I got my official pass yesterday for CE and wanted to share my experience with the three Pro-Practice exams (PCM, PJM, and CE) and getting to this point in the ARE journey. I took my first two exams (PPD and PDD) in 2018 and failed them both within a month of each other. I then switched to the NCARB recommended order and took PCM and failed it the first time. I was three up and three out and it was extremely frustrating. I had to completely alter the way I was studying and preparing for test day. Within the last year I have passed PCM, PJM, and CE in a row.
Here are the 4 things I am doing differently that have helped me get through these three exams, and will hopefully help me on the technical exams as well.
1. Get get out of my head.
- Test anxiety is real, and I have always struggled with that on standardized testing. I turned to YouTube and spent hours going through nothing but test anxiety workshops. May sound like a waste of valuable study time, but it was time well spent for me. Know that anxiety is common and there are ways to combat it by changing a few habits and developing your own rituals... (key words YOUR OWN).
2. Don’t rely on someone else’s notes.
- This community board is great for accessing various study notes and tips from others who have taken the exam. USE THEM, but do not rely on them. When I first started studying I would take notes in a sketchbook and rely on printing summary notes from others before my exam to refresh my memory. I realized that wasn’t enough for me. Even though I had studied the information, I wasn’t developing the comprehensive knowledge NCARB expects you to have on the exam.
I rarely use a pencil to study now. For each exam I have a word document that I brain dump information into as I study. I start with the ARE Handbook and create tabs for the individual knowledge areas and rewrite (dumb down) the objectives for each in bold as the first thing under each tab. As I am studying and taking notes I try to figure out what knowledge area that note falls into and put it under that tab. I used Pluralsight, Archiprep, Hyperfine, PPI2Pass, and Schiff Hardin to create my guides for all three exams. As I take quizzes I rewrite the descriptions they give with solutions and find that most of the notes I take overlap. I cant stress enough how valuable finding a way to put information in your own voice is. The week before the exam I edit my study guide.
3. Be confident on exam day.
- You have spent months (plus 5 years of architecture school) developing expert knowledge on the topics you are being tested on. Rely on that knowledge to get you through the majority of the questions on the exam. I spend about an hour before my exam just reading the study guide I created but not trying to remember anything to brain dump on my scratch paper before I start the test. I have to tell myself that no matter how hard I study, only about 50% of what is in my notes is going to be on the exam. The rest I am going to have to use common sense and process of elimination to get an answer. If I’m focused on trying to memorize things as I am taking the exam I mentally block other information. This may not be the case for other people, but its something I noticed I do often. It happens on the questions I think do not fall in any of the knowledge areas NCARB gives. Reality is you can eliminate obvious incorrect answers using common sense on most of them.
-A lot of people on this board will disagree with this one, but for anyone with testing anxiety like I have this is probably the most important thing I changed. I have to do it in order to be confident going into exam day. This goes with telling myself only 50% of the things I study will likely show up on the exam. If I’m not confident on something I have studied my chances of passing go down.
That’s my new strategy and it seems to be working so far. For those wondering if you need to pass PPD or PDD before taking CE my answer is No. You need to really know the A201 and contract relationships for the majority of this test. I found the detail questions fell into that 50% of questions I didn’t study for that common sense and process of elimination will help you answer. If you have a basic understanding of how to control water in a building you are prepared enough for those questions.
I hope someone like me finds this useful! On to the 2nd half of my exams!
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