I know there are a couple other posts about Practice Management experiences. But I figured I would try to give a concise review of my experience that hopefully is beneficial to other's preparation and NCARB feedback. Overall I had a good experience, and I would guess that I passed the exam. There are many great aspects to the 5.0 exam that I think are huge improvements and make the exam really great. However there is also room for improvement, which I'm also noting. I'll do my best to organize my thoughts in a cohesive manner:
There have been several comments about not having enough time for this exam. I actually DID had enough time to complete everything and time to go back to flagged questions and review. I attribute the successful time management to the following:
- Demo exam prep. Practice answering questions in a timed format. Its easy to get too much in the habit of answering questions during studying in a relaxed format. Practice being timed.
- At the beginning of the exam, look at the Exam Summary. Figure out how many case studies you have in your exam. In my case, I had 2 case studies, so I knew I needed to move quickly through the other portion to leave enough time for the case studies. Make an attack plan so you are not surprised by anything.
- Don't get hung up on questions you don't know. I know this is like test-taking-101, but it really helps. I answered the questions I knew, gave my best guess for ones I didn't, and flagged them for review, and moved on. This is particularly helpful on the Fill-in-the-blank questions that require calculations. NCARB has said that all questions are worth ONE point. So act strategically. I flagged all the fill-in-the-blank questions requiring calculations and went back to them, to keep up a rhythm with the multiple choice.
- Lastly, I found it VERY helpful to skim through the scenario descriptions, and jump to the actual question requiring an answer to quickly determine what information in the scenario is applicable and what is extra. This helps to avoid wasting time comprehending or analyzing extra information that you do not need to use in your answer.
I felt very confident in the material that I studied. I believe the ARE 5.0 Handbook clearly laid out the content of the exam and the objectives. There was nothing on the exam that blind-sided me that I had not come across in my reading. Here are the resources I used:
- ARE 5.0 Handbook - great for helping to know what to studying and make attack plan
- Architect Handbook of Professional Practice - Primary Resource! Do not take this exam without buying and studying this book! I believe it would be possible to pass this exam with ONLY the ARE 5.0 Handbook and comprehensively readying and studying this book.
- Small Firm Management - this was helpful for some things, however A LOT of what is in this book is also covered in the AHPP.
- Law for Architects - again, a good amount of this book was covered in the AHPP, but this book was easy to understand and very helpful for fully comprehending topics.
- AIA Agreements per ARE Handbook references.
- Selected study guide content / flashcards from ARE 4.0 Kaplan / Ballast. I had some old study guides laying around my firm's office. You have to use the ARE 5.0 Handbook to figure out what content to study and pull from a couple of the 4.0 divisions.
Software / Technical Issues
I have seen several posts that have brought up some of these issues. But I will restate from my own experience so others can be prepared and so NCARB can hopefully make improvements.
- User Interface / Navigation - Some people complained about the user interface. I personally thought it was easy to navigate around the exam. Again, take advantage of the Demo exam so you are not surprised and know what to expect.
- Question loading time - this was definitely slower then when I take the Demo exam. Each question takes several seconds to load when you click next. I noticed this was particularly long when loading a question that contained an "exhibit." I would say an average of 3-4 seconds expired between the loading of questions. If you multiply this by 80 questions, plus jumping back to flagged questions, I would estimate that 5-6 minutes of my exam time was wasted in question loading time. This is unacceptable in a timed test and something should be done to correct it. While I did not run out of time on this exam, I would be very upset if I had run out of time knowing how much time was wasted because of software loading.
- Resource "Loading" time - similar to the above issue. This is for the resource PDFs in the Case Studies. When scrolling through these, each page of the PDF would display "Loading" for about 1-3 seconds before displaying. Again, this is not a crazy amount of time, but when you add it up for the 20 case study questions, and consulting multiple resources for some questions, this time adds up! I would estimate that another several minutes of my exam time was wasted because of this "Loading" issue. This also should be correctly by NCARB. I am not looking forward to taking a Construction Docs or Building Systems (where the resources will probably be more intensely used then in the practice management) case study with this issue.
- Calculator - this has been talked about a lot. It really is really annoying and a time waster that the calculator does not accept keypad input. I can promise you that most users are faster and more accurate with a keypad then they are mouse-picking in the calculator. This will only create frustrations and errors for candidates. I actually resorted to using my scratch paper and pencil on several occasions because the calculator is so terrible. This again is an issue that should be corrected by NCARB, OR have Prometric provide users with a the same basic function hand-held calculator that it does for other exams (GRE, CPA, etc).
I hope all this is helpful to both future exam-takers as well as NCARB. I really hope NCARB listens to the comments here and considers how to improve the exam. I really appreciate all the work NCARB has done to create a great exam, and I think a couple simple tweaks could make it awesome. Please don't hesitate to ask if you have any questions or need clarification on anything I stated above. Good luck!
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