Digital White Board is a Terrible, Terrible Idea

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    Dean Schimmenti

    I'll post my comments here too!!

    I would consider myself an OLD tester, compared to most, due to my age.  LIFE got in the way and took priority over my licensing. I am now 45!  Yes, that is a long time to wait. I only have two exams left, which to me will be the most difficult because they will require more math solving and critical thinking.  I am not big on using technology. While drafting has become easier, I still do most of my designing and number crunching on trash paper and notepads. I can say FOR A FACT, that trying to use a whiteboard on a screen WILL GREATLY INCREASE MY STRESS LEVEL AND CONCENTRATION during the exam.

    I am also left handed, and use the mouse with my right. How am I supposed to write LEGIBILY with a mouse as quick as I do with my hand!!!!!  When was the last time YOU tried to draw a controlled straight line with a mouse (without assistance)!! If you could, it took you a while. Now multiply that 100 fold to make some legible numbers, letters, etc. that you can reference while you are working a problem!!

    NCARB should at least continue offering paper and pencil to those who want to use them.  Just like the MULTIPLE times they have changed the testing from 1.0 - 2.0 - 3.0 - to whatever we are on now. They offered a 6-month to a Year overlap for those in the current platform to either finish or transfer to the new one. IT SHOULD BE THE SAME FOR THIS MAJOR CHANGE TOO!!!

    Yes, times have changed, but designing still takes creativity and thought. These are best done with a pencil in hand, doodling on a piece of paper.

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    Sharon Harvey

    I recently posted on another thread on this topic and it got deleted, so I will repost here. Taking away scratch paper is another tactic by NCARB to make the exam more difficult to charge us more fees.

    We are trained as architects to sketch and figure out designs and problems with a pencil and paper - we are not aiming for a certification in a profession that forces people to stare at a computer screen intensely for 4-1/2 hours (which is the length of some of the tests). In an office there are printed drawings, sketches, material samples, real world elements that we use to put a successful project together. It is proven that intense computer screen time affects our eyes and brains - and it is not just fatigue in an already stressful test. There are headaches, eye strain, neck and back pain from not looking down the ability to concentrate - are all side effects that will be amplified by removing scratch paper. This should be easily proved by a court of law, and I have not been made aware of a case where a candidate cheated with the scratch paper- which is removed by the proctoring center anyway. 

    These exams have ridiculously low passing rates- 42% for PPD, and that includes retakers. These exams are not reflective of one's understanding of the material- they are trial and error on how to pass an NCARB test. By removing scratch paper they are making the test more difficult so that the pass rates stay down and they can keep charging, to pay their over paid CEO salary over $400,000 / year to lobby support of their NCARB dictatorship.

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    Heather Peterson

    One of the ways I calm my anxieties is by taking pen to paper. The act of writing down a problem, drawing a diagram, or pulling thoughts from my head and into paper Relaxes me and enables me to think clearly. In a high stress environment we are forced into to take these exams, where we have zero control over environmental factors, this is the one element I can rely on to steady my brain. This is not an uncommon feeling for sufferers of general anxiety. If I am barred from using pen and paper You are effectively hindering my abilities because of my mental illness. Architects know how important environmental factors are in emotional well being. They know and understand we all have differences in abilities. You taught us this. Now listen to us. We are coming out in large numbers to condemn poor decisions that we pay for. Make the right decision.

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    NCARB

    Heather,

    As noted in the letter from the Board of Directors, the decision to add a whiteboard to replace scratch paper along with the other changes to the ARE as part of the online proctoring option launch has been reaffirmed after additional deliberation. The decisions being made follow industry best practices and the steps NCARB is putting in place as part of the launch, including the re-evaluation of the cut score for each division, ensure that the changes continue to provide a fair assessment to all candidates.

    I understand that you may have previously used the scratch paper as a way to diminish anxiety while testing. An alternate accommodation can be provided through the testing accommodations process to support a candidate's ability to manage anxiety above and beyond normal testing anxiety.

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    Sean Dorsy

    NCARB, it is interesting you bring up best practices, because as of yet, NCARB hasn't shown they know what those are. When will NCARB strive to achieve 90% pass rating for first-time test takers, as other professional examinations do? What faith do you expect candidates to have with an adjustment to the cut-score?--since the adoption of 5.0 the average passing rate is 50%. 

    NCARB, you are literally failing us as candidates. You all need to do better.

