Tips for passing the exams and warning about the practice exams



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    Joseph Petrarca


    I was going to post something similar but I'll just add on to yours.

    I echo all of your tips and suggestions above, with one exception.  In the last couple days, I would recommend easing off.  At this point, you should really have about as much mastery as you're going to have.  If you have made concise "cheat sheets" on topics, sure, review those at breakfast or on your ride in. I think you should calm down ad reset easy right before the exam.   Of course we are all different.

    It has been said that listening to classical music puts the brain in a very good analytical mode.  I tried it and it seemed to work.  Highly subjective.  Whatever calms you down.  Meditation?  Long walk in woods?

    Other thoughts and tips:

    1.  Take concise notes.  Goes without saying, right?  But I see people taking lengthy notes.  You want to "cheat sheet" this.  The essence of the concept.  Use diagrams and drawings (that's how we are supposed to work anyways).  Use whatever tricks you know will work for you; mnemonic tricks, acronyms ...tricks that will get you to remember the various brick types, mortar types, glass types, soil types, and so forth.  I like the large index card format myself (unlined).  Use multiple color pens if that can clarify the concept.

    Once you have made a full pass through all your materials and made your notecards, review just yhour notes.  Don't look at the books anymore unless needed.  Have confidence in the cards.  As you review for the last week or so, make two piles of cards separated with elastic bands.  One for "not mastered yet" and one for "mastered/done with review)

    At the end you should have a small pile of your most difficult note cards.  Focus on those.  Review the book or video if your notes are not clear enough.

    2.  You mentioned looking out for items that will take five minutes or longer to complete.  I call these "sand traps" or "quicksand".  There WILL be questions that are far too complex for the average 90 seconds per item (or whatever it is).  LEARN TO SPOT THESE AND NOT FREAK OUT.  As Mike said, once you see that its complex, confusing or otherwise not quickly solved, don't spend ANY more time on it.  Take a few seconds to guess something reasonable and mark it for review later.  When you see something like "The invert of sewer pipe leaving the building is 205.9'.  (Check your resources for minimum pitch for piping types).  The pipe may not enter the setback area at an angle other than 90 degrees.  The elevation at the crown of the street is 148.6'.  Review the site plan and plot the location of the pipe with the shortest  path and determine what the vertical drop will be below the sidewalk if the invert of the street main sewer pipe is centerlined on the 50' roadway and has an invert of 139.5' "

    Holy smokes , that would take me an hour to do back at the office.  This is a classic sand trap.  Don't fall for it.  Laugh and move on.  That' being said, in the CASE STUDIES, you can expect to be digging for answers, but still...if an answer appears to be a half hour exercise, wither you're missing the intent of the question or you're stepping in quicksand.  Either way, mark and move on.


    I tell people to think of it like this;  Imagine playing an old Atari video game.  You're shooting flying saucers as they fly past.  The slow fat ones are one point.  Guess how many points the small really fast evasive ones are?  Yup.  One point.  Why would you spend any time trying to hit the tiny fast ones.  Just keep hitting the slow fat ones.  Make sure you get ALL the slow fat ones.

    3.  Folks, YOU ONLY NEED TO GET A D!  That should take some pressure off, right?  The "D" will vary from exam to exam, but keep in mind that there's a fairly low bar here.  It's not like at work where everything you do will be examined and you're responsible for it and want to do a perfect job..  This is pass/fail.  Nobody will know or care if you got a 99 or a 71.

    4.  for PPD and PDD...Don't forget to review FEMA P-749:  Earthquake-Resistant Design Concepts.  It is very interesting stuff and pretty easy to read.  It's also super important stuff that probably 95% of us have never seen before either in school or in practice. 

    5.  I'm not trying to diss any study materials but I will say that I have found two to be incredibly valuable.  One is Elif Bahyram's    ARE    She does an amazing job of making a very realistic exam format with various drag-and -drop, etc, and the level of complexity seems about right.  Plus she has discussion of the correct answers.   The other resource, especially for PPD and PDD is Ben Norkin's Hyperfine materials.  He has study/homework packages with very good homework assignments where you are meant to go and research the concepts and solve the homework.  He provides links and resources to go research, and provides answers and feedback on video format.  HIGHLY recommended. I found the format of going and doing my own research to be extremely effective.  Of course take notes/ cards on the topics. Both of these are small businesses (sideline) by young people who passed ARE and wanted to help others.  They are both EXTREMELY affordable and helpful.

    Yesterday I received my license from my state!

    The ARE process is arduous and fraught with obstacles that really seem like they were created to discourage candidates and to make everything more difficult.  Perhaps true.  But it is what it is.  Know that this will be like dealing with some government agency.  You don't expect logic or fairness.  Get over that.

    You can do it!  Step by step!



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    Elif Bayram (Edited )

    Congratulations Mike! A very helpful post, and great advice!

    And thanks so much, Joseph! Made me very happy to read your post🙏🏼

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    Joseph Petrarca

    😄.... you're great Elif.... thanks for your good work.

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