5.0 Exam - Suggestion to improve candidates' preparation

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    Ryan NCARB

    Hey David,

    First thanks for posting this!  Feedback from candidates is always very helpful.  Adding some additional example items is something we can certainly look into, but I will be honest that it won't happen right away. (We are a bit focused on the retirement of ARE 4.0 right now. :) )  Let provide just a little bit of further explanation...

    I can say with some certainty that any additional items will not be added to the Demonstration Exam.  The reason is that "exam" is meant for the purposes of practicing the five item types, understanding how a case study is organized, and becoming familiar with the user interface.  Nothing more.  It is not meant to be a study tool and we don't want to give candidates a false impression or encourage the misuse of the Demo Exam, thinking, "well I did well on the Demo Exam, so I will probably pass the actual exam."  Again, that isn't it's purpose.

    You also brought up a few suggestions for the number of example items you would like to see.  Currently there are 62 example items in the ARE 5.0 Handbook across the six divisions.  This is approximately 10% of the total items on the six exams (605) and approximately 1% of the roughly 6,000 items in the item bank.  So, if we added example items - 2 per the 92 assessment objectives - that would be about 3% of the total item bank.  Still not that representative of the whole.

    Now we can certainly add some example items like I said, but what I really want you to focus on is understanding and being prepared for each of the assessment objectives, not specific example items.  Then, no matter whether you have seen 62 example items, 92 example items, or 184 example items, you will be prepared to answer whatever is asked about each assessment objective!

    Again David, I really appreciate the thoughtfulness of your post.  And my response is not at all meant to "shoot it down," but just to provide a little further perspective.  Adding example items is something we will absolutely look into down the road.  Hope this helps. 

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    David Kaplan

    Ryan,

    Thanks very much for responding to this, I appreciate the feedback. I think I was coming at this more from just reacting to all the posts I've been reading about those who have failed the tests.  Myself - I just finished the ARE as of today.

    You're right that when you look at the percentage of sample questions vs. the actual number, it's so small that to just add one or two is almost futile.  However, I guess I still think that when I read through all of those objectives - 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.4 - it would be nice if the Guidebook said, "Objective 1.1 is this.  And, here's two sample questions that are similar to how it will be presented to you in the ARE."  I do think that would go a long way. 

    Just my two cents, thanks again for getting back to me.

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    Kurt Fanderclai (Edited )

    Hey, David -- Congratulations! 

    In reading your above post, I enjoy your relative nonchalance about it, like:  "Oh, and by the way, while I was attempting to improve the overall quality of the ARE exam, I was also pondering the general welfare of other candidates, plus I did eat some kale,  and I guess I drove around town a little, and let's see, what else -- oh!, and sometime earlier today I guess I passed the ARE..."      

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    Kurt Fanderclai

    This is an interesting discussion.  

    In my opinion, I've never been convinced that taking practice exams is the way to go.  Format knowledge, yes -- but once a candidate is familiar with the format of the exam and case studies, I'd recommend studying content.

    I think candidates tend to panic about this issue -- that is, the lack of questions provided -- and I think it's part of what causes the impulse to chase more printed or online questions via third-party providers. 

    If I ask you one or twenty-one questions about a topic you really don't understand, how do you benefit from that?  Especially if those questions come from third-party sources -- who, I'm pretty sure, don't have access to Ryan's bank of 6000 questions. Those questions are safely carved into a cave wall in Tibet.

     

     

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    David Kaplan

    Kurt, three things:

    1) Thanks!  Your posts were extremely helpful.  I actually printed out your study post on PDD and used it to help me focus on what to study and more importantly what NOT to study.  Huge help.

    2) Kale - nah I'm more of a romaine guy.

    3) I've been to Tibet - couldn't find the answers.

    I couldn't agree more that the 3rd party practice tests really aren't helpful.  I didn't take any of them.  5.0 is just too new.  They'll eventually get there.

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    Ryan NCARB

    David...yes, huge congratulations on being ARE complete!  That is fantastic.  Interesting way you phrased "it would be nice if the Guidebook said, "Objective 1.1 is this.  And, here's two sample questions that are similar to how it will be presented to you in the ARE."  I like that and it is certainly a different way to format a future version of the ARE 5.0 Handbook.  (Our Marketing & Communications folks aren't gonna love it, but anyway...)

    And Kurt, I can confirm that no third-party test prep providers have access to our item bank.  It is in a place even more secretive and elusive than Tibet...

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    Kurt Fanderclai

    David, thanks -- if I helped you in any way with my posts, that is awesome.  Well done, sir.

    Heh -- Ryan.  My other theory is that the Sacred Book of the 6000 Questions is currently propping up the tippy break room table at NCARB headquarters...

