Tag Archives: exam guide

On reminders and my (revised) BS Study Guide

As I write this I have just over an hour and a half until the deadline to call Prometic and reschedule passes. I don’t plan to, but as each exam arrives, I find the occasion curious. Signing up for each division is gut wrenching, but the nausea goes away after a day or two. As the examination draws near the appreciation slowly begins to rebuild, but there’s comfort in the fact that it is still “x” number of days away. Until the Appointment Reminder email shows up in the inbox. Uhoh, what’s that feeling in the pit of my stomach?

“Hey, just wanted to let you know that dooms day is almost here…want to get out of it? Call this number.”

Two weeks ago I would have called. A week ago I would have called. Today? I’m not calling. I’m feeling….okay. Not 100% but ok.

*cue the Rocky montage music*

*cue the Rocky montage music*

It’s amazing how that one quick note makes you stop and reconsider everything you think you know, and worry about how much you don’t. The “No biggie” or “No way!” moment. The moment to assess if you’re not only prepared academically, but also emotionally for the task at hand. After a discouraging Monday which ended in a tear stained and failed Kaplan practice exam things are looking a little better. (Sleep helped. When in doubt, sleep…I often forget this.) A little more progress was made Tuesday, and today I woke up feeling like I have the confidence to give it a shot. I want to sit for Building Systems.  Maybe I won’t pass again, I’m still a bit overwhelmed by the content, but at this point I’ll feel worse if I *don’t* take it.

I finished the updates to my study guide late on Sunday, (here’s a copy as a PDF) and think it covers just about everything I could get my hands on.  As always, hope it’s useful to someone else too…and apologies in advance for the misspellings and typos, I’ve already caught a few.

The goal this week has been distilling the most critical information and trying to digest as much as I can.  Like the last attempt, I’m feeling pretty confident about the overall concepts for each content area, but am still not where I’d like to be with the details.  That being said, I feel like I already know more than I did last time, so that bit of optimism is keeping me going as I shuffle through all of my notes.  I knocked out a 90% on the NCARB practice problems, but (as previously mentioned) bombed the Kaplan Q&A. I guess I’d rather fail now then on Saturday, and my plan for tonight is to go through the explanations and understand why I got things wrong.  (It really helped me prepare for SS, so why not try it again?)  I’m feeling better about working with the equation reference sheet that NCARB provides and I’m confident about the vignette.  I still need to spend some time looking at diagrams in MEEB and/or Architectural Graphic Standards, but I don’t want to overwhelm myself doing so.  At this point it makes the most sense to focus on the details, and memorizing the the little things like ADA dimensional requirements, typical decibel levels for spaces, and types of conduit to use in different applications.  I also want to get a handle on a few mechanical systems (looking at you VAV and Constant Volume), general acoustics, and Illuminance vs. Luminace concepts that are still a little fuzzy.  Can I pull all of that off by Friday night?  I’m not sure, but I’m going to try my hardest.

For me, the exam doesn’t start when I sit down at the workstation, but when I pass the deadline to call and reschedule. There’s no turning back at that point. Do not pass go, do not recollect your 210 dollars (if only), head straight to Prometric and wait for your turn. As I pass that moment today I recognize that I’m entering into my exam mode. I’m nervous (very nervous), but at the same time my mind feels like it’s 100% turned to the content and comprehension that seemed difficult a few weeks ago is almost effortless now. I guess I’m lucky in that regard.  At this point there’s little more to say then it’s time to aim high in hope and work.

Well, maybe I’ll say one more thing. As I was browsing information about refrigeration cycles, I ran across this educational film from 1944.  No joke, it’s one of the best resources on the topic I’ve seen due to it’s concise explanation and simple diagrams.  It’s also one of my favorites, as the thought alone of a bunch of early-Mad-Men-esque guys sitting around in suits smoking and drinking scotch as one says “Hey Bill, we otta get that picture on refrigeration off to the fellas down at the DOE.” makes me furiously happy.

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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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On jury duty, IDP, reunions, and (oh yeah) studying

found in my old BS/Environmental Controls Systems college course notes. Holla.

You know how sometime you get sidetracked by all kinds of miscellaneous stuff that throws your schedule off?  That’s kind of how things have been lately.  To summarize,  I got to experience jury duty & service for the first time, sitting on a trial for reckless driving.  That was an interesting experience, and I am glad that I got to be part of it.

