Tag Archives: areforum

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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On Study Groups

I got a heads-up on twitter this morning about monthly ARE4 study sessions put on by @yafphilly.  Now before you disregard that link because you don’t live anywhere within the greater Philadelphia area, note that you’re able to remotely login to the talk with a quick RSVP before the 2/12/13 date.  Obviously this is awesome news for those with AIA chapters that don’t have ARE programs and are looking for some help.  But could it also mean something more?

"You've just stopped being a study group. You've become something unstoppable. I hereby pronounce you a community"

“You’ve just stopped being a study group. You’ve become something unstoppable. I hereby pronounce you a community”

This tweet got me thinking about ways that we study and how groups will be shaped in the future of ARE preparation.  Do we really have to meet around one large table with books and flashcards anymore?  Are we stuck waiting for lectures to happen in our city?  Given the multiple ways to connect online, skype and google+ instantly come to mind, it would seem that we no longer have to rely on those in our actual location to learn.  Perhaps our study communities are becoming global, and with a standard exam across the country, is there any reason why they shouldn’t be?  I think we’re already heading away from localized learning.  For example, posting vignette attempts on areforum is a way to reach out and get feedback on our process from others almost instantly.  That being said, I’ve never felt the same level of connectivity from forum members when it comes to discussing concepts on the multiple choice portion, so maybe we’re not entirely digital yet, at least on that website.

Personally I’m a solo studier so I’ve never given ARE study sessions a try, digitally or physically.  That being said, in Portland the Center for Architecture has an ARE lecture series underway, and coincidentally this month is on Building Systems.  I’m wondering if I should give it a go, but I’m hesitating based on how I know I learn best.  Study sessions are an opportunity to come together to discuss topics and struggles and it’s exciting to think that the possibilities to connect are limitless for our generation of emerging architects.   Still, at the end of the day it ultimately comes down to how we learn, and the amount or type of actual face to face time or online conversation is meaningless if we don’t process new information in that manner.  I guess I’m still undecided.

So how about you? Do you benefit from study groups or are you a go it alone type?   Have you found any good study sessions that have helped you pass the various divisions of the ARE?

 

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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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A Final Push to Study and the BDCS Study Guide

Ladies and gentleman, I present to you for your reading pleasure “Overkill”.

Alright, so maybe I’m being a little dramatic, but I honestly wasn’t expecting to cover this much material while preparing for this exam. But once I started reading Fundamentals of Building Construction, (and trying a few practice exams to gauge what I comfortably knew) I realized that like PPP it was probably better to study more than less. It worked for me in the past…why not do it again, right? So as promised here is my Building Design and Construction Systems Study Guide. At 105 pages, I’m thinking of upgrading it to tome status. It covers just about everything in FBC, on areforum’s FTP site, and a slew of websites I ran across in the process. While it took a ton of time, I’m glad that I went through everything as thoroughly as possible and I hope that it will be worth it come Saturday. Hopefully you might get some use out of it as well.

Now the trick is just remembering everything.

oh to sell traditional materials in the modern age

I’m going to spend the next few nights reviewing as much as I can. I’m still a little unsure about fire ratings and construction types, as well as roof construction. Materials as a whole I’m pretty good on. Going through the guide a couple times a night and working through the Kaplan Q&A book should help tremendously in the final push. I also finally have some time to work on the alternate vignettes which I heard are very useful. I was able to post my roof design vignette on arefoum before it crashed and only messed up an elevation marker. It was a dumb mistake, but I’m glad that was the only one I made. I’m feeling comfortable with the accessible ramp, but want to practice a few more configurations just so I don’t get too cozy with the NCARB example. The stair has been the most difficult for me to wrap my head around. Conceptually it makes sense, but there’s something about actually drawing it that makes me freeze. But like the new Ben Folds Five song Do It Anyway suggests: “If you’re paralyzed by a voice in your head, It’s the standing still that should be scaring you instead. Go on and do it anyway”. If only the Fraggles were here to help out.

I know I’m not out of the woods yet, but I’m feeling a little bit of relief for the first time in weeks. I’m actually looking forward to a few more nights of working hard and getting some rest before the big day. I know I’ve covered everything, now it’s just a matter of convincing myself that I’m ready.

