IStructE Chartered Member Exam Preparation


The IStructE's exam is all about preparation. The actual engineering behind it is fairly straightforward.

Consider the exam like running a marathon: If you step out of the door right now and set off on a 26 mile run, there is a good chance you would not cross the finish line. However, if you put the time in and train yourself, gradually running longer distances over a period of time, the full distance is very achievable. Indeed, thousands of people sign up for and run marathons every year all over the world!

Think of the IStructE exam preparation in the same way. Once you have satisfied the Core Objectives, passed your interview and been permitted to sit the exam, the IStructE has decided that you potentially have what it takes to become a Chartered Structural Engineer. Now the only thing between you and that goal is preparation.

In this section of the site we will take you through the exam step by step. We will try to arm you with  the resources you need, and lay out a framework that you can follow to break the exam down into manageable components that you can tackle one at a time.

We'll help to give you all the information you need to prepare for each part of the exam – reference information, tips and tricks, drawing and writing techniques, so that when you come to sit down at the start of your 7 hour marathon, you feel totally relaxed, knowing exactly what is about to face you, and exactly how you will go about tackling it.

There is nothing scarier than a blank piece of answer paper staring you, knowing that by the end you need to have written pages and pages of information, calculations and drawings. By breaking the process down for you, we will enable you to get cracking straight away on your answer in a methodical, targeted approach, which means that before you know it you will be well on the way to completion, and it should hopefully make the whole process easier and bring you better results.

All of the guidance that we provide for free on this website is supported by further in depth information and resources in our IStructE Exam Guidance Pack, including worked examples, model answers, examiner's feedback, templates and helpful information that you can print and bring into the exam.

We will cross reference to the Exam Information Pack whenever there is relevant further information that you could use, and once you have read through the guidance on this website, you can decide whether you want access to this additional resource.


How to prepare

Once you have passed the interview, it's time to start preparing for the exam. It will take most people at least 3 months of doing bits of preparation during evenings and weekends, and there's usually the inevitable rush towards the end when the exam date starts creeping up on you, and you may want to designate the last two or three weekends before the exam to doing some serious practice, and possibly take some time from work to prepare too.

Here's what to do in a nutshell. We'll be unpacking each of these steps in much greater detail as we go through this section:

  1. Read this guidance section on exam preparation.
  2. Start putting together all of the useful information that will go into your reference folder to take in to the exam with you
  3. Go through some example design calculations, which you can write out in full and add to your reference folder
  4. Start looking at past papers, answering one section at a time at first to work on your technique for each section, adding useful information to your reference folder as you go
  5. Gradually build up your answers until you are answering all the sections of the exam well
  6. Practice sitting timed exams, answering all parts of a past paper question. (We also offer a service to mark them!)
  7. Do this until you can comfortably tackle a full question within the time limit, and you're ready for the real thing!

You can read this guidance section in full first, and we'll refer you to lots of other references, including our Exam Guidance Pack, which contains past exam worked answers and more resources to help you prepare. It's then essential to build your reference folder, deciding exactly what you are going to take into the exam, and having a good knowledge of all the information that's in there so that you can find it quickly when the time comes.

As part of putting that information together, you should write out an example calculation and example template for each section of the exam, and we'll take you through that process. This includes perfecting your drawing technique and having example drawings and sketches, plans sections and details that you can refer to in the exam.

Once you've built you're reference folder, and you've got all of your information together and in one place, it's time to start going through past papers. At first you can work in shorter periods of an hour or two at a time, taking a few days to go through one question, but it's essential to do at least two or three timed practice questions, as timing is one of the most critical aspects of the exam – that people often get wrong – which can make a good candidate fail.