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    NCARB

    Sean,

    It is important to understand that NCARB doesn't set pass rates and no other defensible examination sets the pass rate. The cut score is established using psychometric standards that through the process determines the minimum number of points a minimally qualified person should be able to achieve. On the ARE, each operational question has one scoring point opportunity - thus every correctly answered operational item earns one point towards achieving the cut score.

    NCARB can not "achieve a 90% pass rating" - it is only the cohort of candidates that are testing that impact the pass rate. If NCARB were to artificially lower the cut score so that candidates achieved a 90% passing rate, the results would not be defensible.

    Other licensure examinations that have high pass rates have educational and residency programs that are highly structured and aligned to the objectives of the licensure exam. The path leading up to the architect registration exam is not nearly as structured.

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    Sean Dorsy (Edited )

    NCARB, I am not asking NCARB to lower the cut score--we need qualified architects to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the public after all. I am asking NCARB to help licensure candidates reach their career goals.

    Despite what the tagline states, NCARB does not help licensure candidates, NCARB helps licensing boards. NCARB actively hinders candidate growth through a non-transparent grading system, buggy exam software, non-responsive communication, insufficient exam prep & information, and most importantly (and since you brought it up), NCARB falls short on the integration of their services. There is no excuse for the 50% pass rate besides NCARB's irresponsibility. NCARB is directly involved in the process of aligning education, residency (IDP/AXP), examination, and the profession of architecture. If the path leading up to the ARE is not as structured as other professions, that is proof NCARB has failed it's licensure candidates.

    NCARB needs to spend less time hindering the growth of all candidates because a few might cheat, and instead, actively promote growth so no candidate feels the need to cheat. Help us grow. Help us reach our career goals.

     

     

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    Dean Schimmenti

    Jared,

    Which INDUSTRY are they referring to? Obviously NOT architecture!  WHO reaffirmed the choice? The same people who made it in the first place? Why would change their minds. They don't care about us.

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    NCARB

    Dean,

    You are correct that in my statement above I am not referring to architectural industry standards, I am referring to psychometric industry standards that commonly govern the development of standardized tests. As noted in other posts, NCARB works with an outside consultant, Alpine Testing Solutions, to provide item and test analysis as well as other test-related services. Industry testing standards are a combined effort by the American Educational Research Association, the American Psychological Association, and the National Council on Measurement in Education.

    As to who reaffirmed the decision to continue with an online delivery option, I was referring to the NCARB Board of Directors. The Board of directors held a meeting this past weekend and discussed the concerns being raised by candidates. The Board took those concerns into consideration along with the other factors involved and decided it best to continue as planned with the online proctoring launch as noted.

     

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    Rochelle Rusinko

    One important fact that seems to be consistently left out of any discussion regarding these “white boards” is how am I supposed to sketch anything / take notes with the mouse, have it be legible, and be expected to complete the exam within the time limit; since I’m left handed and use the mouse with my right hand????? And I’m supposed to just accept NCARB’s response in their letter to candidates just days ago.. “in order to maintain fairness across delivery modes, NCARB needs to ensure candidates are provided the same tools while testing, whether they are testing online or onsite.” NCARB needs to explain in detail how this will be achieved for someone like me who is left handed and uses the mouse with their right hand. Until this question is answered, no NCARB you are not creating fairness across the board. It’s just a tag line that sounds good.

    Also, Reducing the number of questions asked on the test will only increase the point value for each question; especially if NCARB still Scores the exam on individual content areas, as well as, the exam as a whole (I’m fairly certain there won’t be any partial credit given either). Let’s not forget those individual content areas that ended up being only 5% of the exam, basically forcing you to get all the questions correct otherwise you fail that content area and thus fail the exam. My point is all that I see resulting from this scoring / reduction in number of questions is a greater opportunity to fail the exam. It’s simple math; with less questions, each question is with more, and assuming each question is worth 1 point... it will take more correct answers to achieve a passing score (than it does using current scoring system). I would love to see how NCARB fudges the math on this one to have the “passing score” be equal to what it is now. Unless NCARB lowers the overall passing score; which we all know won’t happen.

