I'd like to share my experience with examination and the profession over the last 5 months as a way to encourage others who may at times feel discouraged with the state of things.
It was the 3rd week of March, 2020. I was in the final stretch of my preparation of the PPD exam, which I had scheduled for March 25th. I was working for the architectural department of a hotel development company, drafting large CD sets by day and studying by night. Then one fateful day, my boss called the whole team into the conference room (social distancing out the window) and explained to us that with the sudden loss of revenue to our hotel parent company due to COVID, we would have to start cutting back some benefits like discretionary overtime and reimbursements for passing the ARE. "Not so bad" I thought, and life went on as normal mostly, I kept studying because I had already paid for my upcoming exam.
A few days later, I received the email that my March 25th PPD exam was cancelled. NCARB recommended I reschedule for May. I followed their advice, and at great reluctance put my studying on hold as I had already read through most of my reading material and completed most of my practice questions at this point.
As the new date approached, I resumed studying and felt ready to tackle this beast of an exam. As well as my studying was going, the state of the world made no improvements. Murmurs started floating around the office of a financial crisis for our parent company. My boss recommended I put my examination on hold. Sure enough, I get another email that my May PPD exam was cancelled. My faith in the profession admittedly began to wane with this news. Little did I know the worst was yet to come.
I rescheduled the exam for mid-August with hope that NCARB and Prometric would get their heads on straight by then. I figured it was a long shot, but I had already invested hundreds of hours studying, annotated hundreds of pages of the Ballast exam guide, and reviewed hundreds of practice questions all in the name of filling my brain with the information this exam is looking for. As I approach the six week mark from my new test date, I decide I should begin studying again to make sure I didn't lose what I had already learned.
One quiet afternoon in early July I get called into the large conference room in our office. I'm greeted by my boss and our HR representative. They tell me they've been forced to furlough half of our team due to the continued decline of our parent company's revenue. They said "it looks like it's going to be a long while before we can hire you back, so don't pass up any opportunities." I packed my office up and leave the building one last time, with my morale at an all time low.
I put studying on the back burner as I began to look for another job in my area. I'm in a smaller town, so there were only so many practicing architects I could apply to without moving. I remembered that a local architect used to work with my previous company way before I lived here, and his name was mentioned in the office periodically. I put together a few portfolio spreads with my most impressive work, wrote a thoughtful cover letter, and emailed him on the off chance that he might need some help.
A week went by, and I begrudgingly began studying again because I had more free time than ever in my life. I start contemplating moving my exam down the road a few more months because of the lack of rescheduling fees and my declining morale. I woke up one morning and checked my LinkedIn notifications as usual, only to see that the architect I emailed had viewed my profile. As "My Shot" from Hamilton rang in my head, I scrambled to find his phone number and dial it into my phone. It rang twice, and he answered. I introduced myself, explain that I'm seeking work, and that I know him from my previous company. He agreed to interview me, and a week later he offered me a job.
I took my PPD exam this past Wednesday, exactly one week after I started working for this architect. I think finding this new job that I love so far boosted my confidence ten-fold, because I PASSED!!
If you actually read all of this, thank you for listening to my long struggle with this particular exam. I do realize that despite all this, I'm one of the lucky ones for a lot of reasons. Not everyone has had such luck finding a new job when the economy is down, or passing this exam on the first try. If anyone would like study strategy advice, drop a question and I'll do my best to answer while following the confidentiality agreement. Remember - don't throw away your shot. You've got this.
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