Disclaimer: This is rehashed from an article I wrote in May 2017 for GineersNow. Some parts are added or edited for clarity.
Engineering is a body of knowledge which deals with a lot of calculations and analysis and involves application of principles in math and physics to solve real-life problems. The nature of any engineer’s work is to give solutions based or derived on proven studies, often using formulas and scientific concepts.
Those already in the field know this too well having been able to survive tons of gruelling exams in college that involve extensive problem solving. Even until one takes the professional or licensure exam, he or she should be equipped with problem solving skills. Only few calculations are done with actual engineering work unless you are in the field of design, research, and development.
It is only understandable that learning engineering can be difficult especially if your mind is not wired to analyze situations to solve problems. Engineering students face this dilemma in all subjects, but if you feel hopeless about it, there is one trick to improve drastically one’s problem solving skills.
That is to practice, practice, and practice.
The old adage “constant, correct practice makes perfect” doesn’t only apply to sports but to learning engineering as well. Solving problems over and over again makes you better at it.
Investing more time on this rather than merely staring at the problems, which by the way, is not “studying”, is a wise habit. The more problems you solve in preparation for a quiz or an exam, the more proficient you become in dealing with any kind of engineering problem. It becomes easier for you to decipher similar engineering questions having been exposed to different kind of problems, thanks to the mental exercise.
Saying this is probably overrated or seems obvious to many, but only few realize the power of repetition, more so when solving engineering problems with increasing difficulty. This is most applicable in taking the board exam – when you have been solving different hard problems during review over and over again, say in pre-board exams, the odds are you will master the subject matter at hand and would not find the actual board exam that tough.
Familiarity of the problems presented is key, paired with the speed in solving and the ability to work with a calculator. And all of that can be done through practice, practice, and practice.