Hello Out There!
I just passed the Practice Management Exam today and Passed the Project Management Test, 2 weeks ago. Flamed out on Construction Evaluation, but just rescheduled. I was hoping to reschedule that bugger in 2 weeks, but alas the test centers are full?? I have to wait 3 weeks instead. Plan is to finish all testing around Thanksgiving. Aggressive? Without question. Doable? Tell you when I'm done.
I have a story to tell and will more than likely add it as a reply. I would prefer to share my tools and methodology first. We all need an edge, and we are all short on time.
My Study Resources:
- Amber Book - worth every penny, for a number of reasons. See my story below for (hopefully) more detail.
- Ballast ARE 5 - Review Manual
- Ballast ARE 5 - Practice Exam
- Walking the ARE 50- Practice Exams ( via Hyperfine )
AHPP - Specifically the Wiley PDF's - Navigating the ARE Professional Exams
Michael Hanahan - Schiff Hardin - Professional Practice Lecture Series 2019 Podcast
NCARB Fourm Community - Cannot State enough how powerful this one is.
- ARE5 Handbook ( updated ) from NCARB - I have a small beef with this stuff, hopefully I can explain further down.
I used all of this material. There is no question it is voluminous, and at points overwhelming. Stick with it though and stay motivated. Eventually some of it will stick. Not all of it, which is why you want to schedule tests as close as possible.
My Study Strategy:
- Get yourself a personal task tracker. For me it was Asana ( available on mobile devices and web). Its free for personal use. It helps you layout tasks ( I used the Post-It method ( similar to Trello) and laid out all the literature I needed to read, things I needed to listen to, practice tests I needed to take, and set due dates.
- Pick a path on how you want to take the tests. As I see it, the six exams can be broken in two countries: CE, PcM, PjM ...then...PA, PPD, PDD
- When you are ready, schedule your tests, as close as possible, without totally freaking your stress levels out. This was a method highly recommend by Amber book and by some peeps in the Forum, and I think it is an excellent strategy. Yeah it feels crazy, but when you look at the cluster above it makes sense. I can tell you from taking the first three exams...there is a LOT of overlap. At times I questioned which exam I was actually taking.
- I studied every night I could ( almost every night). Started in earnest around January 2020. typically 3 - 4 hours a night, from 9pm - 1 am. Sometimes more like 9:30pm - 12:30am...I have three kids and non-architecture job. Frankly, if I wasn't hopped up on Caffeine, information would just stop sinking in after 12:30am
- One weekend a week, I would go into monk mode, and disappear for an 8 hour stretch and do intensive studying. It seems to work really great for me, and helped me make up for the days when work was insane and I had no time to study. Not for everyone.
- I studied solo - not by choice, but simply out of necessity. If you can study in group, it might be good, but I couldn't. Just saying it's possible for you to run this dungeon solo.
- Spend a copious amount of time listening to the Contract Lecture series. CANNOT EMPHASIZE THIS ENOUGH. I walked around ( in circles) with contracts in my hand, listening to the lectures, following along. First because it helped me associate all the crazy information...second because it kept me from falling asleep. Serious...the lectures are long. If you have kids, work a 10 hour day, try to be a husband/Dad; its all you can do to stay awake.
- Scour the NCARB Forum, and see what other people said and did. I am so thankful/grateful for the forum site. I would buy it a beer if I could.
My Testing Strategy
- I am going to say this right now...I did pretty much the opposite of what everyone on the Forum and Amber book was recommending. I tried "their" method, and firmly believe it is why I failed the CE exam...sort of. Let's face it, I only have myself to blame for failing. That and I should have found a practice test for CE the first time. Would have really helped me prepare for the thought process during testing...cant say the ARE 5 Handbook was very useful in that regard. Sure you can ace the questions....but they are NOTHING like the exam. Again...this goes against what many have said on the Forum, and is only my humble opinion.
- So first and foremost. The night before the exam...( or maybe two nighst before the exam ) Take a practice test. ( I have to say Walking the ARE 50 really shifted my test taking process). I kind of feel like you should take it the day before, I did mine more toward the evening. Make sure you do it as a "Mock" exam, follow the time frame, set a timer and go. In the end it helps you feel-out exactly how the test will "feel". You only have so much time.
- DO mark your tests in such a way, that if you find yourself split between two answers, you leave a small marker of it. It's like showing your process, similar to.. i don't know.. showing your work on an exam.
- After you have completed the exams ( you should feel exhausted ) Score it. Take a 5 min break, go sob in a corner, contemplate changing careers, relieve yourself, then go back and read through every answer your got wrong. 5 bucks says on the answers where you found yourself split...you could have been right
- What you begin to realize with these questions is it can be a simple arrangement of wording, or a key phrase that begins to favor one answer over another
- You have to look at each question with a bit of imagination and role play. The question itself is only good for that question. Don't look beyond it. You should only focus on the information provided in that question, and the answers provided. There will be times where you have to pretend you are dealing with that event as if it is happening right now...eg. You are in DD phase, what are the specific types of deliverables, what should you be creating and submitting for that phase.
