How to Improve Problem Solving Skills for the FE Exam

Engineering problem-solving skill is a must-have for every student. It will prove beneficial as you take the FE exam and begin your profession.

Recognizing engineering problems, developing solutions, executing those solutions, and assessing their efficacy are all steps in the problem-solving process.

Obviously, finding solutions is not always straightforward. Considering various potential solutions typically need a great extent of knowledge and critical thinking, most satisfactory solutions demand innovation and decisiveness.

Understanding when and how to use these attributes requires discretion, but mastering them might also draw a fine line between passing and failing the FE exam.

This article will share eight tips to improve problem solving skills for the FE exam to help you in the long run.

Tips for Improving Your Engineering Problem Solving Skills

Here’s how you can improve your engineering problem-solving skills for the FE exam:

  1. Don’t rote memorize the information
  2. Draw out the question in a visual form
  3. Make the most out of your reference materials
  4. Practice is the Key
  5. Take brain power foods and a good night sleep
  6. Create mnemonics
  7. Don’t waste time on a problem if you get stuck on it
  8. Discuss the problems with others

1. Don’t Rote Memorize the Information

If you think that forcibly feeding your brain with a ton of information through rote memorizing will help you pass the FE exam, you need to stop building castles in the air.

Because:

Rote memorization will not only seem extremely boring, but it will also prevent you from obtaining the most crucial benefit from learning, which is understanding.

So why choose to go through the tedious process when you can study for the FE exam in a fun and practical way by grasping the logic behind the concepts?

Just imagine:

You encounter an engineering problem on the actual NCEES® FE exam that differs somewhat from the one you had in mind. Not only will it leave you utterly stunned, but you will also be struggling to solve it, right?

That’s why:

It is always preferable to acquire the knowledge of the whys and hows instead of just mindlessly memorizing every bit of information. If you are curious to find out what you can expect to see on the FE exam, check out this guide. You might also find our tips on how to study for the FE exam helpful.

2. Draw Out the Question in a Visual Form

You must have heard about the popular idiom “a picture is worth a thousand words.”

You can implement this by illustrating the information in a visual form when solving engineering problems while studying for the FE exam.

Drawing out the engineering problem demands elucidation on the meaning of the words and the interpretation of the theory into a new form, i.e., a diagram.

It will challenge you to engage with what you are studying and recreate it in a way that seems logical to you. You can either make symbolic or literal representations, which will assist you in knowing what you can do with the provided values.

Moreover:

Our brain processes visual representations 60,000 times more rapidly as compared to words as they transmit data directly to the visuospatial areas of the nervous system.

Therefore:

During studying, constructing a diagram will activate your brain’s visual centers and force you to be actively involved with the question. It will not only help you improve problem-solving skills for the FE exam but also your understanding and retention of complex information and concepts.

3. Make the Most Out of Your Reference Materials

Gather as many notes and references as you can for the FE exam. You can either download the PDF versions of the FE review manuals or purchase them in a hard copy form. It is also crucial to know that resources include books as well as online tutorials.

Give yourself enough time to prepare, and take full advantage of your reference materials by completing practice tests as much as possible. Practice exams can help you time yourself to attempt the FE exam with complete confidence.

Take FE practice exam problems as if they are the real deal. Don’t get done with a practice problem after 30 seconds and look for the answer from the back of the book. Utilize the provided 3 minutes to carefully ponder the engineering problem, try to solve it to the best of your ability, and choose an answer before leafing to the back of the FE review manual for the solution.

The more you practice solving the engineering problems before the FE exam, the better you understand the fundamental principles.

Moreover, this will also expose you to various engineering problems that won’t surprise you throughout the actual FE exam. You won’t find the FE exam hard if you remain consistent in practicing the most challenging problems.

4. Practice Is the Key

You must practice any skill before you intend to become a pro at it.

Therefore, set a goal for yourself to practice engineering problems in a subject where you struggle the most. For instance, if mathematics is your greatest strength, consider investing more time in power systems if you find it challenging.

The point is, it’s preferable to work on five challenging problems per day that are utterly foreign rather than practicing 50 fundamental and easy problems.

