Hey Out There!
Well...I just finished taking the ARE 50 Updated test format for P & A. How do I put this? The test did not go well, I would like to place most of the blame on the “new” Digital Whiteboard. I am still seething with frustration, so buckle up because I am about to unload.
Full disclosure, due to cut scores not being released and/or ready until they have had at least 400 people take this exam. According to the Zoom cast, Link here., the mostly likely date for those cut scores to be ready will be around January 14ish 2021. Because of that, it is in my best interest, and honestly, in the best interest of all the other guinea pigs out there taking this test, to simply wait until all 400 test scores have been gathered. It would not be fair to me or them, at this point in time, to give anyone a leg up. Think about it. If I did poorly, which I am sure I did, then if I created a write up identifying topics I ran across, and you took the test within the cut score window. You may well score higher than me, and in doing so, could quite possibly knock me out of the cut score curve.
This applies to anyone currently taking these tests right now. It would behoove all of them, to wait until January 14th, before saying anything. I apologize for the delay. I DO want talk about my test experience, but if I am going to have any chance of passing, I have to wait until Jan. 14, 2021.
Here is what I used to study for the Test:
- Ballast ARE 50 Review
- Ballast ARE 50 Practice
- Walking the ARE 50 PA
- Problem Seeking
- ANSI ICC A117
- IBC 2018
- IBC 2018 Illsutrated by Ching
- Building Construction Illustrated by Ching
- Sun, Wind, Light,
- Amber Book
- Planning and Urban Design Standards
- Site Planning and design
- Anything that was available on the Forum at the time
- ARE50 Handbook and the new NCARB ARE50 Mock Exam.
- I was going to add all the sections, but figure at this point it wont matter yet.
I spent a LOT of time studying for this particular exam. This is not my first rodeo having recently passed CE, PjM, and PcM. I had to take CE twice. I began studying on October 25, 2020 and was averaging about 15 hours a week, sometimes 20, depending on time off. The last three days before the exam I was putting in 9 hours a day. I even took the Mock exam with the new whiteboard. Just to see how it might feel. More on that later. I felt as ready as I could be, considering the breadth of the information, knowing that this new test would have less questions and less time.
The test itself, at a glance, looks just like the old exam, and feels similar. The obvious handicap is you do not have scratch paper, nor do you have a pen. I would like to state that is a BIG handicap. Let me mention that I took the mock exam at home, on a computer that has two 25" screens, a very robust video card, and tons of RAM.
At Prometric, you have one 17” screen, and I think at best on-board video. That means a very basic video card built into the motherboard. I have no idea how much RAM, but having looked at the workstations Prometric provided, it would not be much. These testing machines are nowhere near what I have at home.
The whiteboard on the mock exam, worked ok. It responded to my mouse quickly enough, I was able to horribly scrawl words and dims, and most of all I was able to open multiple windows, without affecting the exam performance. According to NCARB Live: ARE Testing Strategies, which you can watch on YouTube, the Manager of Examination, Nick Respect, during the Q& A session, addressed a question about the whiteboard window limits, explicitly states he and his team were able to open, and utilize ( at minute 25:12) 175 pages tabs.
Let me be blunt. That is a load of Crap. I had eight tabs open before my testing machine began to show immediate lag on the monitor. I was only twenty questions in. Now, when you have a technical issue, you are supposed to notify the proctor. However, my computer wasn't completely freezing up...it simply had lag. I had a decision to make. Flag a proctor, who by the way was managing several other test-takers, and lose time on my test. Try to explain and replicate the problem for them. From there its anyone guess what their protocols are.
Or do I try to get through it. I chose the latter. There I waited, about 20 seconds before my computer regained control. Ever so slowly, I deleted all the extra tabs on the white board. I would say this cost me about 2 or 3 minutes. Doesn’t sound that bad right? But hang on, this test is different:
- It has less time to complete
- Any delays add up quickly and every minute counts
- Slow tabs and lag are very disruptive to your thought process, and your test flow mojo
- Since I couldn’t have more than one or two tabs open with notes, I had to monitor how many were open, in order to not slow down my machine’s performance. Thus, negating any ability of advantage by having additional notes at the ready.
Aside from this inconvenience, is that fact that writing notes, quick equations, thoughts, and layouts is just plain slower on the white board. Sure, you can write text, but you have to click T, then click where you want place them, and then type. And if you want a different notation to type you must do it all over again. It became very frustrating to try and quickly label some rooms on poorly drawn floor plans, or make a quick math equation, or mark off spaces.…you know so could deduce the best choice. I cannot tell you how many times I wanted to just draw on the actual damn test. Time and time again I ran into this situation. Even simple things, like writing out math equations. The process is extremely disruptive. By my estimate I probably lost about 10 – 15 minutes dealing with that damn tool. I would have killed to have had that time back. This tool is not only not fully baked, but also just dumb. What the hell is wrong with having a pen and paper?!
Oops almost forgot. That awesome 17” screen you get to take the test on…is now chock full of stuff. The PDF reader is still garbage, but I can live with that. Now with the whiteboard there is so little real estate on screen. I had a hell of time navigating between all the information on the whiteboard, exam questions, and the case studies information. It was an absolute mess.
Oh and you know that break you can take any time? Well you gotta be real careful. You get these prompts that you are about to begin a new section of questions…but it does not tell you what section that is. I was hoping to take a break before the Case Study…I really needed it after all the earlier frustration, but nope clicked “ok” and bam! There I was in case study madness. At the very least I had to answer the question, because it had been viewed…if I walked away, well that was a strike against me. Honestly, it was a shitty thing to deal with.
I am not sure what the goal for NCARB was here. This format felt much more difficult than the former. Without a doubt the whiteboard, at least for me, made my life a living hell. The frustration alone completely threw me off my game and I am quite sure it affected my ability to answer many questions clearly. I simply dreaded any questions that had calculations in them. I knew that not only would I have to do battle with that crummy calculator, but I would have to battle the white board too. The residue of frustration tainted every question thereafter.
I think this whiteboard change is an absolute disgrace to a professional registration board. I hope more people are outraged that we have to pay for this type of indecency. This is no small investment on my part, in time or money. If they are going to make me take a new format for a test, it better damn well run the same or better than the previous method. This wasn’t even….close.
I don’t know, maybe I’m just 45 year old white guy that cant adapt? Even though I practically live at a computer workstation for my line of work. As I said earlier, my gut tells me I didn’t pass. Although I have said that about the CE, PcM, and PjM, and I passed. Still, this felt different. I can acknowledge that yes, there were some problems I just got wrong, this is true of anything. However, I can say with absolute certainty, that if I did fail, it will be a direct result of the whiteboard and how much frustration it caused, how much delay it cause. I feel I am owed a free retake for this debacle.
I’ll know more in a month…until then NCARB…balls in your court.
Everyone else…Stay awesome!
Please sign in to leave a comment.