Linear Algebra in FE Electrical Exam

Linear Algebra is an essential topic in electrical engineering and plays a crucial role in the FE Electrical Exam. If you’re preparing for this exam or pursuing a career in electrical engineering, you must have a strong foundation in linear algebra.

At its core, linear algebra is all about understanding how to solve systems of linear equations and perform operations on vectors and matrices. But its applications go far beyond that.

Linear algebra is used in various electrical engineering fields, including circuit analysis, control systems, signal processing, and communication systems.

So, why is linear algebra so crucial for electrical engineers? For starters, it provides a robust framework for understanding complex electrical systems. Engineers can simplify complicated equations using linear algebra and predict how components behave under different conditions.

But that’s not all. Linear algebra is critical in developing cutting-edge technologies like robotics, machine learning, and artificial intelligence. These fields rely heavily on linear algebra concepts like matrix multiplication and eigenvectors, making it an essential skill for anyone looking to work in these exciting areas.

In this blog, we’ll look closer at linear algebra and its applications in electrical engineering. We’ll cover everything from the basics of vector operations to advanced concepts like matrix diagonalization and singular value decomposition.

By the end of this article, you’ll have a solid understanding of how linear algebra fits into the FE Electrical Exam and the larger field of electrical engineering.

Importance of linear algebra in electrical engineering

Importance of linear algebra in electrical engineering

Linear Algebra is an essential tool for electrical engineers, providing a foundation for understanding complex systems and predicting their behavior.

Here are five highly technical examples to highlight their importance:

  • Circuit Analysis – In electrical circuit analysis, linear algebra is used to solve systems of linear equations. This helps engineers understand how different components in a circuit will interact with each other and how they will behave under different conditions. For example, when analyzing an AC circuit, engineers can use linear algebra to calculate the current and voltage in each component.
  • Control Systems – Linear algebra is also used to design and optimize feedback control systems. This involves modeling the system’s behavior using differential equations and then converting these equations into matrices that can be manipulated using linear algebra. For instance, in a control system for a robotic arm, engineers can use linear algebra to design the feedback loop that controls the arm’s movements.
  • Signal Processing – Linear algebra is crucial for processing audio and video signals. Engineers use linear algebra to analyze and manipulate signals in the time and frequency domains. For instance, engineers can use linear algebra concepts like linear functions, vectors, and matrices to perform Fourier transforms and filter the signal to remove noise when processing an audio signal.
  • Communication Systems – In communication systems, linear algebra is used to design and optimize digital signal processing algorithms. This includes methods for encoding and decoding data, such as error-correcting codes and digital signal-processing filters. For example, engineers can use linear algebra to design an encoding scheme for a wireless communication system that can transmit data reliably over noisy channels.
  • Machine Learning – Linear algebra is a fundamental tool for machine learning, including techniques such as linear regression and principal component analysis. These techniques involve manipulating data matrices to extract useful information and make predictions. For instance, in a facial recognition system, engineers can use linear algebra to identify the critical features of a face and use those features to develop a classifier function to classify images.

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Basic concepts of linear algebra

Basic concepts of linear algebra

Whether you are preparing for the FE electrical engineering exam or want to ensure long-term success in any engineering domain, Linear algebra will be at the forefront in all engineering domains.

Let’s discuss some of the fundamental concepts of Linear Algebra in the FE Electrical exam that will help you pave the way for success.

Vectors and vector operations

A vector is a physical quantity with magnitude and direction (unlike scalers containing magnitude), such as Force, Torque, and Weight.

It is represented by an arrow pointing from its tail to its head, where the length of the arrow represents the magnitude, and the direction of the arrow represents the direction.

For a detailed account of vectors and their operations, read our separate guide on Analytical Geometry in the FE exam.

Matrices and their Properties

Matrices are rectangular arrays of numbers or variables often used to represent linear equations or transformations. Matrices are defined by their dimensions, given by the matrix’s number of rows and columns. For example, a 3×2 matrix has 3 rows and 2 columns.

Matrices can represent scalars and vectors in several ways. For example, a scalar can be represented as a 1×1 matrix, and a vector can be represented as an nx1 or 1xn matrix, depending on whether it is a row or column vector.

The determinant of a vector is not defined, as vectors do not have a unique determinant. Determinants are only defined for square matrices with the same number of rows and columns.

The determinant of a 2×2 matrix with elements the formula gives a, b, c, and d.

| a b |

| c d | = ad – bc

The determinant can be found for larger matrices using more complex methods, such as row reduction or cofactor expansion.

If the matrix has a determinant zero, it’s called a singular matrix. But we can tell if the matrix is singular without finding its determinant if it’s fulfilling the following conditions or properties.

Below are some valuable properties of matrices that you must prepare for the FE electrical exam.

