Watch youtube videos at speed 2x

When one is tired of reading lengthy study materials, sometimes watching explanatory youtube videos is a good way to take a break, while still getting some studying done. The problem is, while some videos are informative, they are often at a very slow pace, some even more boring than plain text.

Recently my friend Ninad shared a simple trick with me to overcome this – he said to simply watch the videos at twice the speed. It works surprisingly well! Even the narration can still be understood. Use this one as an example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UQ_8aPTydr4

youtube speed

Click on the little gear icon to speed up the video

For vidoes like these, ones that just give you a little bit of visual aid/ big picture rather than specific details, I think this is the way to go. Now you can be twice as efficient!

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My ARE 4.0 Timeline

Visualizing ARE 4.0 [Part 1] [Part 2] [Part 3] [Part 4]

People always ask how long it takes to study for one exam, and the answer is often a generic “it depends”. Since it’s close to impossible to have an objective standard to base one’s study time on, I can only share my own journey with you. Here’s what it looks like, my own ARE timeline with my morale/ spirit/ emotion line running parallel:

click on image to get full resolution

click on image to get full resolution

I have included my trips in the chart, represented by the empty boxes, and I think those are the only days that I genuinely wasn’t studying at all (not even reading on the train). For the studying days, lighter colors are more laid-back studies (procrastinating in the library) and darker colors are more intense studies (studying while eating lunch).

Not included are office deadlines, birthdays, Christmas, as well as all the ups and downs of my personal life. As you can see I didn’t spend too much time in the “sane” zone- the line rises and plummets like the stock market. I am sure everybody has their own struggles and their own version of this curve that, only after it’s over, and only from a distance, can you see that the highs eventually outweighs the lows.

Walking out of it I do see a lot of things that I totally would have done differently if I knew better, but I guess one can say that about a lot of things in life. This is just a retrospective diagram that illustrates what I did, and I by no means suggest anyone follow it.

On a side note, NCARB recently published a document called “NCARB in numbers“. It says that people with a master’s degree on average take 1.81 years to complete the exam(page 28). I spent 1.33 years, so I guess you can see it as a sample timeline of a person with a master’s degree, slightly on the short side.

So that’s the past 16 months of my life in a glance. I will write more about each specific exam later…

Visualizing ARE 4.0 [Part 1] [Part 2] [Part 3] [Part 4]

ARE 4.0 according to NCARB

Visualizing ARE 4.0 [Part 1] [Part 2] [Part 3] [Part 4]

Hi everyone! I have taken my CDS exam last Thursday, and now the only thing I can do is to wait patiently for the result. Meanwhile, I have finally found the time to make the third diagram of my “visualizing ARE 4.0” series. It really is a combination of the first two. Here you are:

Click on image to get full resoluation

Click on image to get full resolution

After taking all 7 tests (and retaking two of them), I realized one of the biggest pitfall most people encounter lies in the discrepancy between the content of the published textbooks and NCARB’s syllabus. Think about it, NCARB is the actual organization who makes the tests, while Kaplan and Ballast are just publishers who provide general information about those topics, and there is NO official coordination between the two. So when one starts studying, it is very very important that one goes to NCARB’s exam guide first.

For example, NCARB’s guide states clearly that there will be 4-12% project management questions in SPD, but if you only read through the two textbooks, there is no mention of project management at all under SPD. If you didn’t know about that, there will be a good 4-12% of the exam that seems to come out of nowhere. Also, even if you get the content areas right, make sure you pay attention to the distribution too. For example, almost 60% of SS is made up of seismic, wind and lateral forces, which is totally not proportional to what’s in the study materials.

Going back to my new diagram, the percentages in the pie charts are taken directly from NCARB, while the dots below are roughly what I think would make up that percentage. The topics are ballast chapters, but it’s more about the subject matters. Obviously, the more dots the more important it is in that division. Here are my comments:

***

PPP: Definitely read the AIA contracts.

SPD: Read part of the CDS for project management. Also read some BS stuff related to sustainability.

BS: “Vertical Circulation” (elevators, escalators etc) is included in Kaplan but not Ballast.. Ballast lists it under BDCS. I think it falls under “specialties” and therefore is part of BS. Other than this, there are not too many surprises in this one. Studying back to back with SPD might help but not necessary. 

BDCS: Same with SPD, there are significant project management questions. Know your AIA contracts. Also sustainability stuff from BS/ SPD.

SS: Not too many surprises in terms of scope, but while the fundamentals are important, make sure you focus a good chunk of your energy on lateral forces. Don’t get hung up on stuff like wood equations.

CDS: Not too many surprises either, but expect one or two questions from pretty much every division in it.

Overall: Always read ADA, IBC, and brush up your history.

***

All in all I am just trying to point out the importance of reading NCARB’s official guides first. To conclude, diagram 1 is a general overview of the 7 divisions, diagram 2 is a literal illustration of the number of pages, and diagram 3 is ultimately what I think is the minimum amount of stuff you need to know walking into the test. I hope all three combined will give you a comprehensive picture of what the test is like.

I am going to relax and not think about the test until I get my results (supposed to come at 6am this Friday!). For those of you still studying, keep calm and carry on! Good luck!

Visualizing ARE 4.0 [Part 1] [Part 2] [Part 3] [Part 4]

Studying Outside

Talking about my favorite place to study, I am lucky to be in NYC with plenty of options. I like to mix it up, you name it- home, starbucks, office, on the train… and Bryant Park is definitely one of my favorites. For a nice warm Saturday, 2 hours in the beautiful NY public library and 2 hours under the sun in the park makes a pretty productive afternoon. It’s kinda tempting to people-watch, but at least it takes the pressure off and makes studying a little bit more enjoyable.

Few days before my SS rematch, I’ll just have to power through it.

Studying in Bryant Park

Studying in Bryant Park

(re)Starting with Flash Cards (SS)

Coming back from a two-week vacation in Hong Kong, it’s time to get back to study mode again. This is also about exactly one year since I took my first test, so maybe it’s a good time for a recap. For your reference, I did:

April 2013 – SD – pass
June 2013 – SS – fail
June 2013 – PPP – pass
Sept 2013 – BS – pass
Oct 2013 – SPD – pass

Nov 2013 – CDS – fail
Mar 2014 – BDCS – pass

In a nutshell, I passed 5 out of 7 tests in a year’s time, which I am pretty happy about. Looking back it might not have been the best testing order, but I was thrown off by the July-August blackout last year so it was different.

When I was studying for my BDCS exam, I realized it is extremely helpful to start with flash cards. I guess being familiar with the terminologies makes all the readings much easier. I also pin as much as I can on pinterest  cuz a lot of times pictures are better than words. As I prepare for my re-match with Structural Systems (SS), I plan to do exactly the same.

Kaplan Flash Cards

Kaplan Flash Cards