Tag Archives: are

BS Take 2: Exam Review

we've got your stack vents and vent stacks right here, folks.

we’ve got your stack vents and vent stacks right here, folks.

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.   

hopefully the last Post Prometric Pint ever purchased.

hopefully the last Post Prometric Pint ever purchased.

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. 

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if only BS was as fun as PBS

For as long as I can remember, well back into the early days of my childhood, one of the highlights of my non-cable-dwelling lifestyle was turning on PBS and watching “This Old House” on Saturday evenings. While my weekends are typically a little busier now, I still catch myself  streaming episodes I miss online when I have a free time.  And besides, now that Kevin, Richard, and Rodger tweet, the good times don’t have to be limited to one day a week, right?  As I wasted a bit of time looking for anything to do but study, I watched an episodes that included a bit on alternative septic systems.   While the chances of the information about “Poop Central” showing up on the exam are slim to none, I can at least confidently say that it helped a tiny bit in my  BS preparation.   And if it does, well, I guess I’m going to have to send PBS a bonus contribution in thanks.

In other tweet news, a few weeks ago user @simplybrinn posted a link to a document she’s compiling for ARE Resources.  It’s really handy, and I’m sure it will become even more in depth as she knocks out her last exams.  Thanks again for sharing, Brinn!

I’ve gone through the vignette a few times and am feeling pretty good about that portion. My completion time is just where it should be, and my solutions seem to work.  I should probably post to areforum as a final review…but it’s kind of a low priority at this point.  I passed the vignette portion of the exam the first time around, so I guess I’m not too worried about it.

oh so *that's* how they work

oh so that’s how they work

Multiple Choice studying is going well, and with 1o days to go until the exam I’m feeling like I’m at the point I was walking into BS the first time.  That means that I have just over a week to review, retain, and organize all of the information in my brain….and it’s probably going to take the entire time to do so.   I’m still working on finalizing my revised study guide and I’m a little surprised to see just how much I missed.  So far I’ve added about 25 additional pages of notes, charts, and diagrams, and hopefully it will be useful come exam day.  I’ve taken a few practice exams and gone through all of the Kaplan Q&A questions and as of right now my scores aren’t too great.

My next step is to go back through what I missed and understand why the correct answers were selected  and what the incorrect answers actually mean.   It’s going to be time consuming, but a worthwhile exercise.  I haven’t gone through any MEEB diagrams yet either, so this weekend I should be able to kick back and look through those now that I have a more well rounded understanding of all of the information.  Overall, I’m finding that I can explain strategies and systems conceptually, but getting stuck on the proper terminology and definitions.   I won’t be satisfied that I’ve prepared myself well enough for exam day until I have this review and honing portion of study covered.  That being said, at this point that goal appears attainable.   Fortunately I have the majority of the weekend to study and I’m looking forward to knocking out the last few pages of revised notes and getting to the review.

And, as always, taking a break for This Old House.

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Alright, back to work.

I spent most of the day plugged into Pandora listening to a combination of macklemore and paul simon (don’t ask me how that mix works, but it does…oh it does) while drafting and otherwise muddling through construction document sheet preparation. And as it typically goes, the mind wanders a little on days like this. It wanders to where to get the next cup of coffee, or to that sweet timbers victory last weekend, or to weekends in general. While I clicked about Revit and thought of cafes and soccer and visiting gallery exhibits a little voice piped up in the back of my head, likely one of those ignorable Pandora commercials….a split second later I realized that wait no, it wasn’t. Between the beats of lackadaisical hip hop my conscience steered me towards a more pressing dream.

*sigh* Alright. Let’s get this exam over with.

There are certain critical considerations to mull over when selecting a day to sit for any division of the ARE. After one determines what realistic timeframe they need to prepare for each exam, then it’s best to address the major events taking place that will severely distract from studying. You know the culprits: birthdays, holidays, major work deadlines, etc. Even if you say you will, we all know that there will be no preparation done on these days, and in some cases those leading up to them. I’ve found that taking a few minutes to thoroughly consider my personal commitments before registering has paid off by only having to reschedule one exam. Otherwise I’ve felt as if there’s been adequate time to prepare for each…regardless of my results. As I looked over my calendar for the next few months I found my options to be fairly open (save for Mother’s Day, a few Timbers matches, and a handful of after work events). A click into Prometric to search for availability came back with only two Saturdays that would work: May 25th or June 2nd. I’d be damned if I wasn’t taking it when I was eligible to do so in May, primarily for the sake of principle, and I really didn’t want to spend my entire Memorial Day weekend stuck at my desk studying. A few hours that Saturday morning taking the test would still leave plenty of time for fun….and to enjoy the long awaited return of Arrested Development (I never thought I’d see the day).

