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

    Well I had the redline review for LARE section C this weekend so I thought I’d post an update and answer my own question. Is the redline review really worth it? I have to say emphatically yes, purely for the ability to read through the redline comments and make sure the test was graded fairly.

    I found 2 redline comments which, according to the stated grading criteria, were incorrectly flagged on my solution. For example, the stated grading criteria for the written portion of the exam said the candidate’s written solution must include x,y, and z. My written solution did indeed cover x, y, and z but there was a redline comment that indicated I did not give the correct solution. I’m assuming my vignette was penalized for that redline, and it was undoubtedly a contributing factor to my failing score. There was another vignette which had 2 conflicting grading criteria: one of the grading items said all driveway turning radii must be a minimum of x, and another grading item on the list further down said turning radii must be a minimum of y. My solution showed all the turning radii as x, but the vignette was redlined because it didn’t comply with the second grading item. If there’s conflicting requirements in the grading criteria how is the vignette supposed to be fairly evaluated?? I am going to appeal my score stating both of these examples. I do however find it absolutely LUDICROUS that I have to pay another $276 for the ‘score verification process’ (on top of the $276 i paid for the redline review, not including airfare). This whole process seems to be little more than a cash cow money making scheme for CLARB. I can understand the fees to take the test, but another $552 to find out why you supposedly failed and then appeal the grading errors that were made??

    So I say to all the other current LARE takers, pay for the redline. You may be highly surprised at what you see.

    Tanya Olson

    It seems like they should waive the fee if you are correct that it was scored incorrectly and require payment of the fee if it was scored correctly – that would fit better with the way our legal system is set up.

    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    It is an assumption on your part that it has been improperly graded at this point. Perhaps it was, but perhaps it was not.

    I don’t mean to pick on you, but you may need to think this through a little more, so I’ll play Devil’s advocate.

    “For example, the stated grading criteria for the written portion of the exam said the candidate’s written solution must include x,y, and z. My written solution did indeed cover x, y, and z but there was a redline comment that indicated I did not give the correct solution”. The key work is “include”. This does not mean that having only those three pieces of information excludes the review of other criteria. It is simply requiring three pieces of information that might not be necessary to itemize to solve the overall problem, but one that they believe they need to see to evaluate your overall understanding of the assignment.

    “There was another vignette which had 2 conflicting grading criteria: one of the grading items said all driveway turning radii must be a minimum of x, and another grading item on the list further down said turning radii must be a minimum of y. “ That sounds like a very clear error on your part. This is a normal thing that you’ll have to deal with on a regular basis – having two minimums that differ. It should be clear that the stricter criteria trumps the less restrictive when they both apply. An example would be a 5′ minimum curb radius in a zoning ordinance for parking and then elsewhere having a larger minimum radius where a firetruck or delivery truck access route may require a 20′ radius. As long as the 20′ radius is more than the 5′ radius, it does not conflict with the “minimum 5′ radius” . It would be a huge error to ignore that 20′ minimum, if the situation applied. This is a safety and welfare issue that can’t be taken lightly. If it said that there was a maximum of 5′ and then a minimum of 20′ somewhere else, that would be a conflict, but two minimums are not a conflict – you go with the most restrictive (not the most minimal) that applies or it is flat out wrong.

    I know that there was an error on one of my vignettes. CLARB was all over it very quickly after the exam and credited people who were victimized by it.

    I never thought that I would ever defend the LARE, but it is extremely well scrutinized from the inside and the outside because it has high consequences. I agree that they don’t miss any opportunity to empty your wallet, they are tough, but they are not unfair so far as anything that I experienced or have heard of.

    I think you have an opportunity to learn from this if you look at the possiblity that you made mistakes and what you can do to avoid them the next time. It looks to me that you may have been nervous and hurried when you took the exam and did not digest the directions thoroughly. You may also be nervous and excited in reviewing the exam and too quick to believe that you were not treated fairly.

    Maybe you did get treated unfairly, but slow down and self evaluate to be sure.


    You are kidding me.. it costs $ 276 for a score verification process…….??? I can’t even begin to describe all the ways in which CLARB is lame. Most people have described in pretty eloquently in this string, so there’s not much I can add.

    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    What is the alternative?

    CLARB does not have a self imposed right to be the people that decide the qualifications for licensure. That is up to each state. CLARB offers a standardized test that has undergone and continually undegoes a lot of scrutiny legally, by the profession, and by the states that use it. It is used by just about every state because they apparently believe that it does what it is supposed to do.

