Is CLARB’s redline review really worth it?

Landscape Architecture for Landscape Architects Forums PROFESSIONAL PRACTICE Is CLARB’s redline review really worth it?

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    Elizabeth Renton

    I took section E in June and, surprise surprise, I failed. (Along with everyone else I know who took it in June.) I of course have no idea why I failed, and the curiousity of why I failed is starting to eat away at me. I’m tempted to sign up for a redline review but I have very mixed feelings about it. I think it’s a total scam and ripoff for CLARB to charge people to review their tests…just another money making scheme in their highly-lucrative testing and fees schedule. It also means additional money lost by having to take a day off of work and drive several hours to the nearest review center.


    I’ve heard mixed opinions about whether or not the redline review was actually worth it. Some of my friends did it and found out, in the review, that they actually passed. Some learned valuable lessons, and were able to pass the next time. Some forked out all that time and money to get the redline review, and still failed the next time.


    Have you had a redline review? Did you find it to be helpful? Did it enable you to avoid mistakes and pass the section next time? Do you think it was worth it, or just a big waste of time and money?


    Yes, It is a must!

    It lets you understand how dumb the test is and what they are looking for!
    Thus allowing you to jump through their Hoops!

    Thomas J. Johnson

    Do you mean to tell me that after you spend all that money to take the test, you don’t get to see the results!? They only tell you that you failed and provide you with no proof that somebody actually graded the test and that you actually made the mistakes they claim you did? How is one supposed to contest a failing score if you never see the test!?

    Why should you have to pay extra to see the test you paid to take? Making redline notes on the test should be a part of grading it, not extra.

    That’s just insane…

    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    I had a redline review for grading and drainage. It was a strong point for me in school and at work, but I was not passing the section, so I got the redline review. It was very helpful because I was making a consistent drafting error that I did not realize. I passed it the next time.

    I do have to tell you that there was not a whole ot of information on those redlines. I don’t think it was because I did so little wrong, but that there were only a few markings and a phrase or two. I think that if you have to pay for it as an extra service and you can’t take pictures or notes, they ought to at least give you some detail. … that was 10 or 11 years ago.

    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    I agree with you. It is a bigger business than the profession itself at this point it would seem.

    The reasoning is that it will all become study material and make the test too easy. When I did it, you could not make copies, take pictures, and maybe not even take notes. I sat in the exam room and got to look at it. That controlled venue allegedly has great costs incurred and they need to recover it from your wallet.

    Let’s face it. Once the test is administered they won’t use the same problems, so the super secrecy is much more of an excuse to raid your bank account and failing the test means repeat customers.

    Granted, the test needs to have credibility, so it must do the best it can to test for knowledge rather than memorization, but at least a rough description of our shortcomings should accompany the results.

    Tanya Olson

    well – WHAT was the drafting error??? I can’t believe you offered a teaser like that without expanding on the subject for all of us graphic-section takers!!! ha!

    Jason T. Radice

    Get the PPI charette review books. It might be expensive, but it shows you a correct solution AND the common mistakes people make, and most importantly, what the reviewers are looking for when they grade your test. They do an excellent job with these books if you use them correctly. They got me through, and I cannot recommend them highly enough. The LARE is a targeted exam, and just like any other standardized test, one must learn HOW to take the test.

    Joshua Tripp

    At minimum, it let’s you see how they grade and what they look for.

    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    I was smoothing my contours to meet existing grade rather than slamming them straight into the existing. In the process, the radii were inconsistent making some too close together on maximum slopes (barely too close together, but in fact, too close together).

    Many of the exercises had minimal space to meet grade, so there was very little room for anything more than very carefully measured parallel contours. Give yourself a little extra here and it will leave you short there. That is not a good mix on a time limited series of vignettes. My hands were born with a shovel in them, not a drafting pencil.

    Elizabeth Renton

    I did use the entire PPI set for all the exam sections, and they were indeed very helpful for A, B, and D. I passed those first time around. Then I moved on to E and studied those PPI books religiously….an hour a day every day for a month, working through every single vignette I could get my hands on. By the end of the month I felt like I had gotten the hang of it…had practically memorized all the stupid setback requirements and radius requirements, etc. I felt pretty prepared and thought the PPI books were a really good study tool.

    Then I took the exam and failed. Big fat failed. Have no idea why, and thus the curiousity is killing me. I’ve heard that the redline reviews have supposedly gotten better, but i’m just curious to know if they were really that helpful, to the point that you’re able to pass the test next time.