So I clicked the 25th, 9am, paid my fee, and jotted the appointment down in my calendar. As I said way back on Exam #2, the involuntary urge to hurl after signing up never goes away, even after all this time. For a brief moment it’s hard not to freeze and think that perhaps it would be better to just hold off a little longer. But then as quickly as that cowardly feeling arrives, it morphs into courage. You come to your senses, quit being a chicken, and get back to work.

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on Form, Force, and Structure (and cloud-based vignettes)

form image

don’t you love when a models also double as a necklace?

Here’s a cool little article that was brought to my attention over the weekend (thanks again Niharika!) on the historical relationship between form, force, and structure.  From the text:

“Following is a very brief review of the work of a number of designers of the early to mid-20th century, all of whom sought expression in new materials and the opportunities to create structural forms.   Much of their work has come to symbolize ‘structural art’, as defined by David P Billington…”

Otherwise said, this might be worth a quick read as you brush up on your history.  If you’re studying for the SS exam, add this to your list and give yourself a break from calculating lateral forces.

In ARE4 vignette news, NCARB is currently beta testing cloud based vignette software until March 18th.  So rejoice if you have 64 bit Windows or a Mac without bootcamp/parallells, your days of practicing vignettes on your desired computer are finally here.   Hit the link to sign up for the trail through your NCARB record.  I haven’t set this up myself, and I’m not sure how plugging in the alternatives on areforum will work, but I’m already pretty excited at the thought of not have to run bootcamp on my mac.  It’s been a first world problem, I know…

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2013: or the year we get this BS over with.

time to get back to figuring out what the heck is going on around here

time to get back to figuring out what the heck is going on around here

Well look at the time, is it 2013 already? Hope your holidays were merry and bright! By the looks of the stats for this site it appears that I’m not the only one who took a couple of weeks off at the end of the year. Unfortunately you all put me to shame by getting back to this ARE madness on January 2nd. Nicely done.

The first order of business is to thank you all from the bottom of my heart for your supportive words on my BS failure. Heart strings were definitely tugged. Having a mandatory break over the holidays gave me time to come to peace with my exam, and I’ve decided to sincerely embrace the failure as an opportunity to learn even more about building systems than I knew before. Like I’ve mentioned, it’s a fascinating topic, and I’d much rather have to restudy mechanical systems than say, AIA contracts, or lateral forces, or…well, pretty much anything on the other six exams. Plus, as some have said, a little conflict here does make for a good overall story (something to keep in mind for a potential Pritzker Prize acceptance speech someday, right?)  There’s comfort knowing that even the greyest of times will fade away to new sunny moments.   Here’s hoping that all of you who have found yourselves in the same fail boat are feeling a similar renewed spirit this new year.

With every fresh start comes the opportunity to develop a plan that improves upon our previous surefire-bulletproof-no-nonsense strategy (because we all know how that worked out).  While our friends are dusting off their gym shoes, we can dust off our Kaplan/Ballast/Archiflash guides that were tucked away by September after no longer seeming necessary.  Perhaps the best place to start is with a basic analysis of what worked and what didn’t on exam day, and then recap the resources that were used to prepare.  I know that there were so many sites and guides that I didn’t look at because I felt like MEEB covered it.  I was wrong.  For me, pulling information from a wide array of sources helps me better understand the topic as a whole.  As I prepare for BS Round 2, I’ll be keeping better track of what I’ve read and summarized for each content area, and how I’ve been able to build off of them. It’s a large task, but I’m confident that I’ll be able to pull it off by May.  I’m anxious to get an exam scheduled as soon as it’s possible to do so.

And, speaking of scheduling, there’s going to be a little less of it during the NCARB blackout this summer.  In case you missed the ARE E-news of December 2012, no exams will be administered or scheduled for approximately 8 weeks beginning July 1, 2013.  The bad news is that many interns will have lost a few good months to knock out an exam or two before fall…and the good news is that now there’s no excuse not to work on your summer tan.

But for now it’s time to get back to work and stay as optimistic as possible.  January is about making the dreams and aspirations of the last year a reality, and I have good feelings for all of us in 2013.

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on failure.

Too soon to add this to my Christmas list?

To summarize: I failed BS. I bombed it with major deficiencies in all areas except the vignette, actually. Dang.

Not wanting to waste both my time and yours, I figured a little break to collect my thoughts and avoid a pity party would be a good idea. I also had a really nice Thanksgiving/Christmas kickoff weekend, which seriously helped my spirits. Yes, I’m still bummed, but I’m also relieved to know my fate and (finally) motivated to come up with a game plan for success six months from now.

