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What is problem solving?

Problem solving is the ability to think laterally, research, analyse and evaluate information to develop informed solutions. You will need to demonstrate that you can think creatively and apply a logical approach to solving the problems you face.

Application form and interview questions

Some examples of application form and interview questions which are designed to test problem solving skills:

  • Tell me about a complex problem you have faced and the steps that you took to solve it.
  • Describe a time when you demonstrated creativity in solving a difficult problem.
  • Give me an example of when you used good judgment and logic in solving a problem.
  • Describe a difficult problem that you have solved, what were the critical issues?

If you are unsure how to structure an answer for either application or interview questions, visit the application and interviews section of our website and find out about the CAR (context, action, result) and STAR (situation, task, action, result) models. Our recommendations are based on feedback from employers.

Assessment centres

Real life business problems will be presented to you, often as a group and you will need to use your knowledge of the sector and analytical skills to develop proposals to solve the problem. You will be assessed on your problem solving strategy and your creativity. You may need to think on your feet, and be able to cope well under pressure in order to succeed.

Sometimes you may be asked to complete practical problem solving activities, such as building a tower from Lego. This will test other skills such as clear communication and team working skills.

Activities where you could develop problem solving skills

The following activities, which may be undertaken as part of or alongside your studies, can be good ways to develop your problem solving skills:

Opportunities may exist on your course to complete a project involving analysing and offering suggested solutions for a problem. Or volunteer for a position of responsibility within your academic department and take responsibility for trying to find solutions to problems encountered by fellow students

  • Enterprise Modules Gain a practical insight into self-employment and help develop business skills.
  • PASS Leader Voluntary role facilitating groups of lower year students on specific study related topics and strategies.
  • Peer Mentoring Develop problem solving skills by supporting others through their studies and wider university life.
  • Talks, Workshops and Skills Training Sessions Run by employers or careers consultants. Check CareerConnect for forthcoming events that include a problem solving scenario.
  • Volunteering Gives you the chance to develop a range of skills while giving something back to the community.
  • Work Experience Develop a range of skills and build up your experience whilst at university.
  • Competitions & prizes Look great on your CV, even if you don't win you will have experience to talk about.
  • Blackbullion Develop money management skills employers want.