Fresh From the PcM Exam - Thoughts and Tips

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    Nuria Forques Puigcerver

    Stephanie, this is very helpful as a compound of how to tackle this exam. Thank you so much for sharing your experience.

    Nuria

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    Carolina Glas Roditi

    Stephanie, this is really helpful! Thank you so much for posting.
    Quick question: how long did you study for? Maybe a ballpark number of hours?

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    Stephanie Waples

    Carolina and Nuria,

    You're welcome. Glad someone can benefit from my very wordy thoughts.

    I tracked my studying throughout the process - by time and what material I was studying. Therefore, I was able to get pretty good data on how long it took me personally to read "x" number of pages for AHPP, vs. Ballast, etc. I do think I over-studied, so I'm going to give you the raw data and how much I think I potentially could have cut out.

    I started actually studying in October, at about 4-5 hrs/week. Much of this time was spent trying to gather materials/figure out what I was doing. November was similar, about 5 hrs/week. In December I started to get a little more serious, 8 hrs/week. January, 16 hrs/week. And then in February, after I scheduled my test at the beginning of the month, I got real crazy and went up to 20-25 hrs/week trying to pack in all the studying I could to feel as confident as possible. All told, that was about 240 hours. In hindsight, I'd almost not even count October and November as real studying time for me. 

    I went into this without much real-world experience at all, and especially not in this subject matter. But, since it was the shortest and the content is fairly straightforward, I chose it as my first test. If you have more experience in this subject matter, DEFINITELY do not study the amount I did. 

    Now, I also DEFINITELY studied material that ended up not being relevant. I estimate maybe 60 hours could have been eliminated in hindsight. That time includes multiple passes through Ballast, some chapters of AHPP that I read or reread that ended up not so important, making WAY more flashcards than was probably necessary, and listening to 3-4 lectures that didn't really help.

    So, we're looking at about 180 hours for me -- someone who didn't really have any background and started from ground zero. I've seen estimates elsewhere for 4.0 that said an average of 100 hours -- that might still hold true, but it didn't for me. A lot of the things I really did a deep-dive on and spent a lot of time (spoilers-it's the AHPP) I'm really glad I did. 

    Stephanie

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    Daniel Spilman

    Great feedback Stephanie! 

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    Edward Bilek

    Thank you very much, Stephanie. This is so helpful, as I am just beginning to study for this exam.

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    Cedric Reuter

    Super helpful feedback, thanks for sharing!

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    Shreya Agarwal

    Thank you so much Stephanie, this is really helpful! Would you be able to tell me what parts of PjM and CE are particularly applicable to this exam? I'm testing in a week and I have a few other things to go through as well so I was curious to know what's the most relevant.

    Thank you!

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    Stephanie Waples

    Shreya,

    I think the majority of the overlap of the three divisions relates to either contracts or project delivery methods. I would recommend knowing the B101 contract well -- that's not covered at all in Ballast's PcM portion. I think it's in Chapter 5, which is PjM. There's a portion in Ballast's CE section that is about the responsibilities of all different parties during construction phases that I would recommend being familiar with. It's probably not a make-or-break section, but it links up with the contract information and is good for context. 

    Also, don't try to memorize the contracts. Focus more on understanding what the legal language means and why it's there. Who is it protecting? What type of situation is it protecting them from? That's where the Schiff Hardin lectures were great. He broke it down, line by line, and explained why it's important to the various parties involved. 

    Stephanie

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    Shreya Agarwal

    Stephanie, that was so helpful  - thank you so much!

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    Candice Barter

    Thanks,, this is really helpful! And it sounds like I'm headed in the right direction. I started with Ballast as well and found too many section to be confusing, so I read A Guide to Turning Designs into Buildings and have started making my way through the sections recommended of the AHPP. I've been also finding the Schiff Harding lectures a good way to explain what I'm reading. Also looking at contracts B101 and C401.
    This is my first exam and I'm hoping to feel well enough prepared to assuage my first test jitters. I have a couple week left that will mostly be spent wrapping up the chapters in AHPP, taking the demo exam and reviewing!

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    Shreya Agarwal

    one more question, how important is the project management section for this exam? I can see that it's marked important in Kevin's document but how much of that is actually relevant for this test?

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    Kevin Griendling

    Hi Shreya,

    If I annotated that document with more than 3 levels of importance, I wouldn't have made it quite red. The reason I opted to make it red was so that you understand the relationship between firm leadership and roles equivalent to project management. Most importantly, you should know where to draw the line between responsibilities before executing the contract, and those that begin after (in all delivery methods preferably).

    If you are pressed for time, I would downgrade that section to orange, but you should absolutely still read it. It'll help you on PcM, PjM, and your career. That is what I call a WIN-WIN-WIN.

    Good luck,

     

    Kevin Griendling, AIA

    www.paramarch.com

    www.pluralsight.com

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    Shreya Agarwal

    Thanks Kevin! I've been watching your videos as well, they're great!

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    Stephanie Waples

    Shreya,

    I agree with Kevin's assessment. In particular, I'd focus on chapters 10.2 and 10.3. They relate most to Objective 1.1 in the Handbook, "Assess resources within the practice." 

    Stephanie

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    Kevin Griendling

    Thanks Shreya and Stephanie. I am very glad it was helpful to both of you. 