    Additionally the cost of this change to the exam better be coming out of NCARB’s pocket, and not mine. I had to suffer increased exam fees because a few people cheated or disclosed too much info on the exams. Now because of Covid19 and NCARB’s push to do remote exams, I feel this will just be an excuse to increase the test fees again. Here is a thought...how about NCARB work with prometric to have better testing facilities, ac units with hepa filtration / provide cleaner air/ less recirculating air, and less people crammed into a small room to take these exams and not do any online remote test taking. That would be better money spent, then on changing the exam just to justify the “white board”. Despite your best efforts NCARB, I believe this is just opening the door for another cheating scandal (based upon the past events). Just an FYI NCARB, At this point in my life I have no physical space available in my home to dedicate for the online testing that will meet your guidelines; so I’m automatically being forced to go to the testing centers to take these exams despite my concerns about Covid19 and keeping myself safe during the exam duration. Again I fail to see how this is creating fairness across the board.

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    Dean Schimmenti

    Jared,

    Thanks for verifying what "industry" you were referring too. That does add to the fact that NCARB does not listen to their testing candidates!  Architectural exams are different!!!  Many other professional tests can get away without using scratch paper. Any test that requires complex math problems and multiple layout configurations NEEDS paper in order to save answers to parts of the equations or layouts that are needed in later steps to solve the problem. 

    As I mentioned before WHY would NCARB change their minds when THEY DON'T CARE!!!!!

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    Grace Lee

    Agree with what everyone's thinking! Wouldn't iPads or tablets of the like be more helpful so that we're able to actually draw rather than use a mouse? I've made attempts to draw with a mouse and it's as expected: AWFUL.

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    Kaitlyn Levchak

    These exams are extremely difficult as is, and we need to be able to work out the problems on paper the way we do when we’re practicing architecture in our jobs. It’s the way we think. Now your telling us, your taking an already ridiculously hard exam and your not allowing us paper and pen to work out our problems on?! I have PDD and PPD left, I’ve already taken them and failed. There are some majority difficult engineering questions that require one to sketch out details and thoughts to solve. You can not do that with a mouse. So, I am extremely disappointed with this change, discouraged and disappointed.

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    Gregory Brown

    NCARB - I’ve just read quite a few of the recent posts about this new “white board”, and throw out the pencil and paper idea. I believe that won’t work. Do not change this!

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    Dena Davani (Edited )

    The exams are hard enough to focus on without the non-sensical changes. PLEASE STOP!!! There is a COMPLETELY different interaction with cognition when you hold a pen and work out the problem than a stupid mouse on a stupid screen that is already half the problem of these exams. You are "solving" issues that don't exist and leaving issues that exist unresolved... PLEASE STOP! 

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    Robert Hall (Edited )

    Seems like the best practice would be:

    • If you take the test at a testing center - you get the option of using both pen & paper and digital whiteboard (since there are cameras and proctors)
    • If you take the test at home - you MUST use a digital whiteboard (that's the downside of taking it at home)

    This solution is perfect for everyone. Clearly, EVERYONE has concerns about being efficient with a 'digital whiteboard' and NCARB could EASILY implement this solution to ease the stress.  

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    Nicholas Christensen (Edited )

    After taking my first test with this whiteboard (after practicing with the demo exam) I can safely say that this is not the correct solution. Even if we could agree a whiteboard is okay, this one is horribly designed. I experienced several glitches where my text boxes "exploded" and none of my input was legible so I had to clear it and start over. Also when I'd go back to a previous or flagged question, my work was deleted so I'd have to start the question over from scratch which obviously doesn't happen with pen and paper. This is a ridiculous decision that was even more poorly executed.

    I realize the exam length was reduced to allow for additional time per question, but the added potential of stress and technical problems outside our control was really worrying. To future test takers, I highly recommend you practice the demo exam and figure out a strategy to avoid reworking through problems that get deleted because time will be more scarce now. If anyone figures out a better way to do this, I'm all ears, because 3 hours of using that whiteboard was miserable. I feel for the test takers using it for the longer exams.

     

    To offer some constructive criticism, I'd suggest at a minimum, that the whiteboard's content is saved for each question. IMO the biggest benefit of scratch paper aside from speed of writing/sketching is that you can go back to your previous notes. Through previous tests, I got into the habit of jotting down notes to save for later, and this is no longer possible.

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    Jared Hopkins (Edited )

    Hello Nicholas, 

    please check out this link.

    We are all of the same mindset.  This was terrible idea.

    -Jared

     

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    Tony Young

    Nick,

    I had a similar issue. Where my text box disappeared it happen to me when going in-between the calculator and when white board. I noticed you had to make sure you clicked on which feature you wanted to use. I found myself not wanting to use the whiteboard board and tried my best to just use the calculator.

