FE Electrical and PE Power – 80/20 Pareto Principle for Studying Efficiency

The 80/20 Pareto Principle (commonly known as the 80/20 rule) is used in many areas, including business management, economics, computing, and software engineering.

The 80/20 Pareto Principle is an incredibly effective tool for students striving to obtain knowledge in a particular area. Students who adopt the Pareto 80/20 rule in their studies increase their efficiency by focusing on the key areas that significantly influence their performance.

If you want to discover the Pareto principle 80/20 and how to use it effectively to improve your academic performance and exam results, you’ve landed at the right place.

This blog will discuss the 80/20 rule’s potential, importance, advantages, and limitations and how you can effectively use this for your academic success.

Let’s start with the introduction.

What Is Pareto Principle?

What Is Pareto Principle

The 80/20 principle or 80/20 rule is prevalent among professionals and students who want to acquire efficiency and productivity. According to the principle, 20% of your actions constitute 80% of the overall impact. The rest, 20% of the effects, are influenced by 80% of your effort.

The principle was named after the Italian economist who put forward this idea of the 80/20 rule named Vilfredo Pareto. Pareto examined that, in Italy, the wealthiest 20% of the people in his country owned 80% of the land. He researched and concluded that immovable property ownership in the rest of the countries nearly shares the same pattern.

Later down the timeline, the 80/20 principle became prominent when experts started using it as a productivity model to ensure efficiency in business, academics, and sports. One of the most prominent Pareto principle examples is how students use it in academics.

For instance, Students know that 80% of their exam performance and outcome is based on their efforts to complete 20% of their course content. Like 80% of the likelihood of success in the basketball match is determined by how well game openers (20% of the batting team) lead the competition.

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Advantages and Disadvantages of the 80/20 Pareto Principle

Advantages and Disadvantages of the 80/20 Pareto Principle

Despite being praised by many experts for its efficacy Pareto principle also involve some drawbacks and limitations. Let’s discuss Pereto 80/20 rule with its known perks and constraints to help you decide how much you can rely on this principle.

Advantages of Using the Pareto Principle

There is a vital aspect behind the grown prominence of the Pareto Principle with utmost rationality. It offers a fundamental strategy to determine which area needs most of your efforts for maximum productivity and efficiency. For example, if 80% of plane crashes occur due to 20% of human errors, then aviation experts must find the right areas where these errors are hidden and try to fix them instantly.

The impact of the 80/20 rule is based on how well you assess the entire scenario. If you poorly find and label 20% of determining factors incorrectly, the results will reveal otherwise. Therefore, by critically evaluating the application of the 80/20 Pareto principle in your studies, you can leverage advantages like:

1. Improved Productivity

The 80/20 rule helps you redirect all your efforts and focus on the core areas and resources that produce most of the productivity and efficient outcomes. Using the 80/20 Pareto principle, students can prioritize different sections of their course outline.

The priorities are subjective to the students based on their existing knowledge and understanding of the subject. By doing so, students can focus on 20% of the subject to produce 80% of the results.

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2. Broad-Scale Application of the Principle

Apart from preparation, you can apply the Pareto principle in different areas of your academic, including research, exam, assignments, projects, etc. For instance, you can read and assess the question paper during the exam to align and restructure your thoughts before attempting the test.

Think of investing only 20% of your time in reading your paper. By doing so, you can solve your exam efficiently with more confidence and better time management, instead of reading and attempting each question individually.

3. Assessment of Unproductivity

You can also use the 80/20 Pareto principle to find the reason behind your unproductive study routine and reasons for procrastination. If you are one of the students who lack focus on their studies, the Pareto 80/20 rule tells you that 80% of your unproductive routine is driven by 20% of the distractions.

The unproductivity and inconsistency in your studies can be highly damaging to your academic career, but you can improve it by eliminating only 20% of the distractions.

4. Optimized Study Routine

Your study routine is the most powerful aspect of your exam preparation strategy that can either make or break your study routine. According to the Pareto 80/20 rule, you can conclude that 80% of your study routine is complete or irrelevant, and unnecessary activities only produce 80% of productivity for your exam preparation.

Alternatively, 20% of your study routine involves actions and practices that can make up 80% of the results. By critically evaluating your study routine, you can easily prioritize your tasks and time for a more effective study session and scale your productivity considerably.

