It took me nearly one hour and a half to come up with the functional framing of a simple aircraft maintenance hanger (Question 2 of 2012 Associate Member examination), which I still ended up getting wrong due to the pattern of the plan bracing. The answer is a simple portal frame in one direction and braced frame in the other, with the plan bracing going in the longitudinal direction of the building, whereas I had drawn it in the shorter direction above the entrance to the hangar.
Admittedly I wasn't trying particularly hard with timings, but even if I had tried to stick to the timings I would not have come close. It was an eye-opener just to see how rapidly you need to work in the exam, and how much I need to improve before then.
It also doesn't help that I work in a position which requires barely any calculations, but that's why doing these past papers is so useful to me as a learning tool.
One of the tips I had heard other mention previously is to show your boss your practice exam attempts. This did concern me in some ways, especially after that first attempt, as I probably made him question his decision to employ me. But nonetheless it's a long journey which I'm determined to fulfil, even if it means multiple mistakes and showing them to others.
The first question always asks for the functional framing, load transfer and stability aspects, which I categorise as 3 different skills. In addition to that, you need to be able to generate one or two concepts within the first 15 or so minutes which itself is another skill.
So…I treat this as a progress check. Whether progress has been made or not is one thing, but as least I tried to measure myself against where I need to be, and highlighted just how far I am away from the end target!