3rd Time's a Charm

Building Section Vignette and Multiple Choice

3rd Time's a Charm

Postby kateao25 » Tue May 30, 2017 11:57 am

So after the 3rd attempt (and after having a baby in between the first and third tries), I FINALLY passed this exam! The difference this time was making sure I really, truly understood the concepts behind the contracts, and the applications and implications of the documents. I will also admit that having some work experience made a big difference as well. This exam was very difficult for me since I'm a visual person with a short attention span. Trying to retain all the legalese was NOT easy, and I was beginning to think that I was never going to pass - but I did, and so can you!

Here's what I used to study:

1) Thorough reading of the A201. I read the version with the commentary, which was incredibly helpful. I read this document all the way through once without taking notes, then read it a second time taking careful notes, then a third time referring to the notes I took. So many of the questions came from the A201, and my understanding of it is what helped me pass this time. There were some questions on the exam that I got stuck on but I mentally took time to stop panicking and to think through the meat of what they were asking, and that helped me choose the right answer. A lot of the questions were situational; "A contractor does [x]. Your response should be [y]", and the answers made more sense if you understand the general conditions thoroughly (obviously). I started my studying by reading the A201 which helped me put all the rest of the study material in context.

2) A less thorough reading of the B101. I was already somewhat familiar with this contract so I didn't need to study it as in-depth as the A201, but I still read through it twice.

3) Specs - this is fairly rote memorization, which makes it easier in some respects. Referring to an actual spec book used for a project is helpful too.

4) ArchiFlash cards. I used some old cards but they still contain great questions and are an easy way to get in some quick study sessions if you have some free time to kill.

5) Schiff Hardin lectures. Particularly the classes about A201.

6) Ballast. All the chapters on CDS (Section 8 in Ballast 2009) and Building Regulations (Section 9).

7) Caroline's Notes

8) Practice Exams. Although I didn't use Kaplan to study, I got a copy of the practice exam to take as well as Ballast exams, a random Architectural License Seminars exam, and the NCARB practice exam. I took the Ballast exams twice each, once in the middle of my studying (I scored roughly 50%) and at the end (I scored 75%).

9) The AIA Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct

10) Work experience. I enjoy drawing details at work and understanding them so I didn't really need to officially "study" any detail-like information, which is lucky for me. If only I felt that way about contracts...

11) Dorf Video. Great for understanding how to solve the vignette. Also reviewing posts on this forum for clarification on things like calculating plenum depth.


Having taken this exam three times, I don't think the content really changed all that much between exams. It's a good mixture of all the stuff NCARB says it's going to test you on. Again, I must stress the understanding of the concepts rather than simply memorizing the contracts or the questions from the study materials. The questions are somewhat nuanced, which requires an interpretation of the contract documents. This may be obvious to everyone but me, but realizing that this time is, I believe, why I passed. Don't just memorize, understand. I also had a lot of code questions - don't expect to get out of those.

The vignette is one of the easier ones in the ARE series, but you still have to practice it a few times. Thank goodness they're going away with 5.0 (which I'm transitioning to now).

Hope this is helpful, and good luck to all those of you out there studying for this for the third (or first, or fifth) time! You can do it!
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Re: 3rd Time's a Charm

Postby DANIIFACE » Wed May 31, 2017 2:01 pm

Wow thank you for the great advice! I am retaking CDS next week and I am a little worried that I have not "re" studied enough this time. When I took the exam a couple months ago I passed every section (including the vignette) except hazardous materials which I got a 3 on. I feel like I know the information and maybe just got a few unlucky questions? With only a few days left to study I am thinking about reviewing the general conditions one more time.. any other suggestions would be great?!
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Re: 3rd Time's a Charm

Postby kateao25 » Thu Jun 01, 2017 1:17 pm

By "hazardous materials" you're referring to the environmental issues? I might have gotten one or two about hazardous materials, but it sounds to me more like you got some hard questions. Still, reviewing procedures in the general conditions is your best bet; I'm not kidding when I say that most of your answers are found in there. And, since you scored so well on every other part of the exam it sounds like you know it pretty well. This forum and google are also helpful in finding answers to questions you're not sure where else to look for - I often found myself googling my question and getting a perfectly reasonable answer.

Good luck to you!
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Re: 3rd Time's a Charm

Postby hllARE » Thu Jun 01, 2017 1:22 pm

pm you
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Re: 3rd Time's a Charm

Postby DANIIFACE » Fri Jun 02, 2017 6:10 am

Yes sorry, I scored a 3 on "environmental issues" and a 1 on every other section.. very frustrating! but thank you for the great advice! hopefully this time it will be a pass :)
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Re: 3rd Time's a Charm

Postby DANIIFACE » Thu Jun 15, 2017 7:48 am

So I just found out third time was the charm for me as well! Pass for CDS :) I have to agree that the audio of the lecture while reading the A201 was one of the most helpful study tactics I had done! Thank you again for the advice :)
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Re: 3rd Time's a Charm

Postby Mandy23 » Thu Jun 22, 2017 10:27 am

I am also about to take this exam for the third time. What a great post, thank you!!
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Re: 3rd Time's a Charm

Postby kateao25 » Thu Jun 22, 2017 12:57 pm

DANIIFACE, congrats on your pass!! It feels great to get it out of the way, doesn't it? And good luck to you Mandy23 - I am sending you good vibes :D
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Re: 3rd Time's a Charm

Postby bb1326 » Fri Oct 20, 2017 11:53 am

Congratulations on passing CD's!! I'm wondering where you were able to access the Norman Dorf videos? I know that you can but them but I don't have the money to spend. Also did you reference AHPP at all?
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Re: 3rd Time's a Charm

Postby DANIIFACE » Wed Oct 25, 2017 12:22 pm

I was studying with one of my coworkers who had them! and no I did not reference AHPP, although I do think it would have been helpful! but as I said before the BIGGEST thing is understand the contracts, once this happens for you it will all fall into place! good luck!
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Re: 3rd Time's a Charm

Postby pig » Sat Nov 04, 2017 5:31 pm

thank you kateao25 so much for this post!
amazing suggestions and want to push it up so more people would see this.
i did not know about the Schiff Hardin lectures and this is so helpfu!!!!
taking exam next week!
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Re: 3rd Time's a Charm

Postby dbayrami » Wed Nov 15, 2017 10:59 am

kateao25 wrote:
Here's what I used to study:

1) Thorough reading of the A201. I read the version with the commentary



where'd you get the contracts with commentary? I'll be taking CDS for the third time in December, so I'd like to be better prepared this time.

Thanks! this was a great breakdown, btw
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Re: 3rd Time's a Charm

Postby Coach » Fri Nov 17, 2017 4:57 pm

dbayrami wrote:where'd you get the contracts with commentary?


http://bfy.tw/F6Mc
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Re: 3rd Time's a Charm

Postby dbayrami » Mon Nov 20, 2017 6:16 am

Coach wrote:
dbayrami wrote:where'd you get the contracts with commentary?


http://bfy.tw/F6Mc



Lol, thanks Coach! I actually did this and found the document on the AIA website. That's the correct one, yes?
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