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Disadvantages of the Pareto Principle

The fundamental idea of the 80/20 Pareto principle is to uncover the key actions and KPIs that allow you to produce more results with fewer efforts. But it also involves some disadvantages, such as:

1. Lack of Absolute Nature

The Pareto principle of 80/20 is based on comparing the results of the events that happened in the past. The approach can be irrelevant in most of the current-day problems or all existing areas. For instance, you can find a case study highlighting the benefits of the 80/20 rule for arts and social sciences students.

But for engineering and scientific education, the masses would suggest not using this technique. Simply relying entirely on the 80/20 rule without logic and reasoning can be problematic in the long run.

2. Loopholes in Problem Solving

The Pareto 80/20 principle only provides a quantitative relation between exam output and student input. It neglects the most critical factors in its problem-solving equation, such as indirect factors, human factors, psychological factors, etc.

It means what worked for the majority may not work for you, or in the worst case, it may exacerbate your problem. For example, you can expect the 80/20 rule to produce results for students suffering from anxiety and depression or any psychological disorder like Dyslexia.

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3. Lack of Completeness

The 80/20 rule is not absolute in accurately giving 20% and 80% results, as it states. You can expect to produce 70% results with 30% of efforts or initiatives or 60% of results with 40% of efforts. This is subjective to the student, academic discipline, and various other factors like subject interest, existing knowledge, psychological well-being, etc.

4. Misleading Dependence

Do not get fooled by the sole idea put forward by the 80/20 Pareto principle. If you are thinking about scoring only 80% on your exam and start preparing for the 20% of the syllabus and neglecting the rest of the course, you will find yourself in deep trouble.

The idea is absurd when you start focusing on the 20% at the cost of neglecting the rest of the 80% areas without going deep into the technicality and subjectivity of the rule. If it still worked for someone, you can call it luck but not a law of nature.

5. Higher Chances of Failure

Focusing on the wrong KPIs and poorly weighing the aspects based on a partial or surface-level understanding of their criticality can easily break your perception of the principle. You are not an academician or student consular, and your conclusions can be full of biases and irrational decisions.

If you fail to weigh the factors correctly and label the least critical and irrelevant factors as 20%, you will suffer sooner or later. Therefore, you cannot rely 100% on this principle just to jump on the bandwagon of adapting it.

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Our proven, on-demand content and live training have successfully helped thousands of students pass their FE exam.

Mastering the High-Impact Topics

The FE Electrical and Computer (FE E&C) exam tests your foundational knowledge in various engineering disciplines. While comprehensive preparation is crucial, strategically focusing your study efforts can significantly enhance your chances of success. The Pareto Principle, also known as the 80/20 rule, suggests that a significant portion of the results (80%) often come from a smaller portion of the causes (20%). Let’s explore leveraging this principle to identify high-impact topics for the FE E&C exam.

Identifying Frequently Tested Areas: The key lies in pinpointing the topics that appear most frequently on the exam. Analyzing historical FE E&C exam data can reveal these high-impact areas. While the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) doesn’t release specific exam questions, they do provide a detailed exam blueprint outlining the content covered in each discipline.

Exam Blueprint and Prioritization: The FE E&C exam blueprint categorizes testable topics within various domains like Circuits, Digital Systems, and Control Systems. By analyzing this blueprint alongside resources that compile historical exam data (referencing reputable websites or prep course materials), you can identify topics more likely to appear on the exam.

Prioritizing Your Study Efforts: Once you have a list of frequently tested topics, prioritize your study efforts accordingly. Allocate more time to studying these high-impact areas while ensuring you have a basic understanding of less regularly tested topics. This strategic approach maximizes your study efficiency and ensures you’re well-prepared for the most likely exam content.

By leveraging the Pareto Principle and focusing on high-impact topics identified through exam blueprint analysis and historical data, you can significantly enhance your FE E&C exam preparation and optimize your path to success.

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The 80/20 Pareto principle is a great tool to improve your productivity and efficiency in your studies. But in light of the disadvantages mentioned above and the Pareto principle examples, it is recommended to take help from your student counselors and subject experts.

If you’re preparing for the FE or the PE exam, for example, it’s better to follow tried and tested preparation tips. Speaking of which, we highly recommend checking out our tips for passing the PE exam and tips to pass the Electrical FE exam blogs.

Relying on the Pareto 80/20 rule without rational logic and firm reasoning can lead you in the opposite direction. Most businesses and leading entrepreneurs worldwide adopt the Pareto 80/20 principle, but they have access to the right knowledge and skilled teams.

Therefore, you should partially start applying the 80/20 rule in your studies, evaluate the performance, and scale accordingly. Playing safe here is the key to success.


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.