Let me try to explain what happens when the MCA candidate leaves the room and the Architecture Review Board (ARB) starts the deliberation process.

The board’s first exposure to evidence of competencies comes through the submitted documentation. It is here that the first impression is formed about the candidate and the interest and questions to be answered during the review are formed.

By the time the candidate finishes their presentation, they usually reinforced the opinion of ARB about the level of competencies. It is the interview process that follows that finalizes the level of each competency.

The hard-to-believe fact is that everyone in ARB wants the candidate to pass, not to fail. During the interview process each ARB member will do his best to uncover the evidence for each competency (and sub-competency). If there is not enough substance in the answer, the board member will try harder, dig deeper and offer several chances for recovery. It may look like interrogation East-European style (especially when I’m on the board) but all the board members want is enough evidence to defend their decisions.

Why? When the moment comes to put markings by the candidate’s competencies, each mark must have a rational explanation. For example, why did I think that candidate demonstrated ability to build organizational partnerships? Where did I see it? How can I justify the passing mark?

Unless I have enough defending material for my decision, I can’t be the candidate’s advocate – which is what I desire to be. On the other hand, I must be a gatekeeper for the advocacy of other members of the review board. Sometimes we cancel each other out, and sometimes agree one way or the other without discourse.

When a candidate does well, I need to call out and identify what specifically was impressive. When they do poorly, I need to both identify where they need to improve as well as tell how. If the candidate is not a match for a MCA programme (in other words, they suck eggs), the interview flow first grows to the insane intensity and depth and is then often terminated prematurely.

As I said before, it is rather unfair: really good candidates get an easy(er) ride, while (sub)average people will be dragged feet-first on the gravel road.