Size/DimensionThe number of rows and columns in a matrix.
Square MatrixA matrix with an equal number of rows and columns.
Diagonal MatrixA square matrix in which all the non-diagonal elements are zero.
Identity MatrixA square matrix in which all diagonal elements are equal to 1.
Zero MatrixA matrix in which all elements are equal to zero.
TransposeThe process of interchanging the rows and columns of a matrix.
Symmetric MatrixA square matrix in which the transpose of the matrix is equal to the matrix itself.
DeterminantA scalar value that can be computed from the entries of a square matrix provides information about the invertibility and scaling factor of the matrix.
Matrix Addition or SubstractionMatrices with the same order can be added and subtracted. The addition and subtraction function is performed on consecutive matrix elements.
Matrix MultiplicationIf the row of 1st matrix is equal to the column of the second matrix, multiplication is possible. The multiplication is performed by multiplying consecutive rows of the 1st matrix with consecutive columns of the 2nd matrix.
Matrix DivisionThe division of the matrix is performed by multiplying the inverse of the denominator matrix with another matrix
Singular matrixThe singular matrix has a determinant zero. It is impossible to find the inverse of a singular matrix as Inverse = Ajoint of Matrix / Determinant.

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Linear equations and systems of linear equations

Linear systems of equations are fundamental mathematical concepts with countless applications in various fields, including science, engineering economics, and more.

At their core, linear equations and functions are called “linear” because they express a straight line on a graph. This is because the equation of a line can be expressed in the form y = mx + b, where m is the slope of the line, b is the y-intercept, and x and y are the variables. This equation is also known as the “slope-intercept form” of a linear equation.

Linear equations can have one, two, or three variables, depending on the dimension of the space in which they’re being used. Let’s take a closer look at each of these dimensions.

One-variable Linear Equations

are the most basic ones expressed in ax + b = 0, where x is the variable, a is the coefficient, and b is a constant. The solution to this equation is a single number representing the value of x that satisfies the equation. For example, 2x + 3 = 7 is a one-variable linear equation with a solution of x = 2.

Two-variable Linear Equations

These equations are expressed in ax + by = c, where x and y are the variables, a and b are the coefficients, and c is a constant. When graphed on a two-dimensional plane, these equations represent a straight line. For example, 2x + 3y = 6 is a two-variable linear equation representing a line with a slope of -2/3 and a y-intercept of 2.

The solution to these equations is a pair of numbers (x, y) that satisfy the equation. We need 2 equations to find the solution of the straight line having 2 variables that represent the point of intersection of 2 lines represented by these equations. You can solve these equations either by substitution, comparison, or elimination.

Way to Solve Linear Equations Involving 2 Variables

Let’s consider the following two linear equations having 2 variables, x, and y.

Equation 1 

y = 2x – 1

Equation 2

3x – y = 3

Let’s solve these equations using substitution and elimination to find their point of intersection.

Substitution Method

Step 1 – Solve one of the equations for one of the variables. Let’s solve Equation 1 for y – y = 2x – 1.

Step 2 – Substitute the expression for y into the other equation. Let’s substitute y = 2x – 1 into Equation 2.

3x – (2x – 1) = 3

Step 3 – Simplify and solve for x.

3x – 2x + 1 = 3

x = 2

Step 4 – Substitute the value of x into one of the equations to find the value of y. Let’s substitute x = 2 into Equation 1.

y = 2(2) – 1 = 3

Therefore, the solution of the system of equations is (2,3).

Comparison Method

Step 1 – Write both equations in slope-intercept form (y = mx + b).

Equation 1 – y = 2x – 1

Equation 2 – y = 3x – 3

Step 2 – Set the two equations equal.

2x – 1 = 3x – 3

Step 3 – Solve for x.

x = 2

Step 4 – Substitute the value of x into one of the equations to find the value of y. Let’s substitute x = 2 into Equation 1.

y = 2(2) – 1 = 3

Therefore, the solution of the system of equations is (2,3).

Three-variable Linear Equations

These equations are expressed in ax + by + cz = d, where x, y, and z are the variables, and a, b, c, and d are the coefficients. When graphed on a three-dimensional plane, these equations represent a plane.

For example, 2x + 3y – z = 6 is a three-variable linear equation representing a plane with an average vector of (2, 3, -1).

The solution to these equations is a triple of numbers (x, y, z) that satisfy the equation. We need 3 equations to find the solution of the straight line having 3 variables representing the point of intersection of 3 lines represented by these equations.

You can also solve these equations by substitution, comparison, or elimination. But these simple algebraic methods are more complex, so the solutions to such equations are usually found using matrices or cramers rule.

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Eigenvalues and eigenvectors

Imagine you have a unique matrix that can stretch, shrink, or rotate any vector you put in. Some particular vectors aren’t twisted and distorted when put into this matrix. Instead, they only get stretched or shrunk to some extent.

These particular vectors are called eigenvectors, and the amount they get stretched or shrunk by is called the eigenvalue.

In other words, eigenvectors have some superpowers that can resist the powers of the matrix and come out unscathed, while other vectors get bent out of shape.

We can better understand how matrices transform space by understanding eigenvectors and eigenvalues.

Let’s consider a simple example to illustrate the concept of eigenvectors and eigenvalues. Suppose we have a 2×2 matrix A:

A = [3 2]

       [1 4]

We want to find its eigenvectors and eigenvalues.

