just the motivation I needed.

According to my calendar, today is apparently the day I get myself organized to study for test number three, Site Planning & Design.

I took my second exam on December 10th and as of this morning still had yet to receive my letter. Upon arriving home, I hurriedly opened the mailbox (as I’ve done since December 24th, thinking I’d receive my letter 2.5 weeks after taking the exam, much like PPP) and was greeted with the best post-Christmas present I could have ever received. A PASS.

Starting to study for SPD tonight will feel so much better with two PASS letters sitting in their envelopes on the corner of my desk. I guarantee you, I would have been on the couch with some Java chip icecream should this have gone differently.

The bottom line, when it comes to these tests, is to just make sure you study your tush off. Don’t give yourself two weeks to cram and then hope for the best (but also don’t give yourself unlimited time). Take. your. time. There’s no rush. This isn’t a race. If you still don’t feel comfortable with the material after 3 weeks, then by all means, give yourself another week. There is no harm in giving yourself extra time if you know you’ll put that time to good use. Do you really want to cram for 2 weeks, only to fail and then have to re-study what you studied, plus some? And (if you’re firm isn’t reimbursing you), do you really want to spend another $210 to re-take the exam? IMHO, the least amount of time spent in that Prometric center, the better.

I gave myself 5 weeks for CDS, spending one of those weeks reviewing what I studied for PPP. I planned time off from studying and set reasonable goals for myself each week, taking either a practice exam or practicing the vignette each weekend until I felt comfortable.

Seriously, don’t rush. The better you feel about the time you’ve spent studying, the more confident you’ll feel when you enter that testing center and the happier you’ll feel about your results walking out of the test.

If I can do it, you can do it.


two down, hopefully only 5 more tests to go.

It’s taken me quite a while to write this one – again, it’s not best to plan to take an exam in the midst of the holiday frenzy. Christmas shopping and baking do not go hand in hand with studying. Somehow I was able to turn my brain off from Christmas and the list of outstanding gifts still left to buy and concentrate on studying only for the entire weekend – I did attend a Christmas get together but it was a welcome break from memorizing spec divisions.

Again, I woke up much much too early to take my test at 7:30am – this time I was less thrilled than I was the first time about being finished early in the day and determined that a 9:00am start time would be a welcome change for the next exam. However, if I do receive a Pass letter, I might just have to schedule the next for 7:30am, because at that point I will be more than positive that it’s a lucky time for me.

Unlike PPP which I found to be generally easier than the practice exams that I took prior to the exam, CDS proved to be a little more challenging with many more “What would an architect do in this situation”, rather than questions with cut and dry answers. I had quite a few building code and ADA questions which were fairly standard although I wish I had read through parts of the code word for word rather than skimming and acquiring a general understanding. Yes, there were questions which required specific answers… And, a few fill in the blanks which I knew to expect based on other peoples comments in the areforum. The vignette was straightforward, much like the NCARB vignette and I took the entire time to check and double check and triple check to make sure my dimensions were accurate and ducts were drawn where they needed to be.

I left the exam feeling fairly confident – though not as confident as I felt leaving the PPP exam but maybe that was because I couldn’t really sleep the night before CDS (I was worrying about Christmas shopping) so I was pretty exhausted after I finished.

So, now we wait. It took me 2.5 weeks to hear about PPP and today marks 1.5 weeks of waiting. I’m assuming I won’t get the letter before Christmas but what a nice present it would be if that PASS letter arrived in the next couple days. Fingers crossed!

Happy Holidays everyone!

pluggin’ away.

Note to self (and anyone else reading this blog and scheduling exams): planning to take a test in December is not the best idea if you are the one mostly responsible for Christmas present shopping, decorating and the like.

That being said, I’m glad that CDS is the exam I’m taking this coming Monday since I essentially covered all of the material when I studied for PPP. I am feeling fairly confident but that confidence is easily shaken when one checks the forum only to find that someone has failed the exam you’re about to take – you start to question whether you should spend an extra hour before bed re-reading what you just read. I feel like I’ve reviewed, re-reviewed, and read and re-read as much material as I could get my hands on, I’ve come up with a little story to help me remember specification sections (as if I don’t see enough of that at work), and I’ve practiced the vignette.

I’ve spent this week re-re-reviewing and reading through additional tips for the vignette and I’ve compiled the ultimate study guide which covers the information I feel needs a bit more attention. I plan on doing two more practice vignettes and the Ballast practice exam before 7:30am Monday morning and I hope and pray that will be enough to get exam #2 comfortably under my belt.

After CDS, I’m calling a time out and giving myself a little break until the second week in January when I plan to start tackling SPD.

This studying stuff is for the birds… how did I ever pull all-nighters in school?!

it’s a pass.

I just had a feeling that today would be the day. With bated breath, I tore open the envelope to find that I’ve received my first pass on my first exam. I couldn’t be happier/more relieved. Certainly makes studying for CDS  that much more tolerable!

4 years, 8 months, 17 days.

During my first two years out of graduate school I worked in a small high end residential firm where I had the opportunity to work on some amazing projects; beautifully crafted and creatively detailed solutions. I developed multitudes of renderings for clients, 3D models to walk them through their custom dream homes, etc. however, I never actually got to see the projects built… I can’t say too many bad things about my previous firm – they did offer me my first job out of school (for which I will always be grateful) and they did teach me a lot about design and different ways to think about design (they were two of the most thoughtful designers I’ve ever met) but I’m starting to understand now that even amazing architects don’t always make the smartest business decisions, sometimes allowing their passion for design to cloud the ultimate goal (reasonable, cost conscious designs completed on time, making for happy clients, meaning money in the bank and food on the table – if I’m being honest)… I’m of course speculating based on my experience working in firms but I’ve noticed a significant difference between the two firms with whom I’ve worked and realize now that architects are sometimes forced to make concessions in order to successfully complete a project.

