Pass on 2nd Attempt

Pass on 2nd Attempt

Postby tdmiller » Thu Aug 15, 2019 5:02 pm

Feels great to be done. Not many people know or understand the work that goes into passing this exam, but you all do, so I wanted to write out my story here for my own catharsis, and hopefully to encourage anyone else struggling with it. This is more narrative than brain-dump, but I'll try and share some advice and pointers. Feel free to skip if you're just looking for a list of recommended study materials. Most of the 'Pass' posts on here have excellent recommendations on what to study, and I don't have much more to add, so I'm going to take a different approach.

I cranked through my AREs fairly smoothly, from November 2016-August 2017, using the 4.0 - 5.0 transition path. As soon as I was eligible, I got my CSE appointment and sat for the exam, November 2017. I ended up scoring 69. So I was likely one or two questions off from passing. This really knocked the wind out of my sails, and combined with the required wait time, I really didn't have my head in the game. Around the time that I was eligible for a re-take, life became really busy and I just couldn't get the critical mass I needed to crack open the books again.

I was lamenting to my wife about a month ago about how I was struggling to get back into it, and she gave me some great advice. Just go take the test. Don't worry about studying, don't worry about whether you will pass or not. Just schedule it, sit down, and TAKE THE TEST. I realized she was right, and that it was a great idea to go with the mindset of paying close attention to the questions asked, to refresh my memory, and get my head back in the game. I also knew that it would take me at least 90 days just to get around to studying anyway, so all I had to lose at that point was the $100 fee. So, without telling her, or my business partner, or anyone else, without any last minute studying, nothing... I scheduled the exam for the next available time slot, snuck away, and took it.

About halfway through the exam, I started feeling like I was pretty comfortable with my answers, and I thought to myself, how stupid and hilarious will this be if I pass today? After almost two years of not engaging with it at all, to go take the exam on a whim, and walk out with a pass, just felt absurd. The first time around, I felt like it was a struggle to even finish on time, let alone have time to review answers. This time, I finished with about 30 minutes remaining. Throughout the exam, I would use the scratch paper to write out notes of what I should focus in on when studying, and I spent the last half hour re-writing that list, and trying to memorize everything I could before finishing. Getting that 'Congratulations' on the printout was very satisfying, and the completion of a 14-year long journey since starting my undergrad. Now I'm just waiting to get my assigned number.

Advice? Honestly, take my wife's advice: just take the test! Go in with the mentality that you're going to try and analyze/memorize as much as possible about what to study, and how questions are phrased, to aid in your study. Try not to let anyone know, if you can avoid it. Everyone's different, but for me it felt like going in with a 'zero pressure' state of mind was a HUGE part of the successful outcome. If I had everyone's expectations hanging over my head, I think I would've struggled more with it. Also, make sure you read the question/project info very carefully. Skimming over a word or two can completely change the intent of the question, and lead you to an incorrect answer.

As far as what study material I found helpful, I would say the Woo mock exams were the most like the real exam, and the Woo study guide was the most relevant info. Doucette material, in my opinion, is just ok. Honestly, what I found most helpful was his audio companion. CalGreen is important to know, especially Chapter 5. I also found it helpful to understand the exact process and order of events for the CEQA process, agencies involved, etc. Finally, it's super important to understand the roles and duties of the architect, contractor, owner, and sub-contractors at each stage of design and construction. This includes understanding what is triggered at the different project phases, like lien rights, substantial completion, etc.

The key takeaway is that you can do it! I wish I had not let my self-doubt keep me from re-taking it sooner. Get out there and get it done! Thanks for reading my story, I hope it was helpful or encouraging in some way!
Posts: 13
Joined: Thu Jan 12, 2017 1:47 pm

Re: Pass on 2nd Attempt

Postby b5000 » Fri Aug 16, 2019 2:46 pm


One's state of mind, the potential pressure and stress going into this exam cannot be underestimated.

Your advice and on how avoid it, alleviate it and get in the ideal state of mind - is stellar.

Posts: 24
Joined: Tue Jun 17, 2014 12:58 am


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