fe exam fears

FE Exam Fears and how to Conquer them

This may be the first time taking the FE exam and you feel nervous. You feel scared. Or maybe, you are still trying to pass your FE exam and after failing multiple times. Simply put, this exam is putting a huge burden on you. It’s come to a point where you have developed a real FEAR about this FE exam.

You may have gotten to a point where you think that this FE exam is “impossible” to pass. You just feel hopeless. You feel convinced that if you do not pass, you will jeopardize your career, your work, and your overall life.

Those closest to you probably don’t understand these real fears you are facing. And the truth is, they probably do not get it.

They don’t know what it feels like to prepare for this long exam. Putting in countless study hours while putting your life on hold.

They don’t know how it feels like to tell your manager that you are still trying to pass this exam. They don’t know that your career may rest on one standardized exam. And lastly, they don’t know the hopeless feeling developed after failing this exam multiple times that can leave many in a state of hopelessness to the point where all you want to do is just give up.

It is true. Preparing for the FE exam is scary. It can leave you in a state of hopelessness. It can build so many fears that we would never think a standardized exam can really do that.

But you must somehow keep pushing forward. You cannot give up too easily. You’ve come so far. You’ve learned so much. You’ve experienced so much where it’s gotten you to the point where you cannot afford to waste it. You must conquer these fears to get back on track.

You can overcome these fears because you have already done so in other areas in your life. In fact, you will face many new fears as you’re going through job interviews, making a career switch, adapting to a new career, taking the risk of transitioning into a completely new sector, and most importantly – taking life risks that you know you just have to take.

So how can we look at these fears in a different way? How can be quickly reduce these negative mind-clouding emotions, not just for the FE exam, but throughout your entire engineering career and life as a whole?

What if you can use this fear as a tool to succeed? Is that even impossible? Absolutely.

Let’s discuss how we can use this “negative” state of thinking as a way to boost your productivity and learning during your FE exam prep.

Preparing for the FE Exam is not only a mental game

Almost all the FE exam advice out there is about: what to study, how to study, and what resources you should be using to study. This is great to help you get started but if you’ve already developed a fear of this FE exam, the “internal” challenges you must overcome are just as important to your FE exam success.

Preparing for the FE is not just a “mental” game, it’s an emotional one as well.

If you have already identified these emotions, you are probably ahead of most other examinees because you know that these emotions are part of the journey – you can work on leveraging them.

The biggest problem with fear is how it leaves us incapable of taking action. It can paralyze us to the point where it’s really hard to pick up the book, and start studying…..

The feeling of fear may occur in the middle of your preparation or just on a random day.

Fear makes the entire FE prep feel miserable, it makes us cringe, we can get to a state where we hate everything about this FE exam. Unfortunately, these thoughts and feelings ultimately make us unproductive and tempt us to procrastinate.

You can have the best methods to study and remember information. But the fear is still there. Bounded by all this nervousness, then you will definitely lack the clarity and focus needed to pass this FE exam. If you are drenched in fear and negativity while preparing for your FE exam or on exam day, you will NOT be performing at your 100% best, therefore, you are not likely guaranteeing a passing FE exam score.

We want you to be at your best throughout this crucial time. Reducing fear not only feels good but it will make the whole process easier. You can’t just deal with your fears by just “dealing with it”. Let’s take a different and smarter approach…..

Moving towards your FE Exam Fears

At this point, you would probably agree that if you are going through your FE prep in constant fear, stress, worry, and anxiety, you are facing lower chances of performing at your best on the FE exam.

So, what is the solution? How can you move past this fear for the sake of giving this FE exam your best shot?

Don’t avoid your fears. Don’t just ignore them. Move toward these fears because in reality they can be useful.

Biologically speaking the right form of fear is good. Fear is a signal for us to avoid a rattlesnake or other forms of danger. But physical dangers like that like that are mostly a thing of the past, yet our fears today trigger the same kind of response – “run” even when we are trying to accomplish our goals. Even worse, we procrastinate and avoid studying even though passing this exam will benefit us in both the short and long term.