Had my previous employers been smarter business people and been able to let go of their personal desires to create the next best thing in architecture, and been more focused on the clients needs (and financial capabilities), I may have actually seen the construction of some of these projects and completed a more significant portion of IDP before leaving the firm.

When I finished graduate school, the rules were that you had to complete IDP before you could sit for the exam. As an eager and overly ambitious just-out-of-school intern architect I determined I’d finish IDP in 2.5-3 years and sit for the exams (which I’d take in rapid succession and pass on the first try of course) and be a registered architect by age  25 (Oh the thoughts of a recent graduate… how ridiculous they sometimes are…) Needless to say the decisions of my employers hampered my (most likely unrealistic) schedule leaving quite a bitter taste for architecture in my mouth… causing my motivation and desire to become a registered architect to plummet… and I started to question whether this was really for me.

Well, fortunately, something changed as I mentioned in this post and lucky for me, the rules changed making it possible to receive your authorization to test sit for the exams prior to completing IDP. Phew!

Well, it took me a little longer than I had hoped (ahem) but nonetheless, I have finally completed IDP. 4 years, 8 months and 17 days later, I’ve submitted my final hours to my supervisor and am awaiting approval.

Check that big milestone off my to do list! Moving on!

one down, hopefully only 6 more tests to go.

Thursday morning I woke up at a God-awful time, ate some toast, stuffed a snack into my purse and made my way to the Prometric center about 20 minutes away, arriving 30 minutes early as recommended. I showed my license, read the rules and to my seat I was escorted starting my exam 20 minutes earlier than expected. After taking a deep breath I clicked on the button to start the exam and it was seemingly smooth sailing from there.

I felt pretty confident after the 85 multiple choice questions which was sort of a strange feeling considering I never did all that well on the practice tests I took. I’ll go as far as saying that I think the Ballast practice questions I did prior to taking the test were much more difficult than the actual test. Let’s hope that’s the case and that the cause of my confidence wasn’t the lethal combo of coffee and adrenaline. The vignette was what I expected – I wrote down the program and checked it twice before proceeding with the drawing and double checked each line I drew to make sure I was following directions to a T. I had enough time at the end to check the drawing and program one more time and felt extremely confident when I hit finish.

With that, I walked out the door with a huge weight lifted off my shoulder and I’m now taking a few days to recover while waiting for the books for the next exam, CDS, to arrive and building a patio in my backyard. And yes, if you were following closely, I changed the exam order. I’m an over-studier and have already covered most of the material on CDS so it only makes sense to take that second. Hoping to do that in the next 4-5 weeks… assuming this patio project goes according to plan and schedule.

One down, hopefully only 6 more to go!

here goes nothing.

Welp, tomorrow’s the day! Exam #1 – PPP at 7:30 in.the.morning. I’m hoping it’s going to be as worth it as I determined it would be had I chosen the next available time which would have put me another week and a half out. At a few days over 6-1/2 weeks I’m as prepared as I’m gonna be for tomorrow morning and I think that studying any longer than that would have been detrimental. I left work after half a day to spend the rest of the afternoon quietly (or so I thought… of course today would be the day that the neighbors decide to do construction in their backyard) reviewing and practicing the vignette one more time before dinner and an early bedtime. 5am is approaching quickly.

Fingers crossed that the Architecture Gods are watching over me!

sandbagging and mothballing my way to exam 1.

I’m in super review mode over here and getting a little overwhelmed at the amount of material I covered in the first go round (maybe I outdid myself?) – it’s a lot to review. Like, a whole lot.

I have up days where I feel confident and prepared and then I remember that I haven’t quite mastered the vignette which I’ve only practiced twice and then I can’t remember the preferred grade slope for a parking lot and determine that I’m going to fail. Those are the down days when I wonder how I’m going to take 6 more exams after this one.

Obviously that’s not the best mindset to be in as I push through this final week of review and memorization so, I try to remain confident and make sure to remind myself that this isn’t life or death (it’s just the health, safety and welfare of the general public) and if my outcome this time is less than desirable, that there is always next time.

There isn’t going to be a next time however, because, today is an up day… and we’re just going to forget that yesterday ever happened.

Posted in PPP

it is what it is.

Another word to the wise – if you are determined to take the test on a specific date at a specific time and you are sure you are going to hold yourself to it, do not hesitate to sign yourself up as soon as possible. I waited and now I’m taking the exam much later than I had anticipated at a time I’d really rather not (7:30am…). This is both good and bad… I’ve done my first run through of everything I wanted to cover (which was a ton because I wanted to cover some of the material found on SPD and CDS to try to cover my bases as much as I could), except for history which I’ve purposely put off for reasons unknown to me. So, now I have a good week to cover history and 1-1/2 weeks to review everything one more time. That’s the good. The bad (which I hope will not rear its ugly face) is that I have 2-1/2 more weeks during which to forget all I’ve studied and burn out from over studying. But maybe, just maybe this will allow me to more quickly prepare for exam number 2, SPD… one can only hope.

standard of living vs. quality of life

In the ARE Forum, I came across an interesting thread in which a youtube video was recommended specifically as a study guide for PPP and generally as a great resource on the very real issue of sprawl. There are 9 videos total, each about 9 or 10 minutes long which provided not only a nice break from the books but an extremely interesting look at the effects of suburban sprawl on people and its inability to sustain growth. I highly recommend these videos even if you aren’t studying for the ARE. The video and the images he shows may seem outdated but (unfortunately) the content is not.