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Brett M. Wilbur CSI, CDT, AIA
Senior Member
Username: brett

Post Number: 100
Registered: 12-2004
Posted on Monday, January 30, 2006 - 05:52 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

We have our first CCS study group meeting tonight here in Houston. I'm signed up for the exam in March, along with 3 or 4 other compadres. Any horror stories, advice, or experience to impart to help ease our woes?
Lynn Javoroski
Senior Member
Username: lynn_javoroski

Post Number: 296
Registered: 07-2002
Posted on Monday, January 30, 2006 - 05:57 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

Previously, with the old format and MOP, I quipped "just memorize the book and you'll do fine." Now, I don't know if that'll work. The one thing that is vital, though, is to forget everything about how you actually do your work; the CSI way is now the ONLY way (until after the exam). Good luck.
Doug Brinley AIA CSI CDT CCS
Senior Member
Username: dbrinley

Post Number: 161
Registered: 12-2002
Posted on Monday, January 30, 2006 - 06:03 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

Don't try to take the CDT and CCS exams on the same day.

Learn PageFormat.

Forget 90% of the 'shortcuts' you use in the office.

Learn how Division 01 is reflected in SectionFormat.

Study AIA Document A201 - General Terms and Conditions carefully.

Don't miss your study classes.

Read the MOP at least once.

Study bidding procedures, bonds, insurance.

Know limitations of each specifying technique (prescriptive, descriptive, reference standard, proprietary, performance) AND procurement specifying (procurement contracts and the UCC).

Wayne Yancey
Senior Member
Username: wyancey

Post Number: 98
Registered: 05-2005
Posted on Monday, January 30, 2006 - 06:43 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post


Lynn and Doug are correct in unlearn all nonCSI methods you use in your current practice.

AIA A201 was my weak area.

I earned my CCS in HI in 1990.

We did not have study groups in Honolulu. I read the MOP, made notes or highlighted text, and studied my notes and highlights on the bus, at the beach, whenever I had idle time. My exam was not that hard but it was a long day.

Richard L Matteo, AIA, CSI, CCS
Senior Member
Username: rlmat

Post Number: 147
Registered: 10-2003
Posted on Monday, January 30, 2006 - 06:52 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

By the Way - for those of you who took the CCS a long time ago - the MOP is now the PRM

Still, you must read it!!

I agree with Doug & Wayne, A201 and Uniformat were my weaknesses.

I didn't have a study group either and it's really tough when you spend all day writing specs and then have to read that stuff at night!
Doug Brinley AIA CSI CDT CCS
Senior Member
Username: dbrinley

Post Number: 162
Registered: 12-2002
Posted on Monday, January 30, 2006 - 06:55 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

I found it difficult and had to retake once. I NEVER have to retake exams, including the ARE (passed all sections first time). I tried the CCS in 2001 (missed by four questions), and retook it in 2004 (passed).

Many practices which I had learned (learnt) at the Very Large Firm where I was employed were in contradiction to the MOP. And it was doubly hard to isolate those practices which were in conformance with the MOP with those that were not. So, 'experience' can definitely work against you - beware of 'intuition'!

It has helped me to work at a location that depended on my interpreting the MOP (finding my own way) rather than doing things the way the boss said.
Doug Brinley AIA CSI CDT CCS
Senior Member
Username: dbrinley

Post Number: 163
Registered: 12-2002
Posted on Monday, January 30, 2006 - 06:56 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

David R. Combs, CSI, CCS, CCCA
Senior Member
Username: davidcombs

Post Number: 98
Registered: 08-2004
Posted on Tuesday, January 31, 2006 - 08:28 am:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

Didn't see this listed so far:


Know the articles, what they're called, and in what order they appear. Basically, if you are given a one-page paragraph of jumbled up text, know how to unscramble the information and place each sentence in its respective article.

And DO try to pass this time around. Right now, SectionFormat is only three parts; it sounds like by this time next year there may be more.

Good Luck!
Russell W. Wood, CSI, CCS
Senior Member
Username: woodr5678

Post Number: 45
Registered: 11-2003
Posted on Tuesday, January 31, 2006 - 08:48 am:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

I sat for the CDT exam in 03 and CCS in 04. My advice is....study the Manual of Practice/PRM and Learn it, Live it, Love it!
Lynn Javoroski
Senior Member
Username: lynn_javoroski

Post Number: 297
Registered: 07-2002
Posted on Tuesday, January 31, 2006 - 09:20 am:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

In my post above, I referenced the "old format and MOP" because when I took the exam, that's what was being used. Sorry if I confused everyone by that reference; of course, the book to learn now is the PRM. It sits in a prominent space on my shelf and I use it at least weekly, especially for those things I don't do every day.
It might help to diagram/write out the things being suggested above - Doug has a good list - that way, the learning is reinforced by other physcial means (reading is one learn, writing is another and if you attend the study sessions faithfully, hearing is a third). I'd suggest you read, write and study before the session to get the most out of it.
Phil Kabza
Senior Member
Username: phil_kabza

