How to sharpen problem solving skills?

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How to sharpen problem solving skills?

In a competitive exam it is not important whether you know the question or not or whether you can solve the question or not but what is important is whether you can solve the question in the shortest possible time or not.

In fact, it should be noted that Problem solving is the end result of many other important activities like

STEP I: Proper understanding of concept and its application.

STEP II: Mastering skills such as visualization

STEP III: Continuous interaction between theory and problems.

STEP I: Proper understanding of Concept and its Application

It has been seen that normally students move directly to the formulae and start solving problems. The result, after solving a few problems they get stuck and ultimately get frustrated. This is basically because of the wrong approach towards the subject. It is advised that students should follow the following steps in order to have proper understanding of concepts and their applications.

Basic steps of learning any concept

•    Understand the background of the concept

            What is the concept all about?

            What does the concept say?

            Focus on significance of the concept

            What are the exceptions to this concept?

            When, Where and How to apply this concept?

•    Follow the steps of derivation of the concept

       Understand the formulae


•    Practice questions on the concept (Start from the easy and gradually move to the difficult ones)

•    Diagnose the problems and take corrective measures

STEP II: Visualization of the Problem

Follow the following steps to convert the problem in the form of a diagram. Conversion of a problem in the form of a diagram helps in better understanding of the concept. Visualization of a problem involves following steps –

Step 1. Draw the diagram as per the problem.

Step 2. Once the diagram is drawn, check the problem again to see if what is asked in the question is clearly represented in the diagram.

Step 3. Check if the diagram makes sense. If the diagram looks absurd, there is some problem in your understanding of the question.

Step 4. Understand the question now by going through the diagram. If you find that this is not possible, then your representation is wrong. You should be able to explain what is required by interpreting the diagram.

Step 5. Make modifications in the diagram till you are clear that the diagram is the exact representation of the problem.

Step 6. Do not proceed to the next step till you are confident about the diagram.

STEP III: Interplay Between Theory & Problem Solving

Normally students read the theory, understand the concept and then they keep on solving more and more questions. So the approach followed can be shown by the following diagram.

This is a wrong approach. Ideally, the student should move to & fro between text & questions. Remember, reading the text and solving homework problems is a cycle – questions lead to answers and that lead back to more questions. It is recommended that students should solve questions in rounds and in multiple sittings.

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