Tag Archives: study 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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on electricty and keeping the faith

So far, my strategy for re-studying has been to start with with the basics and work my way, slowly, through more advanced concepts.  Looking back over my notes (it’s really nice to have a study guide to start with, by the way) and my posts here revealed that I glossed over a lot of information during my first attempt.  I still don’t think that I missed anything, but I do recall moments in the exam when I quietly kicked myself for not getting into the level of detail that I should have. I’ll be damned if that’s the case again.

Last week I worked through an overall assessment of where I stand.  My biggest concerns are really getting a handle on mechanical, electrical, lighting, and acoustical systems.  I’m feeling alright with passive, fire, and pluming, and I’m not quite sure where I need to improve on conveyance and security.  Addressing those will be the goal of this weekend.  I should probably also dust off the vignette and give that a go, too.

transformers_3_dark_of_the_moon

no, not these.

This week  I’ve spent the better part of the evenings tying to wrap my head around the basics of electricity.  I was doing alright until I got to transformers, and then all came to a standstill as I stared at single and three phase configuration diagrams.  I read, I sketched, I googled, I YouTubed, everything was either too vague or ridiculously complex to help me figure it out. Yet after banging my head against the desk a couple of times something must of rattled right, because I could comprehend just how Wye and Delta connections work.  That, or walking away for a milkshake was the break I needed for it all to sink in (unnecessary calories included).  My next goal is to address different voltage and amperage types, their characteristics, and common values for residential and commercial applications.  Like transformers, I’m assuming it’s not that difficult once I’m really in the right mindset.   The challenge is getting there.

The studying process for a retake is surprisingly different than the first time around, and I’m I starting to notice that perhaps I’ve gotten myself overly worked up for BS 2.0.  For the first attempt I tried to learn as much as I could, with the mindset that a well rounded approach to learning the content would be the best strategy. With a retake I’ve found myself almost pessimistically believing that what I knew before wasn’t good enough.  I’ve noticed that I’m obsessing over studying and making sure I understand every little detail before moving on to the next topic.  That’s a big red flag. If I keep up with this frenzied attack I’ll stress out or burn out long before exam day on the 25th.  Quite frankly I think I already am.  Stepping back and looking at the big picture, and then zooming in on the most critical details is really the best approach.  It worked 6 out of 7 times, so perhaps it’s time to take a little of the advice I tend to dole out. Keep the faith and keep plugging away.  It’ll all make sense eventually.

I mean it’s a multiple choice exam…it’s not like we’re preparing to fight the Decepticons.

 

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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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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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Who knew there was more to youtube than cat videos?

Over the weekend I was pointed to a great series of youtube videos on electronics (thanks again Dustin!).  This video covers the basics of  Ohm’s Law:  Voltage, Current, and Resistance.   As a visual/audio learner I found it really helpful to have some short clips to watch.  I’m sure I learned the concepts much faster than had I been reading about them in one of my old textbooks.   Check it out if you’re interested!

 

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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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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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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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