Question about breaks during exams....

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    Robin Kuc

    "Interesting" is not the word I would use.  Thus far, I have successfully passed 3 exams (first try) using this strategy:

    Race through all the multiple choice questions, while flagging all that I am not 100% sure of (maybe 75% of them!) and leave a couple or few blank for later review.  Then I go through 1 or 1 1/2 of the case studies, leaving some/many of those questions flagged or blank.  THEN I take my break, do some exercises, have my snack, cogitate on the case study challenges, and return to the exam with a cool head and finish the case studies, plus go over or revisit all of the questions that I can manage in the time remaining.

    This new rule is going to completely destroy my strategy.

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    Alexis Petre

    This format dramatically changes the workflow and testing strategy that is standard for several people in any exam situation. Many of us scan through an entire exam, quickly answering ones we know, and flagging ones to come back to. Now you're telling us that if we suddenly and urgently need to use the restroom and now don't have the time or focus to review any question we have already seen, it's "too bad" it's locked, and no answer can be changed. Why give us a break at all then? You're trying to cover it up that we get so much added break time now, but in reality we cannot use any of that time. 

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    Robin Kuc

    Richard, keep in mind (and I realize you indicated that you haven't tested yet)  that in the testing centers you are watched like a hawk and you are not permitted to leave to go to your car or anywhere else.  You are searched from head to toe.  There are cameras and eyes everywhere.  There is no refrigerator (although mine does have a little-used microwave).  There are no relaxing easy chairs or treadmills.  You are highly, highly restricted and monitored at all times.

    At home, even though you will not be able to re-visit questions, you can review notes in your bathroom or elsewhere.  Perhaps it's your first exam and you expected the questions to be of a certain nature and then you find out otherwise.  You can spend 45 min. doing last-minute cramming of notes stashed in your bathroom, which is absolutely NOT an option in the test centers.

    Fifteen minutes for a break was too short -- 20 or so is just fine.  Forty-five is crazy.  Add some of that time into the test!

    These scenarios are not apples to apples, no matter how much NCARB doth protest to the contrary.  If center-testing and remote-testing must be exactly the same, then that isn't happening.  This rollout is rushed and ill-conceived.

    Also, the short notice of this is egregiously bad professional conduct, given how far out many people schedule.  There should have been at least 6 or 9 months' notice for these very specific alterations and a much longer lead time for the mousy practice exam to go online.

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    Tony Young

    Interesting, most ppl will take a break after completing the multiple choice questions, then case studies....basically you will have to check your answers before taking a break...this is a little concerning as sometimes you may read something in a case study that may make you think differently about an answer choice. Also you can't skip questions and comeback later after a break....interesting

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    Mark Baker

    Robin,

    I approach the exam the EXACT same way you do.

    Run through the multiple choice, flag ones I am unsure of, and actually skip ones I want to take time to focus on.

    Then take a look at the case studies as far as I can before I need (GENERALLY A BATHROOM) Break.

    Then I leave the test room, use the toilet room, do some jumping jacks to get my blood flowing, have a snack on the long exams, drink some water, and go back into the test.

    Then I will do the case studies with in depth thought. 

    Return to the unanswered and flagged questions.

    Finally, review the test in general if I have time and feel like it.

    This will COMPLETELY change the way I take the test. I would actually object to this more than the whiteboard.  \

    During the 5 hour tests I have taken 2 bathroom breaks and that was the MINIMUM I needed.  Its basically dehydrate yourself and not be able to focus, so you dont have to pee.  Or dont pee because you will lose the chance to review the questions you were unsure of....  :-/

    Mark

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    Andrea Berrios

    This is a disaster. Between this and the lack of scratch paper I'm going to have a really difficult time passing my remaining exams. 

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    Robin Kuc

    Mark -- My thoughts exactly.

    This fundamentally changes the nature of these exams.  This bifurcates each exam into (for all practical purposes) TWO discrete exams.   The first "pre-break" exam will have no interaction/interoperability with the second "post break" exam.

    There are times when a later question will jog your memory for an earlier question and you will go back later and change an answer.  During my review periods, I have changed answers on multiple occasions after resolving my initial exam jitters during break and/or being reminded by a later question of something that the jitters have temporarily obfuscated.  After the break, my relaxed perspective provides clarity for the harder questions.

