Linear Systems in FE Electrical Exam

In the ever-evolving realm of electrical engineering, the study and analysis of linear systems stand as a fundamental pillar. Linear systems in FE Electrical exam help you prepare for the evolving technological landscape, enabling you to comprehend and manipulate the behavior of electric circuits and devices with precision and efficiency. 

From the intricacies of power distribution networks to designing cutting-edge communication systems, linear systems impact every facet of the electrical engineering domain.

In this detailed guide, we will uncover wonders and use cases of linear systems, shedding light on their characteristics, applications, and significance in this electrical engineering field. Let’s dive deep into the details.

Fundamentals of Linear Systems

Linear systems in the FE electrical exam involve studying systems that exhibit linearity. This is the property of the system that defines that its output is directly proportional to the input, satisfying the principle of superposition.

Understanding linear systems for the FE Electrical Exam is crucial because they offer a systematic approach to analyzing electrical circuits and devices, enabling engineers to accurately predict and manipulate their behavior.

The table below presents a breakdown of Linear Systems accounts and fundamental principles.

PrincipleDefinitionApplication Example
LinearityA system is linear if it satisfies the properties of additivity and homogeneity. Additivity implies that the output resulting from the sum of two inputs is equal to the sum of the individual outputs. Homogeneity states that scaling the input will proportionally scale the output.When analyzing an electrical circuit with resistors, the principle of linearity allows us to calculate the overall resistance of a combination of resistors by simply adding or scaling individual resistances.
Time-InvarianceA system is time-invariant if its output remains consistent regardless of when the input is applied. The system’s response is independent of the absolute time.In a communication system, the time-invariance principle ensures that signals’ transmission remains unaffected regardless of when they are sent, enabling reliable and consistent communication over time.
CausalityA causal system is one in which the output depends only on past and present inputs and not on future inputs. The history of the input determines the output.When designing control systems, causality ensures that the output of the system responds to the current input and does not rely on future inputs. This is crucial for stability and predictable behavior in various electrical engineering applications.

Preparing for the Linear Systems in the FE Electrical Exam prepares you to analyze, design, and optimize electrical circuits and devices. By understanding the principles of linearity, time-invariance, and causality, you can unravel the behavior of systems and predict their responses accurately.

The practical application of these principles empowers engineers to solve complex problems and contribute to developing innovative technologies that shape our modern world. 

We will discuss some critical linear systems topics you must prepare to crack your FE electrical exam. Let’s begin.

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Fourier Analysis

Fourier Analysis

Fourier analysis is a mathematical tool that decomposes complex signals or functions into simpler sinusoidal components, revealing their frequency content. In the context of linear systems, Fourier analysis plays a crucial role in understanding and characterizing the response of systems to different input signals.

By analyzing the frequency spectrum of a signal, engineers can gain insights into system behavior, such as frequency response, filtering characteristics, and distortion.

  • Frequency Domain Analysis – Fourier analysis allows engineers to study the frequency domain characteristics of signals and systems, providing valuable information about their behavior that may not be apparent in the time domain.
  • Signal Filtering and Equalization – By examining the frequency components of a signal, Fourier analysis enables engineers to design filters and equalizers that selectively modify specific frequency ranges, enhancing or suppressing desired signal components.
  • System Stability and Resonance – Fourier analysis helps identify resonant frequencies, which can lead to stability issues in systems. Engineers can use this knowledge to design control mechanisms or avoid operating the system at resonant frequencies.
  • Spectrum Allocation in Communication Systems – Fourier analysis aids in allocating different frequency bands for various communication systems, preventing interference and maximizing the utilization of available frequency resources.
  • Signal Reconstruction – Fourier analysis enables the reconstruction of a signal from its frequency components, facilitating applications such as image and audio compression, data storage, and signal processing.

Analyzing a Linear System Using Fourier Series and Fourier Transforms

Fourier series and transforms help in analyzing linear systems in the FE Electrical Exam. Let’s have a deeper look at both in action.

