Passed PPD on first try - my strategy

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    Jovan Gayton

    Thanks for your insight.  I am about to start studying for PPD, How long did you study for?

     

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    Anuradha Vaddadi (Edited )

    Congrats and thanks for sharing your thoughts. Regarding black spectacles did you take the 5 exam plan package?

    I am going with the 3+2 exam plan. I listened to the free tutorials of black spectacles for CDS, PPP and SPD and am going through the other ones in 4. 

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    Rachel Gubser

    Well done Elise!!!  I am currently working out my PPD/PDD strategy. I studied for both exams simultaneously (primarily using Amber and lots of other resources in very small doses). I tested PPD and failed. So I decided to not even attempt PDD for now.

    Curious, did you read any PDD ballast chapters for PPD?  And are you planning to use black spectacles PDD for your upcoming exam? I know there is so much overlap with the content on these 2 exams.  

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    Elise LaPaglia

    Jovan, I am in a transition period in my career and luckily had 2 solid weeks of uninterrupted study time. I had read probably half of the Ballast section prior to that time. So in total, I would say 3 weeks of at least 8 hours each day = 168 hours. Keep in mind, though, that I hadn't tested in 2 years so I needed significant time to get back into the swing of things. PPD just covers so much content so it took me a long time to get through it all and feel comfortable with all the concepts.

    Anuradha, I luckily have a subscription through my previous employer (huge perk) and I can access all the 4.0 and 5.0 videos and exams. I didn't feel like I needed to access the other videos, though, I only watched PPD videos for the PPD exam.

    Rachel, I am so so sorry to hear you did not pass. I felt like mine could have gone either way to be honest!! It was tough. I did not read any PDD chapters to prepare for PPD. I have already gotten cozy with Professor Mike for another long haul of Black Spectacles videos for PDD. From what I can see, there is overlap in the general concepts, but PDD is going to be much more about technical details and analyzing situations for code compliance, cost compliance, and program compliance whereas PPD was about choosing the right systems/material/structure for a given scenario. 

    Hope this all helps!

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    Daniel Ostfeld

    Well done Elise!!

    I also found out I passed PPD last sunday. Was a bit nervous after reading all the mixed experience people had with this exam.

    The way I have approach the exams is by grouping them in to bundles. It has work very well for me. Started with PjM, PcM & CE and took the 3 exams in a month period, good thing passed them all on the first try. I went and did PA without really studying (personal life gets in the way some times) and failed it. Now I've been studying for 2 month in my second bundle PPD, PDD & PA. I think this strategy works very well because you over study for each individual exam but not for the bundle. Think about it 2 month of studying and 2 weeks to take all 3 exams.

    I will take PDD next Monday, this week I'm focusing on PDD, getting down to the point on all the concepts for structures, I'm trying to understand all the equations and their use without memorizing them. Understanding the concepts will make it easier to resolve any question with the information that will be giving in the exam (I think). Also polishing acoustics, thermal, plumbing, HVAC, systems integrations, fire, ADA, etc.

    I did use mainly matrix resources recommended by NCARB as well as Ballast 5,0 for review. I would highly recommend amber bundle and black spectacles videos. As well as youtube videos (there are so many free videos related to PPD)

    Good luck!!!

     

     

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    Kurt Fanderclai

    Elise and Daniel -- CONGRATULATIONS to both of you!

    Thanks to you both for your recap of how you studied.

    Question for you both -- I'm taking PPD next, and am primarily in the process of studying the Building Construction Illustrated and the dreaded MEEB, plus some code review.  I've always thought Ballast was a good product, however I don't plan to purchase 5.0.  I was given a copy of the Ballast 4.0 plus the exam question booklets that do with it.  So the question is, is the 4.0 Ballast material similar and current enough to be worthwhile as a review after I hit the matrix materials?

    Thanks!

     

     

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    Elise LaPaglia

    Kurt, thank you!!

