Note: This post has been sitting in my draft box for a few days now. Every time I thought about the exam my stomach would get knotted up, and I’d convince myself there were better things to do than finish this. Sorry. Will try not to let my emotions/laziness get the best of me next time. -j
Ah Prometric, we meet again. I can’t say that I was looking forward to spending another sweaty palmed Saturday at this testing facility, but it was incredibly comforting to walk into a center I had been to before. Earlier in the summer I passed the LEED Green Associate exam here, and so being familiar with the process and atmosphere helped me feel more comfortable walking in for the CDS exam. The staff remembered me from my previous visit, which caught me off guard, but was very cool. I took the exam at 1pm… strange for me because I’m typically a morning person. There was hardly anyone checking in for the afternoon when I got there, so it felt like I had the center to myself. It almost seemed more relaxed and friendly than when I took the LEED exam on a busy weekend morning. The check-in process was speedy, taking about 15 minutes to from walking in to starting my test. I haven’t quite figured out the best thing to wear to this center yet, but light layers seem to be the way to go. This time I had Portland Timbers match tickets right after the exam, so I ended up wearing my obnoxiously green/gold gear partially hidden under a black sweater. It worked. I felt pumped. I elected not to take my No Pity Scarf in, as much as I wanted to flash it at the NCARB logo on the screen like my fellow Timbers Army members do to the opposing team on the pitch.
So after getting situated, and given the same station that I took the previous exam at (I wonder if it’s the designated ARE/USGBC computer, or if I’m just forever destined to be stuck in the corner of the room by the main path of travel.) I closed my eyes, said a quick prayer, took a deep breath and got started.
I used the whole two hours for the 100 multiple choice questions. It took an hour to get through the set of questions once, marking about 35-40 that I hesitated on (yikes). Then just went back through the marked questions as many times as I could, thinking and working through them, and removing the marks on the ones I had convinced myself I make the right guess on. Within the last five minuets, I know I was down to about 5 marked questions that were still giving me trouble. Not bad out of 100. I finished this portion feeling confident with 50% of my answers, ok with 25%, and hoping I guessed correctly on the last 25%. It’s not exactly the percentage I was hoping for, but I’ll take what I can get.
I think the Schiff Hardin lectures really helped in conjunction with the AIA commentary on the A201/B101 documents. Having 2+ years of full time experience in a firm was also a huge help. When I struggled on a question, I tried thinking about it in terms of how our office might deal with the situation. That strategy worked really well as I worked through my marked questions. I didn’t use the Kaplan books very much, besides working through the questions & answers a few times until I was getting over 90% on the practice tests. I liked both the Kaplan and ArchiFlash cards, and I’ll continue using those for the next exam. I felt prepared walking into the exam, based on my study technique and materials. Next time, I think I’ll spend a bit more time glossing over the Kaplan book so more concepts will be apparent in the next go-around.
The mandatory 15 minute break is alright…though I really didn’t know what to do with myself. Next exam I know I’ve got to bring a water bottle, and maybe a granola bar depending on how long the second half is. Snacking appears to be the popular thing to do. There’s no checking your phone, or going outside, or doing much of anything really, so I sat in the waiting area and flipped through the latest IKEA catalog and watched the clock. Signed back in a few minutes early and sat at my station waiting for the second part to begin.
The Vignette was incredibly straightforward. I found that about five practice runs with the software was enough to feel comfortable during the exam. “Solutions” by Dorf was a useful book to read and practice with. Reviewing other intern’s vignettes on areforum was helpful, and I really appreciated this post outlining the vignette steps by user Anjana. I finished the section in 35 minutes, and spent 20 more reviewing, re-reviewing, and clicking around on my solution. I knew it was correct, but didn’t feel right leaving so early.
The key with the vignette portion seems to be coming up with a methodical approach to calculating, drawing and checking the solution. Unless I somehow fail, I don’t see myself changing how I prepare for this portion of the exam.
So I left feeling pretty comfortable with the whole experience. At this point, I know that I did as best as I could for my first try, and I’ve learned a lot about how to prepare for the the next test. I think I’ll give myself a few days to take a break and regroup at this point before I decide which exam to take next. I talked to my mom on the way to the Timbers match from Prometric, and she reminded me “It is what it is.” Having a rowdy soccer match was a terrific way to let go of all the post exam jitters. We sang, we chanted, we cheered, and we watched as our boys in green tied Toronto FC 2-2. Oh, and I continued a tradition I started after taking the LEED Exam: The Post Prometric Pint. This time with Jeld-Wen Field was a backdrop, which was a perfect reminder that creating spaces where people come to laugh, play, and enjoy life together is truly why I want to be an architect and go through this whole examination process in the first place.
So until the next exam… cheers!