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    Brandon Estes

    I quit NCARB as of my last failed PDD, right before the "Whiteboard" was implemented.  ARE 5.0 was so bad I didn't have the energy to deal with ARE 5.1.  NCARB's slogan for ARE 5.1 should be, "Become an architect with MS Paint from 1989!"  I am hearing so much (additional) frustration with friends and former colleagues who are choosing to continue the torture by going for this license, one of whom is on this thread and told me about the disaster that is Whiteboard.

    That said, the only way to get NCARB to listen is to affect their pocketbook.  Per NCARBs IRS 990 (public document), exam fees pretty much equal NCARBs payroll, or in other words, exam fees pay the half- and quarter-million dollar salaries of unnecessary NCARB executives as well as support staff (between 11 and 12 million per year - that's a lot of failed exams...do you think that's an accident?).  Why do you think when 5.0 rolled out with one less exam, they increased fees?  Note that NCARB spends the equivalent of about 1/10th of the revenue from exam fees on the actual exams.

    Every year, NCARB must perform a budget projection.  In this projection, they use software and analyze data to determine how many people are currently testing, of those people how many exams they have left, etc... to get a rough estimate of the revenue they will have from exam fees in the next budget year.  If somebody could organize a strike, convince people across the US to stop testing for 3 or 4 months, THAT would get NCARB's attention.  The problem I see with this idea is a bunch of people might agree to not test but secretly they will continue testing.  Since NCARB makes about $1,000,000 per month on exam fees, imagine the impact on their budget if people stopped testing, all at once, for even 2 or 3 months?  It would get somebody's attention.

    Without a lawsuit or a "strike," NCARB will eventually die (or be over-hauled), but this will be a slow death.  Matriculation in architecture programs was on the decline prior to COVID and most people who do actually finish school do not go on to get licensed.  As the number of architects continues to decline, licensing bodies (NCARB, state boards) and trade unions (AIA) will have less lobbying power.  With fewer and fewer people testing for licensure and architects retiring in droves no longer paying reciprocity fees, NCARB will have to continually increase fees to cover exorbitant operating costs to fund lavish "conventions" (drunk parties at resorts) and ridiculous salaries.  The rising costs of licensure will push more and more people away from studying architecture because the benefits don't justify the costs - it's a reinforcing system.  Here in CA, the CA Architect Board is already feeling the decline in fees - in response, they are now offering some retired licensed crap (for a fee) but it's useless/you can't practice with it; it's just for show, basically, "Give us money for nothing."

    Where is Michael Riscica?  He's got a big following - maybe he can organize a strike.

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    Dena Davani

    Hi Brandon! As an Aquarius in this Aquarian age of change, I am fully behind this idea. However, as someone who is familiar with change and understands it only happens when we stand up ourselves, I would say rather than asking Michael Riscica (even though he is welcome to join), the best way forward is to start yourself. I am your first signature and even potentially a partner to collect the signatures. Let’s go! Out of respect for your initiation, I will not make any further steps in starting the strike. Let me know when you sign up for this move or if you need help getting started. You can contact me dedachar @gmail .
    Everyone please show your support for this strike in the comment section as we prepare further for the strike.

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    Robin Kuc

    This thought has crossed my mind too.  However, there are probably a certain number of people who are up against the rolling clock, so they should not be expected to join.  Speaking for myself... I'm in.  Even though I can probably qualify for a special accommodation, I will refrain from testing until such time as there is consensus among the candidates regarding the proper solution.  We absolutely must support one another.  There is strength in numbers.  If most of us abstain and NCARB's income dries up, they will be forced to take a seat at the negotiation table.

    You can reach me at:  business450-action@yahoo.com

     

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    Brandon Estes

    Hi De Dav and Robin, since I have access to this forum I was asked to post something to this effect.  But I have put NCARB and licensure in my past.  Though I would love to see practice and the path to licensure be relevant to this century, I don't have the contacts nor the time to put into this.  It was merely a suggestion.

    Another thing to ponder though: if NCARB makes about $1,000,000 per month (or $12 million per year) on exam fees, if NCARB publishes how many exams are administered per year and how many people are taking exams, would it be possible to deduce, roughly, how many exam failures occur per month or per year...?  Not sure if there is another value missing.  NCARB has this data but they won't be transparent about it.

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