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Oh where oh where did my areforum go?

Looks like arefoum is down again…who knows for how long.    If you don’t know about it, or forgot, areforum member/guru Coach put together an alternative forum during the big downtime a couple months back.  Here’s the link again:

ARE Coach

PS: BDCS study guide coming late tonight after I wrap up a few items… it’s MASSIVE.

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On masonry and miscellany

these aren’t the CMU blocks you’re looking for… (but you still kinda want them, right?)

I wrapped up the chapters on masonry late last night and am gearing up to work on steel next.  So far everything is still going smoothly, but I’m feeling like I’ve only touched the tip of the iceberg.   I have a little over half of Fundamentals of Building Construction to go through (about 550 pages or so) and it’s my hope to have it done by Sunday night.  It’s been a wonderfully informative book to read, but I don’t think I’m doing myself any favors relying on it 100% .  There are some great resources on the FTP site, including this one on Fire Doors, that I’m anxious to get to as soon as possible.    With a few more nights of hard work (and a reduction in sleep) I should be able to get everything covered.  My goal is to have my study guide done by next Wednesday and then dedicate a few days to review.

I’m still seriously slacking on the vignettes.   I’m to the point where I’m considering not going to bed tonight until I’ve attempted all of them at least once.   I’ve read through Dorf and other recommended sources, and they all make sense…now I just have to quit procrastinating and do them (…and the alternates…and post them on areforum for comments.)

I’ve taken a few more practice quizzes and my scores have bumped up to +60%.  It’s comforting to see some improvement there, and I’d like to be up to a solid +90% by the middle of next week.  Upon review of my answers, it appears that I’m doing well on big concepts and struggling on (quite literally) the nuts and bolts.  Connections, fasteners, nails, and the types of metal they’re made of is still not clicking.  That being said I haven’t dedicated much time to the topic, so hopefully I’ll get a grip on it soon.

I never thought I’d say this, but I’ve actually enjoyed preparing for this exam.  In part because it’s so awesome to finally understand what in the heck the guys at the office have been talking about all the time.  Now if only I could get to the point where I can rattle it off just as fast.  I think I still have years, maybe decades, to go on that talent… so for now I’ll just worry about a few multiple choice problems.  No sweat.

 

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ok, so now what?

This has nothing to do with this post, I just think it’s wicked cool (I suppose it could be considered a construction system…)

So far in the ARE process I’ve had a pretty good plan of attack.  CDS/PPP/SPD all related and would be a good place to start, SS would be in the middle in case I bombed it, and I’d use SD as a breather or when things were busy and there wouldn’t be much time for study.   It appears that my cunning plan has worked well, and now all that’s left in my stack of NCARB exam guides are BDCS and BS.    The problem is, I never really figured out which order to take them…I just assumed that I’d figure it out later.

Well, later is now and as I read over the guides I’m not totally convinced of a proper direction to take.  Fortunately (or maybe unfortunately) the subject matter for each was covered in courses that I really geeked out in at school, so I’m not facing uncharted territory in either case.   I looked at the suggestions from a few of you and read exam order posts over at areforum, and my gut feeling is to go with BCDS.

I’ll give it one more day to think about, but I’d love to get it scheduled sooner than later.  I’m planning on taking the next exam at the end of September, and then the final right before Thanksgiving.  I think both are doable in the time frame, but of course welcome any thoughts that others might have.

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another last push and another study guide

By exam number five you’d think the pre-exam freak outs might not be quite as bad as they were before.  They’re really not.  That being said, while I’m nervous for Sunday, I’ve realized that this is the first exam where I’ve felt genuinely confident walking in.  Nerves aside, that’s a pretty good feeling to have two days before showtime.

at least I’m not in as bad of shape as this guy.

This morning I got the appointment reminder from NCARB which included the standard rescheduling policy as usual.  You know the one…you must reschedule your exam by noon eastern (that’s 9AM to us west coasters) three business days before your appointment.  Given that I always take my exams on the weekend, I usually get the reschedule reminder after the deadline has passed. Nice, huh?  It kind of makes me chuckle and think welp…it’s too late to turn back now.

