What are the right skills you need to acquire when it comes to this FE exam? For a certain FE problem, I might know what I’m given, and apply the right equation to solve the problem, but how the heck can I get better at solving a variety of FE type problems under exam like conditions?
Well, practice. Generally speaking, you will get better at what you practice. The trick is figuring out whether your practice is the RIGHT KIND OF PRACTICE when it comes to this FE exam.
A psychologist by the name of Anders Ericsson began his reach with this question: What makes an expert? What makes them the best in the world? What makes them the best at what they do?
His conclusion: NOT TALENT – but a special kind of practice worded as “deliberate practice”.
A lot of the time, we do not practice wisely. I can remember practicing how to shoot soccer freekicks in high school from the same position over and over again. But practicing what I already knew how to do is like not practicing at all. I wasn’t really improving my skills; I was just repeating the same behavior by kicking the ball from the same position.
This is no different when it comes to practicing for the FE exam. You should not practice the same kinds of problems over and over again. Solving the same or very similar problem time after time will not improve your skills and overall understanding. You need to get your hands on and practice a variety of FE practice problems to improve your skills.
This brings us to deliberate practice….
Deliberate practice has several specific features that you can begin to think about as you’re practicing for your FE exam:
- The practice targets an expert skill (examples: applying FE handbook, applying Calculator, Dimensional analysis, unit conversions, etc, etc.)
- The practice is challenging for you to do (example: solving 10 timed practice problems with a goal of being below the 3-minute mark for each question)
- You get appropriate feedback about your performance (examples: feedback from instructor, well written step by step solutions, clear and concise video solutions,)
- You reflect and evaluate the feedback (examples: asking why you missed a question, noting down any concepts you didn’t understand)
- You get more opportunities to practice (example: solving hundreds if not thousands of additional FE practice problems)
Deliberate practice is a cycle where you are trying to perform by making A LOT of mistakes, learning which mistakes you made, and improving your performance on the next try. Deliberate practice has predictable results: It’s usually demanding and exhausting. You’re pushing yourself. You’re not going to perform perfectly and that’s ok.