Tag Archives: exam thoughts

on Passing. Finally.

I don’t know why I was expecting to see the crisp white NCARB envelope as I flipped through the stack of statements and magazines, perhaps it’s some sort of ARE sixth sense that one develops over the course of the process.  That or, after all of the exams, I’ve finally learned how to listen to my gut.  And just as I had expected, there the unmistakeable blue striped envelope sat at the bottom of the stack.

For the first time in all of the result openings, I hesitated.

Walking out of the exam I had felt that I did a decent job, better than the first attempt, but still not sure if it was good enough.  As the week went on I scribbled notes to myself on concepts to remember to focus on should I be faced with a third round of studying.  As I waited for the results, exam specifics blended into an overall sense of uncertainty, followed by an overwhelming wave of peace.  The worst that could happen would be that I would fail again, and then try even harder.  As I looked at the envelope these two weeks of emotions all surged through my system once more in rapid succession.  First the fear, then the peace.

My finger slid through the fold of the envelope.  I peeked inside.

PASS.

About a year ago, as I prepared for the structures exam, I caught myself daydreaming about the feeling of euphoria one must experience when getting their final pass letter.  Are there tears of joy?  Squeals of excitement?  Does the weight of the ARE albatross hanging around one’s neck suddenly disappear?  Whatever the feeling it must be glorious.  As my moment arrived it was a strange amalgamation of those things, a deep exhale of relief while blinking back a tear.  Upon reaching the light at the end of the tunnel one is enveloped in a warm sun lit glow of a perfect summer’s day.  It’s the most intimate and yet all encompassing feeling.  It’s not big or flashy, it’s simply tranquil.

There really is no fanfare at this point, I’m proud for accomplishing the seven exam feat and excited to finish up my IDP and state board requirements to finally get the license in hand.  Then we’ll party.  But until that day arrives I’m grateful for the success of passing, amazed at the amount I’ve grown as an [almost] architect, and  humbled by all of you who have joined me along the way.  I started writing this blog to keep track of a personal quest and never expected to reach the end of the journey with so many new colleagues and friends.   I’ve been touched by your stories and encouraged by your words.  To me, it’s incredible how an examination that is so highly individualized manages to bring us all together.

It’s been an honor to share my AREndurance with you and I thank you for sharing yours with me.

Cheers.

actually, more like the beginning

actually, more like the beginning.

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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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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 ultimate project closeout, exit passageways, and new professional practice

true words at Ace Hotel NYC

true words at Ace Hotel NYC

To say that things have been hugely neglected around here would be an understatement. Once again I’ve found my ARE Life has taken a backseat to real life. It makes me wonder if perhaps I should have taken a few months off, isolated myself like great authors do, studied, and knocked out all seven exams in one swift blow. And yet while that might have been the best academic approach, perhaps this license journey isn’t meant to be that straightforward. Perhaps we’re meant to go though this examination process considering the lessons of life as thoughtfully as the books we dutifully spend our spare moments pouring over. Perhaps the true preparation for this career we seek comes from the life changing events that the pages of Kaplan, Ballast, and the Architect’s Handbook of Professional Practice could never possibly cover.

Events like helping close a business.

Or like taking the next step to move on.

Over the holidays my firm’s principal became ill and ultimately decided that he could no longer run the company. At the end of January my office officially closed its doors. As many of our clients and friends said, for a firm that was around since the early 1960’s it would be the end of an era. During February, and thanks to the tireless work of my principal’s wife, we worked through the process of wrapping up all of the projects, sending documents off to rightful owners, finishing the accounting (you may recall that a while back I took on the office bookkeeping duties too), and figuring out what to do with the 50+ years of records, equipment, furniture, and stuff that had accumulated. Most of it went to good homes and the rest was either salvaged or simply recycled. As we lugged boxes of old product binders and tattered drawings out to the dumpster on a crisp Saturday morning, one of my mentors jokingly asked which division of the IDP all of this shuffle would fall under. As I thought about it, I realized that this experience was bigger than intern development. This is the real raw deal that (fortunately) most interns would never be subject to. For the first time I truly understood what it meant to run a practice deeply rooted in honesty, ethics, and hard work, and just how critical public relations are in the livelihood of the operation. When the projects go away and the shell of a company remains, how will it rebound or, in our case, be remembered? As I witnessed the number of people willing to lend a helping hand as we closed the doors, everything from expediting paperwork to breaking down bookcases, I saw the compassion for the community my boss and the rest of the principals had extended over the decades returned tenfold. Perhaps that’s the sign of a truly successful practice. While the circumstances of the office closing are truly unfortunate and the final work bittersweet at best, I’m so grateful to have been a small part the firm’s years of success. I’ve found peace in the fact that even though the office is gone, it will continue to live on through the countless thriving spaces it shaped throughout its years.