- Ok..so here is where I break from the pack...I did not quickly go through questions ( or even not quickly go through) answer what I could answer, flag when I got stuck...then quickly fly over and spend all my time on the case studies, then double back to the questions I didn't answer or flagged. I found my first reaction answers, to the questions, to not all be correct. Again the questions are nuanced, as are the answers. They are rascally.
- Flat out, on both PcM and PjM..I ran out of time AND did not answer all of the questions. I would say at the end of the exam I had 5 questions I totally left blank. Not ideal, but hey I passed.
- What I did do, is read every question. I took my time. I imagined/role played the scenario provided by the question. I read the answers, read the question, ..again..read the answers...again. Until I felt like had some idea of what was going on. ( pretty sure my lips were moving as I read ) Then I started reducing answers.
- For the problems where it is a select 2, 3 or 4 ( fiendish questions in my mind ) the best way to deal with these ( once you are in the world of imagination ) is to start to rule out answers within the context of the question. Oddly enough when you start to do this ( at least for me ) the answers began to show themselves. Yes it's is time consuming...but again, I passed.
- For problems where there is select only 1 answer, same process..same result. There are some questions that are "no brainers" ( which you become so thankful for ).
- Of course there are more than just multiple guess, multiple OMG are you serious questions. There are some math problems,...where either you have to fill in the blank or select an answer. The good thing about the select an answer, is if you have just an inkling of what you need to do, even if your answer is off a skosh, you might see an answer in the ball park. As for fill in the blank...well all I can say is, study the examples ( the math isn't that bad)...do your best to answer it. OR don't. There were some problems that were so crazy long and required a crazy amount of math to get one stinkin' answer, I just said "Nope". You can always go back to it later...or not.
- Use your common sense. Look I am not even in the architecture world, I work in the fast past world of retail brand management ( but I am working my way back, hence the tests )for example, there are going to be questions on section details, and other things where you have to click on the area that is missing information ( a weak point for me). Do your best., muddle through, you will be fine.
- DO understand schedules and how to change them. I still have a heck of time reading Gant charts, ( yeah, yeah, yeah) but hey I passed.
- By the time I was done with this process, I typically had between 1 hour and 15 minutes and 1 hour and 25 minutes to attack the Case Studies. So before you attack the case studies...take a small break. You are allowed up to 25 mins ( thank you COVID-19???). I don't recommend taking the full amount. Get up, go to the bathroom, get some water. Then get back to the test. Keep your momentum going.
- The case studies are a whole other animal. Side note, you sometimes will find useful information in those studies, to answer previous questions earlier in the test. Not Always..and be careful not to wast any time. It goes quick.
- My thoughts for the case study. Read the initial "story", then look through all the questions. Answer the multiple choice questions first. Some will be related to the case study..and surprisingly, some will not. Use the method I mentioned earlier to tackle those. There are going to be some questions in the case study that require you to make calculations or look over elevations or site plans then make calculations. Save those buggers for last. Although there were some math problems that were pretty quick..if you see those...knock'em out. DO KNOW how many square feet are in an acre, how many cubic feet are in 1 cubic yard. How to calculate areas and volumes of basic shapes.
- Do become intimate with Project Delivery methods, plus strengths and weaknesses. Understand all the roles each player has. EG, Owner, Architect, Contractor...CM...Consultants.
- Do spend some time memorizing the different contract series. Just the basic ones and those related to the different delivery methods. You start to see a pattern. I know Amber Book said not to bother...yeah ignore that...DO BOTHER
- Do understand the roles each party is in for each delivery methode
- Become intimate with how to avoid/mitigate risk
- Do know insurance types
- Do know how to calculate fees, hours, direct labor...really do the example problems, or copy the figures/diagrams from AHPP. Own the math.
I will say this. The entire time I was taking the test, I swear I thought I was going to fail it, but I KEPT going. Believe in yourself, you can do it. Keep moving forward. If you feel like you lingered too long on a problem, dont worry about it. Just move on. There are several more problems that need your worrying too. Just remember, in the end...its about how many questions you get right, that what gets you to pass.
If you do fail, as I did. Its fine. It sucks, but it happens. However I think the Amber Book has the analysis of failure spot on. Lick your wound, then as soon as practicable, reschedule.
When your fail, NCARB gives you a test analysis, scoring your areas of testing. Well its pretty much garbage. It will tell you that scored a 2 or 3 in these areas..1 in others.. Blah, Blah, Blah. It makes you feel like..."oh if I had only studied more in this area or that area..I could have passed." Whatevs. I defy anyone to explain to me how this useful or otherwise. People, this is a scored test. You just need to correctly answer so many questions out of so many questions provided. Dont waste your time opining about their analysis. Pick yourself up, reschedule the same test, or take another test in the same family, and keep moving forward. It's what I am doing.
You can do it too. I guarantee it. ( the only time I will offer a guarantee , but I will not indemnify )
Good luck & Stay awesome!
p.s. It's late...I'll tell you my story later.
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