I had graduated from Virginia Tech around three years before starting the course and was nearing the end of my required hours but had only passed one exam so far. I had Ermann as a studio professor, acoustics professor, and building systems professor during my time there. I always found his classes engaging, his personality entertaining, and his command over the material impressive. He has carried all of that over to the Amber Book course. What I always found most unique about him, and this course as a result, is that he challenges assumptions and looks at everything critically. This can be seen just in how he treats the AREs, as one big exam instead of 6 individual ones but is also found throughout the course material. If anyone reading this happens to be a Hokie and took Ermann's classes there, his teaching style does not change for this course. A lot of the material is almost word for word from his lectures. So, if you took his classes and enjoyed them, I think this is a great course. If you know you don't like him, then this course might not be for you.
Ermann has a clear mastery of all the material which is refreshing. I think if anything was to be improved it would be the editing and video production. You can often hear him swallowing and making mouth noises that isn't pleasant to hear. The cuts within and between videos can be jarring at times. There isn't a lot of connect between the videos and the workbook, the videos will have you answer questions in the workbook in a pretty random order. I think it would be really nice if the workbook went more sequentially with the videos. This part does improve a bit as the course progresses, but when the course starts out feeling disconnected it can be a little disorienting. All things considered though, I would still absolutely recommend the course, those things are minor annoyances and do not take away from the content he is teaching you. As Ermann says, the course is to teach you the content, not to be friends with you or make you feel good or give you hacks to pass the test, and he is successful in teaching you the content.
The practice exam experience through Amber Book is honestly pretty awful. The questions are good and similar to what is found on the tests, but the UI/UX/whatever you want to call it almost couldn't be worse. The exams are part of the same structure as the rest of the course and just differentiated as a different "lesson". That won't mean much until you are in the course, but what it does mean is that there is no ability to save or keep record of your practice tests. So, you can't go back and look at your wrong answers once you move on from the practice test. The first thing he advises you to do is physically move your browser window so you can't accidentally click "next lesson" instead of "next question". If you have to instruct me to do this, I shouldn't have to tell you that the design is bad. Working with the case studies is also clunky at best. The resources have to be loaded as new tabs individually and will range from PDF to google doc to just random links to code websites. Getting to the end of what was an amazing course, then having to deal with such a subpar practice exam experience was very disappointing. I am not expecting it to be exactly like the real thing like Black Spectacles is, but there is massive room for improvement here. They practice exams should really be their own part of the website and course in my opinion.
The format of this course keeps things very engaging. The videos feel like a cross between his lectures and a video you would find on youtube, not test prep. He mixes in questions between and throughout videos so they don’t drag on, most of the videos are 10 minutes or less, and it sounds like he is just talking to you about the material instead of reading a script.
Because these tests were going to be my critical path to licensure, it was worth paying to get them done quickly in my mind. I knew that once I was licensed, I would get a promotion that came with a raise and increased benefits as well as increased marketability if I wanted to apply to jobs with different firms. The price was hard to swallow because my firm had a subscription to Black Spectacles, Ballast and had Brightwood handbooks, but it was worth coming out of pocket for this to me. My reasoning was that if I get licensed sooner, I would get my raise sooner, and that the price of just a couple of months of this course would be offset quickly by the pay increase that would come from it.
The workload is a lot, there is no denying that, but it is doable. And as Ermann emphasizes in his philosophy, the hard work is limited to just a few weeks. I used my firms resources to pass my first exam, project management, by studying an hour or two a night 3x a week and it took a couple of months. Doing the math on how long it would take to study material from those sources for the rest of my exams, I was looking at years before I would be finished. So, I decided to work really hard for 9 weeks instead of working sort of hard for a few years. I would typically study for an hour or two each weeknight and then grind on the weekends to get another 10-15 hours in.
I passed my 5 remaining tests, everything except Project Management, on my first try over the course on two separate weekends. I took PA on the first Saturday, PcM and CE on the first Sunday, PPD on the second Saturday and PDD on the second Sunday. It was a brutal mind numbing two weekends but now I am done. I honestly felt like the exams were fairly easy. There were obviously some hard questions on each of the exams but overall, most of the content felt familiar and simple. I think the course does a great job teaching the concepts, which means you don't have to rely what you have memorized, but instead on what you know.
These are just some things that this process has taught me and advice I have for people that are taking exams.
Use the exam to help you pass the exam. The exam gives you so much information, from the case study resources, to diagrams and formulas, to the wording of other questions. Flag anything you don’t know for sure, there is a decent chance that there will be information somewhere on the test that can help you.
My biggest piece of advice is related, use the case studies to your advantage. The Case Studies straight up give you answers to questions beyond the case study questions. Especially on PcM and PjM, if you see a question related to code or a contract, flag it. Then you can see if the case studies give you the contract they are asking about.
The resources have a search function. This is what makes the resources so valuable throughout the test. If you get a question asking about what would be an additional service, for example, go search the B101 for “additional service” and boom, you don’t even have to think or worry about if you are remembering correctly.
Skip questions you don’t know or are going to be slow to work out. If you get a math question, especially if it is free response, and you don’t know how to quickly get the answer, move on. It just isn’t worth your time. Come back to it later and try if you have time.
For the amber book specifically, I got lazy when it came to reviewing the previous days and weeks material. I really regret not spending more time going over what I previously learned throughout the course.
Don't over think the questions. Trust your gut and be confident you know the material.
The answers aren't going to be "sort of right". If you get a question that is more of a trivia kind of question that relies on knowing a specific niche term, and you see three of the four options are terms you have heard, but don't quite fit, pick the one you have never heard of before. It's probably the right term, you just don't know it.
Please sign in to leave a comment.