Tag Archives: study

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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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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if only BS was as fun as PBS

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

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

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

oh so *that's* how they work

oh so that’s how they work

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

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

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

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Alright, back to work.

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

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

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

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

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On Study Groups

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

form image

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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on failure.

Too soon to add this to my Christmas list?

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

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

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

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

Failing sucks.

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

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

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

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

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MEEB like this…MEEB like that…

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

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

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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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