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How to solve a problem that you have no idea how to solve?

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Dear Engineers,

I will be taking the PE mechanical MDM exam in April and recently took a practice exam. I found many problems that were completely new to me and I know there are going to be problems in the actual exam that will be completely new to me. Of course, my goal is to solve as many problems as possible (or at least review it). How do you handle situation where you have to solve a PE exam problem that is totally new to you? ( you can't even guess) I am just looking for tips and techniques.

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you save it until the very end, and read the question fully with every pass through of the exam. my best tip is prioritize and process. 

go through the first time, read all the questions, mark the answers of the ones that are given without any extra information or calculation

second time do the easy calcs or lookups

third time do the more indepth but clear problems

fourth time, you'll have read the more complex questions a number of times which might help clarify what they're actually looking for. and you've answered all the questions you have a better chance of getting points for. now, you can look through, check units and see if any equations apply, look through your reference manual for definitions and key words (use that index!) and if all else fails, close your eyes and drop your finger and see which answer you're closest to. there's no sense in grinding gears / wasting time before this pass through. do NOT get stuck trying to figure out a problem at the expense of missing the chance to answer 6 other easy problems. 

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I’ll agree with the previous answer. Read the problem fully, but don’t waste time on. Return to it at the end. In the meantime your brain will be working in the background on how to solve it. I’m serious. This happened to me on the PE. First two questions I had no idea how to solve. Heart rate starts to go up and I start to think— “fuck I am going to fail this test.” But then I skipped those and moved on. The third problem I could do, and the fourth, and so on. By the end of that first pass I returned to those first few problems, and just tied to break them down into basic elements: “what is the question asking for, what do I know about the problem, what can I assume...” and you go from there. I surprised myself... I was able to figure out how to solve the problems (or at least got one of the answer offerings).

The test designers’ central agenda is to give you problems that you have not seen before to test your ability to break down the problem into its basic elements. This is intentional. If you have developed good fundamentals, this shouldn’t be a problem, even though you might get freaked out at first, like me. But there may be problems (hopefully very few) that you just might get stumped on. No big deal. Move on and get to the problems you CAN solve. This test is as much about your time management as it is about your technical acumen.

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One helpful key is to look at the units in the givens and look at the units in the required, and dimensionally work out what has to happen to get what  you need.

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