Although no one really knows the exact ways you can fail the CDS vignette, there are some safe assumptions you can make based on the experiences of other ARE candidates. NCARB does a very good job staying quiet regarding how vignette solutions are graded and scored so there are only assumptions that we can make based on the opinions of other exam candidates. With that in mind, it’s important to understand there there are different types of errors that may result in a failed score on the CDS vignette.
First of all, there are errors that many candidates refer to as “Fatal”. These are the major errors that would instantly result in a failed score regardless of how well you do on the rest of the vignette or even the multiple choice section. Fatal errors on a vignette would typically include forgetting a major element or violating a major rule that is stated in the program. I’ll get in to the specific fatal errors on the building section vignette in just a little bit.
The other type of errors that can occur on an ARE vignette are smaller errors that involve over-designing. Many ARE vignettes will have some elements that require you to come up with the most efficient solution possible and this can lead to smaller errors that add up over time. Many candidates tend to over-design their solutions in order to avoid breaking any major rules, but over-designing too much can also lead to a failed score if you take it too far. This is a fairly large gray area when it comes to the ARE vignettes because no one truly knows what is considered to be over-designing and when it will lead to a failed exam score. The best rule of thumb for avoiding over-designing is to design to the MINIMUM requirements that are given in the program and the code.
These general rules apply to all of the ARE vignettes, but let’s look at some of the specific ways that you can fail the building section vignette. The CDS vignette requires you to draw a building section from a given set of floor plans while including a variety of elements provided in the given program. In addition to providing all of the given elements in the program, candidates must also come up with the most efficient building section possible while maintaining all of the rules. In the example of the building section, this means that the overall height of each floor must be the smallest possible dimension while still satisfying the requirements.
Let’s take a look at the common errors on the CDS vignette:
- Forgetting A Major Element
This vignette is very unique because there are so many individual elements that must be placed in the drawing. Walls, floors, ceilings, joists, and ducts are probably the major design elements that MUST be included in your solution. It would be safe to assume that forgetting to include any of these items would be a fatal error and you would fail this vignette instantly.
In addition to these major elements, don’t forget to draw the grade line before starting your solution. Including the grade line in your solution sets the ground plane for your building section to be based off of. Without it, your building section will technically be floating in space and you will more than likely have just made another fatal error.
- Over-Designing The Plenum Space
Like I mentioned above, over-designing certain elements in your solution can downgrade your score and eventually lead to a fail. Slightly over-designing one element will probably not be enough to fail you, but enough instances where you over-design can add up quickly where you may fail the building section vignette. In the case of the building section, the one main area where over-designing can occur is in the plenum space.
Without getting too far into this issue, the plenum space is basically the space between the ceiling and the slab above where you must maintain a clear dimension for the structural joists and mechanical ducts while keeping this dimension to a minimum. Of course, you’ll want to make sure that your plenum space is large enough to fit everything, but you don’t want to over-design and leave too much space because then your solution becomes too large.
This problem is very common on the CDS vignette so it’s important to be as efficient as you can with the plenum space. If you would like more information on how to figure out the plenum space dimension, see here!
- Incorrectly Placing An Element
We talked earlier about how completely omitting elements such as walls and floors would more than likely be a fatal error, well what happens if the element is included but it’s in the wrong place? No one knows for sure but it’s likely that an error like this would be a downgrade in your score but would likely NOT be fatal. Be careful because enough downgrades in your score from incorrectly placing design elements or over-designing the solution can quickly add up and result in a fail.
Incorrectly placing elements is a very common error in the CDS vignette because candidates often forget about the building cut line. Since this is indeed a building section, you must draw everything that is being cut through at the given section cut line. A lot of people make the mistake of forgetting where the section cut line is and the result is misplaced elements in their solution.
Taking the time to double-check your solution at the end to make sure that your design elements line up with the background plans can go a long way in avoiding a failed vignette score.
Just to reiterate, there are many ways you can fail the CDS vignette as well as the other ARE exam divisions so it’s important to understand what can cause you to fail. Unfortunately, there is no definitive method of scoring the ARE vignettes but we can make some pretty safe assumptions based off the experience of other test takers. Fatal errors are the major errors that will most likely cause you to fail the vignette instantly are usually caused by missing a major element or violating a major code requirement. There are also over-designing errors that will downgrade your score but not necessarily result in a failed score. Enough downgrades will certainly result in a fail so it’s essential to minimize the downgrades.
Either way, the best way to avoid failing a vignette section is to carefully read through the program and code requirements multiple times to make sure you aren’t violating any rules. All of the information that you need to know is given to you in the program and instructions so there’s no reason for you to forget any element if you take the time and check your work.
Since the CDS vignette is very difficult because there are so many small, individual elements to include. It’s very easy to miss some of these elements as you’re rushing through the vignette so practicing the building section vignette ahead of time is just as important.
For more information on the ARE construction documents vignette, see here!