The way I see it, when it comes to failure we are (arguably) fortunate to have so many motivators available to help get us back on track. Blogs on making things happen, encouragement from family/friends, a “get motivated” subreddit, Cool Runnings. We’re part of an industry/profession/culture where disappointment is as common, if not more-so, than success. Bad critiques, rejected proposals, cancelled projects…We’re trained and hardened to take lousy moments for what they’re worth and move on.

And yet tearing open that familiar white NCARB envelope with the blue trim, expecting the worst while hoping for the best, and seeing that four letter F word silences all of those motivators with a deafening blow. A fail is not what you want to see printed. In print, failure is real. It changes your mentality, and amidst all the other emotions and thoughts floating around your mind only one thing is certain:

Failing sucks.

It sucks when you’re so damn close to being finished with the whole ARE process. Or when you’re daydreaming of all the books you can fill the space on your bookshelf where your study materials sat for years. Or when you have to tell your family and friends as optimistically as you can that you didn’t do your best this time. It sucks because you know no one else thinks any less of you, but you still feel about as sharp as a bowl full of jello.

But failure is also a surefire way to get yourself motivated. To stop harping on your lack of perfection…and to quit getting teary eyed every time you see a light socket or an air handler unit. (True story.)  It motivates you to realize that not everything turns out the way you wanted it to the first time, but with perseverance it will eventually. Life hardly ever goes the way we planed, but sometime the path it takes is even better than we had hopped. The road to becoming a licensed architect is a long one and there are bound to be a few bumps along the way. God knows there were plenty during studio in school.

I’ve decided to not worry about my retake over the holidays (why spoil my favorite time of the year?) and be thankful for my successes instead. I’m still so thrilled to have passed six so far, and know the final pass will come soon enough. In January I’ll start back up researching the resources I missed and figure out when I can sign up for my retake. I have to wait around until May, but that will give me plenty of time to review what I already know and learn as many details as I can as a slower pace. I still have that pesky IDP to finish too, so it’s not like I won’t have the exams on my mind anyway. I know it will all get done in due time…but dang if I’m not a little anxious to see the day.

I guess we don’t call it AREndurance for nothing.

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My granny always said “Patience is a virture, Jennifer Anne…”

… and at this point NCARB is seriously testing mine. Still no word back on my exam, and I’m feeling like I’m in limbo, not sure if I should feel confident in a job well done or complacent in the fact that I’ll be getting cozy with MEEB again next spring. I guess I’m ok with either at this point, I’d just really like to know. The anxious drives home to check the mail are starting to get a little old.

Regardless of when that letter shows up, I”m looking forward to wrapping up this short week and enjoying the Thanksgiving Holiday. I’ll be running across the metro area with Nate as we celebrate the day with both of our families, and hopefully catching as much of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on TV as I can. (I’m a total sucker for that tradition.) Wishing you and yours a very happy, healthy, and thankful occasion. Stay safe and full, and enjoy a well deserved day free of studying. Cheers!

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MEEB like this…MEEB like that…

Last weekend I saw tweets from @melissardaniel and @arch_girl to the above video of a UofO student showing his love for our favorite BS textbook. In a word? HAAAAAmazing. Hope you enjoy.

Still a week out on my exam score, but I’ve definitely calmed down a bit. Thanks for all your kind and supportive words. Sounds like most people feel pretty defeated after BS… it’s nice to be in good company. I’m off to Seattle for the weekend with Nate to celebrate our 2nd anniversary (time flies when you’re studying). Hope you all have an enjoyable and/or productive weekend too. Cheers!

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BS Exam Review

Well, that was something.

I’ve been putting off writing my exam review primarily for the reason that every time I think about it I get sick to my stomach. Yeah…it wasn’t my best ARE experience. (Tell me again why I didn’t save SD for last?)

Now that I’ve had time to get some rest I think I’m able to assess how I did a little better. Overall, I think it was an incredibly challenging and detail focused exam. I felt that all of the overarching concepts I covered per the exam guide and Kaplan served me well in understand what the questions were asking, as well as narrowing the options down to a few good choices, but ultimately I struggled with confidently deciding on an answer. I found myself making a lot of educated guesses, and it’s my most gut-wrenching hope that they were right.

Prometric was fairly quiet on Sunday morning and it seemed like everyone who was testing had been there before…except for the middle aged guy next to me. I have no idea what exam he was taking or what resources he got to use, but it sounded like he was flipping through a phone book rapid fire looking for answers. His heavy sighs indicated that he wasn’t finding them. I kind of felt bad for him.

