Persistence Pays!

In keeping with our series highlighting ET faculty and their accolades, this month we bring you a story
highlighting the dedication and perseverance of a faculty member at State College of Florida (SCF). Over the years, Adrienne Gould Choquette, program manager for the engineering technology program at SCF has been working closely with FLATE in positioning the ET degree as a relevant and exciting program for students. Below are some thoughts outlining her efforts to successfully pass the rigorous Professional Engineering (P.E.) Exam.

In 1993, after graduating from the University of Rhode Island with a B.S. Engineering technology, I sat for the E.I.T. (Engineering in Training) exam.  This was a comprehensive exam encompassing information from all four years as an engineering student. This was a difficult exam, but the scope was defined. It was closed book meaning if a reference was needed, they had to provide it. 

The rumor was that they alerted the people who failed first; the longer it took to receive your results, the better.  Months and months went by and I did not receive any notification from the Board.  When I called to inquire they apologized for the delay and told me that I did indeed pass, but they didn’t have any certificates. They were waiting until they received the correct certificates to notify me.  

After my bachelor’s degree I went on to earn an M.S. degree in Mechanical Engineering and then into the workforce.  In 2003 I sat for the P.E. Exam for the first time. Six months later, I sat for the P.E. exam for the second time.  Both times I received the disappointing news that I failed; both times with the same score. This rattled my confidence. How could I have made no progress?

Several months ago I decided to attempt this elusive designation one more time.  And on December 5, 2013 I received the news that I passed. 

The P.E. exam had a lot of similarities to the E.I.T. exam, but even more dissimilarities.  It is an open book exam.  The first 4 hours covers the breadth of the chosen engineering field, the second 4 hours covers the depth of the chosen specialization.  The exam is 80 problems which equates to six minutes per problem.  That is six minutes to read the problem, figure out what they are looking for, find the related information in one of the references (hopefully chose the right reference to bring), and finally solve the problem. Hours melt away.  There is no time for contemplation. 

So how did I pass the third time?  I attribute it to a few things:
  • I was dedicated to remaining physically strong.  I maintained a rigorous exercise regimen.
  • I took a refresher course.  I don’t believe the material in the refresher course helped me; but rather it was the tips from the instructors and also the time commitment dedicated to preparing for the exam.
  • I worked through problems until I could solve them as easily as I could solve the problem of 2+2.  Some nights I would focus on a few problems and work them over and over again only to wake up the next day and still not be able to solve them without out referencing the solution. But with persistence, eventually everything clicked.  (The books I used: Six-Minute Solutions for Mechanical PE Exam HVAC and Refrigeration Problems - Keith E. Elder PE and NCEES’s PE Mechanical Questions and Solutions)
Working the problems to the point of complete understanding is how I passed the P.E.   During the 4 hour depth section of the exam I had answers for 20 out of the 40 questions with only 45 minutes left of the exam.  Thoughts of “I will fail again” began occupying my mind.  But then some of the tips from my refresher course instructors came back to me. “Don’t panic”, “start with what you know”.  I felt like a machine.  Tackling problems with what I knew and amazingly, one after the other, I came up with answers. 

Preparing for the exam in this manner was a wonderful journey challenging my problem solving strengths to their limits!

To get in touch with Adrienne and get tips on how to prepare for the P.E. exam email her at gouldca@scf.edu. For information on the ET degree offered at SCF visit http://madeinflorida.org/engineering-technology-degree/engineering-technology-degree-scf