Exam Scenarios

Hey there @coachdarionziegler,

We had a PCM workshop participant write in asking for advice on how to tackle the wordy scenarios on the exam:

“I confess, I don’t retain a lot of info initially when read once so it takes me a bit of time to understand the scenario/s in each session. It helps me to read the scenario aloud and thus think that I might need to take my exams in a proctored setting. What do you think?”

Would you mind sharing your thoughts on which strategies and tricks this person can use?

Thank you,

Program Manager
Black Spectacles

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Hi @Brynn,

I know a lot of people struggle with the reading through the long scenarios and picking out only the important bits of information, all on a time crunch!

It can be helpful for candidates to have a set process for answering questions. An order of operations you go through for each questions can help keep you concentrated and focused.

When I tackle a question I go through the following steps:

  1. Read the question
  2. Read the answers
  3. Go back through the question and highlight any important information. Strike through any unneeded information.
  4. Strike out obviously wrong answers
  5. Re-read the question if necessary
  6. Select final answer(s)
  7. Review the question later if time allows. During this review do not re-think any answers. ONLY check to see if you have answered in the correct units and have selected the appropriate number of answers.

Now, you might not have to go through the entire process for all questions. But having this a standard way of tackling each question may help you pick important information out from scenarios.

Specifically for multiple choice questions or ‘select all that apply’ crossing out the incorrect answers first can be a huge help. Even if you’re maybe not fully understanding the scenario, you can typically eliminate at least one ‘throw-away’ answer. See below for what my questions would like while I was testing.

Just remember, you have around 2.5 minutes average time to answer each question. So, you may not be able to complete the entire above exercise for every question. However, don’t be afraid to break out to the highlight and strikeout tools. They are a huge help!

Another thing that helped me prepare for my exams was treating practice exams like the real thing. I utilized Black Spectacle’s practice exams while preparing and I would do my best to recreate the full testing experience by setting aside the full testing time. I would take the test in the allotted window formatting my break the same way it would be in the testing center. This gave me practice searching through the reference materials on a time crunch. The search tool is your friend when you’re tackling case studies! It was really difficult to make myself do this some days, but practice makes perfect!

I found the below articles on test taking that might help as well:

NCARB recently posted this collection of videos on test taking tips:

And lastly, if anyone has a diagnosis that makes testing difficult please check out Prometric’s testing accommodations page. They can provide a number of accommodations which may help!
I have heard from others that the process of getting approved for accommodations is fairly quick and painless – having a diagnosis from a licensed professional is the main item they need to see to prove you qualify.

Note- NCARB is switching testing providers from Prometrics to PSI later this year. Keep an eye on NCARB’s website and subscribe to their email list to stay on tope of changes!

Hope this helps!


Thank you for the wonderful tips! I’m sure this person isn’t the only one out there trying to absorb what the an ARE question is asking or looking for. :slight_smile:


This is fantastic information and thank you for the links and direction @Brynn!

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i just took pjm , there are so many time consuming drag and paste. could bs exam accommodate that feature too?

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Hi @xurubi ,

Thanks for the feedback! I’ll share it with the team to see if perhaps we can include in more drag in place type questions.