I also took a few nights off to domy IDP hours.  This is the first round I’ve done with the new system, so it took some time to convert my old custom template to the new divisions before inputting all my hours from my office time cards.   After seeing how everything worked out I’ve got to admit that I’m pretty disappointed with myself and my progress. It feels like I’ll never finish the internship. I only have about 470 hours to go, 12 weeks of time, but most of my outstanding hours are in Engineering Systems, Construction Costs, and Code/Regulation…topics I haven’t been getting much hands-on experience with. I did mention it to the guys at the office so they know what I’m missing, and also looked into some of the supplementary opportunities. I know I’ll need to do some extra work once I finish the BS exam, otherwise I don’t think I’ll have my internship done and license in hand by my goal deadline of August.  Still, I can’t shake the feeling of being genuinely worried.  I guess it is what it is at this point.

Last week I was reminded of an agreement I made nearly a decade ago.  I was given the opportunity to serve as senior class president at my high school, and part of the unofficially official job description included planning the 10 year reunion for the class, “no big deal” I thought, “that’s years away!”  Well the time to plan is now. I’m realizing that if I’m going to pull this event for 200 classmates off by next fall, I’d better get started.  As one peer quipped, “She’s an architect now right? According to the show ‘How I Met Your Mother’ Architects are cool.”  I’d hate to disappoint, but I did quickly mention that I’m not nearly as cool as Ted Mosby. Still, it should be fun, and I hope I’ll be able to find some help soon.

Which leaves us to studying.  I’ve been trying to dedicate at least an hour a night to it, but I can tell I’m slipping and need to do more.  I’m already planning on Saturday being a day to turn off the internet and focus on building systems, and it’s my hope that it will get me refocused for next week.  I’d still like to have my study guide done by Halloween, and with just under two weeks to do so, I’d better get really busy.

Oh and speaking of study guides, there’s an incredible document called exam review.doc on the forum FTP site that I’m building mine off of.  It has references to all of the pages in MEEB that are useful, and is already broken into the appropriate NCARB content areas.  Hooah!  There’s tons to go through, but it looks really useful.

So life is a little crazy right now, but it’s busy times like these that remind me of my favorite Charles Eames quote:  “Never let the blood show. ”  I’m trying my best not to.

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let BS begin

While still on a study high from BDCS, I scheduled Building Systems for Sunday November 4, which is just under six weeks away. It was that, or the Saturday after Thanksgiving…a weekend traditionally reserved for stringing old C-9 bulbs with Dad and watching A Christmas Story while unpacking all of Mom’s fragile decorations (who knew she had so much Italian stuff haha). I’m really excited to give this last exam a shot, and regardless of how I do on it or BDCS, it will be nice to not have to worry about studying during the holidays.

say hello to my little friend

I’m sure every joke/pun that can be made with the Building Systems BS abbreviation has already been done, so I’m not even going to bother trying to come up with one on my own. Truth be told, I’ve been kind of looking forward to getting back into this topic. In school my Environmental Controls class was a total blast. Then again, any class where you get to design systems for a LEED platinum night club one month and build snow forts to test its thermal capabilities another is bound to be cool. That course taught me that geeking out about building systems can be really fun.

I dug out all of my old notes from school, dusted my copy of MEEB off, and began looking at the multitude of documents on the arefourm FTP site. I can already tell I’m going to need as much of the six weeks as possible to get through all of the information. With the exception of building code, and maybe a bit of BDCS there doesn’t appear to be much overlap with any of the other exams…correct me if you’ve found otherwise. I’ve gone through the content areas and roughed out my study guide, as well as tired the NCARB practice problems. I got about a 60% so there’s plenty to learn. I feel like I’m off and running and have already forgotten about being nervous for my BDCS results.

That is, until I remember again. GAH!

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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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on fascination and starting the next round

A few years ago, while I was out with an non-architect friend, we walked by a relatively new development downtown.   As was my typical habit, my mouth fell open as my head tilted back to take in as much of the floating facade as I could.  I stopped and stared… utterly fascinated with at what I was looking at.  My friend didn’t realize  my absence until about a half a block later.

“You ok?” he asked, as he walked back.

“Oh, yeah… I was just looking at how they connected that curtain wall system.”

I prepared myself for the usual eye rolling/sarcastic remark.  What he said next has stayed with me ever since:  “You really do see the world differently, don’t you?”