Post Number: 151
Registered: 12-2002
Posted on Tuesday, January 31, 2006 - 09:24 am:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

CCS, CCCA, and CCPR are based on the CDT study material plus the additional material for each certification. For those who passed their CDT a few years back via the MOP - be forwarned that the PRM contains about 25 or 30 percent new material. Special attention to the new Project Conception Stage/Design Stage material and the Facilities Management module. Also - the Project Delivery module has been revamped and expanded, with an extended discussion of documents appropriate to each type of deliver. Good stuff all, but a lot of reading. CDT appears to be a 20 hour rather than a 15 hour course.
Tracy Van Niel (Unregistered Guest)
Unregistered guest
Posted on Tuesday, January 31, 2006 - 10:50 am:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

Since I guess I'm one of the "old" folks ... back in the olden days when I took the CCS, we had to a write a sample section, a front end document and some other things. Are those still included on the current exam? If so, knowing the page format is critical for writing the spec section and you need to be able to include the recommended information in whatever front end document you have to write.
John McGrann
Senior Member
Username: jmcgrann

Post Number: 63
Registered: 03-2002
Posted on Tuesday, January 31, 2006 - 11:58 am:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

As another of the "old" folks, I recall the exercise was to re-write unformatted sections in the correct format. Very much a real-life exercise.
Posted on Tuesday, January 31, 2006 - 11:32 am:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

Study all material outlined above. Between now and the test, study for 20 minutes everyday, no more - no less. You will pass. Know the Section Format,and where every thing goes.
George A. Everding, AIA, CSI, CCS, CCCA
Senior Member
Username: geverding

Post Number: 107
Registered: 11-2004
Posted on Wednesday, February 01, 2006 - 12:20 am:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

"There are three ways of writing specs, the right way, the wrong way, and the CSI Way.”

I was an old guy when I took the tests, and worse, a generalist who came late in life to CA and specs as specialties. The hardest thing for me was unlearning all the right and wrong ways I had picked up over the years. Yeah, old guys have a wealth of knowledge and war stories, but we also have some bad habits that are hard to break.

I’ll add one more piece of advice for old guys and gals, and it goes counter to common wisdom that says go with your first instincts and don’t change answers. I spent some time at the end of each test going over the answers, and changed maybe 10 or a dozen or so on each test from what I KNEW was right to what I had learned was CSI. I know I caught a number of mistakes on that last ruthless MOP/PRM guided check.

This thread is full of great advice; this doesn't contradict a word, it just adds more weight to what has been said. The quote at the top of my post is the start of our CSI certification classes (I went religiously, for all three tests – do not miss them). The end of the quote is a repeat of what has been said often here…

“If you want to pass the CCS, learn the CSI way”
Steven T. Lawrey, AIA, CSI, CCS, CCCA
Senior Member
Username: lawrey

Post Number: 40
Registered: 08-2004
Posted on Wednesday, February 01, 2006 - 01:20 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

The previous posts offer excellent tips. By way of addition, I recommend studying AIA Document A521/EJCDC 1910-16 - Uniform Location of Subject Matter. Also, you can never read A201 too many times. For me, knowing these documents was difference between passing and failing.
Tomas Mejia, CCS, CCCA, LEED
Senior Member
Username: tmejia

Post Number: 26
Registered: 09-2003
Posted on Wednesday, February 01, 2006 - 02:22 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

A practice exam is useful. It helps you with answering questions, monitoring your time and adjusting to just sitting and taking a test.
Ron Beard CCS
Senior Member
Username: rm_beard_ccs

Post Number: 100
Registered: 10-2002
Posted on Wednesday, February 01, 2006 - 02:59 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

<<adjusting to just sitting and taking a test>>
Isn't this what we specifiers do all day anyway? :-)

David J. Wyatt
Senior Member
Username: david_j_wyatt_csi_ccs_ccca

Post Number: 19
Registered: 07-2005
Posted on Thursday, February 02, 2006 - 01:13 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

If you read the prescribed material only once, it will be a struggle to correctly answer enough questions to pass. Each time you re-read the material, however, you increase your chances of passing significantly.

Remember that the correct answers are right before your eyes. You simply have to select the most correct one from the choices given. Usually, one answer is correct, one or two are slightly flawed, and one is obviously wrong.

If you get stuck on a question, move on. Many times the correct answer to a previous question is revealed in a subsequent one.

An important piece of advice is common in several of the above posts: being well-rested before the test. Try to get at least 6-8 hours of good sleep the night before. But this is much easier said than done when you are anxious to attain certification.

