When to take the exam
The FE exam should be taken as early as possible, if you didn't take it already! There was a recent article that discusses exam policies, and one of the proposals was to increase the minimum time after taking the FE, that you can qualify for the PE exam. If you are in college, take it during your final year. If working, take it as soon as you can!
The PE exam should be taken when you have enough work experience to manage all aspects of projects in your chosen discipline. The exam should be taken for the discipline you intend to practice, rather than the discipline in which you could most easily pass. Note that in some disciplines, you may have to show 2-4 years of work experience and references to take the exam.
Preparing for the exam
The FE exam should be easier if you are in college or have sudied recently, but it is an easy exam to study for, take, and pass! An average recommendation is to allow 2-6 months of preparation time. 2 months if studying full time (not working), 6 months if part time. It will vary depending on how much of the material you already know. For example, if you know half of it already, and studying full time, you could prepare in a month. If you haven't studied for a long time or haven't studied the relevant material, allow 2-6 months. Make sure to spend two hours per day studying if you are studying part time. It's not that much!
The rest of the preparation aspects, you will find out as you go along. But remember to sleep well before the exam and get there on time. I know two people who studied for the PE exam, and could't take it because they showed up late due to traffic. Everyone has their own techniques, here's some of mine:
Treat an open book exam like a closed book exam (this worked for me)
Don't take the exam to see how hard it is. Study and take it to pass it. It's a much more pleasant experience!
Don't plan any vacations or trips right before the exam of course. I know at least two people who did this and failed.
Try to collaborate with others who are taking the same exam. If a study group isn't possible, be sure to participate in one or two forums, such as the one on this website.
Make sure you practice taking as many sample exams as you can get. We will post more on this site as soon as they are available. Working through practice problems is the best way to study and prepare for the exam. Try to solve the problems without using reference material first, and only use the reference material as needed.
Don't leave out any subjects during study time. Try to cover everything to some extent. Sometimes there are easy questions on difficult subjects.
Don't study from just one source, especially if taking the PE or SE exam. You will need more than one book to effectively study for these exams, especially for the depth modules. For most PE exams, there is no single book that has all the info you need to study, even though some reference guides give this impression.
Know your calculator well, and be sure to practice using it to solve problems, especially if you are using one of the pre-programmed calculators available on this website.
Don't study in depth or work on a lot of difficult problems the day before the exam. The best use of this time is to make sure you know how to find information quickly, if you are taking an open book exam, or review the formulas and essential information, if taking a closed book exam.
Taking the exam
Plan to be at the exam site early, and if it's a long drive stay in a hotel. If you arrive late, you won't be admitted to the exam room.
Make sure you are fully familiar with all the rules and regulations of both the NCEES and your State eam board policies well before you take the exam. Note that individual states vary in their policies and rules, so make sure you look at all the info. on your State's website.
Bring an engineering dictionary and use tabs to quickly locate information in your reference materials.
Be prepared to manage your time effectively during the exam. Review all the questions before starting, and note the easier ones, which you should answer first. Don't spend more than 10 minutes on any question unless you have already answered all the questions you know you can answer.
Make sure to fully understand the problem and what is being asked in the question before strating to solve it. I know this seems obvious, but it's easy to be misled about what is actually being asked. Also, make sure you are using the correct units.
Don't leave any answers blank, since no pionts are deducted for incorrect answers. Also, fill in the bubbles as you work through the problems, don't leave that task to the end.