Hi all, I took the exam yesterday and did pass; it's great that NCARB gives you such immediate feedback. Because other peoples' post-exam feedback was so helpful to me, I thought I'd return the favor.
The exam interface is mostly great; I used the Exam Summary heavily to go back to Incomplete and Marked questions. I suggest watching the short NCARB videos about how to use some of the less-obvious features of the interface, such as marking questions, using strike-through, using the Exam Summary, and using the Search feature (a godsend).
I have the same comments as others about the onscreen calculator. I found I had to really hammer down on the mouse to get the input to actually work; it often skipped numbers and I wound up re-entering calculations over and over again. I'm glad I left all of the math questions to the end since they're only worth one point and they take way more time than all the others, what with the balky calculator. NCARB, please, please: allow us to use the keyboard for calculator input. Also, I noticed the Prometric people were giving out calculators to other test-takers: why not do that for ARE?
I also have the same issue as others about load time for the references. I noticed that even at home doing the practice exam, the references load slowly and I have a decent connection. I asked the Prometric person ahead of time what I should do if I encountered difficulties and she said "Just write the problematic question numbers down and give that to me afterwards. We can't do anything about it here so don't tell us during the exam." This contradicts the preamble to the exam which says we are supposed to stop and tell Prometric if we have problems. NCARB: could you have Prometric load the bigger references on the actual Prometric desktops so they can load faster? Or can users actually download them once instead of waiting for the screen to load all over again each time we flip back to that reference? Also another note to NCARB: if you click the little minus sign at the top left corner of the reference screen to try to fit more of the content into a single screen without scrolling, it actually makes the text larger. You need to click it three or four times to make the text smaller. Meanwhile, test-takers: if it's a long reference, try checking the table of contents first and use the Search feature to help.
I was really helped by reading Danial Spilman's post here: https://are5community.ncarb.org/hc/en-us/community/posts/239527268-Another-Just-took-the-Practice-Management-Exam-good-bad-. He has some good tips, especially about how to manage exam timing. Doing the ARE practice exam with a stopwatch helped me to get a sense of how much time I'd need. As a result of Daniel's tips and watching time closely, I was able to finish all questions and review almost all of them. I didn't buy any other practice exams because I got the impression they weren't quite ready for prime time (spelling errors, some questions that seemed bone-headed to me) but no doubt they'll improve over time.
About the question content: I was surprised at some of the questions, which definitely tested knowledge outside of the PcM exam objectives. I made a printed copy of the objectives and then went through the headings and sub-headings on each AHPP chapter to make a list of every chapter that had any content related to each objective. I first followed Kevin G's chapter outline, which was very helpful, then decided I'd make my own chapter outline just in case. I re-read some sections twice, and re-read all of my underlined sections and margin notes at least once. My copy of AHPP is an expensive mess by now. But I still felt that deer-in-the-headlights feeling with some of the questions which really felt like they were not testing PcM. Some questions really were about programming and other test division content.
The other thing that kind of gob-smacked me was that with the CATA questions, there was usually only one "gimme", i.e., one answer that was clearly not one of the correct choices. ("The architect should shoot himself in the foot while telling the client to put any old thing in the contract.") But for me at least, it was easy to imagine that any of the remaining answers were potentially correct and had some merits. And I'm not talking about HSW or code questions which are more cut-and-dried, but about business strategy questions and other questions of a more subjective nature. I have a business background and still wasn't sure about some of them. Be sure to do lots of practice with anything having to do with math, for example know how to calculate the percentage of something based on an input, not the final result. I tried to imagine questions that would test all the key performance indicators and make up practice questions to test myself. Of course I have no idea how I actually did on those actual exam questions, so maybe it was a waste of time.
In the end, though: I studied for one to three hours daily for about six to eight weeks, and feel that I learned a tremendous amount. There's no question that going through the process will make me a better architect at the end of this long slog. To wrap up this long ramble: Good luck to all of you!
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