4.0 vs. 5.0 To Switch or Not...That is the Question



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    Richard Jordan

    If you are getting lots of 1's, I would keep going.

    It took me 5 times for CDS, 2 for PPP, and 1 for SPD. So its not unusual having to retake it lots of times.

    But I also am a big fan of the 5.0 tests if you have experience in a firm. Passed PDD on the first try.

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    Richard Jordan

    I started passing at a higher percentage by using the Designer Hack's practice tests. Just binge taking those tests until you are getting an 80% average consistently. The morning of, I would take the quizzes over and over until its time to leave.

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    Alison Smith

    Thanks for the advice Richard.  

    I went to a study group recently and they had split us up between those in 4.0 and those in 5.0.  It is hard to determine which way to go because of the struggles I have been facing with 4.0.  I am trying to make a pro and con list and really understand what would be best for my situation.  

    If anyone else out there has advice I would greatly appreciate it.

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    Dana Parker

    I like the vignettes better than the case studies. I think I may have made a critical mistake in transitioning

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    Christina Fu

    I am trying to decide as well if i should switch over to 5.0. 

    Studying for 4.0 has been really frustrating and i have no confident that I will pass the exams.  It just seems to me that there are materials cover all across the board, from "who built this in 1960" to "what is wrong with this detail," just within the study material for one exam.  I felt like my brain was about to explode.  I am not good at multiple choices and memorization.  Maybe this is why it's so hard for me.

    I am kind of scared to jump into the 5.0 bandwagon because it's new. However, looking at how 5.0 exams are organized, I already like it much better and thought it would be easier to focus on these specific phase of the profession, which I am more familiar with from work experiences.

    I guess I am just looking for a confirmation or a sign to tell me to just switch over.

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    Julie Brown

    Switch! Here's why:

    1) You still have two more exams to pass in 4.0, and with 60-days in between retakes and a max of sitting for a division 3x/year, that June 2018 retirement date for 4.0 is not that far away. Is that pressure that you want?

    2) You'll still have to get used to the 5.0 format at some point to take those last two exams if you stick with the 3+2 route. Might as well jump into the new format now, especially if there might also be a chance that the 5.0 format better suits your test-taking tendencies.

    I took --and failed-- one 4.0 exam in 2016. Site Planning and Design. I felt that I had to spend study time learning a very clunky software to complete the vignettes, and in a set amount of time. I personally finished the MC portion of the test in about 40 minutes, and would have loved to have been able to use the leftover time towards completing the vignette, but you have a set amount of time for vignette no matter how fast you finish the MC. I ran out of time on the vignette, because I wasn't proficient enough at the software. In 5.0, your testing time can be allotted however you want it. You can start with the case study questions if you want. Or you can budget your MC time to leave yourself ample time for the case studies. Every question is worth 1 point, no matter what. Also, because the case studies contain reference material PDFs, sometimes you can find clarifying information in those that actually help answer a non-case study question.

    I switched to 5.0 when NCARB came out with the incentives. I took two exams (PA and CE) in the same day, and then took PcM a week later, and PjM a week after that. I passed them all. Granted, I've been out of school and working continuously for 10+ years now, so I didn't study A LOT... I just wanted to take advantage of the incentives, and knowing I'd have a free retake was reassuring. I took a summer hiatus, then came back and passed PPD, failed PDD (tripped on the last test?! with the highest passing rate?! I feel it must have been SO close.) I waited the exact 60 days, retook PDD and passed it. Done!

    Comparing 4.0 to 5.0 content, I found 5.0 to be MUCH better aligned with what we encounter and do regularly working in architecture. The case studies: they're totally what we do. Client wants to do this? Where do I go look to see if that's allowed? Go look, see if what's allowed. In my mind, that's way easier than struggling to draw topo lines with a tool that I couldn't fully control. Every question has a correct answer, there's no more vignettes where you have to present a "solution" and hope that it's "passing". With the 4.0 multiple choice content, I'll echo what Christina mentioned about how scattered and irrelevant some of the questions felt to what we practice in architecture now.

    I also wouldn't get hung up on availability of 5.0 study materials. For the business exams (PjM, PcM, CE) I studied the contracts and AHPP and Ballast 4.0 materials. For PA, PPD, and PDD, I again used Ballast 4.0 materials, plus Building Construction Illustrated, Architect's Studio Companion, Architectural Graphic Standards, and MEEB.

    If you're still not sure, try the 5.0 Demonstration exam and watch the NCARB videos about each division. For me it was like, YES, this is a test that actually maybe aligns with what I've been doing all these years! If you don't feel that way and you think you can pass the last two 4.0 exams AND the two 5.0 exams on the first try from here on out, then yes, you could save money.

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    Nicholas Hubof


    Great answer, you have convinced me to transition to 5.0. I was on the fence...  I have been practicing Arch for 8 years now and never felt like ARE4.0 had much to do with what I actually did on a day to day basis. Hopefully I don't regret going to 5.0, but the fact I won't have the July deadline looming helps. Wish me luck.


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    Julie Brown

    Good luck!

    As the ARE Handbook iterates, a lot of the 5.0 exam questions are about testing your understanding and your ability to analyze the data in front of you to reach a conclusive answer. So if you've been working awhile, you've probably honed these decision-making processes. If the questions says that the most important factor is cost, pick the answer where the cost factor was best addressed.

    The only two divisions where I felt like the questions veered into 4.0 format were PDD and PPD. Those sections covered so much, and had a handful of questions that felt a little immaterial to what *we* deal with directly on an architectural project, but if you've studied the content (structures, acoustics, lighting, material composition), those questions aren't completely outta left field. I was surprised at the specificity of a few of them though.

    Lastly, read up/watch the NCARB info that they've given about the 5.0 test question types. I didn't know until AFTER my second exam, that you can rotate drag-n-drop items if you right-click on them! I also didn't pay close attention the first time to drag-n-drop question instructions that say "not all labels" or "not all symbols" will be used. Meaning, it's ok if there's still draggable items left unplaced if they don't belong anywhere in the answer. Read the instructions closely!

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