Saturday, July 28, 2007

So What's in YOUR Office?

I've had no AC, roaches, carpenter ants, Jekyll/Hyde employers, a desk next to the loo where another employee made rather noisy "deposits" twice a day (like clockwork), abusive clients, and more.

If anyone actually reads this blog, I'd love to hear your stories. C'mon - vent, get it off your chest, leave a comment!

Friday, July 6, 2007

Taking a Leap of Faith - in Myself...

I'm taking a leap. I am entering the world of freelance work and self-employment taxes. Whether or not this decision will create more stress than working in some of the, um, "strange" situations I've worked in will obviously be determined at some point. But somehow I don't think it will.

Anyone need any lines drawn?

Monday, July 2, 2007

1/9th an Architect - Can I Put That on My Business Card?

It finally arrived - that envelope from NY State Ed containing 1/9th my fate...

PASS. Such beautiful words.

I PASSED my first exam!

Eight more to go.

Oh, and as promised, my husband was right, I was wrong, and he can sing the "I was right" song (all along I figured I failed, all along he said he knew I would pass).

Sunday, June 17, 2007

And now.... I wait

I survived my first exam - Construction Documents & Services. I looked that evil beast in the eye, and wanted to puke (unfortunately, that beast has 8 more friends). But I didn't. The Prometrics facility was not exactly comfy and cozy. It was warm, stuffy, crowded and had no windows. Prometrics was located in the basement of a building, presumably to prevent test takers from flinging themselves out the windows. The computer equipment wasn't all that either - the refresh rate on the monitor was painful and the mouse kept sticking. But what the hell? I got through it.

It definitely wasn't as horrific as I had anticipated. Quite a few of the questions were almost identical to those in the study materials. After reading all the horror stories on the ARE Forum, I was sure the questions would be so much more complex and confusing than those in Kaplan, Archiflash and Ballast. With that said, I still have absolutely no idea as to how I actually did. I don't know if I failed, I don't know if I passed. I know for sure I screwed up a couple of simple questions (damn ADA, curses on backfill), and there were a few of the annoying "WTF" questions. Despite that, I don't get the overwhelming sense that I failed miserably. Maybe I passed. Maybe not... I guess it's a crap shoot now and could go either way.

So now, I wait. Hopefully not too long - I'm not a good waiter despite many years spent working in restaurants and bars!

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Where'd My Rolling Clock Go? ARE 3.1 vs. 4.0

This is how I understand the new regime. Currently, ARE candidates are tested via Version 3.1, made up of nine divisions (CD, ME, MM, PD, BP, SP, GS, LF, BT). Version 3.1 will continue to be administered through June of 2009. Beginning July 2008, Version 4.0 will be administered and is made up of seven divisions (six divisions will now include both multiple choice and vignettes, SD will only have vignettes). This means that the two versions will overlap one year - July 2008 to July 2009. Go to NCARB's site, and read "direct Connection" (2007 Volume 10 Issue 1) for more specific info on the new combined divisions and all the details.

There are, however, a couple of kickers:

  • In order to continue testing with Version 3.1, a candidate must have passed one division by May 2008.
  • If you have not passed all of your exams by the end of June 2009, you may need to "...repeat previously passed content under ARE 4.0".
Watcha talkin' about, NCARB?! My take on this is: my five year rolling clock has now been reduced to two years! Mind you, I do not - repeat - do NOT want to take five looooong years to complete all nine divisions. But I certainly do not want to get cheated out of the allotted time frame if needed. After all, life sometimes gets in the way. Especially with the mandatory, ridiculous six month waiting period to retake an exam - five years may be necessary. In two simple words, this sucks! I'm not whining, I just do not want to have to "repeat previously passed content". Who is going to pay for my re-test, my study time, and my time off to re-take parts of the exam? My guess is: Not NCARB.

If they can overlap the versions one year, why not just take it a bit further and overlap until folks like me have completed their five year clock? If you have passed your first exam by the end of May 2008, then you should have five years from that date to complete all exams in Version 3.1. Yes, it will require some coordination and extra effort on NCARB's part. Yes, it may cost them a few extra bucks. NCARB charges way too much money for their inadequate study materials - perhaps they could use some of that money towards extending Version 3.1.

Extending Version 3.1 to correspond with the mandatory rolling clock will take a lot of coordination, but it's the right thing to do. In "direct Connection" (2007 Volume 10 Issue 1), it is argued that the new Version 4.0 is meant in part to save candidates time and money (fewer divisions = less travel time + less money in test fees), less time away from work, more consistency, etc.. Where are my savings by having to "repeat content?" What "content" would that be?

C'mon, NCARB! Step it up and do the right thing for those candidates stuck in the black hole between Version 3.1 and Version 4.0!

They've Got My Dough: Now the Follow-Through!