jacbc

new job hunt means new business cards

As we closed I also began to wonder what was next for me. The architectural industry in the greater Portland area is still struggling to make a comeback, and many of my friends and classmates have taken alternative careers or moved away in order to find work. Would the same be true for me, and what would become of my roots? My family and Nate are here, and quite frankly I love Portland too much to leave. Moving would not be an option, so the only alternative would be to push myself into firms to get my name out there, and hopefully some interviews. I took to heart the the job seeking tips of Build LLC and Nate and I devised a pretty kick ass mini portfolio concept to send out. I updated my personal logo and brand identity and revised my resume to be more professional than academic. The list of firms I was interested in approaching ranged from small practices to the large companies and grew every day as I read about the local design happenings. I was constantly worried that I’d never get in the door, but excited for the opportunity to get my work out there. There are so many good things going on in this city and I was anxious to be a part of it.

And then the phone rang.

In a serious case of being at the right place in the right time, some local firms heard about our office closing and that a few of us were out looking for a job.  I ended up receiving a couple of requests to come in for an introductory interview….and tried not to say “uh…yes!” too fast.  Both firms were high atop my aforementioned list, so I tailored a portfolio suited to their project types and agonized over cover letters longer than I’d care to admit.  When the time came to sit down with the principals at each office I instantly felt at ease… strangely enough it never felt like an interview but more like a conversation about our backgrounds and what I might be able to bring. I left feeling confident that  either would be a fantastic opportunity and surprised to find myself in a situation where I might have to decide between two employers.  Fun fact: there’s no chapter on that in the Architect’s Handbook of Professional Practice, I looked. Twice.  When I received nearly identical offers a few days later I spent the following evenings talking with my family and Nate and tossing through sleepless nights while I weighed my options.  I ultimately  decided to take the offer from the first firm I had met with. While I know that I would have been happy at either, I felt that I personally fit a little better at the first.  Sometime you just have to go with your gut and I haven’t regretted my decision for a second.

a fine place to call home.

seriously, how can you not love this place?

I’ve settled in at the new office now. Names have been placed with faces and now the challenge of learning a new set of office standards begins. I work primarily in Revit these days, and have tried to get myself up to speed as best I can. The days fly by, and I’m truly enjoying the opportunities that I’ve been given to show what I can do. It’s challenging, yet as I learn this new design approach I realize that so much of the honest value of architecture remains the same regardless of where you work. We’re tasked with creating buildings and spaces that invigorate and ease. That protect and sustain. Yes we need to know the importance of sites, structures, materials, and systems…but it’s critical to understand how all of these meld together to create an overall methodology. I think it’s time and practice that helps us learn and define our own approach to architecture and I know I’m only at the beginning of this enduring process.

This new beginning at work makes me wonder what will be next for AREndurance. With only one exam left, and a retake at that, I realize that I need to start coming up with a plan for what happens here on this site. When the final pass letter arrives do I celebrate and call this the end of an era? Perhaps. Or do I keep writing and tie in my professional experiences with the divisions we study? If this process has taught me anything, it’s that the journey to becoming an architect is longer than the time it takes to prepare for seven exams. As I travel down the exit passageway of the ARE I’m excited to see where the exit takes me. I just hope it’s a place with a few less flashcards.

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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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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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BDCS Exam Review

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.

who has two thumbs and totally understands what’s going on here now?

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.

Post Prometric Pint #6 – Rise Up Red, hoping my results won’t be DOA

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!

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…and SD makes 5!

It’s funny how involuntary reactions work with exam results.  Every time I see an NCARB envelope my stomach drops to my diaphragm (oh no!) and then jumps up to my esophagus (oh boy!) and I hold my breath as I tear open the envelope.  My hands shake, ever so lightly, as I peek at the header of the NCARB letter still tucked inside.    Somehow this all occurs in a matter of seconds that feel like hours and is done without any conscious thought on my part.  I’m sure you’ve experienced something similar too.

And then an honest to goodness smile as I see the word PASS.

I’m pretty dang happy and a bit relieved, like always.  While I had a good feeling that the exam went well, it’s really nice to officially have another confirmed pass to my name.  With five down, this is truly the first moment when I’ve felt that the end is near.  There’s still plenty (and from what I’ve read on the forum that means a ton) of information to get thought on BDCS and BS  but I’m ready to buckle down and focus.   I’ve realized that  my goal of knocking out the last two exams in the next four months means that both must be a PASS so I’m not wasting any time waiting around for six months to retake either of them.

But for now…let’s party, like we have before and will no doubt do again.  While the examination process is getting a bit tiring, here’s hoping that celebration never does.

party cat by the very funny nedroid (click for the whole series, which surprisingly sums up the ARE process quite nicely)

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SD Exam Review

“You’ve done these before, right?” the Prometric lady asked as she checked me in on Sunday.

“Yeah…once or five times”  I replied with a small laugh.  No wonder this process is starting to feel routine, it seems like every few weekends I’m back in East Portland settling in for the day.  I even caught myself thinking “sweet, my parking spot is here” as I drove into the lot.   That’s a whole new level of Prometric intimacy that I wasn’t expecting.

