How to pass the Professional Engineer Exam | Mining University

How to pass the Professional Engineer Exam

When I took the Professional Engineer exam for Mining and Metallurgy there were a lot of things that I did, or intended to do, to prepare for the test.  Some of these things turned out to be more effective than others and some items that were ignored proved to be things that would have helped a lot if I’d done them.  Recently, I have had several mining engineers ask me about preparing for the exam so I thought I’d write my advice down and share it with everybody in one place.

The first thing I would suggest to anyone about to take the Professional Engineer exam is to attend the review course.  I know that this is a time commitment and a financial commitment but it is worth it.  SME offers a class on their Short Courses page. I think every state has a time requirement between graduating from an accredited university and sitting for the Professional Engineer exam.  Whether you’ve been out of school for the minimum amount of time (4-5 years) or are a seasoned veteran, you’ve forgotten some of the things you learned in school.  You can argue all you want that the things you’ve forgotten are unimportant, but the Professional Engineer exam is administered by the same type of people who asked you to learn those obscure things in the first place.  It is important that you remember as much of it as you can, at least for the test.

I think I would have failed the Professional Engineer exam if I hadn’t taken the SME short course.  I remember doing stoichiometry (doing mass balance on chemical equations) in school and I remember being at least moderately good at it but I hadn’t done any stoichiometry since graduation.  When they started teaching this part of the short course I realized that I didn’t even have a periodic table of the elements and wasn’t sure I remembered how to read it.  I found a number of stoichiometry questions on the actual Professional Engineer exam.  I would surely have failed them if I hadn’t had this review.

The second thing I would tell everyone preparing for the Professional Engineer exam is that they need a copy of the Mining Reference Handbook by Raymond L. Lowrie, PE.  This book can be purchased at any online bookseller like or at the SME Bookstore. I know that the book is expensive but it is well worth the price.  The Mining Reference Handbook was written to be used in the field by mining professionals so it doesn’t waste any time with theory.  It just tells you what you want is a succinct manner.  Almost every reference you could want for the test can be found in this book.

Perhaps part of the reason that the Mining Reference Handbook is so helpful is that the main editor, Raymond L. Lowrie, PE is the SME staff liaison for the Professional Registration Committee, the committee that prepares the mining/mineral Professional Engineer test for the NCEES.

Finally, I would suggest that you study for the test on a regular basis.  I wish I had followed this advice.  I procrastinated studying for the test until the day before it was to be administered.  In a final panic I took a day off from work and studied for the entire eight hours.  The studying paid off in the end when I passed the test but between the eight hours studying for the test and the eight hours taking it I don’t think that my backside will ever be the same.


  1. Excellent post Tony! This will be helpful.

  2. Thanks Richard. I'm glad you're looking forward to getting your Professional Engineer's license. You'll do great on the test.

  3. Thanks for this very useful info.
    This will be helpful for all.

  4. I know I'm a bit late on this post, but I'm hoping you can answer a question for me. I'm planning on taking the exam this October. Unfortunately, I can not attend the course in Denver this year. I purchased the sme study guide that they provide for the review course as well as the mining reference handbook that you mention. Did you take with you the 2 volume sme mining engineering handbook as well? Do you think I need to buy it? I prefer not to if the mining reference handbook is sufficient. Your help is greatly appreciated.

  5. Matt,
    I did take the giant, two part Mining Engineering Handbook to the test but I didn't use it at all. It was more of a security blanket so that I felt I had everything I might possibly use.
    Don't forget to study up on your stoichiometry. This would have really messed up my test score if I hadn't been warned about it before hand. It's not that hard, but I hadn't done any of it since college.
    Good luck on the test. Let me know how it turns out.

  6. Thanks for the tips Anthony. I'll probably pick up a stoichiometry book and study the heck out of it since it's been over 10 years since I've had a chemistry class. I'll probably just get the 2 volume handbook for the piece of mind in knowing I have every reference imaginable, but I hope the reference handbook is all I will need. There's plenty of time before October, but I figured I might as well start slowly studying for this thing. Thanks again for the advice and I will let you know how things go.

  7. Anthony,
    Just wanted to give an update. I walked out of the exam thinking I failed for sure. Got my results back today and passed! I didn't forgot about your blog or advice. Thanks again for the advice!

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