Passed PcM yesterday on my first attempt. Figured I would post here to share my experience and what I think is important to study.
Ballast chapters (I read through them at the very beginning of studying, but never went back after)
AHPP (without a doubt the most valuable resource)
Black Spectacles videos (yes they can be boring, but useful to gain broad understanding of do's and don'ts of the practice- play them at 1.5x speed)
BS practice exams
NCARB practice exam
Schiff Hardin lectures (amazing resource for all practical exams). Michael Hanahan is a godsend. These documents can be very tedious and dry, but he makes them so much easier to digest. *only B101 lecture is needed for this exam* I don't believe there is a C401 lecture, but that contract is short enough to read through and understand on your own.
Devina Parbhoo's youtube video on what to know to pass PcM is also great. I referenced this constantly when reading the AHPP. More helpful than the Wiley sheets in my opinion. Link below. Thank you Devina!
Index cards. I would take practice tests and review incorrect answers, and then make a bunch of index cards based on those questions. This helped info stick in my mind more than any reading or watching videos.
Let me start by saying I took PjM first and passed. PjM has a higher pass rate, and in my opinion is a more straight forward exam. The scope of what you need to know is a bit more narrow and specific. One of the reasons PcM has such a low pass rate is because it is likely the test most people start with, including new graduates with no professional experience. It's just an overwhelming amount of information you need to retain for the first exam. If you start with PjM, you will absorb all the project delivery and contractual information and retain it for PcM without having to try, giving you an edge on the exam.
Having said that, PcM was still difficult to sit through. The practice exams I took definitely resembled the test to a degree, but the wording and unnecessary info they give you on the real exam makes the questions a bit more challenging, adding to the pressure of sitting in for the real thing. I'm not the first to say that you should not expect any question to be straight forward.
To feel confident when walking into the exam, I would have these components locked down:
1. Be very comfortable with the financial formulas, and have an in depth understanding of how all expenses (direct and indirect) relate to one another. Know what is essential to calculate project labor budget. Know how to get overhead rate in the form of dollars, not just a rate. Know how a design contingency factors into the budget. No question will just ask: Here is indirect expenses, here is direct labor. What is overhead rate?
2. Have a broad understanding of business structures, and the pros and cons of each. Try to imagine different business scenarios in your head and choose the business structure that makes the most sense for each scenario.
3. Understand insurance policies and risk very well. Risk is a big one. Again, imagining all the things that can happen in real life and what insurance would be most appropriate will prepare you for any question they throw at you.
Lastly, some additional tips:
The whiteboard tool is horrible. Don't waste your time. It may seem nice when you're using it at home on a practice exam, but the RAM on the testing center computers is so low that you can't draw one line without it lagging. Use the history tab in your calculator to recall figures when doing financial calculations. You will run out of time if you rely on the whiteboard.
Also, regarding the calculator, be careful typing things in, and double check the results. I typed in some simple multiplication and it gave me an incorrect number. When you type in something like 130,000, make sure you put in the right amount of zeros. Sounds silly, but if you're rushing it can definitely cause you to slip up and spend too long on a question, throwing you into a panic.
The case studies were not easy. Expect to spend a while getting the right answer for some of the questions. Pace yourself so that you have about an hour at the end to handle the case studies and review any marked multiple choice questions. Some people do case studies first which is a solid strategy, but I didn't for this exam.
One last thing: don't get bogged down by reading about failures, how hard the test is, or just general negativity surrounding these exams. It's just a standardized test. You can do it, without a doubt. And if you fail, it's not the end of the world. Good luck to all!
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