Best of luck to all who are taking the exams this year!
Senior Member
Username: lynn_jolley

Post Number: 8
Registered: 10-2005
Posted on Monday, February 06, 2006 - 01:55 am:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

I had a big problem with a test (I believe one of the CSI test) because somehow I missed a question and my numbering got off, and I filled in a bunch of black circles incorrectly. Ended up having to do a lot of erasing. Was very frazzled. Since then I always answer questions by writing the letter on the booklet or scratch paper and filling in my circles at the end. Do they still do the fill in the circles?
Sheryl Dodd-Hansen, FCSI, CCS, CCCA, MAI, SCIP
Senior Member
Username: sheryldh

Post Number: 27
Registered: 09-2002
Posted on Monday, February 06, 2006 - 12:28 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

However you mark your answer sheet, it's important to look carefully at the number of the question and the number on the answer sheet before you fill in the circle. :-)
Regarding study and test-taking: there is some very helpful information on csinet.org under Certification/Support. I recommend reviewing that info. One of the tips that I always give members of the study groups is on there: Read the stem of the question with each answer as a true/false statement. The one that is true, based on the PRM, is the correct answer. Others may seem true, based on something you've seen or done in "real life". As a former Chair of the Institute Certification Committee, I can tell you that the other possible answers have been written by your peers and a huge effort has been made to assure that they seem reasonable; otherwise there's no evidence that the candidate knows the correct answer. But only one answer is true in accordance with the book.

That's because the questions are sourced to the book - it's impossible to test on what everybody does in their office. There are many differences in process based on local customs and requirements.

I believe that all of the documents produced by CSI over the years have been done by groups of very smart people with differing opinions. The results have been the best consensus documents possible. And they are the only consistent source that can be used to test whether a candidate understands this good way of doing things.

I personally don't get the sense that CSI principles are contrary to the "right way" - they are the best way that has been published, taught, tested upon, and used to offer people the opportunity to obtain a certification that gives them credentials for their work and possibly a competitive advantage in the workplace.
Nathan Woods, CCCA
Senior Member
Username: nwoods

Post Number: 67
Registered: 08-2005
Posted on Monday, February 06, 2006 - 12:36 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

Sheryl, I agree with you and you make excellent sense and reason.

I do remember one particluar question on the CCA exam a few years ago that has always frustrated me. The MOP (and now the PRM) went to great lengths to clarify RFI's as "Requests for Interpretation" ONLY, not requests for information.

Imagine my surprise when one of my test questions stated, "A contractor sends you a request for information regarding [insert scenario here, because I don't recall it]. Do you: A) reject the RFI, B) respond with X response, C) and on and on.

I agonized over that question for a while. Was it an editing oversight? Did they mean "information" or "interpretation"? Was this a trick question? Aaagghhh the PRESSURE!
Sheryl Dodd-Hansen, FCSI, CCS, CCCA, MAI, SCIP
Senior Member
Username: sheryldh

Post Number: 28
Registered: 09-2002
Posted on Monday, February 06, 2006 - 01:29 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

I'm sorry that I don't know the answer to your questions. Though, since the Committee is made up of humans, it's very possible that it was an editing oversight. I think I would have focused my answer on the procedure, since that's probably what the question was trying to determine.

You might like to know that, when the Committee gets the results from the test scoring company, they evaluate the statistics very thoroughly to determine that everything about the exam was as fair to all candidates as possible. If the data shows that many of the candidates who are in the upper percentages of correct answers have missed a question - say the correct answer is supposed to be "C" and a large percentage of the top scorers selected "B" - the committee looks hard at the question to see if there is something about the question itself that is misleading. If that is determined to be so, everyone gets credit for the question and efforts are made to improve the question for future use. It's amazing how difficult it is to write good questions and answers, have them go through a lengthy review process, and still have some come up short when you see the data from actual candidates.

The Committee makes every effort to make the tests useful, accurate, and fair. And, in all humility, I believe CSI's Certification Committee has done a great job over the years of developing and sustaining an excellent program.
J. Peter Jordan
Senior Member
Username: jpjordan

Post Number: 174
Registered: 05-2004
Posted on Monday, February 06, 2006 - 05:17 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

I used to give practice quizzes and exams in my CDT course at the University of Hawaii. Invariably, there was 1 question almost every week that I had not thought through enough. In that particular environment, the discussions that were provoked by disagreeing with the way I wrote the question and graded the response were particularly interesting. Such discussions were very rarely the result of "grade negotiation." They did, I thought, enliven the course and provide additional insight into the way we practiced and the way CSI thought we should be practicing. I found over the years that there were good reasons to follow the CSI way in almost every instance. "Home grown solutions" were often ad hoc responses to particular situations which created other problems.