     

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    Ursula Fernández del Castillo (Edited )

    I am going to dissagree here a little bit. I would love for more sample questions coming from the NCARB and totally support David with that.

    But I have to say the Ballast Practice Problems and tests have helped me a lot to study. They make me questions and make me think more while studying instead of just consuming information. It makes the study sessions way more interactive and challenging. They have been an essential part for me to pass PA, PPD and PDD at the first try.

    But yes Kurt thanks a million for all your help your comments and posts have been a great source of knowledge.

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    David Kaplan

    Ursula,

    It's a VERY valid point that you bring up, thanks for sharing.  I was reading your PDD post (congrats by the way!) and you made a good point about how the Ballast practice tests help you prepare for the "way questions are asked."  I think that's a good call.  Back when I was taking 4.0 tests, I did take some practice exams from 3rd party study guides and you are right, the way the questions get asked is similar to how they are on the ARE.  Often the actual question itself is harder than the ARE, but the "trick words" or the catch phrases that are important to pay attention to are AS important as the question itself.  I agree that the practice exams are good in that respect. 

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    William May

    Folks I have to ask.  First though I need to preface my involvement with the ARE as a bit of a wholly grail.  Here in Pennsylvania as well as many other States, Licensure Law excludes residential projects.  In some States, small commercial buildings are also excluded.  I didn't go through a 5 year degree program.  I have an associate degree in architecture, and have worked for 13 years in engineering companies, taught architectural design and production for 10, earned my Real Estate License, worked for nearly a dozen architectural firms, completed over 300 projects in roughly 15 years and have a small business.

    I presently "do" architecture.  I just don't hold myself out as an architect.  I worked with an architect and produced roughly 77 projects over a 3 year period.  I saw a sole proprietor firm turn out a project every 2 weeks for 150 weeks.  We billed nearly 2000 hours a year.  In 3 years I had 3 - one week vacations and only missed 5 days a year.

    So now I've been able to earn eligibility to sit for the test.  I've been reading a number of posts.  What I find so surprising is that there are a large number of failings in a group of educated and seemingly experienced people who have over 7 years of experience since graduation.  How is that possible?  I expect to fail, a lot.  I really doubt that I will ever pass the entire test.  But that's on me.  I think I have less than a 50/50 chance even if I study the materials but I am also a tenacious dog and doesn't like to fail.

    So, why do experienced people with 5 year professional degrees fail?  If I were a college/university dean and saw that graduates of our college or university failed as much as I see in the NCARB Numbers, I would wonder about the future of the program.  There are some programs that have less than a 30% Pass rate combined!  That's nuts!    If I had spent 5 years and over $150,000 for my degree and wasn't passing the entire ARE, I'd want my money back. 

    It feels to me, that our colleges and universities are making out like bandits.  There are architects who are earning nice salaries but their graduates are not prepared to pass the Minimum requirements for licensure.  And if we are to assume that the architects of practices are to train people, that's nuts.  Why would I train my competition to get into a position to take work away from me?  "Oh, Oh hey, please hire me.  Then, when I want more money, if you don't pay me, I'll leave and start my own office a block down the street or maybe, in the same building as you."

    Something seems out of whack.

         
         
         
         
         
         
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    Kurt Fanderclai

    Hi William --

    If a candidate's true goal is to pass the ARE, then I'd encourage that candidate to focus on passing the ARE.  Skip the other stuff you've mentioned.

    A candidate's personal views on architecture school, the profession of architecture itself, pass rates for given universities, etc. -- these might be interesting in the right venue, but they are all ultimately distractions to the process of passing the ARE.  And, realize that passing the ARE is a fairly massive undertaking in itself -- it takes up a big extra chunk of your extra time and energy -- so the chances of you also simultaneously effecting systemic changes to architectural education and/or the architecture profession are negligible, if not non-existent. 

    Of course, you are not the only candidate to head down this rabbit hole -- there is company along that route...  just not much in the way of results.

    Your goals are of course completely up to you, but if you find that your goal is to pass the ARE, then you're in the right place.  There are many smart candidates willing to help out other fellow candidates, and the NCARB folks themselves regularly comment and answer questions.  Pick an exam you feel most familiar with -- read everything about that specific exam on this forum, read about the ARE exam format in general via NCARB's site, and study the reference materials found in the ARE 5.0 Handbook.   

    Good luck to you either way.

     

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    William May

    Kurt,

    I appreciate your observations.  I needed to vent.

    I wish you well and thanks again for indulging my frustrations.

    I do wonder though if by venting NCARB does understand that change is required and beneficial for the profession.  After all, the ARE has gone from gymnasiums to computer exams.  And even computer exams that have been streamlined and more focused on the fundamental activities that are what architects really do.

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