I just passed my first attempt at the CE exam. Came off failing PDD last month and wanted to bounce back in the meantime while waiting for the 2 month rollover.
Overall I was quite surprised at how difficult it felt. I was more confident going in than right before submitting the exam for scoring - the PPI and Black Spectacles (two main study resources along with the Ballast book) practice exams were relevant and definitely useful, but lacking in a couple key areas. And most frustrating was slogging through the case studies with overly detailed, heavy PDF drawing files that Prometric struggled to load. More on that later, but I was genuinely afraid of crashing the testing program while navigating those documents.
One thing I felt unprepared for was construction field analysis and figuring out some detailing/assembly standards. I had a good number of questions presenting a photo and asking how the Architect should respond with answers that didn't feel completely right or differentiated enough. This is a given by now, but the ARE really loves to lean into the "most correct" response so many of the answers could be reasonable and none were really perfect. Probably a good reflection of the realities of the profession but not great as a testing metric in my opinion. The PPI and Black Spectacles exams didn't include many field photo questions and the answers were a little bit more discrete.
I also feel the way Black Spectacles phrases questions and presents answers is too... cheeky? Sometimes answers are blatantly wrong and extraneous info is clearly thrown in to trip someone up. The ARE exam is a little more nuanced in this regard - and in turn more difficult overall. I may have gotten a false sense of preparedness from Black Spectacles, but again it's a good resource to have and the video series is great with including a real project side series for a literal teaching example.
So the Case Studies... much, much more involving than any of the previous ones I've experienced, in large part to the extremely clunky document display. Buffering the documents was slow and caused the entire program to lag. The display window is too small and requires a lot of scrolling back and forth (again, slow and laggy). The general question topics required a lot of back and forth checking of drawings and specifications and I was left hapless with a couple, unable to find the information after flipping back countless time. I really hope the new testing platform fixes some of these software issues - and that eventually NCARB pares down some of the resources to the essentials instead of overloading them.
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