Wednesday, November 12, 2008

General Structures (aka "the horror…! THE HORROR!")

This was, by far, the WORST experience I have had with these exams. I thought ME was bad… GS is the mother of them all. Unless, of course, you are a structural engineer or actually good at this material. I even tried to offer NCARB the name and number for a really good structural engineer I know in lieu of my taking this one, but they wouldn't go for it. I never was good at GS, and have always been equation phobic. I wish I would have paid more attention in Mrs. Schwager's class in high school, but doing well in my acting classes and hanging out at the Greek place on 46th & 6th were much more important… not to mention the "extracurricular activities" many of us were involved in while going to HS in the early-mid 70's. Then there was my absolutely horrid experience in architecture school with a certain structures professor who made life miserable if you happened to have breasts and a uterus. Old, Turkish, misogynist who believed women had no place in this business, and a miserable mo fo to boot. To add to that pain, I had him for studio one semester as well. Thankfully, he left before my last semester of structures and the guy that took his place was incredible. It was too late for me by then, but it helped a little tiny bit (thanks, Ralph).

The long and short of this exam experience - no freaking way will I pass this one. Yes, I know I've said that with all of them, but this time I really mean it. I mean it to the extent that I even upped the ante with my lovely husband to $100 for this exam if I pass. Never say never I suppose, but I believe that there is only a 1% chance of my passing GS. My husband has faith, and so do a lot of others who have more faith in me than I do (and you know who you all are), and they all keep telling me that like all the other exams I will get that PASS in the mail in a couple of weeks.

Here's the story. I have been studying my ass off the past two months. I used Kaplan, which was painful. It took me two weeks just to get through the first chapter. It was very calculation heavy and, as is normal with Kaplan, very convoluted and confusing in the explanations. Archiflash was very useful, as it has been all along. I also did Marc Mitalski's "On-line Anytime" seminar. Well worth it, as he makes sense of everything that Kaplan confused me with. But I don't think any of it helped, because I blanked. I just don't get how NCARB thinks that it is reasonable to answer 85 questions, many of which are intense calculations, in 150 minutes. That's about 1.76 minutes per question… Just one WTF question can eat up 5 minutes!

I began the exam, remembering what others had mentioned about the first few questions were probably going to be intimidating and to mark them for review. So I began marking, and marking, and marking… It was as if all the questions had nothing to do with any of the material I studied. I think I only had about 20 that I felt sure about. At about the 30 minutes left mark, I still had at least 30 unanswered questions! Don't hold me to that number, but it was about that many. I really just started guessing at that point (an a here, a c there, oh haven't had a d in a while). The reference material had the basic stuff, but NOTHING that I thought I needed (like A=3V/2Fv). I wish I could remember the questions that I got stuck on, but I can't even remember my name when I walk out of there. On top of the general agony of testing, they had the heat cranked. It was at least 95 degrees in there ("Sorry," they said, "we don't control it, the building does). To add to that, the same girl was working there as last time - she nattered on in Spanish the ENTIRE time. LOUDLY. I mean, I had ear plugs and I could STILL hear her. Like last time, when I asked her to zip it, she looked annoyed and ignored me. I suppose at least this time she wasn't using the speaker phone to continually dial a busy number. I complained to Prometric again, but obviously that is useless.

So I left the test center in tears… a girl thing, sue me. I sulked for a day, and today I start on LF. I signed up again for Marc's seminar, obviously LF this time around. I've got Kaplan and Archiflash sitting there waiting, and will print out FEMA 454 (chapters 2, 4, 5, & 8) for a little bath tub reading. I'm taking LF on December 2, so I really have to get it together quickly. From what I'm told, LF is a piece of cake compared to GS. But it's all relative and depends on who you ask.

You know what is really ridiculous when I think about it? When I started out in March, all I wanted to do was get everything done by June '09 before the transition (gee thanks, NCARB). I totally expected that I was going to fail them all at least once... But then I started passing them, and after 5 for 5 and then the 6th, the thought of actually getting licensed by the end of this year got stuck in my head. Wow, how cool would it be if I got my stamp before my 50th birthday in December? That's a present! Now it will just kill me if I don't get it by then... If I did tank on GS, it's a loooooong 6 month wait (thanks again, NCARB). I just have to figure out a way to re-program my head back to June of '09.

I need many margaritas... many, many, many margaritas…