I personally find tests to be way easier than school, and the schools with reputations that are worth something are... pretty difficult for people like me (who weren't on the college track in high school) to get into. (and there is something of an inverse correlation between the prestige of a school and how flexible they are about scheduling around work; especially for undergrad)
From what I've seen of the test, it does provide some foundational ideas of what engineering is about. Like, it goes a lot into figuring out when things will break - something I haven't really seen a lot of in software engineering.
What I'm saying here is that I dunno that an optimal SWE PE would test you very much on the specifics of Java or SQL or what have you. I mean, from my experience with the FE, at least, they give you a book that has most of the formulae you need... and you are allowed to use a copy of that book during the test, you just need to be able to look it up and apply it. Seems like they would do the same with Java or SQL.
(I mean, to be clear, to apply the formulae, you still need to have more math than I do. I imagine the same would be true of sql or java, only I'm pretty good with SQL, having 20 years of propping up garbage written by engineers who weren't.)
From what I've seen of the software engineers, Most of the time, the software guys throw something together, toss it over the fence and move on. Clearly, they didn't do any analysis to figure out how much load the weak point in the system can handle, or even what the weak-point was. It's incumbent upon me (the SysAdmin; usually the least educated person in the room) to feed load to it at a reasonable speed and to back off and figure out what happened when the thing falls over.
I mean, I think the real question people are bringing up here is "what if we treated software engineering, or at least some subset of software engineering more like real engineering?" - like clearly sometimes you can slap together something over the weekend and it's fine, but... if you are building a car or an airplane or a tall building or something, you probably want to put in the time to make sure it's done right, and for that, you need rules that everyone knows; the PE system, I think, establishes rules everyone knows, while I think software engineering mostly works on the concept of "it worked for me"
Software is weird as the hardware, languages, and frameworks are always changing and the optimal work done on any project seems to be just enough to keep the customers from going to a new product and not necessarily the best or even a good product in many cases. There are cost constraints in Engineering as well (good, fast, & cheap...pick 2), but it still feels pretty different to me than software engineering where something breaks all the time in any non mainstream software I've ever used.
I'll check out that edx class, thanks, that sounds like my thing.