I did it. I scheduled my first exam. Construction Documents it is! Saturday, June 16th, 1:00pm. I plunked down my $102.00 - can someone tell me what the $2 is for? I came up with a schedule, but sometimes it's hard to stick to. Work and other annoying things get in the way, proving a "set in stone" schedule isn't really set at all. However, I believe I've allowed enough time to really prepare for this. Having a lovely husband who has been practicing construction and labor law for the past 20 years doesn't hurt! In fact, I have to write a letter at the end of all of this to Kaplan - there are mistakes in their study materials. Not just unfinished paragraphs and missing words, but mistakes. So, to the grindstone and study study study!

Saturday, April 7, 2007

RYOR - When Too Much Information is a Bad Thing

Do a Google search on "architect registration examination," and you get 26,200 results in 0.12 seconds - as of today. Whew... Search within those results for "study" and it narrows it down to 12,500 possibilities. Now that's more manageable! Gee, I even found a blog written by some far right nutcase who thinks government spending could be reduced by getting rid of many (if not all) regulating boards. For whatever reason, and it is apparent that this individual is not an architect, he writes: "Can you imagine what life would be like without the Board of Architect Examiners? (est. 1918) Who would enforce the pointless regulations regarding building design?". Pointless regulations, huh? Hope he doesn't live an "unregulated" home in an area with a lot of seismic activity or hurricanes... But I'm off track.

Further refine the search with "study group" and it reduces it to 10,100. Get the picture? NCARB's site doesn't offer much practical advice. My state AIA site doesn't offer much practical advice. I managed to stumble upon the ARE Forum, which is the most helpful resource I've found to date. The forum is all about the the test taker and the site is structured around the 9 divisions of the ARE. When I began lurking on the ARE Forum, I do believe the clouds parted allowing a beam of white light to warm my brain (I swear I heard trumpets and a choir...). Wow, awesome, now THIS is what I'm talking about! I found a wealth of information that has helped me to decide which test to take first, study aids, used materials for sale, etc. But soon the dark clouds gathered overhead, and my head was spinning (help me, ma-mister wizard!). I was looking in the individual test division forums and the horror stories began. What do you mean M/E kicked your ass and was the hardest test you've taken?! Why, just a few posts ago I read that this was the easiest and most logical first test to take! And hey, you - structures was easy? Sure, I believe that. Doesn't the Easter Bunny come tonight?

What I've discovered is this: it's all a matter of opinion and personal experience. If I enter these forums, I need to go with a specific question. Ask or search for the question or answer, ignore the personal BS, get the answer, and get the hell OUT. Otherwise, it's too overwhelming and I start to second guess myself.

I once worked with someone (nice person, icky professional) who offered what I now realize is excellent advice:

Run Your Own Race

What To Do, What To Do!

UPS delivered the study materials from Kaplan for Mechanical/Electrical, Construction Documents and Lateral Forces (ugh). Now I have all 6 multiple choice sections, and now I have to decide which test to start studying for. I feel as if I'm about to climb Everest!

The plan of attack for the first 4 weeks is: go over the review book Monday through Friday from 7:30pm-9:00pm, and review the Q&A and flash cards on Saturday and Sunday. My study schedule begins Monday. However, it will be on a modified basis for the next three weeks depending on how much work I have to do at home on the "castle" project. The job was undersold, there's no way I can finish it in 120 hours at the office, so I'm biting the bullet and doing what I can at home. Obviously, the best laid plans often need to be adjusted and modified as required. I'll see how it goes.

Today we were going to have our Passover/Easter dinner but the flu has claimed my dad, so we've rescheduled for next Saturday. Now that I have some free time today and tomorrow, I'll go over the ME and CD materials and MAKE A DECISION.


Sunday, April 1, 2007

Taking the ME or CD exam first...

I've looked at the pass/fail rates, taken some sample exams, and read a lot of recommendations from other examinees on ARE Forum. It makes sense that the two exams that should be tackled first are Mechanical/Electrical (ME) and Construction Documents (CD). Most everyone recommends this book: Mechanical and Electrical Equipment for Buildings (Stein). The publisher offers a "Student Companion Site" that has chapter summaries and chapter quizzes (you can access these at The 10th edition came out last year, and the 9th edition (from 1999) can be had for $30-40 less. I need to find out what the main differences are, and if it's worth the extra $$ for the new edition. Before making that kind of purchase, I will also take a look at the Kaplan/ALS materials that are on their way to me as we speak. It's possible that this is all I will need.

A Blogging Virgin No More!

Okay, so I've searched all over the net for any advice on taking the ARE (Architect Registration Examination). I found a lot of good advice, maybe a bit more than I can digest. Most of it is totally subjective (structures? easy? don't think so...), but what I did find was at least how to start.

Yesterday Randy (my husband) and I came up with a game plan to get me through at least the first exam. Seems the best choice for me will be the ME (Mechanical & Electrical) exam. The subject matter is narrower than the rest of the sections, and I probably know more there (just from work experience) than I think I do. I took the sample test in the review materials produced by NCARB, without any preparation and very tired, and got about 75%. So here we go!