Yeah, I guess I do, and my suspicion is that many of you are the same way.  Unlike other professions, ours is one where we can geek out almost anytime given our built environment.   For me when it comes to building design and construction systems, I can’t help but be anxious to learn as much as I can.  I want to know why things are built the way they are, how materials realize or ruin a design, and what happens to structures as time takes its toll.   It’s art, it’s science, and it’s awesome.  With that in mind, I look forward to using this exam as an opportunity to appreciate the buildings I’m around a little more, and like I have for years, continue to look at my world a little differently.

That being said, I’ve got to hit the books hard sooner than later, and I’ve manged to get my hands on a nice stack of materials, including:

– Kaplan exam book and Q&A book
– Archiflash and Kaplan Flashcards
Fundamentals of Building Construction…another old textbook that I’m glad I kept!
Building Codes Illustrated
Materials from the FTP
Shiff Hardin Lectures … which I think I’ve probably listened to more than the students who were in the actual course.

It looks like I’ll be busy again.  I don’t know how much I will rely on the Kaplan exam book given the other materials, but I do plan on working through the Q&A book like I did on Structures.  It looks like there’s a lot of repeat material from CDS/PPP that I need to refer to as well when I study BDCS as is relates to professional practice.

If only all project types had a handy cheat sheet like this!

Semi-related to that…an architecture firm up in Seattle called BUILD has an awesome blog on the profession of architecture, which I encourage you to check out if you get a chance (they also have a stunning portfolio, but I digress).   While reading recently, I noticed a link to an old post on residential construction costs from 2009.   In it, they put together a really handy cheat sheet (I hope they don’t mind that I’m posting it here, too) on the costs and inclusions typically associated with a project of this type.  One of the questions that I’ve seen come up on the forum is how much architecture fees are in a project and/or what else they include.  While this is aimed for projects in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, it’s still a nice reference to have.
I roughed out my study guide based on the NCARB exam guide and it’s already 15 pages without any actual information written.  As some of you have warned, I can  see how this division is considered a doozie.   Here’s hoping the fascination I’m starting with stays with me through the entire process.   Maybe I’ll try studying  in some of my favorite spaces around town to keep my spirits up… as long as there aren’t any new structures to get distracted by next door.


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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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a super study guide for super bowl week and the pre-exam jitters

"do we have any cake???" she said every night for two weeks.

Exam day is tomorrow and I’m feeling…well…terrified. But I know I shouldn’t be.

I put together a massive 60 page study guide (download the pdf here…it’s good karma to share) based on the guides that other areforum members have posted as well as different articles, schiff hardin lectures, and chapters out of the AHPP that I’ve found helpful. It’s organized to follow the content areas in the NCARB exam guide as close as possible. While there are a few typos (the Great Fire in London was definitely in 1666, not 1966, whoops) I feel like it covers a lot of issues, and has been an incredibly helpful study exercise.

My vignette time is down to 20 minutes, and I’m feeling comfortable with the circles/offset issue. Sounds like NCARB throws a few curve balls at you, so will be sure to read and re-read the instructions carefully and take my time.

Tonight the plan is sit down with the guide and quickly review everything. I know it’s not worth cramming too hard at this point. I’m ok with most of the concepts, and contracts/cd issues are pretty straight forward. I need to devote time to making sure I have ADA dimension requirements down, history names/concepts understood, and ownership concepts figured out. When I write it down, it really doesn’t seem that bad.

Everyone has been incredibly supportive, and for that I’m so very grateful. Nate’s been full of words of encouragement and my sister Amanda showed up with a chocolate cake last night (I’ve been pining for chocolate store bought sheet cake for weeks). I guess all I can do at this point is give it my best shot, and if I pass great, and if not, I’ll revisit it in August.

So here’s to the final night of studying (for this one, hopefully). My exam is at 1pm tomorrow, and I’m planning on getting to bed early for a good night sleep.

After a piece of good luck cake of course.

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Day 71: 360 days to 26th birthday

It’s been a struggle trying to decide which exam to take next. I’ve narrowed it down to either Site Planning and Design or Programming, Planning, and Practice. I tried the sample questions in the NCARB exam guides and scored a 30/39 and 32/40 respectively. Both exams cover topics similar to CDS, and it looks like many interns take the three in sequence, so I suppose it doesn’t really matter which on I pick at this point*. I really enjoy history, and am still in the mindset of thinking about general concepts, so I bet PPP is the way to go.

*Dad interjects: “Take the site one so you can tell me how much fill I need to fix the grade change in the front yard.”

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