Building Confidence: Study, Practice, Review. REPEAT.
First, get familiar with your strengths and weaknesses. You'll also need to be honest about how you process information, so you can tailor your studying habits to meet your needs. Be sure to take your time working through the material – don't rush or look for shortcuts. You need to spend time absorbing the information, reflecting upon it, and fully understanding how it relates to the drawing.
Step 1: Study
Use a combination of the new Ballast book (Interior Design Reference Manual) along with the strategy videos in Qpractice. I made flash cards and took notes on anything challenging or new to me. All the information will also help you pass the IDFX and IDPX!
Step 2: Practice
Draw as many practice tests as you can! This is the best way to understand your strengths and weaknesses and to improve your time.
Complete the drawings scheduled for review that week in the Qpractice office hours.
I completed my practice drawings on trace paper so that I could go back and use the drawings again later.
This is also key if you want to sell your drawing sets after you pass the exam. Wait to do another practice drawing until after you have reviewed your solution with other members. You'll see areas where you're most likely to make a mistake. You'll also gain time-saving tips for next time.
Step 3: Review
Or at least, make sure you've finished your practice drawing in time to follow along with the other members during drawing review. Then when you go back through you own solution, redline your work so that you can use it to study from later.
I also wrote important tips on sticky notes and stuck them all over my practice drawings. Use your notes and redlines as a study tool moving forward.
Step 4: REPEAT
After you've reviewed your practice drawing solution, go back and work on the areas that you need to improve upon – redraw areas correctly and work on legibility.
Once you feel confident, complete another practice drawing. Review your solution with other Qpractice members and ask questions in the study group to be sure you understand the content and how to better your time.
Remember, the more times you complete the life safety drawing, the more comfortable you will be with drawing an accurate solution in under 30 minutes!
Don't forget to practice a life safety drawing as part of a full day or even a 2 hour practice test along with the egress and restroom drawings. Choose drawings that you haven't seen the solution for yet so you can get a sense of what it's going to be like on exam day.
Time-Saving Tips for Practicum Exam Day
On exam day, I knew that I needed to complete the egress and life safety drawings in less than an hour, and this would give me extra time for the restroom drawing!
I always needed more than the allotted 30 minutes to complete it. Luckily, I was good at completing the life safety drawing in 30 minutes or less, which gave me the confidence I needed to tackle the restroom problem.
1. Understand the Life Safety Problem
Read carefully through the project description & requirements and highlight important facts about the building design. I find it very helpful to check off the requirements as I address them, to be sure that I've given a complete solution, and haven't left anything out.
2. Work Through the Partition Schedule First
The program directions usually tell you to complete the door frame/hardware schedule first. But I never did it this way.
While practicing, I learned to complete the partition schedule first. The door, frame and hardware are all required to be part of the partition assembly, so it made sense to identify whether or not the partition was fire rated first, and then go on to the door schedule.
When you work through the partition schedule, it's important to reference the project description and use your knowledge of fire codes.
For example, knowing there should always be a fire rated partition between tenant spaces and the public corridor will help you decide quickly which walls need to be fire rated. You won't have time to review codes on this exercise, so make sure you are very confident with the ones that apply to this exercise ahead of time. Take the Qpractice building code quizzes until you know them in your sleep!
3. Complete the Door Frame/Hardware Schedule Next
This can be pretty easy once you know which partitions should be rated, with the exception of the hardware part.
I hated choosing the hardware because there was usually more than one choice that could work. Try and understand the different types using the hardware charts in this module, and learn to eliminate ones that don't make sense right away. For me, the Qpractice office hours and study group were the most helpful tools for really understanding all of the options.
4. Place the Life Safety Equipment
Phew. You are done with the schedules and now it's time to draw in the life safety equipment. This was fun for me because I knew what to expect and a lot of the decision-making is just common sense.
I typically drew the life safety equipment in an order that made sense to me, but again, find a method that works best for you.
I would usually start with the exit signs, since they took the most time for me to complete and seem to be the most detailed of the equipment to draw. Next I would add the emergency lights and fire alarms at the same time, and then finish up with fire extinguishers and smoke detectors.
You've Got This!
If you practice, the life safety drawing can be a quick and easy confidence-builder for you. That confidence can propel you through the rest of the afternoon with extra time to spare!
Just be sure to double-check your work. This is especially important with the exit signs – do a quick final ‘walk through' to check that you've placed one in every opportunity where an occupant must make a decision about which direction to travel.
As long as you understand the fire rated assemblies and placement of the life safety equipment, and have a general idea about the door hardware, you're in good shape! You can do it!
This is a guest post by Qpractice graduate Sarah Campernel