First off, apologies to anyone in the Portland Prometric who might have overhead my faint mouth popping noise a la Donkey from Shrek. Nervous habit, my bad, I’ll work on it.
I’m either becoming a regular at Prometric, or was the last person checking in for the day on Sunday. I hadn’t even signed in and they called me by name into the office to get going on the exam. My 12.30 start time became 12.05, which meant there was no chance to nervously wait and watch the clock. I kind of like that. After the usual emptying of pockets and wanding, I found myself in front of a different work station, this time in the middle of the room. Not a bad spot, but the chair felt like it was designed for someone 6′-0″ and I had to sit on my knees half the time to feel like I was positioned at the desk properly. I’ll have to ask next time if they adjust.
Multiple Choice questions were fairly straight forward, and didn’t throw too many curve-balls. It was a case of you either know it or you don’t. I marked about half of the questions during my first attempt, which is pretty typical for me. By the end of the time (I used the whole 90 minutes) I had five marks remaining, which were the WTF questions that I had to make a guess on. I felt prepared for the most part. I was glad that I had already taken PPP and CDS as there were some familiar issues addressed, but nothing that wouldn’t have come up if one was studying the “Project & Practice Management” concepts detailed in the NCARB exam guide. I left feeling ok with this section, about the same as I felt after taking CDS. I don’t think that I bombed it, but it doesn’t feel like a guaranteed pass either.
The Site Grading problem was straight forward. I practiced the NCARB example about five times, and felt prepared. Unless I missed something in the program I think it should be fine.
The Site Design problem was a definite challenge for me, and I’m very concerned about how I did on this portion. To me, it was more difficult than the NCARB example, but not as bad as the alternatives found on areforum. I spent about a half hour trying to come up with a design that would work, and while I felt that I ultimately had a solution that met the program, it certainly wasn’t pretty and had a few faults that will likely get counted against me. While studying, I focused a lot of my time on parking design and didn’t pay that much attention to shading and compact plazas. They always just “fit” as best they could at the end, and I think that strategy (or lack thereof) really hurt me during the exam. I finished with 30 seconds to spare, and seriously white knuckles from gripping the mouse so tightly out of sheer fear of missing something major.
After the exam I met Nate downtown and blankly stared at him when he asked where I wanted to go for a drink. He suggested Jake’s, a local landmark with a killer $3.95 cheeseburger and fries. (All those exam nerves sure do make a girl hungry.) We talked about the exam and how I felt I did. I’m constantly amazed with his confidence in me, and find it so comforting as I worry about my results. We enjoyed another Post Prometric Pint, a local hefeweizen, and then headed down the street to wander our favorite sections at Powell’s. Lucky for us, Architecture and Photography are all but adjacent to each other.
Pass or fail, I feel like I learned a lot about the NCARB examination process on this test, and was a bit humbled by the experience. I think I learned a hard lesson with the vignettes in that I shouldn’t put them off until just before the exam, nor should I neglect in asking for help. While I reviewed comments and other submissions on areform, I never made a serious effort to post my work. Rather, I chose to look over my alternative solutions and rate them against others. On future exams (as well as a potential SPD retake) I will be sure to allow more time to work through them and develop a more refined approach to solving the problem.
And speaking of next exams, now that I’ve done the CDS/PPP/SPD trio, I am going to be tackling the dreaded Structural Systems. But first, a couple days to give my brain a bit of a rest. It needs it.