    This is NOT the same exam!  NCARB might just as well break it into two parts with separate cut scores -- the regular questions and the case studies -- because it is going to be a nightmare to try to figure out how to tackle this beast any other way.  As someone previously (brilliantly) noted, it appears that the remote testing scenario is driving the test, rather than the other way around.  Now we are going to have to accurately estimate how many minutes to allot for the first section and how many for the second.  There will be NO wiggle room.

    And who on earth needs a 45 min. break?  What will remote testers be doing in their homes during that 45 min.?  Having lunch?  Taking a nap?  How can anyone in a dreary testing center possibly be able to expend 45 min.?  These remote accommodations do not represent an "equal" test delivery method and are patently absurd.  The slight shortening of the number of questions will not be enough to compensate for the vastly increased aggravation and unwieldiness of the new exam format, especially given the addition of mousy sketching.

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    Mark Baker

    Dear Richard,

    Not only is there A CODE OF ETHICS, there is also an exact written agreement in which you give your word you will not cheat and you WILL NOT tell other people the questions you received on the test.

    What stops you from going outside to your car, OR ACCESSING YOUR PHONE DURING the exam IS YOU.  You make an agreement with NCARB and if you violate that agreement there is some action against you.

    Honestly, if someone decides to cheat to pass the exams, they will do it regardless of whatever security and protocols are in place.  NONE OF US, nor should the general public, want to work with an architect who cheated to pass that person's exams.  And, if you are a person who cheats to pass your architecture exams, you have to live with yourself and the fact that you cheated for the rest of your career / life.

    Look - no one knows how this remote proctoring is going to go AT ALL.  And that New York Times article about it was GREAT.  And shows that it is NOT THE answer. 

    As for the 45 minutes.  During my first attempt at PPD, I had a full breakfast before, I did not have a snack or beverage during my break, and by the end of the exam I was very close to passing out.  I corrected that for my PDD exam and took a snack and gatorade. 

    You know! the testing center staff never checked my lunch bag.  I could have had all the answers written in my sandwich or on the inside of the gatorade label.  (Dear NCARB - I did not do that, I promise)

    I think that the huge part of the problem is the sudden change of procedure. I consider myself one of those people who adequately prepares for these exams, studies, learns, and understands the information, and therefore SHOULD pass the exam when attempted.

    Going forward, new candidates will never have known the difference.  And we do not have to sit at a desk and draft by hand like they did in the olden days.  Progress happens and the saying goes "You cant stop progress."

    But I 100% think that removing the option of reviewing previously answered questions between breaks will make this test more difficult and much more stressful.

    And I know, that when I am taking the exam, and I come to a question that reminds me of the answer to another question, and I can not be sure if I selected the correct answer or not, it will throw off my testing.

    My best to everyone with this new procedure.  My next exam is scheduled for the day AFTER the new procedure is in place.

    Mark

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    Mark Baker

    Richard,

    My friend. The general public does not know that architects are a licensed profession.  Does not know we even take exams to become registered.  Let alone does not know what we do, how we do it, or how much it costs.

    The simple solution is - disallow someone to test.  You can not revoke a license you do not have (hence why you are testing).  Prison for cheating on a test makes me laugh.  Just my general life comment - the LESS PRISON THE BETTER.  Next thing you know NCARB will have some sort of stake in private prisons for cheaters and it becomes another for profit racket based on how many people you can catch "cheating."

    If you cheat on the NCARB test, then you will never be a registered architect.  I think that accomplishes the purpose.

    Also - I have worked with MANY people who are not registered, have never taken the exams, and work as "architects."

    I do not know anything about you Richard, where you work, your level of experience, or any details like that. But the above is my experience in the 12 years I have been working in architecture offices.

    If I had a dollar for every time I have heard "I wanted to be an architect but...." I would not need to work.

    Anyway.  I stand by my opinion that this is going to make the test harder, more stressful, and less successful for candidates.

    Mark

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    Robin Kuc

    Mark, you are echoing what I said to my husband just yesterday.  I have two lifelong friends who, in the past couple of weeks, BOTH asked me the same question.... "Why exactly are you taking these exams again?"  And these are people with advanced degrees.  To this I will add that most lay people think female architects are glorified interior decorators.  I have heard this from other female architects too.  The powers-that-be need to do a much better job educating the public about our exams, our education, our work, and our responsibilities -- not just show TV ads with lovely buildings, as AIA did a couple of years ago.  And we wonder why we are underpaid.  But I digress.

