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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    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    We all have to remember that the whole purpose of licensure is to have some minimum standard. At some point there has to be a cut off of where that is and there has to be a quantifiable way of dtermining that someone has made that standard.

    What are the issues that are not liked?

    Is it too hard?
    Is it unfair?

    If it is too hard for some, then it is of more value to those who can pass it. If it is too easy, then it is of little value in the marketplace or for “the public good”. As long as the standard is consistent, I don’t have a problem with how difficult it is (I hated the testing process before I passed it all).

    Perhaps one of the “standards” is that we are able to perform going into projects without specific information and having to rely on our education and experience (internship) to have the knowledge to pull through. Maybe this is something that we MUST have for minimal competency to be considered fully professional.

    We go back and forth between our profession not getting enough respect by other professionals. Then we want to instantly be anointed as professionals after graduation. It can not be both ways. Where do we draw the line? CLARB has it drawn in a certain place. It’s not easy. It is broad. We can be great in certain areas and not so good in others that may never intersect with our own careers. But, the criteria is set for the overall profession as defined by CLARB, and those who suck at grading still have to pass grading while those who never will deal with writing a contract will have to deal with legal issues in order to meet the standard.

    If the test is graded unfairly, that is a whole different story.

    Tanya Olson

    Did you notice that this discussion is quoted in CLARB’s LARE Candidate Connection to sell the redline review? (Andrew’s comments)

    Elizabeth Renton

    I did notice that. CLARB of course conveniently quoted only those people who had nothing but fabulous things to say about their review process. I thought I might get a more realistic array of opinions here on the forum!

    Andrew Garulay, RLA


    Tanya Olson

    You probably don’t get it because you are already licensed….here is the part in question……keep scrolling…..

    Tuesday, 9/7, is the Deadline to Purchase a Redline Review

    The deadline to purchase a Redline Review from the June 2010 Graphic Administration is Tuesday, September 7. CLARB recently sent information via email to candidates on how to purchase a Redline Review. If you did not receive this information and would like to purchase a Redline Review, please contact Allen Read at CLARB via email or phone (571-432-0332).

    A Redline Review of your graphic exams provides you with an opportunity to learn more about the areas where you need improvement and provides feedback on the areas where you performed well. Purchasing a Redline Review can be a useful tool for success on the graphic sections of the L.A.R.E. In a survey conducted by CLARB following the December 2009 Graphic Administration Redline Review, participants felt that the Review was a valuable process (overall rating of 4.2 out of 5 with 5 being the highest level of satisfaction) and that it helped them pass the exams.

    “I just found I passed (Section) E after taking it the fourth time! … I think the Redline Review that I finally did helped a lot.” — Lessa M. on

    “It (Redline Review) was a big help because I was repeating a graphical error which was killing me. I passed the exam the next time.” — Andrew G. on

    “I was not positive what mistakes I made, and was actually very surprised when I saw why I failed. … They caught small mistakes that I would not have noticed if I had all the time in the world.” — Sarah F. on

    “I found what CLARB provided to be what I needed to prep for the next exam.” — James E. from the December 2009 Graphic Administration Redline Review survey

    “Having taken the Redline Review prior to the recent changes, I can say the process is much better. The positive comments are helpful.” — Chad S. from the December 2009 Graphic Administration Redline Review survey
    For more information about Redline Reviews, please visit the CLARB website.

    Frank Varro

    Jebus, I hope someone fixes this BS before I have to take this test.

    I understand you can’t have everyone pass or it doesn’t maintain the appearance of a qualifying exam, but really? Charging to see what you did wrong? If its not “hard enough” to pass a test where you see what is wrong after failing, they need to make new questions, not artificially creating an imbalance in passing based on who can afford to pay to see that they made the mistake of grading realistically instead of mechanically.


    Agreed. If we lower the standards to be a Landscape Architect, should we also lower them for our structural engineers, doctors and architects? If we want respect and to be professional, we need to earn it. This test is the minimum standard to do this. CLARB is not out to get you or make huge profits from you. They are just the guys in the black suits and sunglasses with expressionless faces. They don’t like or dislike you. They are just one of the many professional entities you will encounter that take money and make the rules. Just wait till you get licensed and have to pay every year for your own state license and educational credits. Twenty-five years at $500 a year = ouch. Hopefully, the firm you are with pays for this …maybe not.

    Forget the redlines. Don’t waste your money. You may figure out what you did wrong but by the time you take the next test, the vignettes will be totally different. For the site planning test, forget all the expensive reference books. Complete a dozen practice vignettes as fast as you can as correctly as you can and MEMORIZE the study guide. This is not a test of what you learned in the office or at school. It tests your ability to follow directions EXACTLY. If a handicap access needs to extend 100′ from the doorway to avoid all contact with vehicular traffic then that is exactly what you have to do.