Solving engineering problems with this approach repeatedly will assist you in strengthening neural connections in the brain, allowing you to solve them faster the next time.

Complete as many FE practice exams as you can. Taking practice exams can help you determine which areas you have mastered and which ones you need to review more thoroughly.

Set a timer to check if you can answer the FE practice exam problems in the defined time limit. Gradually, rational answers will come more effortlessly to your mind, and engineering problem solving will become second nature to you.

After all, practice makes a man perfect, doesn’t it?

5. Take Brain Power Foods and a Good Night Sleep

Your brain functions similarly to an engine. It has an immense amount of energy, is fast, and can work efficiently for long hours.

But:

It won’t work efficiently if it is not appropriately fueled.

That’s why:

You need to feed your brain with healthy and brainpower foods rich in antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B, and vitamin K.

In addition:

Your mind and body are inextricably linked. So, taking a sound sleep is crucial to keep your body in an excellent physical condition, which will, in turn, allow you to function to the best of your mental ability.

According to studies, students who study before sleeping have strong memory retention and higher function in the hippocampus, the brain area responsible for generating new memories.

6. Create Mnemonics

Mnemonic is a memory technique that helps you remember information more easily. It is a way of organizing information in your mind so that you can retrieve it more easily. Phrases, acronyms, etc., can be used to create mnemonics.

Consider a few of the mnemonics you’ve learned throughout your life, like:

Never Eat Sour Watermelon” (for the four directions on a compass)

VIBGYOR” (for the seven colors of the rainbow)

You still remember them – that means mnemonics help you remember information in the long run.

When studying for the FE exam, you will realize that formulas are hard to memorize exactly as they are. So being innovative with them and creating mnemonics will help you remember the exact formulas you can’t even derive.

You can even employ rhymes and rhythms to help you remember difficult-to-remember information like statistics, facts, spellings, etc. Most mnemonics depend heavily on visuals, perceptions, feelings, and patterns.

While it may seem a bit silly, our minds are wired to absorb information in this manner. It’s no surprise that memorizing important stuff written as black-and-white words in a notebook is significantly more challenging!

7. Don’t Waste Time on a Problem if You Get Stuck at It

The ability to manage your time is crucial in the FE exam. So practice the problems, and make sure you invest only three minutes on each question. If you think solving an engineering problem will take a long time, or if you’re completely stumped by it, skip it and simply go through it later.

When practicing FE exam problems, focus on the engineering problems you are 100% sure of. Don’t get bogged down in a time-consuming question you know you can’t answer. Instead, flag it as unanswerable and move on to solve engineering problems you know you can answer readily.

In other words, before you grab the ladder or start climbing the tree, make sure you collect all of the low-hanging fruit! This will prevent you from running out of time and improve problem-solving skills for the FE exam.

Furthermore, you can contact someone who can assist you in understanding and solving that problem, such as your teacher or a colleague. You can also take assistance from web forums like Quora and Reddit by putting up your queries.

8. Discuss the Problems With Others

“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough,” the incredible Albert Einstein once stated.

Discussing the engineering problems with others and explaining the concepts you are studying in the most straightforward manner possible is a proven method to cement the information in your mind.

When you explain a topic to someone else, let’s say your friend, you are obliged to encapsulate, compress, research, and develop conclusions, fostering a deeper personal comprehension.

Here’s a fun fact – you won’t always need a friend or class fellow to discuss the topics with. You can even explain the concepts to a plastic water bottle. Sounds silly but it works.

Conclusion

The capacity to think critically and solve engineering problems is one of the most significant abilities that an employer expects an engineer to bring to the table.

If you are planning to take the FE exam, it’s imperative to develop and improve engineering problem solving skills, which will help you pass the FE exam with flying colors. We hope this article helped you get an idea about how to improve problem solving skills for the FE exam. If you don’t know which FE exam to take, we suggest checking out this guide.

wasim-smal
Wasim Asghar – P.E, P.ENG, M.ENG

Licensed Professional Engineer in Texas (PE), Florida (PE) and Ontario (P. Eng) with consulting experience in design, commissioning and plant engineering for clients in Energy, Mining and Infrastructure.