Third consecutive fail

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    Kellie Locke

    Something that jumps out to me based on your run down here is that you list almost exclusively third party resources and study guides. One of the most beneficial things I've learned in this process is that you have to go to the sources NCARB is pulling their material from, and these are the "first hand" resources in the ARE handbook. That reference matrix is the first stop for every test. 

    It can be tedious to read these texts and it seems like a no brainer to jump to a consolidated study guide, but these tests are way too complex to be contained in a third party guide. I'm definitely guilty of starting with Ballast, but use it as a foundation for the rest of your studying, or as a review once you've covered all the topics. You'll get SO MUCH out of going to the source, then cross checking what you learn against other sources to really understand. 

    Also, quality practice tests (of which there are few). If you have the ballast practice exam, those are the only ones I think come even close to the complexity of real ARE questions. I find designer hacks to be a joke personally, don't rely on it. Check out Hyperfine, as he provides resource suggestions and quick exercises that help stir up topics you're not comfortable with yet. I also found WEARE to have quality questions. I hate throwing money at the studying process too, and those last 2 are really affordable. Hyperfine even has a PA/PPD study guide for $10 that you can get a lot of benefit from simple rote memorization of parts of it.

    Sounds like you're good on business stuff, so I imagine you've read the AIA contracts (not a summary!). For CE, know the A201 backwards and forwards, and start to look up some basic details of flashing, drainage, etc. For PA, those top listed references are critical. Lots of these books you probably have from school. Also going to the actual code and ADA guidelines. PA's super broad, but other posts on the forum are really helpful to narrow down what to cover in a given text. I used hyperfine for that one and it's a lot of help. 

    And lastly especially for PA, train yourself to learn the NCARB answer, not the real life answer. Just orient the building east to west, don't try to be a designer. 

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    Pierre Antounian (Edited )

    Matthew,
    You are not alone. I have close to 20 years of experience in the profession with a strong background in SD,DD and CD sets with some CA experience.
    I have taken and failed PcM 3 times now.
    My second attempt was purely my fault, I literally went in cold turkey.
    My first attempt I listened to all Shiff Hardin Lectures, and read about 50 pages, yes 50 pages from AHPP the weekend before the exam. I got a 3 in Business Operations and 2’s in all other sections including finances.
    My third time I read about 800 pages out of the AHPP , contracts, shiff hardin, black spec, Amber, law for architects, pro practice a guide to turning designs into buildings, designer hacks, ballast practice problems and practice exam, black specs practice exam and countless other resources including the community here. I failed after 170 hours of study.
    This time i got a 3 on finances and 2’s on all other sections.
    So: i am just as lost, frustrated and deflated as you are. Count your blessings, you have 2 under your belt. I have 0.
    So my question is how can i read 50 pages from AHPP and 800 pages from AHPP and get the same results?
    I legitimately do not know.
    These exams are extremely nuanced and subjective.   Real world experience is hurting me vs helping me.  These exams are nothing more than learning THEIR system, not the one I have grown to love and enjoy in my 20 years of practice.  You do not need real world experience to pass these exams.  In fact you are more at a benefit if you don’t.  Sure it may help with maybe a few questions here and there, but it’s almost negligible.  Many may disagree with me on this view but I hold to it.  
    I personally feel we are unfairly evaluated with gaps in this testing system with no visble bridge in sight. The minimal feedback helps, but does not come close to fairly guiding us in the right direction in a more constructive way.
    I can say more, MUCH more, but I will remain professional and continue to move forward.
    Whatever you do, don’t give up. NCARB in my opinion is trying to desaturate the market of licensed architects. We need to show them that we are SIGNIFICANTLY more competent than they would like us to believe. Move forward, this is a WAR. And we are here to fight!  Let the battle wounds feed you, not hurt you.  Every time you fall, get up stronger than before.  
    My verbiage here may imply otherwise but I will go on record here by saying I do believe it’s doable.  Don’t give up bud!  You are not alone!:)

    Cheers and Happy New Year!