     

    Kevin

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    Shreya Agarwal

    Hey Kevin,

     

    I was watching your pluralsight video on financial management and in the 2nd part where you talk about the multiplier, i believe you arrived at 3.48 by dividing the rate by the billing rate. Aren't you supposed to dive the billing rate by the rate (hourly rate) ?

    Thank you,

    Shreya

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    Kevin Griendling

    Hi Shreya,

    I'd rather not directly cross traffic between my course's users and these boards. Other users may not have enough information and something may get lost in translation.

    In order to get Pluralsight course questions answered you could either:

    • Use the Pluralsight course discussion board (on the course page)
    • Create a new NCARB forum post and present all information necessary for users on the board to understand what you are asking, why it was confusing, and why any response/correction I may issue is correct
    • Please do not post course materials, but feel free to write down all information necessary to convey the idea.
    • Email me via the contact page on www.paramarch.com

    I hope this is acceptable to you. I am trying to respect NCARB's curation of the candidate experience on these forums.

    Best of luck,

     

    Kevin Griendling, AIA

    www.paramarch.com

    www.pluralsight.com

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    Rebecca Smith

    Thanks so much Stephanie. This is incredibly helpful!

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    Stephanie Waples

    You're welcome, Rebecca.

    Also, in case anyone is wondering, this study strategy did indeed result in a passing grade.

    Stephanie

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    Candice Barter

    Congrats, Stephanie!

    I studied very similarly to you, Stephanie and was pleased to receive a passing grade this morning as well.

    I used AHPP as my primary resource - reading and taking notes on all the sections that Kevin noted and supplemented with the Ballast study materials, made my own flash cards by hand and used those on Quizlet.  I also used the Schiff Hardin lectures as a study break, read "A Guide to Turning Designs into Buildings" and some of Law for Architects.  I tried to break up my study sessions by reading from various sources so that I wasn't just getting the material from one perspective.

    I found that the time for the test was more than adequate.  I was very concerned when it took me only 1 1/2 hours for my first pass through the exam, but I did go through several more times reading carefully and revisiting my responses over the next hour.

    For me, the material covered matched what I had studied.  However, I, like Stephanie, would have been screwed if I had only used Ballast.  Even when I used the practice exams, I was consistently scoring only about 50%.  The test seemed to make more sense than the practice questions to me.  However, it was still a hard exam and I'm glad that I took adequate time to prepare for it.  This was my first exam and I am so happy to have gotten the confidence boost that I needed for the next one coming up May 4th.

    Project Management is next and I'm giving myself 4 weeks to prepare instead of 6 weeks.  But I will follow a similar procedure for this one using Ballast only as an overview and focusing on the materials outlined in the 5.0 Handbook.

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    Patricia McKissack

    Thanks Stephanie,

    This post is admittedly the first that I've had the chance to read and I feel like your process will be very similar to my own. I have just recently graduated and am now just getting into the testing process. Before this, I had already decided to take the exams in order, starting with the practice management division and therefore have just begun to build my up my study materials. I wanted to get your opinion on an approach that I have in mind. I am actually planning to use the AXP guidelines to get a general idea of what to study for each exam. As you probably know, NCARB provides a checklist of tasks for each section that you should be able to perform upon its completion. This approach prompted me to print out the NCARB Rules of Conduct, AIA Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct, the AIA Document Synopses by Series and the AIA Document Synopses by family. Mind you, this is just a start but since your post mentioned these I'm hoping that this approach will actually hold some merit. My firm does offer some online study resources as well but I already assumed that I would have to find additional materials. Thoughts?

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    Stephanie Waples

    Patricia,

    I haven't seen or really heard much about the AXP guidelines, but as long as you're cross checking that with NCARB's ARE 5.0 Handbook to make sure you've covered all your bases, I feel like your approach will be solid. One of the things I did near the start of my studying as I was making my plan was to take that task checklist for each section and cross reference it with things I was going to study (like chapters of the AHPP) and make sure I had at least one source for each task. In most cases, I had a bunch. 

    I think I talk about this a bit above (full disclosure -- I don't want to reread the novel I wrote above): I definitely overstudied. I put in a lot of hours and effort because I felt like I didn't have experience to fall back on. I see a lot of people on this forum saying things like "Don't waste your time with that" or "You'll be good with 4-6 weeks of studying." That just doesn't work for me. I see this whole exercise as a way to better myself as an architect. I don't care if I study something that won't come up on the test -- it might come up in real life. It certainly won't hurt me to know it. If you're also relatively fresh from college and identified with my post, you might feel similarly. The only real drawback to my approach is that I take a lot longer than most do studying, and I do tend to burn out. Therefore, I've taken breaks in between each test. Some people warn against that because it makes you lose momentum, but I'm disciplined enough that it hasn't been a problem. I've got goals in mind, and I just take the time off to refresh and then get back on that horse. 

    I suppose, long story short, my strategy has been successful. I have passed PcM, PjM, and PA all on the first try, with each one feeling easier than the last. Currently studying for CE and will take it this fall. 

    For study materials, in addition to what you've already got, get your hands on the AHPP for sure. It tends to be expensive, but you might be able to convince your firm to buy a copy or get it from a local AIA. It will be super helpful for both PcM and PjM. Also definitely use the Schiff Hardin lectures -- they're free online (link above). I feel like both those sources are critical. 

    If you have any more questions, I'm happy to answer them. Good luck with your exams!

    Stephanie

     

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