Fourier Series

It is a mathematical representation of a periodic function as an infinite sum of sine and cosine functions (harmonics). It allows us to decompose a periodic signal into its constituent frequency components. The general form of a Fourier series is given as:

general form of a Fourier series


  • 𝑓𝑑 represents the periodic function
  • π‘Ž0,β€ˆπ‘Žπ‘›β€‹,β€ˆπ‘π‘› are the Fourier coefficients
  • πœ”0 is the fundamental angular frequency, πœ”0=2πœ‹ / T ​(T is the period of the signal)

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Fourier Transforms

These crucial transformations are used to analyze non-periodic signals or functions in the frequency domain. They transform a function from the time domain to the frequency domain, revealing the spectrum of frequencies present in the signal. The Fourier transform of a continuous-time function f(t) is given by:



  • F(Ο‰) represents the Fourier transform of f(t)
  • Ο‰ is the angular frequency
  • j is the imaginary unit

Given a linear system with an input signal x(t), we can analyze its behavior using Fourier series and Fourier transforms.

Fourier Series Analysis

Let’s assume the input signal x(t) can be represented by a periodic function with a period T.

Step 1 – Determine the Fourier series coefficients π‘Žπ‘›and 𝑏𝑛

using the following formulas:


where n is the harmonic number

πœ”0 = 2πœ‹/𝑇 is the fundamental angular frequency

Step 2 – Express the reconstructed signal x(t) using the obtained Fourier series coefficients:

Fourier Transform Analysis

Assuming the input signal x(t) is non-periodic, we can analyze it using Fourier transforms.

Step 1 – Calculate the Fourier transform X(Ο‰) of x(t) using the formula:


Step 2 –  Plot the magnitude spectrum of X(Ο‰) to visualize the frequency content of the input signal.

Using the Fourier series and Fourier transform, engineers can gain insights into linear systems’ frequency components and behavior, allowing them to design, optimize, and troubleshoot various electrical engineering applications.

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Laplace Transform

Laplace Transform

The Laplace transform is a powerful mathematical tool for analyzing linear time-invariant systems. It allows engineers to transform functions from the time domain to the complex frequency domain, providing a convenient way to analyze and solve differential equations that describe the behavior of linear systems.

By applying the Laplace transform, engineers can gain insights into system dynamics, stability, and transient response of linear systems.

Convenient Frequency Domain AnalysisLimited to Linear Time-Invariant Systems
Provides Transfer Function RepresentationRequires Solving Algebraic Equations
Enables Stability AnalysisNot Suitable for Nonlinear Systems

Laplace transform are the significant part of linear systems for the FE electrical exam. The reasons can be well reflected due to their immense importance in different electrical engineering aspects as listed below

  • System Analysis and Design – The Laplace transform enables engineers to analyze the behavior of linear systems in the frequency domain, aiding in the design of filters, controllers, and equalizers.
  • Stability Analysis – The Laplace transform helps determine the stability of a system by analyzing the poles of the transfer function in the complex frequency domain.
  • Transient Response Analysis – The Laplace transform allows engineers to analyze the transient response of linear systems, providing valuable insights into system settling time, overshoot, and response to step or impulse inputs.
  • Transfer Function Representation – The Laplace transform enables engineers to represent a system’s input-output relationship using transfer functions, facilitating system modeling and analysis.
  • Time-Domain to Frequency-Domain Conversion – The Laplace transform provides a powerful tool to convert time-domain signals and differential equations into the frequency domain, allowing engineers to solve complex problems using algebraic equations.

Consider a linear system described by the following differential equation:


Where x(t) is the input and y(t) is the output.

On the given problem and data, we can

  • Apply the Laplace transform to both sides of the differential equation.
  • Solve for the Laplace transform of the output Y(s) in terms of the Laplace transform of the input X(s).
  • Determine the transfer function 𝐻(𝑠) = π‘Œ(𝑠)/𝑋(𝑠)​ of the system
  • Analyze the system’s stability by examining the poles of the transfer function.
  • Calculate the inverse Laplace transform of Y(s) to obtain the time-domain output y(t).

Applying the Laplace transform to both sides of the differential equation, we obtain

𝑠2π‘Œ(𝑠) + 3π‘ π‘Œ(𝑠)+2π‘Œ(𝑠) = 𝑋(𝑠)

Solving for Y(s), we have:


The transfer function H(s) is obtained by taking the ratio of the Laplace transform of the output to the Laplace transform of the input:


Analyzing the poles of the transfer function H(s), we can determine the stability of the system. If all poles have negative real parts, the system is stable.