    In the interest of furthering the discussion in the webinar later today, I asked my son (he is a newly minted physician who has just finished residency) if he has had locked questions on his exams.  (He has taken dozens of exams at Prometric and elsewhere -- and has used both scratch paper and erasable tablets for their few calcs.)  He replied that they have "blocks" of questions on their exams and when you get to the end of a block you can take a break and then those questions are locked.  (Or even locked if you absolutely must take a break in the middle of a block -- for the questions you have already accessed.)  This directly relates to a comment I made above about separating sections.

    Our exams have not been constructed this way.  It's a time management issue.  We manage our time by working back and forth from one part to the other.  Now we are going to have to guesstimate how much time for each part.  PDD is now going to be 4 hrs. 5 min. for 100 items.  Let's say you want to allow 2 hrs. for the case studies and let's say we assume 20 questions for those.  (worst case)  So that leaves 125 min. to handle the first 80 questions -- while simultaneously trying to make notes, calcs, and sketches with a mouse!  If you allot more time for that part, you might run short of time in the case studies.  But 125 min. for 80 questions might be tight.  In the past, you could try to finish your case studies more quickly to allow time to go over the other questions, but not now.  So now you must guesstimate your time for case studies VERY ACCURATELY.  Otherwise, you could possibly find yourself twiddling your thumbs at the end of case studies while questions from the first part sit there unanswered and unanswerable.  Alternatively, you could dehydrate yourself to power through the whole darn thing in one sitting.

    To return to the medical exams .... "blocks" of questions make sense.  If a block has a certain number of minutes assigned to it, you know how much time you have for that block and you manage your time accordingly.  This is logical.

    As Mark stated, this new locking "feature" is going to make THIS TEST (5.0 as it exists) harder, more stressful, and less successful.

    And if you look at the NCARB stats (which I just did today), the drooping curves are going to droop further.

    I urge everyone to give this some more serious thought.  This is not what we need.  If anything, we need MORE TIME.

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    Richard Balkins (Edited )

    Robin, I can support the breaking it into two parts, with cut scores as you are inferring with the case studies being its own exam section. Passing the division still means passing the pre-break and post-break part. The exam can be better engineered for online proctoring. 

    I don't want test takers being in a position where they are enabled to more effectively cheat using the break period to facilitate their cheating because how are they monitored. Yeah, you might have a lunch in that break. You're exam might not be starting at 9AM sharp.  It might be 10:30AM or 11AM so about mid-way is lunch time for many.... you know.... noon-time lunch break like at work. It could even be dinner if you're doing the exam after work day. Could be for some.

    Are you going to be restricted to staying in the test center for the break period? It's only two of the exam divisions that gets 45 minute break (PPD and PDD).

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    Richard Balkins (Edited )

    Mark, I agree about the code of ethics and written agreement. The problem is the general public doesn't know if an architect had cheated on the exam. Some people get away with it and got licensed and the unsuspecting public is at danger. Yes, a cheater will attempt to cheat no matter what and maybe find a way but we must not make it easy for them. NCARB and the proctors needs to take measures to combat cheating to a level that it would not be simple. As someone who seen NCARB's changes since ARE 3.0 was being administered, I can say I expect sudden changes in procedures. There's a well documented history that NCARB has.... enough so that we can write a book about it. 

    Cheaters don't really have a guilty conscious about their own cheating. They get away with it and they are just like the current resident in the White House (sorry for the political reference but it is the truth... sadly), all who have the idea that rules applies to everyone else but not them and when they are licensed, they are getting their way anyway. They have to be disciplined seriously and very publicly for it to deter them and others. 

    It is scary because the general public doesn't know if a licensed architect cheated on the exam. It doesn't show on licensure profile. Permanent hall of shame and license revocation, massive fines, and jail time is what you need to penalize cheaters with and I mean all of those penalties needs to be employed to really be a deterrant. Who would want to cheat if getting caught means multi-million dollar fines, 5 to 10 years in state prison, life-time "hall of shame", forever barred from licensure, and and any other penalty that can be levied under law... basically having the book thrown at them. 

    You can't charge or discipline someone for cheating if you don't A) catch them and B) have evidence. NCARB's strategy kind of makes the certain cheating tactics moot. 

