Well, as I stated on my instagram post earlier in the week I failed the first exam in the series of the Architectural Registration Exam, This exam was also the first test that I have taken. As you can imagine, I was devastated, as I should be, I studied for hours upon hours with nothing to show for my time spend except for a bruised spirit. I wanted to leave that test knowing I knew everything that there was to know about managing an Architectural practice. Well fuck! we all knew that wasn’t going to happen, and I never expected that. I actually went in thinking I knew an aqueduct amount of information, still under prepared, but I was nervous, I was shaking, I was anxious, and my mind was fluttering with all the information I had gone over earlier. So lets go over first, what my expectations of the test were and what I imagined the test be like (Disclaimer - I am not going over what was on the test as I legally cannot disclose this information this is about my experience) that being said, what did I imagine the test as I have never been exposed to this procedure and I have heard horror stories, now let’s diverge into my in-depth experience.
Before studying even began, only the thought of preparing for the exam, I was nervous, like entering a small, dark space only large enough crouch around. Only having a small, dim light to navigate and not wanting to touch the walls surround because I don’t know what is on those walls and my mind gets the best of me, except these walls hold the keys to getting out successfully. This cave has multiple paths to navigate that intersect and some paths may come to a dead-end but eventually there is a way out, some people are better at navigating that others, right now I’m stuck in the cave trying to find my way out. Too much metaphor….. but let’s move on.
When discussing the exam process; co-workers, blog posts, and other professionals have given me different expectations of what the process and exam-taking would be like. I either hear; the tests will rip you of your social life (Yeah, I can see fun Chris wondering where I am), the test will tests your persistence (I’ll die before I quit), the tests are based on professional experience (Yeah, but you still need to study the material), the first test is easy (either I’m dumb or the exam is difficult). What am I to believe? All these conflicting opinions only pushing my first test date further and further out as I was afraid to fail and too scared to start.
I waited 3.5 years after graduating to start taking the AREs, which in hindsight was a poor decision on my part. The PcM, while based around professional experience and thinking I needed more professional experience before starting the test was an okay thought in theory but really hindered my professional growth at no fault but my own. My advise is TAKE the tests as soon as you are able. You will never know where you stand if you don’t try, cliche, I know but side story time……. "A colleague I know took a few of the tests without studying, going in without any expectations and ended up passing 2 while just looking to see where he stood and what he should focus on reviewing. Personally I wouldn’t risk the cost of one exam to see where I stand but it worked for him and I don’t know how, I’m still perplexed to this day but this reinforces the idea that you don’t know until you try.
Let’s see, I was afraid to fail, I was scared to start, I didn’t know where to start, or what to study. While in reality, I have a great resources in my office and I am sure, if you are reading this and you don’t know where to start, start in your office and the people around you, many of the people there have gone through a similar process and know great places to start and will love to tell you about what worked for them, and what didn’t work, like I’m try to do now in this long-winded rant/explanation.
WHAT WORKED/WHAT DIDN’T WORK
Now the good stuff, my study procedures. This test was a new animal, a ton of information needed to be retained. I didn’t know what I needed to know, what documents to study or what supplementary information I may need. I’m going to give you what I used to study and how I thought it helped me.
The most invaluable part of this whole experience was my study partners. We held each other accountable for dates to complete reading material, someone to always review test questions with, and to bounce ideas off of when I didn’t understand the material. They are my war buddies and this new bond we have developed will be very difficult to break,
Study Material I Used
I started here, they have all the information that, they think, you need to pass the exams as well as the study objectives and reference material, while it has all the required content it may not be the best study material.
I highly recommend this as a way to study, the content helped me immensely an breaks the information down into digestible sections with practice problems throughout.
How we approached the Ballast is by first taking the practice exam to see where we stood with the material, and honing in on the topics that encompassed the questions but also using it as a way to get familiar to how the questions on the test may be worded, and how long it takes to answer the questions, as we only have 3.5 hours (that want by way too fast, by the way)
To be honest, I bought the PcM content too late and wasn’t able to get through all the content available but what I did go over was super helpful. The videos gave me the feeling that I was studying in a group without my, in real life, group with me. I would watch the videos when I got tired of reading material and while I was at work, the group discussion gave different perspective, which I think is key to understanding the material. Looking forward to more content releases of The Young Architect material as it is great supplementary content.
The PcM practice exam bundle was bought to reaffirm the material that I have studied was retained and understood. The questions are pretty good at emulating the exam, not the best and the full practice exam had duplicate questions from the quizzes. I would have expected that with paid content there would be no overlap in the material but still recommended.
Supplementary material that is covered on the test per NCARB
I did not use but am planning on purchasing to use for my second round on the PcM exam and to have in my library to reference in my day to day.
In depth and great lectures to listen while commuting
Now that it is almost October and I have to wait 60 day until I can retake the exam and I now have to use the 2017 documents. The young Architect has put together a free course going over the changes for the 2007, I have not started this course but will be going over, so I thought I would add to the list.
Study Techniques that worked
Set up a schedule to follow that was broke down week by week and labeled the goals and outcomes to achieve. example of our breakdown below:
Goals - Complete Practice test, review weaknesses and develop study schedule
Tuesday Lunch - Questions 1 - 15
Tuesday Night - Review questions and label weaknesses
Thursday Lunch - Questions 15 -30
Thursday Night - Review answers and label weaknesses
Friday - Finish questions on own time
Saturday - Review rest of the questions and label weaknesses
Goals: Review Chapter 1,2, & 3 - Ballast
Monday - Read Chapter 1 on own time
Tuesday Lunch - Review key topics
Tuesday Night - Study key topics in depth
Wednesday - Read chapter 2
Thursday Lunch - Review key topics
Thursday Lunch - Study key topics in depth
Friday - Read Chapter 3
Saturday - Review key topics and study in depth
Studying to become a better Architect, not doing the minimum to pass the exams
Found weaknesses in the beginning by taking the Ballast Exam
This helped organize the study schedule and add in extra study time where needed
Repetition to retain information
Critical and diagrams or content was written 5 times in a row before each study session until the content was able to recreate
Word association to remember complex content
Covered more in depth in The Young Architects course
Defining study locations that are quiet and warm
feeling comfortable while studying is a huge motivation for me.
Study Techniques that are questionable
Crammed in the last week and left me mentally drained
Didn’t define clear study method
This was better developed in the latter weeks as we learned how to better structure the study material
Went in blind
This was to be expected
Took studying too casual in the first weeks of learning material
Not focused in beginning weeks
Didn’t review contracts thorough enough
Moved through content too fast
Add too much different study material towards the latter weeks that was impossible to digest efficiently
I am currently studying for the PjM and my expected test date is November 12th and I will take the PcM within two weeks following.
I will keep developing better study methods on what works and what doesn’t work for me, labeling and analyzing how to study more efficiently because the becoming a licenced Architect in the US is a huge endeavor and takes tons of time and effort. I want to give the community my take on methods and hope it helps as many people as possible and if you have recommendations/references please leave a comment below.