I’m having a hard time putting into words how I feel about this exam.  It went okay, there was nothing spectacular, no major WTFs, and it was absolutely on par with what I expected.  I suppose that’s a nice change from the freak outs of exams past. Overall I’m satisfied with how I did.  My solutions at least appeared to be decent and I finished both with time to spare.   Like always, I think I did alright, but when it comes to NCARB you can never be too sure.

I arrived at Prometric about 25 minutes before my exam time, signed in, chatted with the girl in the chair next to me about the breadth of exams people were there to take, and relaxed.  As this is the only ARE division where last minute note cramming is impossible, it was nice to have a moment to clear my head.  After getting checked in  I found myself at the same station where I took CDS as well as the LEED exam.  Here’s hoping my success rate at that spot continues.

The Interior Layout was first and I found it to be a tad more difficult than the NCARB example, but not nearly as hard as some of the forum alternatives. (I’m looking at you, scheme-with-multiple-tables-for-four).  I finished my design in just about 35 minutes and used the rest of the time to check, double check, and triple check my solution.  On the last round of verification I noticed that one of the dimensions of my clear floor area in front of a door was two inches short and, when drawn correctly, would overlap a piece of furniture by an inch or so.  Probably not a fatal mistake, but it just goes to show that even if a solution looks good it never hurts to take a minute and check the pesky details.

During the break as I reread the bulletin board postings I heard a faint “woohoo!” from the other side of the room.  The girl who I had talked to before was grinning with her pass letter, and asked me how mine went.  “Fine,” I said, “…but I still have four hours to go.”   She blinked. “Really? Wow.”   Yeah,  my sentiments exactly.

After the break I checked back into my desk in the now majorly empty testing room.  The Building Layout portion was definitely more tricky than the NCARB example.  I was so grateful to have done the alternative vignettes the day before…working through those helped me quickly come up with solutions to a few otherwise strange things in the actual exam.   The program chart on scratch paper is a lifesaver, and I spent a good half hour filling it out and checking it over.  The layout was straight forward, and the only thing I found myself worrying about was if a few of my rooms were too rectangular in terms of their length/width proportion.  Given the overall layout of the building I ultimately decided to stick with them, rather than try and create terrible L-shaped rooms.   Knowing my luck that would have only made them worse.

Overall with taking my time on the chart, initial layout, verification with the program, and adding detail and adjusting as required, the whole process took just under three hours.  For my final step I flipped between the actual program on the screen and my solution…it sounded like I was sending morse code via spacebar.  With an hour left I called it good enough, and checked out.

After the exam I ran  a few errands (hello new favorite art supply shop) and then headed over to my aunt and uncle’s place for a toddler-rific birthday party for my second cousin.   Anything with a Cars and Spiderman theme is pretty cool in my book…even cooler when it involves ice cream.

this stuff practically comes out of home faucets in pdx

Of course I couldn’t neglect my favorite exam tradition, so my sister Amanda graciously and awesomely showed up with beer… I kicked back with the Post Prometric Pint, a Bridgeport IPA, and didn’t even bother with a glass.   It’s kind of a go-to beer around these parts.  Everyone knows it, you can get it basically anywhere, and it’s pretty decent on tap or via bottle.

I’m already anxiously awaiting my results, but I know that I prepared well and submitted pretty darn good solutions.  When I began this examination process I was worried that I’d never figure out and finish the vignettes in the time allotted, but with plenty of practice I was able to get over that quickly.   I’m glad to have this exam attempted, and I’m looking forward to enjoying summer for a few weeks before I gear up for the final two divisions.

 

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Shock and Awe

I got home from work last night and a white envelope was sitting on the desk.   Probably just a bill … wait…what’s that? NCARB?  ALREADY?  It’s only been a week and a half since my exam.  This couldn’t be good…or maybe it was….I ripped into it, holding my breath like always.

PASS!!  (A wine bottle was opened almost instantly.)

I’m honestly blown away, I didn’t expect to see that result.  Now that I’ve celebrated/calmed down a little bit,  I’ve been thinking about why it went my way.   Aside from studying until I was blue in the face, I think that having a solid conceptual understanding of structures truly saved me.  Reading about lateral, seismic, and wind forces from multiple sources (eg: FEMA, Buildings at Risk, Kaplan, misc study guides) was crucial to my success.  While I wish I would have spent more time on equations and practice problems, I understand (and agree) with other examinees suggestion that knowing what the equations and their components mean is almost more important than how to solve them.

When I told Nate the good news  he said “told you!”, which turned out to be the same sentiment from others as well.   Apparently you all have more faith in me than I do.  Thanks for that, and for all the kind words of support and encouragement during the process.  I know I couldn’t do this without you.

So, 4 down…3 to go.   Words cannot express how good it feels to be over the half way point.  Now let’s just hope that this successful streak continues.

 

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