Finally, by applying the inverse Laplace transform to Y(s), we can obtain the system’s time-domain output y(t).

* To apply the inverse Laplace transform, you use techniques such as partial fraction decomposition, table look-up, or contour integration to find the inverse transform of Y(s). The specific method depends on the Laplace transform’s complexity and the known transforms’ availability.

Once you have the inverse Laplace transform expression, you simplify and manipulate it, if needed, to obtain the time-domain function y(t) representing the system response or signal. In some cases, the inverse Laplace transform may yield functions that cannot be expressed in closed form, requiring numerical methods or approximations.

By leveraging the capabilities of the Laplace transform, engineers can gain a deep understanding of linear systems’ dynamics, stability, and frequency response, contributing to the design, analysis, and optimization of various electrical engineering applications.

State-Space Analysis

State-space analysis is a mathematical modeling and analysis technique used to describe and understand the behavior of dynamic systems, particularly linear systems.

It provides a comprehensive framework for representing system dynamics regarding state variables, inputs, outputs, and system matrices. State-space models are widely used in various engineering disciplines, including control systems, signal processing, and electrical circuit analysis.

Provides a concise representation of system dynamicsComputationally more complex than transfer function analysis
Handles multivariable systems effectivelyRequires initial conditions for system analysis
Enables control system design and analysisLimited understanding of system frequency response
Facilitates observability and controllability analysisMore involved mathematical modeling compared to transfer function analysis
Allows for comprehensive system analysis and stability evaluationRequires matrix operations and eigenvalue calculations

Space-state analysis for linear systems in the FE electrical exam is crucial as it remains instrumental in a range of applications and scenarios, for instance:

  • Compact System Representation – State-space analysis allows for a concise representation of system dynamics using a set of first-order differential equations. It provides a clear and intuitive understanding of the system’s behavior.
  • Multivariable Systems – State-space models can handle multivariable systems with multiple inputs and outputs, making them suitable for analyzing complex interconnected systems.
  • Control System Design – State-space analysis enables the design and analysis of control systems, such as optimal control and robust control, by providing a convenient framework to design controllers and evaluate system performance.
  • Observability and Controllability – State-space models facilitate the assessment of system observability and controllability, which are crucial properties for determining whether a system’s states can be measured or controlled.
  • System Analysis and Stability – State-space analysis evaluates system stability, transient response, frequency response, and eigenvalue analysis, providing valuable insights into system behavior and performance.

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Control Systems Analysis

Control systems analysis is a branch of engineering that studies, designs and analyzes systems that can control and regulate their behavior. It involves understanding and manipulating the dynamics of linear systems to achieve desired performance objectives.

Control systems analysis is crucial in various engineering applications, including robotics, aerospace, manufacturing, and process control.

Enables stability analysis and performance optimizationComplexity increases with system nonlinearity
Provides systematic design and tuning of controllersCan be computationally intensive for complex systems
Allows for robustness evaluation against uncertaintiesAssumes linearity and time-invariance of the system
Facilitate closed-loop stability analysisRequires accurate mathematical modeling of the system
Supports design for specific performance objectivesImplementation may require sophisticated hardware and software

Below are some critical highlights that reflect the importance of control systems analysis, making it a crucial topic that you must cover while preparing for the linear systems in the FE electrical exam.

  • Stability Analysis – Control systems analysis allows engineers to assess the stability of a system, ensuring that it remains in a desirable and predictable state under various operating conditions.
  • Performance Optimization – By employing control systems analysis techniques, engineers can optimize system performance by designing controllers that regulate the system’s response, transient behavior, and steady-state accuracy.
  • Robustness Evaluation – Control systems analysis enables engineers to evaluate the robustness of a system against uncertainties, disturbances, and parameter variations, ensuring system stability and performance even in the presence of uncertainties.
  • System Design and Tuning – Control systems analysis provides a systematic framework for designing and tuning controllers, allowing engineers to shape the system’s response and meet specific design requirements.
  • Closed-Loop Stability – Control systems analysis allows for the analysis of closed-loop systems, where the output is fed back to the controller, ensuring the stability and robustness of the overall system.

