FE exam pass rates. An analysis of the most recent test performance found that there was a statistically significant difference between our students’ performance on the AM and PM exam, with the PM exam performance exceeding the AM exam performance. A comparison of the performance weighted according the relative numbers of questions for a particular topic for the AM and PM found that 67% of the overall difference in FE exam performance between our students and students in our comparator group was attributable to our students’ performance on the morning exam. Furthermore, much of the difference in performance on the AM exam for our students was concentrated in just a few topics. To improve student performance Department faculty have begun a program to improve both student preparation and motivation with the aim of achieving FE exam pass rates that meet or exceed the national averages.


Studying for, taking, and passing the Fundamental of Engineering (FE) exam is a necessary rite of passage in the Civil and Environmental Engineering professions. Most first- time test takers of the FE exam are undergraduate students within an ABET accredited Engineering program. For many of these programs, the FE exam serves not only as a stepping stone for students embarking on their Engineering career, but also as an assessment tool for the undergraduate Engineering program. Many schools use results of the FE exam for program assessment 1,2,3, which is often a component of the learning outcome assessment associated with ABET accreditation4. A few programs make passing the FE exam a graduation requirement 4.

While the uses of the FE exam results are varied and numerous, interest in the FE exam pass rate is keen with many Engineering faculty, and these faculty are often actively involved in documenting, analyzing, and working to improve FE exam pass rates for their Department. This

Bowen, J. (2010, June), Efforts To Better Understand The Relationship Between Civil Engineering Student Preparation And Success On The Fundamentals Of Engineering Exam Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--16493

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