# How to solve any FE exam problem

How can you develop your abilities to solve any FE exam problem?

People often attribute problem-solving skills to those who are “talented,” “gifted,” or “smart.” Most non-engineers dread the term. Because they are falsely led to believe problem-solving is some magical skill only a few “innately” have. We need to dispel this myth, as anyone can develop problem-solving skills by using appropriate methods in a supportive environment.

The ability to problem-solve comes from within your head. It can be nurtured and developed, but it can never be forced.

Let me give you 4 steps you can start playing with as you continue to practice for your FE exam:

**1) Understand the problem**

Do not move forward unless you understand the problem. You have to understand the problem! What are you given? What variables are you given? What keywords are included in the problem statement? And most importantly, **what are you trying to find**?

As you slowly read the problem statement sentence by sentence, write down your givens and what you are trying to find. Draw diagrams or figures and introduce variable notations when necessary. Separate the problem into small parts and try to understand each bit one at a time.

**2) Plan out your solution**

Do not just apply a random formula or immediately jump into using a formula without giving it much thought. Find the connection between what you’re given and what you’re trying to find. If you’re seeing a brand-new problem for the first time, you will need to expose yourself to similar problems to devise a plan.

Know what you’re trying to find! And try to think of a familiar problem you did before that has the same or similar variable or thing you’re asked to find. Could you use other problems that you’ve solved before? Could you use specific formulas that relate to the problem at hand?

**3) Apply your solution**

Slowly, step by step, apply the solution you planned out in the previous step. Make sure to check step-by-step through the entire process to avoid making small mistakes. Clearly write down all your steps, one line at a time, in a neat and organized manner, while also including all the units!

**4) Examine your solution**

Did you get the problem “right” by coincidence? Did you get the problem “wrong”? Why did you get the problem “right” or “wrong”? Can you find flaws in your solution when compared to the written textbook solution? Is your solution different from the textbook solution? If so, can your solution work good enough when solving other similar problems?

These steps are generic. They should be applied with flexibility because developing your problem-solving abilities is a slow process nurtured by curiosity, intelligence, and experience.