Amygdala processing fearful and threatening rattle snake

The key is to remember that nowadays fears aren’t caused by physical dangers. They are mostly internally based. Here are some common FE exam fear-based beliefs:

  • I have been out of school for too long, there is no way I can study for this thing
  • I’m too slow, I’m too dumb, I can’t even understand any of this
  • How will I even study for this exam if I’m already too busy?
  • I tried everything to pass this exam, how will I pass it now?
  • I failed this exam already, I can’t pass now
  • If I don’t pass this FE exam, I will instantly lose my job
  • If I don’t pass the FE exam this time, I will never be able to pass 
  • I need to pass this FE exam on the first try, if I don’t, I won’t get another chance
  • If I don’t pass the FE exam, my family and co-workers will look down on me
  • I’m not good at taking standardized tests
  • I don’t know if I’ll be prepared enough by the time the FE exam date arrives
  • I failed this exam too many times, I don’t think I will ever pass
  • I don’t have what it takes to pass this FE exam
  • If I don’t pass the FE, I will never find another Civil Engineering job
  • I don’t know how to study for such a massive exam

If we closely examine the list of beliefs above. The majority fall in the line of thinking of “you’re just not good enough” or “there is no way I can pass this FE exam”. These are not physical dangers, they are all internal fears.

So if you’re constantly having some of these in the back of your mind, you’re going to find it really hard to pick up the book to study because you may get paralyzed since our body is hardwired to “run away” from that which we fear!

This is why the first step is to be aware that the cause of your fear is not the FE exam itself, or the resources you need to get through, it’s your mentality that’s leading to these internal fears. The only way to move past these internal fears is to realize that running away is not an option. We must move towards the fear, so we can move through the fear.

Now, how can we overcome these fears? How can we act in the face of fear when we are hardwired to run?

We will need to go inward.

Face your fears. Objectify them and note them down. Really asking yourself what’s going on inside of you? What is causing you to think that you are not capable of passing this FE exam? What do you believe about yourself that’s causing you to feel fear of the FE?

When we analyze our fears in a certain way, we can objectify them. Objectifying your fears will make it easier for you to think through them. So take a minute to make a list of the things you fear about the FE exam.

Once you have your list, look at each fear and think through it. Face them head on. Ask yourself, if this comes true, what’s the worst that could happen? What can you do if that happened? Can you handle it? What would be your next steps? Is it really that bad? Would everything be ok?

After going through this process, you may come to realize that EVERYHTING WILL BE OKAY! You will be okay! You will survive it, you can take alternative measures, you can change your study approach, you can leverage all the important information you already learned, and you keep living your life no matter what happens.

When you realize that everything will be just fine and accept it, you are likely to get past your fears. They won’t bother you because you know that no matter what, life will continue.

Whatever your fear-based beliefs are, look at them logically, rationally. You may realize they’re not completely true as you’re making them out to be.

Another process you can use involves objectifying your fears and looking for the “silver linings”. Ask yourself, what lesson would you learn if your fear were to come true? How would learning from this experience save you energy, time, money, and hassles in the future? How would you benefit from a learning standpoint? How would this experience help build your resiliency and perseverance?

Looking for the silver linings

These are tough exercises to do. This is what “facing your fears” is all about. It’s one of the bravest things you and I (Farouq) can do. I sincerely admire you for trying this.

Next you want to identify the thoughts that are causing you to feel overwhelmed. Write them down and analyze them objectively:

For example, your thought process may be something like this:

“If I don’t pass the FE exam, my company will let me go and I won’t find another job again.” Is this really true? Will your company let you go instantly? Can you find another job? For the most part, most companies don’t just fire their engineers for not passing their FE exam. Good companies support their engineers. All you can do is communicate with your manager and try your best. A good manager will support you. In the long run, passing the FE exam is not the sole determining factor in helping you grow into a good, ethical, professional engineer.

Speak to yourself in positive ways. This is how many people build confidence. They speak to themselves all the time in positive ways. Remind yourself of your past accomplishments. Think back how far you’ve come. The fact that you are trying your best to pass this exam shows intelligence, determination, and perseverance. Even if you don’t pass, you’ll learn, you’ll grow, and you can take the exam again – it’s not end all be all.

No matter what happens, you’re going to be OK.

Remember, the finest minds in our time did not succeed in their first try. They struggled; they struggled a lot. They embraced the process. A process that includes failing, learning, getting better, small accomplishments, small wins – all these things lead to the ultimate success. They accepted and looked past their failures. You can move past yours too.

Throughout the whole FE exam process and especially at times when fears begin to arise, remind yourself why you are doing this. Remind yourself of how passing this exam makes you a better engineer. Remind yourself about your vision of becoming a professional engineer while getting all the personal and financial benefits that come with it. Let that be your strength. 

Feeling fear is normal. You shouldn’t judge yourself for feeling it. But you must learn how to take a step back to work on reducing the negative effects produced by these fears. From there, you can get back on track, you can slowly build your confidence again, and you can absolutely prepare in a way that will help you pass the FE exam.

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