    I do wish you best. I get the concerns of the whole combination of rule changes. These changes are most certainly not the last of them.

     

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    Caroline Bair

    Are we still going to be able to take unofficial breaks? I know the test clock would still be rolling but I would almost rather run to the bathroom and have access to all the questions then take an official break. 

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    Tony Young

    Caroline,

    You can now take your breaks when and how you want. You don't have to take one 30 min break you could do 3 10 minute breaks if you wanted.

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    Caroline Bair

    Tony, that doesn't answer my question. I understand you can click the break button whenever you want with the new format. I want to know if you can leave the testing room and not click the "break" button. 

    You are able to do that today, it is just what I refer to as an "unofficial" break where the test clock is still rolling. 

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    Robin Kuc

    Caroline, that would defeat the whole purpose of the locking system, so I would bet money on the answer being "no".

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    Richard Balkins (Edited )

    Richard,

    My friend. The general public does not know that architects are a licensed profession.  Does not know we even take exams to become registered.  Let alone does not know what we do, how we do it, or how much it costs.

    The simple solution is - disallow someone to test.  You can not revoke a license you do not have (hence why you are testing).  Prison for cheating on a test makes me laugh.  Just my general life comment - the LESS PRISON THE BETTER.  Next thing you know NCARB will have some sort of stake in private prisons for cheaters and it becomes another for profit racket based on how many people you can catch "cheating."

    If you cheat on the NCARB test, then you will never be a registered architect.  I think that accomplishes the purpose.

    Also - I have worked with MANY people who are not registered, have never taken the exams, and work as "architects."

    I do not know anything about you Richard, where you work, your level of experience, or any details like that. But the above is my experience in the 12 years I have been working in architecture offices.

    If I had a dollar for every time I have heard "I wanted to be an architect but...." I would not need to work.

    Anyway.  I stand by my opinion that this is going to make the test harder, more stressful, and less successful for candidates.

     

    Mark, 

    It is surprising the general public doesn't know it is a licensed profession since it had been one for nearly 75+ years. Funny that they may know a barber is a licensed profession but not an Architect. 

    If one cheats on the exams, how do you know they cheated? How does NCARB know if they cheated? You can't take a license away from someone who never had one but you can injunction them for life via the courts if the courts were to take this seriously. NCARB could bar the person from taking the exams but do they make it permanent without second chances? Do they? What is NCARB's disciplinary policy? Is it a verbal "shame on you" and they can come back in two years and test and become an architect as if this was never an issue? Maybe the licensing boards will take a pause or maybe they don't bother. How effective are they? I don't know the answer.

    I can see your point about "LESS PRISON THE BETTER". 

    If this is true: "If you cheat on the NCARB test, then you will never be a registered architect"... then it would be great as long as it is CONSISTENTLY enforced with significant penalty. Problem is people have became licensed even with lying about their AXP / IDP hours (fudging the numbers) and cheating on the exam or something.... all without getting caught. Problem with reporting some of these individuals is they use anonymity (aliases) when bragging about it and you can't really identify who they are because they don't disclose their real identity so you don't know. I see this on some forums. There is problem with accountability in that case. I would have reported them if I had a viable means of determining their real identity that is admissible evidence in court (in other words, not requiring a criminal act to obtain the data proof). I do recognize that a most are honest just as most taking the CPBD certification are honest. 

    If we care about HSW of the public, we don't cheat. Plain and simple as that. It is not just about the money because if it's just about money, there are many other occupations a person can do that doesn't require licensure of any kind that is financially far more lucrative than is typical of architecture.

    However, you can't penalize people for cheating unless you catch them doing it. Some sort of "admission" a decade or two after the fact is beyond legal reach of penalty otherwise they can lawyer up and challenge any kind of penalty because there is certain evidence standards to be met. It would lead licensing boards in a position where they can't be certain the person said it. They could say, their account was hacked and someone was saying falsehood. Legally, you need independent evidence not a forum post of someone speaking anonymously via alias. You need the evidence like the recording of the exam session. NCARB, licensing boards, and the proctors needs to catch the people & have the evidence to support their legal defensibility of the disciplinary action. Otherwise, it can and will be legally challenged. 

