I got a likely pass on Tuesday, and now I'm awaiting my official score. It was my last exam, so all of this is behind me. I started testing in 2011, passed some exams that expired, failed some exams, retook them, and waited until the last minute to retake an exam that expired.
Taking the Test:
I was the first ARE tester at the PSI center in Olathe, Kansas. Check in was easy, workers were friendly, and it all seemed less officious than Prometric.
My chair was squeaky, and I probably annoyed the other test takers. That doesn't sound like a big problem, but it really is. These tests are stressful, and testers need to be clearheaded and calm. They can't be distracted by things like that. Nervous, unfocused, and scared people make mistakes. Luckily for me, I didn't worry whether I was annoying other people because I knew there was nothing I could do about it. Stay calm and positive and don't let the environment distract you.
The test was pretty strait forward with comparable difficulty and content to the NCARB PA practice exam. I think that was the best study tool because using the software (whiteboard) was by far the most difficult part of the test. I took it twice and passed both times.
I also got a one month Balast subscription for PA and went through most of that, took all the quizzes, and two of their practice exams. It was probably helpful, but I can't say for certain.
I skimmed through parts of Building Codes Illustrated that I though would be useful, Chapters 3, 5, 6, and 10. I wish I had looked at Chapter 18 though. BCI was definitely helpful.
I watched a couple Hyperfine videos.
I think you could take the NCARB exam, that will tell you what you need work on, and research those topics. That would be enough study. If you want to spend hundreds on the other stuff, I'm sure it's all great. If not, you have options.
I took Hyperfine's advice and didn't spend a lot of time on problems I didn't know. But I did mark them for review and got a better idea of what they were asking the second time through.
I took a 15 minute break with 1:15 left before starting the Case Studies. I was going to take a break after the first Case Study but decided to power through. I finished just in time. Well, actually, I just thew something at the last problem because I didn't really have time to do it correctly.
There was a drag and drop question that was tricky because you had to compromise and ignore one of the space's requirements. At least, that's what it seemed like.
Another question in which I had to pick the right image seemed to have no correct answers.
On case studies you really just need to be careful and pay attention to everything. Give yourself plenty of time on them but remember each question is only worth 1 point. If it's taking too long, mark it and move on.
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