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Civil Engineering Reference Manual for the PE Exam

Robert A. Avila, PE, MCE has helped hundreds of rising engineers pass the FE and PE exams.

the CERM

This should be the first or second book you buy to prepare for the PE exam.

This should be the first or second book you buy to prepare for the PE exam.

Why You Need the CERM

The Civil Engineering Reference Manual, by Michael R. Lindeburg, PE, is the reference manual for PE examinees.

Every examinee entering the NCEES exam is permitted to bring in as many reference books as desired. Some wheel them in on carts. Others use rolling luggage. I was one of two people on my examination date to carry all the reference books in a box. If you use a box, it becomes a little shelf at your test table.

Economize Weight and Volume of Your Book Load

One man wheeled in two full size luggage bags. One was big. The other was huge. He laid them on the ground, unzipped the tops, and revealed a pile of disorganized books. Most of them emanated a garage-sale aura of disuse and dust. Some looked like antiques. After the exam, en route to the parking lot, I overheard him tell another man this was his 3rd attempt to pass the PE. Apparently, the strategy of wheeling in the entire science section of the library did not constitute an effective strategy.

One Book to Rule Them All

The one ubiquitous book in the NCEES PE exam was the Civil Engineering Reference Manual, aka "the CERM". It is also sometimes called "the Lindeburg book", though this terminology is falling out of use. This reference book is valuable because it covers all the topics on the PE exam. It has an amazing index. And, it is filled with examples and definitions of variables used in equations. Whatever name is used, everyone brings this book.

Buy the Civil Engineering Reference Manual NOW at Amazon

Index Tabs for the PE Exam

Tab Your Index for Fast Reference

Not all tab their index, however. Tabbing the index of the CERM is a big time saver. The index is quite extensive. There are a page and half of words that start with "W" and almost four pages of "T" in the CERM index. There are 64 index pages, total. It is easy to imagine how tabs will help you during the exam. One of the skills each engineer should possess is the ability to apply engineering principles- to solve engineering problems they have never seen. This is the book to have with you in the PE exam to solve these kinds of questions. Tabs save precious time.

Practice Makes Perfect
Tab your books as soon as you receive them. Take your practice exams with the tabs already in place. This way, using them becomes natural. Alternately, you might wait until a few weeks into your study. This will give you an idea of which sections you frequently seek in the index. If you can reduce your tabs, it is easier, visually, to locate the tab you want. Either way, you can adjust which tabs you keep and where you place them.

* Note: Use removable and reusable tabs. As you practice, you will identify the sections you most reference. You will adjust tabs as you progress.

Books for the NCEES PE Exam

The basic, minimum books you will need. Put a box on your table and have an instant shelf. This makes easy grabbing and replacing to keep your work space clear.

The basic, minimum books you will need. Put a box on your table and have an instant shelf. This makes easy grabbing and replacing to keep your work space clear.

Will You Buy the CERM?

Time to upgrade your EIT certification to a PE license!

Time to upgrade your EIT certification to a PE license!

Discount on Civil Engineering Reference Manual

The least expensive place to purchase a CERM is going to be in the marketplace. Excellent used copies are also available. Prices are lower the further you get from April and October (or March and September), when people are making last-minute preparations. Per economic models, prices rise as demand rises.

You should purchase Lindeburg's book as soon as you can. It is an excellent tool. You need to practice with it. Use it during your practice examinations. By using the index, you will quickly become familiar with the layout and contents of the book.

I have provided boxes below to identify the best current prices to buy the Civil Engineering Reference Manual on Amazon.

Do not delay acquiring this book!

CERM Study Guide

The way to use the Reference Manual is to first take a practice exam to assess your weaknesses. Then, use the CERM to study your weak areas. Also review your text books and the solutions in the back of your sample exam books.

From practice exam results, determine your weakest and strongest areas. Go through the corresponding sections of the CERM. Study these for two weeks. Then, take another practice exam. The familiarity of the CERM you gained during the two weeks of review will translate to an increased score.

One thing to note as you work through the Civil Engineering Reference Manual: Many, if not most, of the example problems aggregate more than one problem into one example. Some people complain the examples in the Lindeburg book are overly tough. They are not meant to represent a typical six minute PE exam problem. An example may work through the solution to two or three engineering calculations. So, using the CERM example problems will teach you a lot of engineering. However, it will not give you a feel for working six minute solutions. For that, practice PE exam books and the Six Minute Solutions books are recommended.

More study and preparation methods are available in an ebook available on Amazon, Pass the PE like a Pro.

Structural Engineering Reference Manual

Topics Covered by the Civil Engineering Reference Manual

1. Construction:

  • Earthwork Construction and Layout
  • Estimating Quantities and Costs
  • Construction Methods
  • Scheduling
  • Material Quality Control and Production
  • Temporary Structures
  • Worker Health, Safety, and Environment

2. Geotechnical:

  • Subsurface Exploration and Sampling
  • Engineering Properties of Soils and Materials
  • Soil Mechanics Analysis
  • Earth Structures
  • Shallow Foundations
  • Earth Retaining Structures
  • Deep Foundations

3. Structural:

  • Loadings
  • Analysis
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Materials; Member Design
  • Design Criteria

4. Transportation:

  • Traffic Analysis
  • Geometric Design
  • Transportation Planning
  • Traffic Safety

5. Water Resources and Environmental:

  • Closed Conduit Hydraulics
  • Open Channel Hydraulics
  • Hydrology
  • Groundwater and Well Fields
  • Wastewater Treatment
  • Water Quality
  • Water Treatment
  • Engineering Economics

When an Engineer Owns a Dog

The CERM Maintains Long-term Value

Studying for the PE exam produces intimate knowledge of the chapters, pages, and example problems within the manual. This acquaintance makes the book valuable for the rest of your engineering career. Many engineers update their volume as the layout remains essentially the same.

You will find this book helpful in years to come. It is a great investment. (Be sure to write it off as "supplies" on your taxes.)

No Seismic

Remember, the CERM does not address seismic issues. You will need to purchase additional materials/ review courses to prepare for the seismic section, if you are in California.

Here is a collection of the best seismic review books for the PE exam: California Civil Seismic Exam

  • PE Sample Exams
    Preparing for the PE exam, taking practice exams is mandatory, not optional. Here is a ranked list of the best sample exams, with overviews, a value matrix, and recommendations.
  • Best Review Books for the Mechanical PE Exam
    The Mechanical PE exam is one of the most difficult PE exams. And, review books are less common. Here is a list of the most current and best reviewed Mechanical PE exam study materials.
  • Pass the PE like a Pro eBook: Robert Avila PE: Kindle Store
    A quick read that will save you time in planning an effective study plan for the PE exam, acquiring the best study materials, choosing a calculator, and entering the exam with confidence.
  • California PE Exam
    What are the components of the California PE exam? What topics are on the seismic exam? You must pass 5 individual components to receive a license. Which exams have the lowest pass rates?

A Guide for the PE Exam

This book shares study plans, best books for review, valuable links, and more. Make this one of your first purchases. You'll be glad you did.

This book shares study plans, best books for review, valuable links, and more. Make this one of your first purchases. You'll be glad you did.


Man from Modesto from Kiev, Ukraine (formerly Modesto, California) on January 15, 2013:

This is a must-have reference book for every engineer's book shelf.

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