It’s slightly unnerving to look around a Prometric waiting room and realize that you’re the least anxious of anyone sitting there. Apparently Saturday was a big day for GRE testing and my center was full of grad student hopefuls full of questions like “Why can’t I have a pen?” and “What’s the exact temperature in there…should I wear my sweater?” I know I shouldn’t have found it so amusing, I was a nervous as heck the first exam too, but you can’t help but simile at the absurd things people wonder about unfamiliar environments. At least one of the proctors tried to lighten the mood with the friendly reminder to “make sure you don’t have any Chapstick, tissues or lint in your pockets”.
I signed in and got settled in the back corner of the testing room next to a gal who must have been amused by her exam given the quiet chuckles I heard coming from her station. After my usual routine of flipping the mouse to the left hand side and adjusting the chair so I could actually see what I was doing I took a deep breath and got started. Moments later, a guy outside the building with a table saw started his work too…thankfully it only lasted about 10 minutes.The multiple choice was less challenging than I expected. That’s not to say it wasn’t difficult, and I can see why so many recommend saving BDCS for last. There was a noticeable amount of overlap with the rest of the exams I’ve had to date. I felt that all of the topics I saw were originally presented on the NCARB exam guide and that my notes covered everything sufficiently. Reading Fundamentals of Building Construction turned out to be really helpful. Now if I had only memorized every word I read! I used the entire 1:45, and spent about an hour going through the 85 questions slowly. The rest of the time was dedicated to working through everything I marked (just over half of the problems) which included anything I even slightly hesitated on. At the end I was down to about six questions that I made my best judgement call on. There are always a few problems where, no matter how much you think, more than one answer looks correct.
Now that I’ve sat through the multiple choice portion a few times I’ve found myself wondering a few things about the process:
1. I can’t be the only one that has little habitual quirks when testing. Like for instance I always write notes on the NCARB scratch paper from the back page to the front.
2. Do you think NCARB keeps track of the answers people give for the mandatory use-the-mouse tutorial questions? I’d love to know how many people get those things wrong.
3. Can anyone tell me why the calculator allows every number/symbol to be entered on the keyboard *except* the equals/enter button?! Maybe I’m doing something wrong (wouldn’t be the first time)…I always key in the problem and then click equals. Baffling.
After a mandatory break spent observing the teens in the Sylvan Learning Center, who looked thrilled to be spending their Saturday in class, I was back at my desk watching the clock tick down to the vignettes. I did them in the following order:
Ramp Design: completed in about 45 minutes. I roughed out two complete solutions with sketch rectangles before settling on the better of the two options. My goal was to make as few landings as possible and to get the bottom landings of the ramp and stairs as close as possible. I think my design worked and looked pretty decent to boot.
Roof Design: completed in about 30 minutes. I began drawing the first obvious solution that came to mind and then found myself backpedaling after about 10 minutes when I realized all of the elements didn’t work the way I had intended. After scratching my head for a few, I settled on a new design that I would honestly have a hard time proposing to an actual client, but met all the programmatic requirements. This vignette made me realize that it’s best to think of all the roof components at the same time when designing a scheme.
Stair Design: completed in about 45 minutes. This was the vignette I was most nervous for, and thus allowed the most time for. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the problem wasn’t as tricky as I feared. It was still quite challenging, and I found myself checking and double checking my math to ensure I didn’t screw up any elevation calculations. Practicing with the cut stair tool was a good move before the exam and I’d recommend it.
Overall I found the vignettes to be somewhat more difficult than the NCARB examples and I was glad that I took the the time to do the forum alternates for each. After reviewing all of my solutions, and making sure none of my handrails got bumped out of alignment, I decided to call it good enough. I had 20 minutes left on the clock.
Phew. Huge sigh of relief to have that one done.I met up with Nate for lunch and then we picked up a couple bottles for the Post Prometric Pint on the way back to his place. Reason number #342 that it’s awesome to live in the Northwest is that there’s so much good local beer you rarely have to have the same thing twice. We tried Hopworks Urban Brewery’s Rise Up Red, a light, organic, citrusy red ale. A pint at home never tasted so good. We kicked back and watched Timbers get trampled by Real Salt Lake down in Utah. I hope that their loss isn’t a foreshadow of my results.
I think this exam went pretty well and I left feeling about the same as I did after PPP. There’s a lot of material to cover, and I know I gave it my best. I’m not 100% sure about how I did on the multiple choice, and I’m more satisfied with my performance on the vignettes at this point. I’m anxiously awaiting my results already! It’s hard to believe that there’s only one more exam to begin preparing for, and I don’t plan on wasting any time while waiting for my pass/fail. Let’s get this thing done!