I've never taken the NEAS VEE courses so I can't comment on that. I have taken and passed CPCU 540. The material is not difficult but there is quite a lot of it. Best bet is to get the package that includes the SMART Guide, Course Guide and CD-ROM.
With about 2-4 weeks of study, you should be able to pass the exam easily. My strategy is to start with the SMART Guide which has the "Cliff Notes" version of the Text. Read a chapter, try to answer the Course Guide questions then take the chapter questions on the CD-Rom. Move on to the next chapter and repeat. I rarely cracked open the textbook; only if I was interested in the subject or the SMART Guide was not making sense. Leave a few days prior to your exam to memorize and focus more on the CD-ROM questions. Make sure to take the full practice exam at the end of the course guide. It always feels like 4-5 questions are directly from this practice exam.
The exam is CBT and 3 hours long and I normally finish in a hour and a half. There are very simple math questions, normally ratio questions and some interest theory. Interest theory tables and formulas will be available electronically at the exam. The majority of the questions are short answer/essay. I think (hope) this will be good prep for the upper level CAS exams since they are all essay-style exams.
I've actually taken a couple of CPCUs and found that to pass the exams, you pretty much need to memorize the answers as written in the Guides and CD-ROM. There are no trick questions! The questions in the course guide and CD-ROM encompass 99% of the questions on the exam. There are no surprises. In addition the questions tend to be not as hard as the questions in the supplemental material, for example, instead of asking you to list all three general forms of business organizations, it only asks for two.
Anyway this is my 2 cents. Hope it helps.