I took the Project Management exam yesterday and received official confirmation on my NCARB record today that I had passed. This was my second test and my second pass, and just wanted to run through some of my experiences studying and testing since other people's posts have really helped me along the way.
I took and passed Practice Management in June, and some professional projects had previously kept me from studying as much and as timely as I had originally wanted. I would estimate that I spent about 2-3 months studying for this test at about 20 or so hours a week. This seems like a lot, I just like to be as prepared as I possibly can before these exams.
Architect's Handbook to Professional Practice - This is once again a great resource for this test, especially using Kevin's guide that floats around these forums as a guide. I only went through what was noted as "must know" for both my Practice Management test as well as this Project Management test. Others have noted that this book is huge and by no means should you read the entire thing. Take notes on the indicated sections and make sure that you are understanding the key concepts
Ballast Review Manual - I find this to be a very valuable resource as well, but completely different than the AHPP. This book is where I always begin and end my studying for each section with. It is really more of broad strokes than detailed or situational information, but it is a great place to start. I like to read through without taking any notes and just try to get a general understanding before delving further into studying. Alternatively, right before my test it is another great read. While reading through again later, you should be able to add more information as you read through since they don't get into as much detail as you need to know for the exam
Ballast Practice Exam - This exam is once again great, and I find it to be the best practice test out there. The questions are difficult enough to prepare you for the real exam but also help train you in thinking about the bigger picture. Some of the questions are very straightforward, but the obvious answer isn't the correct one. This is also true for some seemingly complex or confusing questions where they throw a lot of information at you that you don't need, where the simplest answer is the correct one. I typically take this test after reading through the Ballast Review Manual as well as listing to the Schiff Hardin lectures for a while, then I test about once weekly to track my progress. I would argue that the most important part of the test is going through the answers you got wrong and reading the explanations on why the correct answer is correct. At the end of the day this is not memorization by any means, you need to know how to apply these concepts to nearly any situation for the actual exam
Designer Hacks Quizzes - I previously spoke pretty highly of these when I was working on Practice Management, but I did not have a similar experience this time around. I found that there was a wider variety of questions for Project Management, but many of the questions didn't seem to apply to what I was studying in my other resources. In the end, I was never getting more than about a 70-75% on any test which was disheartening. I ended up abandoning these quizzes a couple weeks before my actual exam as they were a little distracting
Schiff Hardin Lectures - In my experience this was the best resource for this exam. I only listened to the lectures regarding the A201 and the B101 contracts, as I knew that this exam was fairly contract heavy. This might just be me, but I don't know how the other people can listen to these lectures just a little bit at a time while doing other tasks. I find that I need to pull up the PDF of the lecture as well or just use a printed copy of the actual contract while listening to actually gain anything from the lecture. I probably listened to each lecture twice each, but that is still a good time commitment as each contract is a two part lecture of over 2.5 hours each. My suggestion would be to also have a printed copy of each contract with you while listening to the lectures so that you can highlight and annotate as needed. This is also helpful in case you have one or both contracts included as reference materials on your actual exam. You should know both of these contracts very well for this exam, but again you should know the concepts more than know which section relates to compensation specifically.
NCARB Handbook - This isn't a resource that I utilized before my previous exam, but I found this VERY helpful this time around. The handbook is written by the same people who write the exam, so you should definitely take a look at what they have to say about the test as well as the sample questions they provide. I found the testing criteria and percentages listed very accurate to my exam, and was very thankful for that information before testing. The sample questions are also very helpful, so be sure to review this several times before sitting for your exam.
The Real Exam - Once again this exam will be HARD and you should be prepared for that no matter what. I found when I studied for months on end that Practice Management was quite difficult and I felt the same way with less studying this time around. However, I went with the same strategy that I used the last time. I try to run through the entire test as quickly as I can while making my best guess and flagging any question that I am not 100% sure about. With this test I had read that this exam had much more in depth case study questions than Practice Management, so I started with those before the multiple choice questions.
I would say I spent about an hour or so on the case studies in my initial pass. Once again, they were hard and definitely challenge your knowledge of the material. Just be sure to read the question carefully as you may or may not need to look through all of the reference material that they provide you with.
As for the multiple choice, there were a wide range of questions. Some I thought were slam dunks and others I still swear I have no idea what the right answer is. And that is okay, don't let one question throw you off or give you a hard time. You can always flag it and come back later, as you may find something on the exam later that helps you answer it or at least trigger your memory. I will also say that other people have noted that it is important to know conversions for square feet to square yards and cubic feet to cubic yard, and I would definitely echo that opinion. It is interesting that they do not include that in the general reference materials, but it is not. There is also a lot of math on the exam, so definitely be prepared for that. I wouldn't say I'm great or terrible at math, but just the process of working through the numbers can take some time. I found it also helpful to come back around a second time and check your math again. This definitely helped me on a couple questions.
It took me about an hour for the case studies and then another hour or so for the multiple choice questions. That's when I took my break to use the bathroom and just stand out of the test for a minute. After the break, I used almost the entire rest of my time reviewing every single questions once again. I even went through the questions I thought I had not flagged, just to make sure I didn't miss anything. This used up all but about 10 minutes of my time, and I submitted and got the preliminary pass before the official pass today.
Overall, I would say that the exam was a fair and good assessment of what the NCARB Handbook indicated as well as what I studied. There was a fair amount of overlap with Practice Management which I was glad to see, as I am definitely glad I took and passed that before I took this exam. I had seen that some people have been studying for these together and even including Construction & Evaluation, and I can understand why having taken my two exams. That being said, I'm studying Construction & Evaluation now and will hope to book my exam sometime soon.
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