This is the first guest post in a new series featuring candidates’ experiences with preparing for and taking the California Supplemental Exam.

My heart sank to my stomach and shot up to my throat all in a matter of seconds.  “What?” I replied extremely confused.  “Don’t worry, you passed, you’re an Architect”

I passed my last ARE in September of 2012 and I immediately signed up for David’s next seminar, which was the following week in the LA area.  Attending the seminar was a great investment and it helped me get past that initial shock phase of the exam material.  I mean 55 knowledge statements is A LOT of material to cover, not to mention the way CAB words them is even more intimidating then they actually are.  David’s seminar was great because the biggest thing that I walked away with from there was the feeling “ok, these 55 statements aren’t so bad, I can do this!”

life-happens-jpeg1While I had every intention of starting to prepare right away and take the exam before Christmas, it just didn’t happen.  Life got in the way.  But it ended up working out, as I would use this as motivation for the start of 2013.

Once January rolled around I got started on the Ultimate Whole Enchilada, and following David’s Ultimate 12 Week Study Plan.  At first, I won’t lie because it was hard.  Even to get through the first Knowledge Statement was no easy task, but I had to gruel it out.  I listened to the audio companion as I read the material on the actual study guide, and then I would take my own notes at the same time.  I have found that I retain information a lot more when I actually write it down, so that was the goal with that.

Before I knew it 4 weeks had gone by and I was little behind on  the Ultimate 12  Week Study Plan, especially because I had condensed it into a 9 week plan.  Luckily, by this point I was getting in the groove and coming home and studying every night after work and I found it easier to get through the study guide and I really pushed myself to step up the number of hours I studied a night from 2 hours per night to at least 3 or 4 hours per night.

Once I had completely gone through the study guide one time while taking my own notes, I started from the beginning again, this time with my notes at my side and just listening to the audio companion.  I would stop sometimes to visit the recommended links, especially in Category I and II A, but this time everything was going faster since I didn’t have to take my own notes and I had already gone through it once.

In another week, I was able to finish the study guide and audio companion for a second time.  At this point, I knew I had to schedule my test to actually push myself through the final leg of studying.  I had a test date in mind when I began all this, but I didn’t actually schedule it because I knew it would work itself out once the time came.

And that’s exactly what happened. When looking at my work schedule and personal schedule the date where I had to take my exam became quite obvious.

For the last 3 weeks, I spent time going back to each category and re-reading the study guide, reviewing my notes and listening to the audio companion on particular Knowledge Statements where I felt I was weak.  I also was going through the flashcards for at least 30-45 minutes every day and started practicing with OMCES.

This is where David’s mantra of “repetition, repetition, repetition” started coming into play and paying dividends.  By this point, I had seen the material, heard the material, and written the material.  It was definitely sticking in my brain.  OMCES and the flashcards were also helping me identify what areas I was weak in and I could spend more time studying.

About a week or so before the exam I saw David’s newly released podcast “Here’s Your Plan for 3 Days Before the Exam.”  I won’t lie, this freaked me out a bit, just because I did not plan to essentially do very little those last 3 days as he suggested.  I had never done this with any other exams and I’m the type of personality that if I’m not studying those last 3 days then I am wasting precious time that could be spend reviewing this important material.  So I decided to stick to my plan because I knew the way my brain worked and I knew that this would help keep my confidence up and have it peaking come test day.

What did help me a lot was David’s bit of advice saying “trust the system” and “at this point you either know it or you don’t”.  So that’s exactly what I did.

I spent the last few days prior to the exam reviewing flashcards, practicing with OMCES and other questions and just general material review that wasn’t sticking yet.  I did make sure to balance out these intense study sessions with more leisure activities in order to maintain my sanity.

But honestly the last 2-3 days before the exam, and I mean this in the nicest way possible, I was so sick and tired of hearing’s David voice and reviewing the material that I just wanted to get the exam over with, regardless of outcome and move on.  This is how I knew I was ready.

tired1Finally test day came.  I opted for the afternoon session, as I am still not a morning person after some 6-7 years of working full time.  But I knew this would ensure I would be able to get a good night’s sleep.

So I awoke the next morning and had a healthy breakfast in order to not feel rushed.  I arrived at the testing center and the staff was very friendly and accommodating even though the waiting area was extremely small and uncomfortable.

Finally, test time.  The Project Scenario portion started with me still feeling the nerves as the thought of this possibly being the day I’ve been waiting for about 17 years was upon me.  However, I got over this quick and started focusing in real fast.  I spent about 3 minutes quickly looking at the drawings and project information and then started the questions.  I finished with about 9 minutes to spare and had marked about 1/3 of the questions I was given.  I was able to quickly go back and re-read these questions and I think I changed maybe 1 or 2 answers, but those last 9 minutes went by fast.

nervous2Then the General Section started immediately.  I took a deep breath and started going at it, marking any question where I even had the slightest doubt.  I finished with about 58 minutes left and had marked about 1/3 or more of the questions.  I didn’t expect to finish that fast, so at this point I decided to take a quick restroom break, collect my thought and come back and go through my marked questions.

Again, I carefully went through all my marked questions, re-reading the question and all the answers, and I did end up changing more than a few.  Finally at this point I had about 20 minutes left or so.  So I started going through the entire test again, but after about 5 minutes of this, I knew that there was nothing more I could do.  I either got it or I didn’t. So I hit the end button with around 15 minutes left.

I walked out of the room to find out I was the last person there.  The PSI girls were still there, tidying up prepping for a wave of night exams they said.  One of them asked me to sit down while they printed the results of the exam.

nervous3These 3 minutes were probably the longest of my life. 

Finally the lady in charge asked me to come sit next to her and sign my scratch paper and take my thumbprint again.  Finally, she reaches over for the piece of paper and curls it in half, so as to hide the results and said “OK, about your test.  I’m sorry but we regret to inform you have successfully passed.

My heart sank to my stomach and shot up to my throat all in a matter of seconds.  “What?” I replied extremely confused.  “Don’t worry, you passed, you’re an Architect” she replied as her and the other 2 girls
girls laughingburst out into laughter, thinking it was the funniest thing to trick me like that.  Which deep down I was fine with the “innocent” prank, but exclaimed to them ” that’s so not funny”, at which point they just laughed even more.  They gave me my piece of paper and an application for licensure. And I was on my way.

happy2As I walked to my car, ecstatic, I couldn’t help but think that this entire process was in fact OVER.  5 plus years of exams, studying, IDP logging, everything, and it was actually over.  It still hasn’t sunk in yet, even though it has been a little over week but I can’t put into words the overwhelming joy I feel to be done with this process.  It’s the most fun I never want to have again.

Alberto’s 5 Tips for preparing for the CSE

  1. Put in the time and the hard work.  There are no cutting corners.
  2. Read it.  Write it.  Listen to it.  Make sure that information sticks.
  3. Trust David’s system.  It works.
  4.  Balance your study time.  Make sure to maintain your sanity with other life activities.  This is especially important in the days right before the exam.
  5. Confidence is everything.  Mentally prepare for the exam, and don’t second guess yourself. You WILL pass this exam!

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If you enjoyed Alberto’s story, please leave a comment below. Do you relate to his experience? What successes and failures have you had with your own preparation?