First thing I want to thank all the people contributing here for the great information and advice. I just took my first exam, PJM yesterday and got the Likely Pass and then this morning the official Pass from Ncarb. I do not think I could have passed without the advice on what to focus my studying on here.
Background: I have been working as a draftsman for about 3 years and a Project architect for about 2 before starting my own firm. I work officially under my mentor, a licensed architect on the Big island of Hawaii. I finished my Doctorate in Architecture from Univ. of Hawaii Manoa last August. I have been really busy following graduation until about March with a large project I got right out of school. My plan was to start attacking the AREs immediately following graduation but in hindsight, after a graduate program in architecture I think I needed at least 6 months away from studying to actually get myself back in the mindset of major studying and devote myself to the AREs. Little bit of a bummer for me is I have to fly from Hawaii island to Oahu to take the exam. I would love to be able to just drive to the testing center but sitting in the airport and sitting on the plane gives me some time to do a last minute review. I am planning on taking all 6 exams and try to finish by Christmas, but we will see how my success rate and how life plays with that schedule.
That being said, I have planned my first tests as follows: PjM, PcM, CE possibly followed by PA. The reason I did this is because I felt that taking these business and project management / construction admin tests fit more in line with what I am doing right now for my own business. As others have said, the best way to study for these AREs is not just memorization but to actually try and apply what you are reading to your work.
So for this first test I started reading the matrix materials, AHPP, the Ballast Review Manual and Professional Practice by Paul Segal about a month ago, mostly in the morning while riding the exercise bike before starting work. I also started listening to the Hannahan / Schiff Hardin Lectures while I work or go drive somewhere to get an understanding on the B101 and A201 contracts. About 2 weeks ago I started studying more diligently and this last week up until the test I devoted about 5 hours a day to studying.
For AHPP 15th ed. I followed the Kevin G highlighted areas. I read through only once but made notes on anything that I thought might be of value:
Project Delivery Methods: The various types and strengths and weaknesses of each.
Scheduling and work plan systems, Gannt charts, CPM etc.
The Contracts; mostly B101 and A201 but also C401 and to a much lesser degree A701.
Project Communication: Knowing who is supposed to talk to who in what situation.
I read through the rest of the red and orange highlighted areas and tried to apply them to how I work, good or bad, so I would remember them.
I read through Professional Practice once and then skimmed some other areas I knew were more applicable to Pjm. It is a great book and a good reinforcement of the other resources; probably don't have to have it like AHPP.
I also bought the Ballast Review Manual, the Practice Problems, Practice Exam and the flashcards. I think the flashcards were a little bit of a waste. They have good information but I don't think you have to have them. Note: The Ballast review manual does have some mistakes, like someone mentioned about the diff. between statue of repose and limitations. So for main topics make sure you verify with other resources like AHPP. The review manual is still good for the broad topics, whether or not you have to have it I don't know. I have only read through PcM and PjM so far so maybe it will be a little better as a backup for the other divisions.
The ballast practice problems and practice exam books were nice because they force you to start answering questions that are in test format. The wording on the questions can be a little weird, but it is on the real exam too so it is a good prep for that. The exam book is 95 questions with 2 case studies, exactly how the real exam is formatted and the practice problem book which has maybe another 36 questions and two more case studies I took the first exam and went through all the problems 2 weeks ago and then again 2 days before the exam. By the second time through and studying all the material I did I pretty much got all the questions right. Some are very relevant some are not. However, do as many practice exams as you can.
The Mike Hannahan lectures are gold, like everyone says. The guy is a legend. He makes what would otherwise be very dry lawyer language into terms you can apply to the profession. I probably listened, in pieces, to the A201 and B101 lectures 3 times through each. I then sat down about a week ago and listened to them all the way through and made notes on every article until I felt like I really understood both contracts.
Overall the exam was actually more difficult than I anticipated. There were some questions that were fairly easy with my work experience and with the studying. I would say I got 40 % of the questions done over the course of the exam in about 30 minutes. Then about 40 % of the exam were questions I was able to use the process of elimination to get to the answer or to at least get the multiple choice down to a 50/50. I can't express enough how important it is on these, especially the pick 3 or 4, to first eliminate the answers you know are wrong. That probably leaves you with 3 out of 4 or 4 out of 5 answers left which takes the anxiety away a little bit. The rest of the exam were questions I was not entirely familiar with or I thought the wording made them overly complicated. Best thing to do is breathe and stay calm.
There was also much more math than I anticipated, which was fine, but I was a little surprised. As people say, know acre to square feet, cubic feet to cubic yard, square feet to square yard. Stay calm and read through what they are really asking for. The math is all simple multiplication, division addition and subtraction. It is just a matter of knowing what formula to use or how to apply what they are asking into the answer.
Stay calm on the case studies, they throw a bunch of info at you but some of the questions you may be able to answer based off your studying. Use the search function to get key terms.
Also, know how to read plans ( you should already know this if you are taking the AREs) but if you cant read site plans, sections, floor plans RCPs etc you will miss questions.
In summary, if I was doing it over I would do it fairly similar based on the guidance I got from you guys:
AHPP, read it, take notes and apply the info as best you can to the work you are doing so you actually remember it.
Hannahan AIA contract lectures: Listnen to them all, but especially the B101 and A201 and make notes.
Ballast and / or other practice exams and problems: Do as many as you can, you never know what question will come up and some of them are similar to the exam.
Also: make sure your testing center knows the break policy. They told me the screen would just pop up when it was time to take your break and that didn't happen. I will be sure to tell them next time. I didn't have to have the break but I think having a few minutes to walk around and get some water would have helped.
Thanks everyone, I will be heading over to PcM now to get ready for that June 1st :)
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