To do this, we must solve the following equation:

A * v = λ * v

where v is the eigenvector, and λ is the eigenvalue.

Plugging in the values for A, we get:

[3 2] * [x] = λ * [x]

[1 4]   [y]     [y]

Simplifying this equation, we get:

3x + 2y = λx

x + 4y = λy

We can rewrite this as a matrix equation:

(A – λI) * v = 0

where “I” is the identity matrix. In our case, we have:

[3-λ 2 ] [x] 

[1  4-λ] [y] = [0]    

To find the eigenvalues, we need to solve for the values of λ that make the determinant of (A – λI) equal to zero:

det(A – λI) = (3-λ)(4-λ) – 2*1 = λ^2 – 7λ + 10 = 0

Solving this quadratic equation, we get:

λ1 = 5

λ2 = 2

Now that we have the eigenvalues, we can find the eigenvectors by plugging them back into the original equation:

For λ1 = 5, we get:

[3-5 2 ]   [x] 

[1  4-5]   [y] = [0]

Simplifying this, we get:

-2x + 2y = 0

x – y = 0

Solving this system of equations, we get:

x = y

So the eigenvector associated with λ1 = 5 is:

v1 = [1 1]

For λ2 = 2, we get:

[3-2 2 ] [x] 

[1  4-2] [y] = [0]

Simplifying this, we get:

x + 2y = 0

x – 2y = 0

Solving this system of equations, we get:

x = 2y

So the eigenvector associated with λ2 = 2 is:

v2 = [2 -1]

So the eigenvalues and eigenvectors of A are:

λ1 = 5, v1 = [1 1]

λ2 = 2, v2 = [2 -1]

These eigenvectors are unique because when we multiply them by A, they only get scaled by the corresponding eigenvalue. In other words:

A * v1 = 5 * v1

A * v2 = 2 * v2

This property makes eigenvectors and eigenvalues very useful in understanding the behavior of matrices and solving many practical problems.

What Are Engineering Applications of Liner Algebra

Linear algebra, a branch of mathematics focusing on vectors, matrices, and linear transformations, transcends theoretical concepts in engineering. It serves as a powerful language for tackling a wide range of problems across various engineering disciplines.

Modeling and Analysis: Linear algebra empowers engineers to create mathematical models of complex systems.  Electrical circuits, for instance, can be represented by systems of linear equations involving voltages, currents, and resistances. Similarly, mechanical engineering, forces acting on structures can be modeled using vectors and analyzed through matrix operations. These models allow engineers to predict system behavior, identify potential problems, and optimize designs.

Signal Processing and Control Systems: Many engineering applications involve processing and analyzing signals. Linear algebra provides the foundation for techniques like filtering, which separates desired signals from noise. Additionally, control systems, used to automate and regulate various processes, rely heavily on linear algebra for designing feedback loops and analyzing system stability.

Data Analysis and Machine Learning: Linear algebra serves the ever-growing importance of data analysis in engineering fields. Techniques like matrix factorization and principal component analysis, rooted in linear algebra, help engineers extract meaningful insights from large datasets. Furthermore, linear algebra is crucial in many machine-learning algorithms for image recognition and robot control tasks.

Computational Efficiency:  Linear algebra offers efficient computational tools for solving complex engineering problems. Matrices allow for compact representation of large datasets, and efficient algorithms like matrix inversion and eigenvalue decomposition enable engineers to analyze these datasets effectively. This computational power is crucial for handling real-world engineering challenges involving numerous variables and complex interactions.

Tips for preparing for linear algebra questions in the FE electrical exam

Are you feeling overwhelmed by the thought of preparing for the FE electrical exam? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered! One of the best resources available for FE electrical exam preparation is “Study for FE.”

With our comprehensive study materials, practice problems, and video lectures, you’ll have everything you need to ace the exam.

But what about effective study habits and test-taking strategies? Here are some tips that have helped many successful FE exam aspirants:

  • Use active learning techniques like writing notes or teaching concepts to someone else.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help from peers or instructors.
  • Take practice or mock exams under test-like conditions to simulate the exam experience.
  • Use flashcards to memorize essential concepts and formulas.
  • Focus on understanding the concepts behind equations rather than memorizing them themselves.
  • Take breaks, indulge in healthy activities, and stay organized to avoid burnout and increase productivity.

Following these tips and using resources like “Study for FE,” you can feel confident and well-prepared for the FE electrical exam. Don’t let the exam fever get you down – start studying today and take one step closer to becoming a FE engineer!

If you are looking for a one-stop shop resource to make your FE Electrical exam study, take a look at our FE Electrical Exam Prep resource.

We have helped thousands of FE exam students pass their exam with our proven, on-demand content, and live-training.

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From electrical signals to modern AI methodologies in computer sciences and robotics, linear algebra is the foundational base behind all these near-supernatural applications we use today.

You now have a rich idea about linear algebra in the FE exam and how to prepare for it. Cover all the critical topics and check the relevant resources and guides attached to the blog.

It will help you crack your FE exam and ensure you get the maximum value from this preparation journey throughout your engineering career. 


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.