The past few evenings I’ve been focusing heavily on the Interior Layout, and think I’ve got that one in the bag.  I’ve worked through almost all of the alternates, as well as tried the original NCARB example again.  I’ve managed to get my time down to about 35 minutes, which is just about perfect.  I’ll do a few more timed trials tomorrow, but otherwise think I’ll dedicate the rest of my time to perfecting my Building Layout skills.  I still am not quite happy with how near my “near” rooms are, so hopefully practicing a few alternatives will help.  I tend to make a lot of progress in the final push…at least I have for all the exams to date.

Instead of working on the vignettes tonight, I finally put together my study guide as a way to review the notes and strategies that I’ve compiled so far.  While there are other guides that are probably more helpful graphically, I created a step by step written process for each exam.  Here’s the Schematic Design Study Guide PDF for you to use too, if you’d like.

Work has been crazy busy the last few weeks, so between that and late nights studying I’m pretty wiped.  I think the best thing I can do at this point is get plenty of rest tonight and tomorrow, and give myself a bit of time to work though the Building Layout.  Tomorrow night the Timbers take on the LA Galaxy, and while I’d love to be there for it, think it would be wiser to stay home to wrap up studying and get a good night sleep.   Things have been blowing up with the team lately, amazing wins at home and embarrassing losses on the road.  This week they relieved Coach Spencer of his duties, and like many fans  I’m not surprised, but I am saddened.  I sincerely wish him the all the best.  While most of my professional role models are designers, he’s been a shining example of how one can perform a high stress job with honesty, integrity, and a bit of humor.  He really is true class and I look forward to following the rest of his career.

So on that note, here’s to the final push for SD.  With a few final tweaks and a bit of luck, I should have a pretty good shot on Sunday.

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hmmm..that was almost easy…

I’m trying really hard to stay humble about this…because I know if I start getting too sure of myself then it will bite me in ass and I’ll fail… but I think I realize why others have said this is the cake-walk exam.

It’s pretty easy.  Not ARCH101 easy of course, but let’s just say it feels like a treat after preparing for Structural Systems.

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This is my second complete and timed attempt at the building layout.  I posted my first attempt over at the forum and got some really helpful feedback.  This time it took me about 1-1/2 hours to do, and I’m comfortable with that.   The forms that I’m coming up with are pretty simple and I’ve heard that square rooms with double loaded corridors are the best way to go.  That being said, I’d like to try some configurations with corridors that turn corners and result in building layouts that are a bit more square.  I think I finally have a handle on the doors and existing, and I learned that you do need a door into and out of  your stair on the first floor, even if it’s adjacent to a lobby space with an exterior door.   I’m still struggling with the concept of near (perhaps I should brush up on some classic Sesame Street) and how best to locate multiple rooms that need to be close, but not adjacent.  According to the feedback I got on the forum, that means they should be at most 10-20% of the corridor distance apart.   In the case of the example above  on the second floor the Small Meeting Room (SM), Large Meeting Room (LM), and Secretary Office (SO) should all be near to one another…in each attempt I can get two, but never all three.  Guess that’s something to work on!

As others have said, the program chart that Dorf first introduced was incredibly useful, and I’ve been using a slightly modified version to help me work through the layouts.  Here it is as a PDF.  The “fill in the blank” items at the bottom are key program components that I found got lost in the table.  They can run, but they can’t hide!

Now that I’ve worked through each of the vignettes a couple of times, I think my biggest weakness is the Interior Layout.  I can get a decent solution, but it’s down to the wire every time.  With a bit of practice I hope to be able to increase my efficiency by a fifteen minutes or so.  On exam day I’d like to make sure I can take a breath and review my solution, not be laying something out as the timer ticks down to zero, as much fun as that way on Site Planning + Design…not.  Tonight I’m breaking out the alternatives and aiming to get through one building layout and at least two interior layouts.

Tomorrow is my grandma’s 94th birthday, so there’s a big family dinner and celebration (as there should be!) so there won’t be much time to dedicate to working.   Here’s hoping tonight will go smoothly so I can enjoy the festivities.   If the past week has been any indication, it should be fine.  I just keep telling myself that solving tricky layouts is waaaay better than calculating the forces in truss members.

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