    It all just depends on your preferred method of studying and the way you learn best. People have passed using a multitude of different strategies -- some using Ballast, some not. I remember looking at these threads and wishing someone who learned like me would post their strategy so that's why I posted!

    I learn best when I can get the big picture first and then dive into the details as needed. That's why Ballast and Black Spectacles work for me -- they give the big picture concepts and then I can supplement with details from the code and MEP resources. 

    I can't really speak to using 4.0 material to prepare for 5.0, but I have seen that some people are successful using that approach, so it's not an all or nothing thing. My biggest weak spot was MEP systems so I focused a lot of my energy on that. Perhaps the 4.0 Building Systems section would be a worthwhile resource. Ballast 5.0 was certainly expensive, but I knew it was the best resource for me. I plan to resell my book back on Amazon once I'm finished to make up some of the cost. 

    I would say you are definitely on the right track with BCI and MEEB. I wouldn't underestimate the code, there were a ton of questions about fire safety, egress, occupancy, and construction type.

    In general, any and all practice questions are always a good idea, even if just to get your mind in the right flow of how the questions are formatted.

    Good luck!!

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    Ryan NCARB

    Congratulations Elise and Daniel!  And Elise...thank you for this very thorough and helpful post!

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    Elise LaPaglia

    Thank you, Ryan! Happy to help.

    Also, Daniel, thank you! I realized I hadn't acknowledged your helpful post.

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    Kurt Fanderclai

    Elise, thanks --

    Will PDD be your last exam?   I've done 4 exams in 5.0, and have PPD/PDD left.

    I'm definitely a matrix guy.  I was really just wondering if the 4.0 was worth a spin through after exhausting the matrix materials.  Some have said that 5.0 is really just 4.0 information rearranged.  

    Thanks on the code advice -- for that part, I'm (unfortunately!) in the code practically every day on my job -- 

    Doesn't look like you used MEEB?  That's interesting.  I am looking hard to find some excuse or reason not to have to read that massive compilation!   

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    Daniel Ostfeld

    Thanks Ryan and Elise!!

    Kurt, nice to hear from you again!!

    I would highly recommend that you read fundamental of building construction, Its basically BCI as a text book. Very helpful to understand BCI more in depth. I only used MEEB as a reference guide. I went page by page checking all the diagrams and graphics, if you don't understand one, read thru it. It took me 1 day of skimming thru. Very helpful as well.

    As for Ballast 5.0 or 4.0, I have 5.0 and only been using it as a review after I read all the matrix materials. For PPD not to much information after going thru. BCI, IBC, Fundamentals, MEEB, etc. I'm seeing more relevant chapters for PDD regarding structures, thermal, electrical and their equations.

    I would highly recommend checking out Amber bundle, black spectacles and the thousands of free videos in youtube.

    Good luck!!

     

     

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    Elise LaPaglia

    Kurt, I did not use MEEB. I had pretty limited funds for study material and since I had already purchased Ballast 5.0, I didn't have much left for others. I clearly did OK with just Ballast, Black Spectacles, and Building Construction Illustrated -- but again, it all depends on how you learn best. I wouldn't say to not read something, especially if it is a recommended resource from NCARB directly, but I personally did fine without it.

    I can concur that Ballast 5.0 is somewhat the same materials as 4.0, but they've reorganized and paired it down to make sense with the new exam format. For me, the onus of having to digest 3 complete 4.0 sections (Building Systems, Structural Systems, and BDCS, even arguably PPP and/or Site Planning & Design) was way more of a mental battle than having the material concisely in 1 PPD section in the 5.0 book.  

    If you work with the code all the time, you are in great shape for that part!!

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    Kurt Fanderclai

    Daniel -- great to see your successes.  Sounds like you and I both have two exams to go -- good luck with PDD on Monday!

    Thanks again for the study material input -- ! 