    I do agree partly that NCARB needs measures in place for those breaks so as to combat cheating especially if you will have the freedom to go off camera. In a home, what is the likelihood that the bathroom is immediately adjacent to the room used for testing. For me, the room I am using has no bathroom on the floor and it is not directly adjacent to the room. I have to go down flights of stair to the next floor down and through an enclosed porch, kitchen, and dining room, a small little hallway section to the bathroom. Not a lot of distance but there isn't camera everywhere to monitor my movements throughout, virtually uninterrupted. You might say, the policy is okay for online proctoring but not okay for in-person test center because they have the whole facility with security cameras recording where people are everywhere except the bathrooms. The policy here is essentially so it be the same regarding breaks regardless of venue of testing whether at test centers or not. In effect, everyone's test taking practices need to be adjusted regarding those test items like not waiting until the end to answer them but to periodically go back and answer those questions you viewed and didn't answer and to check those you previously answered because you won't be able to go back to them after breaks. If you can do whatever it takes to minimize the amount of breaks you need, all the better. If that means not drinking a lot of fluids before and during the exam and taking as much bathroom trips before the exam starts so the need is very little, it may help but you'll feel dry and exhausted for sure.

     

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    Richard Balkins

    It will be for both in-person and online proctored considering you'll be able to take multiple breaks from what I can tell. In addition, it also a means to prevent a test taker from viewing a question and then go outside or elsewhere and call or message a friend who took and passed that exam division to get an answer for an exam item they viewed. You really can't ask such a friend to answer a question you haven't seen yet. It's an anti-cheat practice. It doesn't matter if we have not had such an issue with the ARE but if any other exam administered by Prometric or any proctor for that matters has had issues including exams proctored on behalf of grade school (Pre-K through grade 12) and colleges/universities, they are going to combat such practices of text book definitions of cheating and combat new technological ways of cheating. 

     

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    Richard Balkins

    Mark, 

    Do you want cheaters to call their friends who passed the exam to answer questions they looked at before a break and then be able to come back after the break and either change their answers or answer those questions that they got the answers to by someone they know who passed the exam? Do you want them to be enabled to cheat? That is what they will do and every month, there is a percentage number of individuals taking the ARE that cheats on the ARE. 

    For example: There is no bathroom adjacent to or on the same floor that the room I have for taking the ARE via online proctoring. There is no way that the remote proctor is going to be able to monitor my every movement to and from the bathroom during the bathroom break unless you are asking us to piss into a bottle or bucket in front of them so we never physically leave the room? During that break, there is nothing (other than my moral ethics and integrity) from cheating by calling someone who passed the ARE 5.0 exam and getting answers to questions I saw on the exam. Do you really want NCARB to entirely depend on the exam security on my moral ethics and integrity? I'm sorry but not everyone taking the exam shares that integrity of honest, morals, etc. I don't want those people to be enabled to cheat. If we want to be able to leave the room and go to a bathroom, we have to have measures to protect the exam security who will exploit that "break" time to cheat by being able to return to the exam and answer or (change their initial answers to) those questions they saw before the break. This means, you have to give an answer and be settled with the answers given because when you go on break, you won't be able to change them.

    Yes, you need to adapt but guess what, you are an aspiring professional so you better be able to adapt. NCARB doesn't answer to us. They answer to the licensing boards and their respective legislative bodies and their respective state governors and the general public at large. In fact, it is their imperative mission, purpose, and duty to make the exam challenging and difficult. It is the point of the licensing process to be difficult and challenging and upholding an ever higher minimum standard in order to advance the profession and its status. If it is so easy that a 3rd grader can pass the ARE, and be licensed by the time they graduate high school, then it really puts to question why even have architectural licensing. It is gatekeeping. That's the point. Competent passes. Non-competent fails. Period. 

    I support the ability for candidates to use scratch paper. However, I do have to side with NCARB on not being able to go back to questions you viewed (regardless of whether you answered them or not) before a break...... when you return from the break. I support exam security with that regard considering online proctoring or even test center proctoring. What stops you from going outside to your car on break and calling someone who passed the exam for answers to questions you viewed before the break? 

    While there are many questions, there is still a finite number of questions and even if some of the questions you will see, your friend will not have necessarily seen but there are some that the person would have seen. There isn't a pool of 1 Octillion test items per section of each division. If it was that high, it wouldn't matter because there wouldn't ever be two exam questions entirely alike or repeat use of an exam question.

     

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