Consider a control system with a transfer function 𝐺(𝑠) = 𝐾/𝑠(𝑠+2)(𝑠+3) and a unity feedback configuration. You are tasked with designing a controller to achieve the following specifications:

  • Settling time of less than 2 seconds
  • Overshoot less than 10%
  • Zero steady-state error for a step input

From the given data, we can

  • Determine the appropriate type of controller (P, PI, PID) to meet the given specifications.
  • Design the controller parameters using the appropriate control system analysis techniques.
  • Analyze the stability of the closed-loop system using the Nyquist stability criterion.
  • Simulate the closed-loop system to validate the performance specifications.
  • Adjust the controller parameters if needed to meet the desired performance objectives.
  • Solution
  • Since the specifications include zero steady-state error, a PI (Proportional-Integral) controller is suitable for the system.

Designing the PI controller:

  • Set 𝐾𝑝(proportional gain) to improve the transient response of linear systems.
  • Set 𝐾𝑖(integral gain) to eliminate steady-state error.

Based on the desired specifications, suitable values for 𝐾𝑝 and 𝐾𝑖 can be chosen through trial and error or using advanced control system design techniques.

Stability analysis:

Use the Nyquist stability criterion to analyze the stability of the closed-loop system. Plot the Nyquist diagram by evaluating the transfer function G(s) C(s) and verify that the Nyquist plot encircles the critical point (-1, 0) in the counterclockwise direction.

Simulate the closed-loop system:

  • Implement the designed PI controller in a simulation environment (such as MATLAB or Simulink) and input a step function to observe the system’s response.
  • Verify if the settling time is less than 2 seconds and the overshoot is less than 10%.

Adjust controller parameters:

  • If the performance objectives are not met, adjust the values of 𝐾𝑝 and 𝐾𝑖 improve the system’s response.
  • Repeat the simulation and analysis until the desired specifications are achieved.

Through control systems analysis, engineers can effectively design, optimize, and analyze the behavior of linear systems to meet specific performance objectives and ensure stability and robustness.

Tips for solving linear system problems on the FE Exam

Understand the problem

Carefully read the problem statement to identify all the given information and what is being asked for. Sketch a diagram or circuit if it helps to visualize the system.

Identify the system of equations: Look for the equations that describe the relationships between the variables in the system. These equations may be given explicitly, or you may need to derive them based on the physical principles involved.

Choose a solution method: There are several methods for solving systems of linear equations, including:

  • Substitution: Solve one equation for one variable and substitute that expression into the other equation. This will give you an equation with only one variable, which you can then solve for.
  • Elimination: Add or subtract the equations together to eliminate one variable. This will result in a new equation with one less variable, which you can solve for the remaining variables.
  • Matrix methods: You can represent a system of linear equations as a matrix equation and solve for the unknowns using Gaussian elimination or other matrix methods.

The best method will depend on the specific system of equations you are dealing with.

4. Apply the chosen method: Carefully follow the steps of your chosen method to solve for the system’s unknowns. Pay attention to signs and units throughout your calculations.

5. Check your answer: After obtaining a solution, replace your answers with the original equations and verify that they satisfy all the conditions. This will help to ensure that your solution is correct.

By following these tips, you can effectively solve linear system problems that you may encounter on the FE Exam.

Additional Tips

  • Practice with various sample problems to become comfortable with different solution methods.
  • Consider common mistakes, such as incorrectly manipulating signs or forgetting to check your answer.
  • Use a scientific calculator to perform calculations accurately and efficiently.

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Understanding linear systems in FE Electrical Exam is fundamental to your exam success and engineering career. Linear systems serve as the backbone of many technological advancements.

Whether you’re working with circuits, control systems, signal processing, or any other area of electrical engineering, having a solid grasp of linear systems is essential.

If you want to enhance your knowledge and skills in this area, there’s no better time than now to prepare for the FE (Fundamentals of Engineering) exam. This exam is a stepping stone and your first step towards becoming a PE-licensed engineer in the future, which opens doors to exciting career opportunities.

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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.