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New Specification for Principles and Practice of Fire Protection Engineering Exam
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From the Technical Director:
New Specification for Principles and Practice of Fire Protection Engineering Exam

By Morgan J. Hurley, P.E., FSFPE | Fire Protection Engineering

Beginning with the October 2012 examination, a new specification will be in place for the "principles and practice examination" (colloquially known as the "P.E. Exam") for fire protection engineering. This new specification is the result of an exhaustive process that is conducted every six to eight years that ensures that the examination is representative of the tasks performance by fire protection engineers and the knowledge necessary to perform those tasks. (For more information on the process used to develop the specification, see "Setting the Standard" by Anthony Militello in the 3rd Quarter 2011 issue of Fire Protection Engineering magazine. )


Specifications for P.E. exams identify the technical areas that are included on the exam and the fraction of the exam associated with each technical area. Beginning with the development of the last specification for the fire protection engineering P.E. exam, the exam specification has increasingly focused on the science and technology that underpins the practice of fire protection engineering. Similarly, the types of questions that are included on the examination have changed to better reflect the science and technology of fire protection engineering.


A summary of the specification is shown in Table 1.


Overall, the new exam specification is a modest change from the previous specification, which was approved in 2002 and became effective with the 2004 offering of the exam. Similarly, the recent changes are not much different when compared to those that were in place from 1999 – 2003. Water-based fire suppression systems represented 25% of the exam in1999 and 15% in 2004. Non-water-based fire suppression systems (now called "special hazard systems") accounted for 12. 5% of the questions on the exam in 1999 and 5% of the questions in 2004.


In the 1999 specification, fire dynamics and human behavior were not specifically identified (although problems from these areas could have been included on the exam as part of the specification area for "research and development of hazard and risk analysis" – which was 12. 5% of the exam.) Beginning with the 2004 exam, fire dynamics questions were 10% of the exam, and human behavior questions were 5%.


While the subjects covered on the fire protection engineering P.E. exam have not changed tremendously over the last 13 years, the types of questions on the exam have changed. Largely gone are questions that could be answered simply by looking in a code or standard (although codes and standards might still be sources of calculation methods or information that would be used as part of a calculation). Collectively, the changes to the fire protection engineering P.E. exam during the last 13 years show a steady maturation of the field of fire protection engineering.


Technical Area
Approximate Percentage of Examination
Types of analysis
7. 5%
Information sources for analysis
12. 5%
Fire protection management
Fire dynamics
12. 5%
Water-based fire suppression systems
Special hazard systems
Fire detection and alarm systems
7. 5%
Smoke management systems
Explosion protection and suppression systems
2. 5%
Passive building systems
Means of egress
8. 75%
Human behavior
3. 75%

Table 1. Summary of Specification for Fire Protection Engineering P.E. Exam


Note: The complete specification is available from


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