I took my Practice Management exam last Thursday morning and received the preliminary pass after completion. The actual verified pass showed up on my NCARB account quicker than I thought, and was available before lunch on Friday.
I put a TON of time studying into this one. It was my first test and I wanted to be sure that I knew as much as possible before actually sitting for the exam. I probably put about 4 months of solid studying in before I took the exam.
This community was a huge help with many people chiming in on what study materials work bet and what was most helpful and what was really lacking. I would like to return the favor and give my thoughts on the study materials available as well as my thoughts on the actual exam.
Architect's Handbook to Professional Practice - It seemed that this was almost universally heralded as the most important study material out there, and I was lucky enough to find an older copy in my small firm's library to use. I used Kevin's outline of what to study here on the community, and I would say that was extremely helpful. The book is massive and it makes no sense to try and read cover to cover while still retaining key concepts. I only read through the sections that were marked as "must know" and I thought even all of that was maybe a little more than necessary for the exam. The chapters are broken up pretty well, but even just a single chapter on a single subject is still pretty dense. I would say this was a great resource but you should take notes and be sure to understand the concepts rather than every last detail
Ballast Review Manual - This was the first study material I purchased, and as much as people seem to be disappointed with it, I found this to be the most helpful. The chapter on Practice Management is pretty short so I reread it several times and also highlighted and took notes on the material. There are some spelling errors as people say, but nothing I found most of the claims to be overblown. An example of these errors are the tabs for Project Development and Documentation are all labeled "Product Development", a stupid mistake but nothing that is going to hinder your studying. The brief nature of the study material in this book was really helpful for me. This is a great study guide to start with and then expand on the concepts using some of the other material. This is by no means a comprehensive study guide like some people think it is, but the unfortunate reality is that none of study materials you use will be.
Ballast Practice Exam - This exam is great. I felt that these questions were an accurate depiction of what the actual exam is like. I found the exam to be pretty difficult, and my method in the final month of studying was to take the test once a week for about a month or so to track my progress. By two weeks before my test date I was getting 70/80 correct and just before my test I hit 74/80. By spacing out the practice tests it helped me to avoid just remembering what the answer was and helped me actual figure out the answer from my studies. And the answer guide that comes with the test is helpful in explaining what the answer is and why, as well as why the other options were not correct. One drawback is that this is a printed test, and obviously does not help you prepare for the digital nature of the actual exam. Some of the drag and drop questions and hot spot questions caught me by surprise on the exam.
Designer Hacks Quizzes - I saw a lot of mixed reviews on these exams, but I found these pretty helpful. They are definitely not as tough as the Ballast practice exam, but they are helpful in identifying where you need to focus your studying. They have 10, 25, and full 80 questions exams, and that flexibility is very helpful if you're studying at home, work, or elsewhere. These questions are MUCH easier than the Ballast exam, but you should use this more as a study tool rather than an actual test of your knowledge. They will break down the different major concepts of the exam at the end of each test, and give you a percentage for each section. So it is easy to identify for example, that you are really good at project delivery methods, but need more studying on firm management. One disappointing drawback to these quizzes is that they have a finite amount of questions available. They say they have three full quizzes worth but it seems that you get to know most of the questions pretty quickly Every time I took a full 80 question quiz I had at least one (sometime more) question that I had already answered previously in the same quiz.
Schiff Hardin Lectures - These lectures were also a great help. They're also free to download, so there is no reason you shouldn't download them and use them. I only listened to the B101 and A101 Contract lectures for this exam, but they were both very informative and helpful. They are long lectures, and I found I could not listen to them while commuting or doing other studying as a lot of other people did. Each lecture comes with a PDF of the powerpoint used in the actual lecture, and I had to have that up on my computer to follow along and really retain the information. What is most helpful about these is that the professor will read the language as written, but then break it down into laymen's terms so that anyone can understand. He also typically follows that up with an actual real world example of how that particular clause has come up in his career and how it can apply to you in the future. This is the key to passing any of the exams because you need to understand the concepts and apply them to any situation.
NCARB Practice Exam - This is important for everyone to take relatively shortly before your exam. You don't need to worry about the material as it is really just used to get you accustomed to the testing software. This test is exactly the format of the exam, so get used to flagging questions and using the exam summary. This supplements well with the Ballast practice exam, as some of the digital based questions are on this test and will help familiarize you with them before the exam.
My study method was as follows:
Reading Ballast Review Manual
Failing miserably at the Ballast Practice Exam
Reading through the AHPP and taking notes
Using Designer Hacks quizzes to test understanding of concepts learned from AHPP & Ballast
Listening to select Schiff Hardin lectures
Repeatedly taking Ballast Practice Exam while studying notes taken from all materials
As for the test itself, it is important to understand that the test WILL be hard. Even after studying for months and making sure I was acing all designer hacks quizzes and Ballast practice exams, I found the test to be very difficult. There will be questions that you don't know and don't remember seeing in your study materials. Don't stress over them and let them waster your time. My strategy was to go through the entire test rather quickly and making sure to flag any question that I didn't know was 100% right. After that I would take on the case studies and then review all flagged questions. After my first initial run, I would estimate that I had flagged about 75% of the exam.
So, I went back and reviewed every single question again with fresh eyes. I found that this helped me stick with my gut, and gave me more clarity on ones that I wasn't sure about before. I had seen that a lot of people were really stressed about time, but I found that the time provided was enough. I could go through the Designer Hacks quizzes in about 20 minutes or so, and even the harder Ballast Practice Quiz I could eventually get done in about 30-40 minutes. It took me about an hour and a half to get through the quiz the first run through, and then about another hour to review everything and finished with about 15-20 minutes to spare.
Overall, I feel the exam was a good test of what you should know to run a business and I am happy with the study materials I used. I would say I studied more and longer than what was needed, but I would rather know too much than too little. This community is extremely helpful in preparing for tests, and I hope this helps some others
Please sign in to leave a comment.