I used the full two hours for multiple choice. It took me about an hour and ten minutes to get through the 95 questions, and I marked about 3/4 of them (including anything i even slightly hesitated on) to review on my second time around. By the 45 minute mark I was cycling through depressed, panicked, and aggressive emotions, thinking “ohhh why didn’t I study that…crap! shit! crap! crap!….damnit Jenny, calm down and focus.” I finally calmed down about 10 minutes later. On my second round through I was able to think through many of the marked questions and settle on answers that I thought were best. When I didn’t know, I went with my gut. At the end I had about 5 or 6 WTF/no clue questions marked, which is pretty consistent with what I’ve found on other exams.

The leftover Halloween Reece’s Peanut Butter Cup I had during my break tasted extra bittersweet.

The vignette was on par with the NCARB example and I didn’t find it much more difficult than the practice problem. I worked through a few alternative vignettes the day before and they helped with designing around different floor plan layouts, but I don’t think I would have been in too much trouble if I had skipped them. I spent about 40 minutes laying out my solution and reviewed for 15 more. My biggest concern was if my supply and return ducts were spaced far enough from each other. I think they were alright.

Post Prometric Pint #7 – bring on the BBQ

It was kind of surreal exiting out of the exam…could this really be it? Would I ever see these Prometric ladies again? Would I ever hear the low whirr of the white noise generator in the corner of the room? I guess only time will tell.

After the exam and a brief venting to Mom, Nate suggested that I could probably use some serious comfort food (he was right). We met up at Russell Street BBQ, one of the best little spots in Portland to grab a drink and a bite. I arrived first and had the Post Prometric Pint in front of me before he even walked in the door! It was a czech pilsner from Southern Oregon Brewing called Na Zdravi and it was absolutely perfect as far as cold, crisp beers go. I’ve got to see if I can find it in bottles to share. After lunch we ran around to a few of our favorite antique shops in the city and scoffed at all of the Christmas decorations out already. Poor decorative turkeys and pilgrims, they don’t even stand a chance.

So I guess my exam is what it is and I know there’s nothing I can do now but wait for my results. Once I find out my fate I can decide what the next step will be. I’ve already promised Nate that if I fail I won’t spend the next six months studying…I think that would probably kill both of us. At this point I’m at least finding some comfort in the fact that I know I still have a good six months of IDP hours to get through, so even if I do fail, it’s not the only thing holding me up from my license. Still, a little (ok a big) part of me wants to be able to say that I’ve passed all seven exams in one shot. I’m trying to stay humble and not get my hopes up, but you can be darn sure I’m also keeping my fingers crossed pretty tight when no one is looking.

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And Last but not Least, a BS Study Guide

Mitch Hedberg on conveyance systems (RIP)

Well it’s late…or early now I guess… and it’s been a helluva long week, but I finally feel like I’ve gotten a grip on all this building systems stuff, there’s certainly a ton of it (would that convert to 12,000 BTUs, too?).  I’m so glad that I scheduled my test for Sunday, I honestly don’t know how I’d be ready if I didn’t have one more day for review.  I suppose I’d be up a sanitary waste line without a clean out.

Here’s my Building Systems Study Guide for your use if you’re interested.  Hard to believe that this is the last one!  It’s as thorough as I could make it, although nowhere near as in depth as MEEB.  I kind of feel like by the time I got to specialties, communications, and conveying systems I wasn’t getting as in depth on the  information as I had for HVAC, Lighting, etc.  I’m hoping that’s okay.  Given the types of questions that I’m seeing come up on the NCARB exam guide and the Kaplan chapter quizzes it seems like the emphasis is on the major systems.

I posted an attempt at the vignette over at arefourm and got some helpful feedback on a few little things to fix and work on.   While I was there, I checked out a few posts by other forum members and it looks like I might be in good shape.  All of my practice runs have gone fairly smoothly and I’m finishing with plenty of time to review.   The biggest challenge I have is making sure I’m not over lighting spaces.  I tend to add more fixtures than I probably need.

At this point my biggest concern is feeling more confident with the details.  I seem to have the big concepts down, but am getting stuck on all of the little facts like ADA clearance dimensions keeping all the types of light bulbs straight.  The rest of my time here will be spend reading and rereading, going through the Kaplan Q&A questions, and trying a few more of the vignette alternates.    Also, I’m pretty excited to get more than 3-1/2 hours of sleep at some point.  With daylight savings time ending this weekend at least I know I’m guaranteed 4-1/2.  Jackpot.

Finally, before I close, just wanted to send my words of support to all of you who are reading on the east coast.  I sincerely hope you and your loved ones are all safe and sound.  It’s been absolutely gut wrenching to watch what everyone is going through and I wish there was more we could do out here to help.   Here’s hoping that everyone will come out of this a lot stronger than they were before.   Best wishes for a speedy return to normalcy or better to you all.

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