     

     

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    Kurt Fanderclai

    Elise -- I like your approach -- concise, and it sounds like you had a sense of what was going to work for you.

    As an example. I think the fact that you did not use MEEB is -- I think -- great.  Not that it isn't valuable, but there is a practical limit to how many 1000 and 2000 page resources that can be covered for one exam.

    Since I have the MEEB -- I think I'll take Daniel O's advice and do a "skim day" through it.

    Thanks again!

     

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    Anuradha Vaddadi

    Thanks Elise for the feedback!

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    Darguin Fortuna

    Elise would you mind sharing your word doc? Like Jennas and Emily it has helped us all.

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    Yara Veronese Machado

    hi ARE community.

    thanks for taking the time to share all this valuable information. 

    ive been out of school foe 10 years now and for multiple reasons only now taking the exams. 

    Im doing the 3+2 transition system. 

    I passed the first 3 exams from ARE4.0 easely with just a couple of weekend study routines to review content. years of experience give you a lot of comfort in these first round of exams. 

    However, I  set for PPD last week and I failed. Wanted to share why. 

    1- tons of structural questions. A general idea of systems is NOT enough. You really got to go and study functions again and get pretty familiar with them. 

    2- Codes. questions start getting very detailed. So again, being as familiar as possible with charts and tables and actually remember good portions of those will SAVE you time. I knew where things were but takes time to scroll thru the cumbersome system. The exam is online. thus the resources are online. I was loosing time scrolling thru pages because they were taking time to load. HUGE con of this new system. 

    3- the EXAM IS LONG. 4 hours for 120 questions. that's 2min per question. 

    someone above mentioned she had 1.5h when she started the case study and she still almost run out of time. 

    I had only one Hour left and i run out of time. didnt get to the lat 10questions. really needed that extra half an hour. 

    4- the Case Study. in my case, I was unfortuntate to get basically two (2), yes two case studies. so just as you were getting familiar with case study 1 and had the program in your mind and could accelerate .. they changed on me and gave me a new case study. 

    again HUGE con. I see absolutely no reason why NCARB needs to do this. its a just about where i run out of time. 

    I hope NCARB and ARE changes this ans sticks to ONE case study. 

    so basically you should assume 1 minute per question for the first 100 questions, 

    so that leaves with enough time for the case study, specially if you get two different ones. 

     

    basically my main advises are:

    1- MEP. Study MEP and Structures. for me mostly structures as im comfortable with most of the MEP questions thru experience. 

    2- manage your time. if you dont know the question, or know but will take more time. Skip it. Keep moving. DONT WASTE TIME. get to the end of the multiple choice section and, depending on how many you left blank, go back and answer the ones you know you have high chances of passing if you just need a few extra minutes to solve them.

    Otherwise remember, you need to do good enough in all sections, not perfect in all. 

    3 - You need AT LEAST  1.5h to complete the case study. Use that as your imaginary time clock to move to Case Study Section. 

    you have to pass on all sections. so its better to complete the exam rather than leave half a section undone (like me:)) Which will inevitably fail you. 

    Regarding Black spectacles. I subscribed to the monthly access but I have to be honest, when you have 10 years of experience his talk has zero content. If you have some experience, black spectacles is a waste of money. it really is good just to get a feel of content but his talk is repetitive and general. no actual detailed information, as you would say in a structural or MEP class back in school, or even in architecture. I get bored listening to him and keep skipping portions. 

    Get to the details is my big advise. Those are not in Black Spectacles. 

    I'm definitely taking the advise mentioned here and mentioned on Amber and study for both PPD and PDD, then take them back to back. 

    Good luck to everyone! 

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    Tyler Middendorf

    Congrats to those who have posted that they have passed, and good luck to those preparing to take the exam in the near future!

    I recently passed PPD, three weeks after passing PDD. I wanted to share a few thoughts that I thought might be helpful.