    As for the Grading section, your work must be perfect. The graders literally take a clear sheet of mylar with correct grading and lay it over your work. If it does not meet within tolerances, you fail. No margin for error on this one. Grading is an element of our field that we need to be experts with. No getting around this one.

    Frank Varro

    The problem is, if a test is hard because the questions are difficult, thats one thing. If the questions are hard because you might make what they deem to be an error, but no practicing person would, and you have no way to find out other than by paying them, thats where it enters the realm of BS. If there is only one correct way to grade it, fine. But we should be able to see our errors.

    If you need to artificially increase difficulty, to lower passing rates, by not letting people see what they did wrong, you need to learn to make a better test.

    Elizabeth Renton

    I agree with you Frank. If it were a fair and accurate test of abilities that produced consistent results, fine. But I think it’s completely arbitrary the way it’s graded, and the only way you can challenge your failing score is if you pay an extra $230 to see your failed exam. I have friends who received an initial failing score, and then paid for the redline review, and in the review a separate grader determined that they did in fact actually pass. So one grader says you fail, another grader says you pass. IT’S TOTALLY ARBITRARY. I understand there are some basic clear cut and dry criteria that must be met, but it sounds like there’s still a whole lot of gray area that can be interpreted differently by different graders.

    That sums up the subjectivity of our field and this test. On any site design, any grading problem, there are probably 100 different solutions to each situation…..granted some solutions are better than others, no doubt. But to say that there’s one solution, and one solution only, and if you don’t show that one solution you fail, is BS. There needs to be a better way to administer this test and produce fair accurate results.

    Pat S. Rosend

    This is a profession filled with a lot of soft lines. If paying for the review gives and opportunity for your test to be rescored and increases the possibility of success, then by all means invest in it. Don’t take the score as gospel and look to any avenue you can to pass. Once it is finished, no one will ever care how it was accomplished.

    PS. Life is not exactly fair. It doesn’t make sense either!.You will most likely see that as you submit plans for approval down the road.

    Use the tools that are there for you. If a review is one of them, then use it.

    Elizabeth Renton

    I appreciate your words of encouragement Marc. Since you have successfully passed the test and are licensed, please tell me about your experience. Did you pass all the sections on the first try? What did you do to prepare that was most helpful? What tips or tricks did you pick up that would be good to know?

    After reading all the comments on this post, I’ve decided I will go ahead and purchase the redline review. I am making every effort humanly possible to do whatever it takes to pass this test. I don’t want to look back after failing it a second time and think ‘Man I wish I had taken the redline reivew; maybe I would have learned something.’

    The thing I’m most afraid of is failing this test over and over and over, like I’ve heard from some people on the forum. There’s no way I will be willing to take this damn section 4 times in order to pass. I don’t have the luxury of time or money to drag this process out for years….


    Excellent post, Pat. Like a lot of life, the LARE exam is a different experience for every candidate. As we all know, the LA field is very broad. Part artist, part engineer? For the kids who get out of school and pass it, congrats. For others its longer. Years. Licensure at this point in time is in no way supported by career opportunites.

    Maybe its a test in more than health safety and welfare. Could be a test in dedication?

    For some, absolutely.

    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    If I recal it correctly, 70% on a section passes. Sometimes these discussions make it seem like perfection is necessary which is not the case. When I took it at the end of the 90’s, there were more than one vignette to a section…I believe there were 5. While you could make a fatal error on one vignette, you could still pass the section.

    I don’t know how it is now, but back then there was not one person grading the tests. I believe that there were three independent grades one on it. If there were inconsistencies it went to a “master grader” to sort it out.

    The idea that there is one exact solution with a template that goes over it seems to have been put out there. I don’t believe that is the case. I believe that they use templates to check certain slopes, but not a sure fit template over an entire vignette.

    I hated CLARB and LARE as much as anybody, but after a while you figure out that they are measuring certain criteria in a quantifiable way. The difficulty is that we don’t all value some of the things that they are measuring because it is a broad exam. Most of us would rather hit a 100% on 70% of the subjects than 70% on 100% of the subjects. Fortunately, or unfortunately, the professional standard is to be proficient at 100% of the criteria that makes a landscape architect as defined by CLARB.

    Elizabeth Renton

    Andrew, the pass rates for the June administration of the graphic tests were nowhere near 70%. Section C (site design) had a pass rate of 58%. Section E (grading) was 37%. These rates have been consistently this low for at least the last 6 years. Are these dismal pass rates comparable to the engineering and architectural licensing exams?

    I just find it hard to swallow that with 5 years of undergraduate education, 4 years of professional practice, and several months of intensive studying (we’re totaling close to TEN YEARS of exposure to this field) I have failed to develop a reasonable level of competence in the landscape architecture profession. I have been deemed incompetent to the point of endangering the health, safety, and welfare of the general public. If all this wasn’t enough to adequately prepare me for a successful career in this field, what more could I or should I have possibly done??

    Tanya Olson

    I think he meant that you have to achieve 70% on the exam to pass…

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