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    Gang Chen (Edited )

    Your past experience can help you, but more importantly, you need to learn to be a good exam-taker. 

    Time and effort is the most valuable asset of a candidate. How to cherish and effectively use your limited time and effort is the key of passing any exam.  You need to have a strong vision and a clear goal to master the architectural knowledge needed to become an architect in the shortest time

    The amount of architectural knowledge and information you can understand, digest, memorize, and firmly retain is what matters, not how many books you read or how many sample tests you have taken.

    Gang Chen, Author, Architect, LEED AP BD+C (GreenExamEducation.com)

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    Gang Chen (Edited )

    If I were you, I’ll pick a set of mock exam and take it right away without studying anything. I may end up passing the mock exam without studying at all. If I do not pass, that is OK, I’ll know my weakness and then I start to focus on my weakness, Do not evenly spready your time and effort. If you know you are already very strong in some aspects, you can do little or no studying for those areas.

    Everyone starts at a different level. For example, if an exam requires 60% of the correct answers to pass, you are not starting from zero. You may be already at 50% without studying, and you just need to focus on the remaining 10%.

    In architecture and anything else, we need to focus on the correct way of doing things, and somewhat result-oriented. It does not help if you study many hours but do not know what to focus on. If you are tired of studying, take a break and refresh yourself. Come back after a walk or something.

    Gang Chen, Author, Architect, LEED AP BD+C (GreenExamEducation.com)

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    Pierre Antounian

    I understand Gang.
    But nothing in all of my studies prepared me for the types of questions I received on my last exam that caused my fail. I prefer not to say what they were because I don’t want to break NCARB’s rules. But I feel as though it was 3-4 questions that caused my fail, and these type of finance related questions were not in any of the sources.
    I’m sure you can understand my frustration in that type of scenario.

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    Pierre Antounian (Edited )

    I just saw your second post. I will try that. You are correct. But it sounds as though there is no way to prepare for those types of questions that appear out of nowhere. Because I know for fact I was just a handful of correct answers away from passing. I was right at that threshold. 
    And yes, I think a week or two off before getting back will be helpful.

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    Gang Chen (Edited )

    Changing your strategy may help you pass the exam:

    Your goal is to pass the ARE exams, NOT getting 100% of the questions correct. This is very important. If you understand this, then you’ll know how to best allocate your time and effort.

    Two ways to do it:

    1. You spend a lot of time to read many books, and try to find the answers for the few obscure questions that you WIILL run into in the ARE exams, but you will most likely miss many of the basic questions because you spread yourself too thin, and you WILL fail the exam.
    1. Give up on the few obscure questions, and just use a guess answer for them in the exams, and focus your time and effort on the fundamentals. Here is a quote from my ARE prep books:

    “Do NOT spend too much time looking for obscure ARE information because NCARB will HAVE to test you on the most common architectural knowledge and information. At least 80% to 90% of the exam content will have to be the most common, important and fundamental knowledge. The exam writers can word their questions to be tricky or confusing, but they have to limit themselves to the important content; otherwise, their tests will NOT be legally defensible. At most, 10% of their test content can be obscure information. You only need to answer about 60% of all the questions correctly. So, if you master the common ARE knowledge (applicable to 90% of the questions) and use the guess technique for the remaining 10% of the questions on the obscure ARE content, you will do well and pass the exam.”

    Most people fail an exam not because they cannot answer the few obscure questions, but because they have not mastered the fundamentals, and they have made many mistakes that they do not even know themselves. There is a big difference between reading a book and mastering its content. You goal is to master the ARE fundamentals, not just reading them.

    Gang Chen, Author, Architect, LEED AP BD+C (GreenExamEducation.com)

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    Pierre Antounian

    Very well said Gang. You are correct. In my studies, I spread myself far too thin thinking that the more I cram into my head the better my chances. I have not taken exams since college some 18-22 years ago. I am relearning how to successfully take exams. This post of yours are words to live by. Thank you!

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