    Offer up an alternative. It will become the same thing with a different name.

    This is all about lashing out and blaming the test. I did it, too. No one wants to be a failure and we live in a society that has taken failure out of people’s lives so that they never experience it until they hit a point in their lives where there is no compromise.

    You are not going to get them to scale your score, or go on Oprah and have a CLARB dude come out an give you an apology and hand you a license. You have one choice. That is to take responsibility for yourself and pass the test.

    If the test is not testing what you thought it should, you need to figure it out, put that in the past, understand what they actually want, and then give it to them.

    Our profession is all about understanding things (sites, nature, and CLIENTS) we have no control over and then making things work in that context. Taking the exam is actually a typical landscape architecture problem, if you really think about it. We ought to be able to eat this thing up if we think like landscape architects need to think.

    A good site analysis and client evaluation of LARE should help you out. Then move forward accordingly. Don’t keep planting tropicals in Alaska and complain that the climate is unfair!


    The score verification process takes another 10-12 weeks too. So if you want to get licensed sooner rather than later you’ll have to sit for another exam while waiting for the verification process. You’ll be reimbursed for taking another test if you argued successfully to overturn your score, but you won’t be reimbursed for the redline review and the time you had to take off work.

    To answer the original question, yes I think the redline review is helpful. It’s helpful in seeing what you did wrong and it’s helpful in seeing how flawed thesystem is. And yes, the system is flawed. I’m hearing more and more stories of people successfully overturning a failing score. Makes me wonder how many people have actually passed and are still taking the test…..or should I say feeding the hungry cash cow…..

    Theodore Tegen

    Where is the “Like” button on this website? Great response Andrew.

    However I will join in with most people and say that the fees for some of these things are pretty outrageous. I understand that the graders/reviewers need to be compensated for their time/travel, but can’t the organizations that rely on CLARB/LARE for testing/grading subsidize some of the cost?

    I may be wrong, I only needed to take the tests once (thankfully), but I want to say my company spent north of $1000! This is way more than either the AIA tests (which has more sections) or the PE test, by FAR. Throw in review materials, opportunity cost of time off of work, travel, there is no way I could afford to do it ONCE on my own dime, let alone multiple times if need be. Add on redline reviews, verifications, holy $hit the cost spirals out of control quickly.

    The test should be rigorous, but shouldn’t put you in the broke house.

    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    You are absolutely right that the fees are very high. I’d hate to see what they would charge for a beer between exams.


    CLARB Dude on Oprah. Funny!


    I’m not sure what it costs CLARB to administer and grade the exam, but it seems like highway robbery. Using money as a way to keep Landscape Architecture a closed club has the smell of a little classism.

    Gary Caraway

    This sounds very similiar to my situation.  I was very sure I had passed, only to find out that it was not to be.  So I paid for the review, flew down to Florida (I had since moved jobs), bought a hotel, rental car, etc. and then I looked at the review for about 3 minutes.


    Technically, I had done everything correctly. Unfortuantely I failed because I did not complete all instructions.  I forgot to draw the water shed out on one vignette (even though I had obviously designed around it with the knowledge of what a watershed was).  On another vignette, I had forgotten to complete all contours on the page.  Again, technically sound but, incomplete. 


    Long story short, I realized how important it is to be sure you follow the instructions very thouroughly.  Apparently, minimum competance requires this; not technical soundness.  When I retook the exam I went over the list of requirements for each vignette until I was sure I had covered everything. 


    I passed it and am now licensed.  So, as much pain and expense as it was to see the redline review, it was very worth it.  It gives you that little slap in the face you need to understand what they are looking for.

    Elizabeth Renton

    UPDATE: I had reason to believe my test was graded unfairly, so i paid the extra $276 for the ‘score verification process.’ Lo and behold, it turns out I was right. My test was graded unfairly, and they just sent me a notice saying my score had been reversed and i actually passed.


    Lesson learned: ALWAYS take the redline review. You never know what BS redline comments could be incorectly flagged on your exam. If you see something that you think was penalized incorrectly, definitely pay for the extra review process. I’m out $897 for ONE SECTION, but I passed. Just further proof that this is such a terribly flawed system, and a cash-cow for clarb.


    Congrats! I guess we’ll be seeing you on Oprah.

    Elizabeth Renton

    I didn’t see the guy on Oprah you mentioned earlier. Who was he? What was he saying?


    He won’t be doing much talking, but lips will be puckered:)

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