IStructE Candidates shopping list – get them before Christmas!

It's nearly Christmas time, and many people will be rushing around trying to sort out their gifts to family. But if you are taking an exam, you are probably going to be making sure all your supplies are ready as there is hardly any time between the Christmas break and the exam day (4th January 2018).

With the help of Bob Wilson, our tutor for those preparing for the exam and also a Chief Examiner, here is his packing list so you do not forget the essential items.

After getting the items, you should practice using the equipment under exam conditions so you can become familiar with how it feels. This is especially critical for things like look-up tables in books. You certainly do not want to be fumbling about the contents or index during the exam itself.

Each image (with the exception of our Exam Guidance Pack) is a clickable hyperlink and will take you to its appropriate Amazon* listing. If you prefer, here is the entire list at-a-glance so you can quickly add your missing items to a shopping basket. If you want to use this opportunity to get free Amazon Prime there is a 30 day free trial period.

(These are affiliate links which earn us a small commission if you use these links before you make any purchase on Amazon on the same day, at no extra cost to you. We would really appreciate it if you used them, even if you are buying an unrelated gift for someone else, as these commissions help us keep the site running – thank you!)

Reference books

The Structural Exam IStructE Exam Guidance Pack front cover

Our IStructE Exam Guidance Pack is a must to understand the requirements of the exam, and also contains sections (such as the exam timetable, client's letter template) which will be useful for you to print and take into the exam.

Structural Engineer’s Pocket Book by Fiona Cobb – 3rd edition if you want to use Eurocodes. This is by far the most widely used reference and nearly every candidate takes a copy in to the exam (though of course, we want to equal that with our Exam Guidance Pack! You should scrutinise your copy to ensure the formulae are correct before citing them in the exam. You should cross check against our corrections list and make sure you mark any errors ahead of time.

Make sure you mark the book with coloured tabs so you can quickly find the page you need, and under pressure situations too!

Architect's pocket book, a sister book to the Structural Engineer's Pocket Book which fills in the gaps for design data needed for sizing, and the latest edition only came out a few months ago. Definitely one to take into your exam.

Building Structures – 2nd edition from concepts to design: Malcolm Millais. This book isn't really one to take into the exam, but more for your preparation beforehand. You should find the content useful for generating some ideas to tackle Part 1 of the exam.

Mitchell’s Structure and Fabric Part 2. Another personal recommendation from Bob Wilson.

Structural Engineering Art and Approximation by Hugh Morrison. Great for learning a lot of less obvious ‘quick calculations' which are suitable for Section 2(c) of the IStructE exam. Make sure you pick up the 4th edition as it includes a whole chapter on quick foundation calculations which previous editions do not. (We also contributed to a correction in one of the diagrams!)

Exam Equipment

A rolling ruler. This is necessary for the drawing parts of the exam. While freehand sketches are ok for Part 1, neat drawings are vital for Part 2. The rolling ruler shown in the image above is the recommended model from Bob Wilson, which is the sturdiest (and most expensive) but there are cheaper ones available. This is such a useful tool for professional work that we do not think you will regret buying the most expensive one though.

Pair of compasses – necessary if you draw large arcs or circles in Part 2.

Circle template – for quickly drawing small arcs and circles, sometimes repeatedly such as piles in plan. This is useful for when it would take unreasonably long to use compasses.

Roller ball pens. You will be writing for such a long period of time, that you need your pen to flow as smoothly as possible. The cheap Biro pens require too much force and will exhaust your fingers and wrist over the 7 hours. Make sure you practice a full exam paper several times with the pen you intend to use to build up the required stamina.

Staedtler Pigment Liners 0.1mm, 0.3mm, 0.5mm, 0.7mm. These are necessary for producing well-presented drawings.

Staedtler Mechanical Pencils

Pencils. If you use mechanical pencils, don't forget additional lead refills. Bob recommends using 2B for drawing and sketching, and 3H for guidelines and marking out (and don't forget a sharpener if not a mechanical pencil!)

Engineer’s scale rule. Make sure you can find the scales you need quickly so that you are not fumbling around in the exam itself

Coloured pens for line drawings and highlighters for broader areas –  yellow, red, green, blue. These are useful for indicating different types of structural members or actions, e.g. primary/secondary beams, stability members, load transfer paths, actions/reactions, construction sequences etc.

Tipp-ex or blank self-adhesive labels (a little smaller than address label size). If you make mistakes in ink, for presentation it is better to use these methods to cover up the offending material than to cross them out, which looks untidy and somewhat unprofessional.

Erasers for pencil marking. We have tried several different types over the years and our outright winning favourite is the Staedtler Mars Plastic as shown above.

Erasing shield. You may need to get rid of pencil lines with precision which this will help greatly. This one is strongly recommended if you have not got one already.

Masking tape. During the drawing parts of the exam you will need to stop your paper sliding around the table, so we recommend tearing off small bits of masking tape to pin down the corners of your exam script.

Calculator (+ fresh batteries or a backup calculator just in case). Hopefully this one is obvious.

Something to eat and drink – it’s a long day! For drinks bottles we recommend using the sports cap type as pictured above, in case you accidentally spill your drink all over your exam script (one of our friends learned this the hard way.)

Medication: paracetamol or ibuprofen (in case of headaches/ toothaches), asthma inhaler etc. Bach’s Rescue Remedy (pictured) is often used by many people going through exam anxiety to cool the nerves.


Good luck!

Hopefully this list will serve as a useful reminder for those studying. Once again, here is the entire list on Amazon at-a-glance.

What other products have you found useful for your IStructE exam preparations? Let us know in our Forum!

2 Comments on IStructE Candidates shopping list – get them before Christmas!

  1. William Moyer // 17th December 2017 at 3:29 pm // Reply

    Wow. It takes me back, pre-computer times.

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