I found that my errors in composing questions and grading answers allowed a fuller exploration of specification use and practice.
David Bowie, CCS, CCCA, AIA, CSI, ALA (Unregistered Guest)
Unregistered guest
Posted on Monday, February 06, 2006 - 08:55 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

In past years under the MOP I prepared an outline of the CCS and CCCA protions of the MOP, and an outline for A201. I used these for CSI discussion groups in Northern Illinois up to 1995 when I relocated to South Carolina. I have all three in Word format which has been translated from WordPerfect and seems to open reasonably well for those I sent it to as an attachment to an email. This was done to assist those interested in the certification program. I will send any of these to anyone studying for the exams if they send me a valid email address. Please bear in mind that these are from the old MOP not the new PRM. As Mr Kabaza has stated in his posting above, there is new material in the PRM. I have not yet updated these discussion group notes. Good luck. There is a lot of good guidance listed in the notes above from a broad range of professionls.
Vivian Volz, RA, CSI, CCS
Senior Member
Username: vivianvolz

Post Number: 60
Registered: 06-2004
Posted on Thursday, February 09, 2006 - 02:23 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

Brett, I'm a recently certified CCS, though I took the test right before the MOP became the PRM. (Yes, quite deliberate on my part!) So your mileage may vary.

Memorize, memorize! I'm not normally a memorizer, but the CCS exam is a harder test than any I'd ever taken before. Reading the source material is not enough, though if you're a person with the stomach to read the relevant portions of the PRM several times, more power to you. I'm an active learner, so just reading the text is like getting a drink by sitting under a waterfall. I need buckets to go into the text and grab what I need.

Memorize SectionFormat. Memorize MF04 to at least Level 2. Memorize that ceiling-fan-shaped chart that relates Division 1 to the other parts of the Contract Documents. (PRM figure 5.6A) If it's a list or a chart, chances are good that memorizing it will help with your performance on the test. I can draw the line for you somewhere: I don't think memorizing the entire A201 would help enough to be worth the pain. But a valid attempt to name and summarize the five common articles among the three standard general conditions (PRM probably would help.

Active memorizing tip: study your source, then cover it up. Try to reproduce it on a clean sheet of paper. Then pick up a different pen and look at the source again, and correct your errors and omissions. Then try again to reproduce it without looking. Do this several times, then do it a few days later. You want to be able to reproduce the very same information in the margins of the test booklet on test day, so that you can confidently answer questions requiring you to put things in order or find the one thing that doesn't belong.

I also heartily agree with taking a mock exam. This is a test where comprehending the question is key, so you need to know how your personal pace agrees with the pace of the test. I found, when I graded my own mock exam, that a hefty chunk of the questions I missed were from rushing through the reading of the question; but I finished the mock in less time than allotted. So I committed myself to taking the whole time allowed for the test and reading the questions more carefully, and deciding on my answer before looking at the multiple-choice answers. I practiced the questions from the mock again later. And I finished the test on test day with only about half an hour left to go back to the questions I'd circled for review. And I passed. :-)

Good luck!
Chris Grimm, RLA, CDT, MAI, CSI
Senior Member
Username: tsugaguy

Post Number: 27
Registered: 06-2005
Posted on Tuesday, March 21, 2006 - 09:26 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

Does anyone out there have such a mock exam or practice questions?

John Guill
Senior Member
Username: johng

Post Number: 11
Registered: 07-2005
Posted on Thursday, March 23, 2006 - 08:37 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

Chris, you can try your local CSI chapter or Region HQ, the education and/or certification chairs should have contacts for mock exams.

Good luck with the hardest test.

Chris Grimm, RLA, CDT, MAI, CSI
Senior Member
Username: tsugaguy

Post Number: 28
Registered: 06-2005
Posted on Saturday, March 25, 2006 - 09:53 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

Thanks to all who responded. Now just have to wait for the score. Wow that was a hard test!
Brett M. Wilbur CSI, CDT, AIA
Senior Member
Username: brett

Post Number: 110
Registered: 12-2004
Posted on Monday, March 27, 2006 - 09:49 am:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

That was tough test! Much deeper than I expected. Most of it I had to think my way through, very few questions were able to be answered directly. For those who take it in the future, this is what I remember:

PRM: of course, make sure you study this, over and over;

Delevery methods: know all of them, and the benefits and limitations fo each;

Uniformat: know it, not just first level, all levels and how to designate;

A201: Need to know more than just the names of the articles. Who is responible for what? Also, know your insurance requirements, again, who is respsonible for what; builders risk, property, etc.;

Know Pageformat and Sectionformat. For the last 23 questions you were given a sample spec section, 101000 Widgets, then the questions were about whether notes were correct, paragraphs in the right place and in order, etc.

I'll think of more as the day goes by, I'll get back to you. Maybe some other people remember.

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