I walked into my friendly Prometric testing center on Saturday morning expecting little to have changed in the six months I was away. For the most part my expectations were correct, except for all the kids (no, not GRE candidates, actual tiny humans) wandering about, bemoaning the fact that they were there on a weekend for tutoring in the Sylvan Learning Center portion of the suite. (I felt their pain). As I signed in and waited my turn in the morning rush my eye caught a row of vertical silver pipes in the corner. Wasn’t there a wall there before? And why does that sign next to it say “Toilets WORK sinks DON’T”? Before I could start pointing out stack vents and waste pipes and wondering if I could see what was wrong, my name was called. Investigation would have to wait until break time.
A new gal got me checked in and I found myself seated at a spot right by the door into the testing room. I hoped that it wouldn’t be too distracting of a spot and fortunately it wasn’t. The familiar hum of the air filter/white noise machine in the corner hushed my thoughts and my focus turned to the task at hand: facing my BS nemesis for a rematch.
It’s always comforting when the first multiple choice question is one that you know the answer to. Having a pretty good idea on the second one is nice as well. Same with the third. As I worked through my first pass through the 95 questions, which took me about an hour and 15 minutes to do, I felt that things were going much better than last time. I knew how to solve the calculations and most of the vocabulary and concepts were familiar. That being said, I marked over half the questions as I found myself constantly hesitating on the answer. On my second pass I made the conscious effort to trust my gut on as many answers as possible, knocking the number of marked problems to about 25. In the last half hour I worked through them as many times as I could, and when time was up I had about six left that I just made a wild guess on.
Overall, I felt that I prepared the best that I could have, and that the problems I truly struggled on were those WTF questions that I would have never thought to have studied. You know the ones, they always appear when you’re on a bit of a roll. “I know that, and I know that, and….” suddenly your eyes get wide “… I…I don’t know the answer to that!” It never fails.
I took my break and fiddled with the faucet in the bathroom which actually worked, making a liar out of the sign posted outside. I munched on a granola bar and flipped through the newspaper…how many people actually feel inclined to read when waiting for an exam? Probably not many given the crisp edges of the front page. With a few minutes left I headed back to my desk and got prepared for the vignette. Almost done.
The drawing portion wasn’t much more challenging than the NCARB example. It was a little tricky to figure out the most appropriate lighting layout in a few rooms, but once I finally got the right combination of fixtures and orientation I recognized that there really wasn’t a better solution. Ducts and diffusers fell into place quickly, and before I knew it I had a pretty solid answer. I spent the last half hour of my time checking dimensions and wondering if I should nudge ceiling grids and lights to get foot candle levels adjusted even further. Like many of the multiple choice questions, I felt it was best to go with my gut on my design, and i justified my decision by thinking “well if I was doing this for work, this would probably be what they want to see.” With five minutes left on the clock I called it good enough.
My announcement of completion was met with a smile and friendly “Woot!” from the exam proctor. Would this be the last time that I signed my name in the binder and walked out the door? I’m still not too sure.
I met up with Nate in Northwest Portland and we headed out in search of beer. I shot down the suggestion of a semi-new BBQ place, as that’s the meal we had after I took BS the first time (apparently I’m a bit superstitious). We continued our walk on the newly reopened Lompoc Tavern and instantly slid into a booth with a good view of the remaining few minutes of the Champions League Final. I love my Timbers, but European soccer is such a delight to watch. The Post Prometric Pint was a Kick Axe Pale Ale, light and hoppy. It might be my favorite of all the pints I’ve celebrated with. We spend the rest of the day kicked back at Nate’s relaxing (aka: I fell asleep on the couch almost instantly) and enjoyed watching the Timbers defeat DC United followed by Chinese takeout and Globe Trekker on PBS. It really wasn’t anything special, but after 2+ weeks of hitting the books hard in almost total isolation, Nate said it best: “I’m just glad to have my Jenny back.”
Now that I’ve had a couple of days to rest up, and enjoy time with family and friends, I’m feeling ok about the exam. While I don’t know if my performance was good enough for a pass, I do feel confident that I did a much better job preparing this time around. The BS exam is an incredibly challenging exam, and I feel that one has to truly dedicate some time to understating all of the different content areas. The more you know walking into this exam, the better off you will be. It’s not the division to gloss over and wing…unless maybe all you do is engineering coordination for your day job. I’m still frustrated that I had to retake this exam, but I also feel like I’ve leaned a lot more about Building Systems then I ever thought I would know. That alone is almost as important as the pass letter I’m waiting on. I just hope it arrives sooner than later….not sure how I feel about BS Round 3.