    I think if they’re going to charge you to just look at your failed test, they should at least give you a discount when you sign up to take the same section again. But no. It’s just another dollar in their pockets. At no point in this testing process have i ever believed that CLARB was really interested in seeing landscape architects succeed. The whole process has felt like one big completely biased money making cash cow. I don’t know how CLARB has continued to exist in this fashion. Why has this gone on for so long?? And how can we change it??

    Frank Varro

    I’m not sure how much effect they have, but there are ASLA committees that are involved in licensure and testing. You could look it up on, in fact, here’s the link to the two most relevant :……

    You can volunteer to be on the committees, although next starting date is sept of next year (So you apply in may/june). But you could also contact these people to ask A) why they feel the current system is the best and B) who you talk to get it changed.

    Based on the heat I’ve seen the CLARB take on here, I’m sure a nice little campaign for change could be drafted without to much trouble.

    Jordan Lockman

    It is most worth it if you can’t even make a guess at what you missed!

    Last Decembers test I thought I passed with ease only to find out I failed. It turns out, I just made stupid errors that I thought I had accounted for, after 5 minutes there was not much else I needed to look at, but they give you to look at the actual book used to correct/grade your solution. That was helpful, told me what to focus on in my solution.

    What I learned is accuracy is the most important thing. By accuracy I mean, spot elevations should be almost perfect, but contour lines can be slightly off and don’t need to be pretty. Your solution is generally taken right from the criteria, so make sure to use the criteria as a checklist. Is every berm tall enough at all points, are your ponds deep enough, are your roadways graded correctly, is there any place on your solution that is outside the grade requirements(ie 2-25%), are you building in the correct watershed, is water definitively running in the right direction?

    It is an annoying process and they don’t make it easy. I believe I had to pay with a money order or cashiers check for the redline last spring. That just seemed odd and added some cost. They also were not very honest with what the true cost would be. It ended up being well over $200 to look at my test for an hour.

    Now the most important thing for you to do is forget what a bad system it is and throw out the negative thoughts until you get through the test. Then lobby for change. It is hard to study when you feel like you are being cheated.

    Jason T. Radice

    One thing I saw in your text has me wondering…you memorized the setbacks and radii. That may be your issue. They sometimes change those, you need to use the PACKET THEY GIVE YOU WITH THE TEST! The other thing to be aware of are minor drafting errors, like how the lines end at sidewalks and buildings.

    CLARB, just like NCARB, must maintain certain pass/fail rates. If the exam were easy, it would not have the necessary credibilty that states would trust it to qualify for licensure. If anybody could pass, it would not be worth it to give the exam. That’s why they changed the LEED exam and certification system so much. People who had nothing to do with the industry would simply study for the exam and take it. If you could memorize, you can pass. WIth the LARE, it isn’t about memorization, but your thought process and ability to think creatively. Yes its tough, but thats the point. Best of luck in the future, but pay attention to the nit-picky details.


    At no point in this testing process have i ever believed that CLARB was really interested in seeing landscape architects succeed.
    Exactly. They are not there to help landscape architects succeed, unless you think of it from the perspective of those who are licensed. They, of course, want to minimize competition. If you were a landscape architect with 20 years of experience, would you want to be pestered by competition from people just out of college calling themselves landscape architects? CLARB is a regulatory organization. They will tell you that they protect the health, safety and welfare of the public with the LARE. If it is made easier, there is that much less protection. Still, I think they should allow more time for the grading and drainage sections since so few LAs do that and don’t get the practice needed to be able to do it quickly. That’s kind of an economic viability thing that I don’t think they have any business enforcing. So what if you can’t do grading plans fast enough to make a profit for your employer? That doesn’t affect health safety and welfare. What if you work for a public agency where speed isn’t as much of an issue?

    I am loathe to admit it, but red-line reviews were helpful to me in a kind of “I can’t believe I did that!” sort of way. Note the common mistakes they list and check if you are in the habit of making them. Spot elevations labeled? No grades exceeding maximum or minimum? Elevations on step treads? Did you get the CD with the marked up problems? I have a copy somewhere…er not really. I found those to be helpful.

    But hey, you’re employed and I’m not, so you must be doing something right!

    Jordan Lockman

    Oh and I believe that the best way to change the system would be to volunteer with CLARB. I think that you need to be licensed with at least 5 years of experience?

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