    General Content:

    PPD and PDD partner very well, and there is a great deal of overlap in content. There is no direct translation of any 4.0 study materials to these sections. The big difference that I noticed between materials for PPD and PDD is that PPD requires a more thorough knowledge of site design, including site grading, water management, solar and climate, etc.They both cover estimating costs, determining structural and mechanical system appropriateness, building codes, accessibility guidelines, and more. Review the NCARB list of References for a better idea of the broad content spectrum that the question pools draw from. Both the general content areas and references are found in NCARB's ARE 5.0 Handbook.

    Though PPD covers an earlier phase of design, I'd recommend taking PDD first. This will give you a good foundation, and will make studying for PPD easier later.

    Study Materials:

    I read through the Brightwood guides for both of these exams. I did not find them extremely helpful. If you use them, I'd recommend going through the table of contents and selecting which topics you are rusty on, and going through those. Do not rely on these guides as your only source. They provide too much information in some areas (like history), and not nearly enough in most areas.

    I used Quizlet to study terms--people have posted most of the flashcards from Brightwood by now, so I'd recommend using this to your advantage.

    Building Codes Illustrated and Building Construction Illustrated were the most helpful in studying. If you don't already have these, consider buying them--they are useful to have around in the office. Spend time really looking at wall sections and material connections. Get familiar with accessibility and egress requirements.

    It helps to be familiar with wind and seismic loading. I read NCARB's Monographs on these topics, which had the added bonus of counting for AIA continuing education hours, which can be applied to AXP hours.

    I also studied an old site planning time saver book--it was a bit outdated, but still helpful. You can probably find something similar in your office or local library.

    You might take a few hours to read through how IBC and zoning codes are generally structured. Being familiar with these will help a lot.

    Taking the Tests:

    When taking the test, I went through all questions once. Anything that was taking too long, I took an educated guess and marked for later. The case studies take some time, but are not too bad if you strategize. Don't get distracted by all the information that is given, and don't burn up time loading materials you don't need to read (these things take forever to load). Read the question first, then decide what materials to look through to find the answer. If it takes you a bit of time to find a piece of information, write down the page number where you found it on your scratch paper. If you need to find it again, you'll know where to look.

    I went through all the questions once before taking my break. This is a bit of a struggle, but it makes me more relaxed and mentally prepared to review the questions I marked. For both exams, I had just under an hour left on the clock when I started my break. Use most of your break. Give yourself a bit to recover from the first go through, even if you spend most of your time sitting in front of the computer. After returning, I reviewed just my marked questions, then I gave all the questions a quick run through. I finished both exams with time to spare.

    Good luck!

     

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    Cullen Hollyn Taub

    Yara- I just took PPD as my fifth exam and I have always received 2 case studies. Not sure I have heard or anyone ever getting just one. I think its just a fairy tale to give people hope... Also, I am pretty sure you can pass the exam while getting all case study questions wrong. Case studies aren't a "section" of the exam, but a question type similar to multiple choice, hot spot, etc. The sections are broken down in the handbook but it basically comes down to how many questions you get right and if that is above the cut score. Best of luck with the next one!

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    Robin Owens

    Thanks for all of the feedback!

    I am taking my PPD exam (first of the 2-5.0 exams) in the next few days. Has anyone approached the exam by getting through the 'case-studies' first, then going through the other items? Just wondering if this would be a good strategy to give the case-study items adequate time to complete, since they seem to take the most time.

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    Tyler Middendorf

    Response to https://are5community.ncarb.org/hc/en-us/community/posts/115007244347/comments/115005392428:

    Robin,

    I would think that this would take a while because each question takes some time to load, so I would not recommend this. I'd recommend a strategy of going through all the questions relatively quickly. If you don't know one, don't dwell on it, just mark it, take an educated guess, and move on. You should end up with an adequate amount of time to review the case studies and answer all the questions. Then circle back to review the ones you marked the first go around.

    Get familiar with the types of materials that will be given to you on the case studies. You won't use all of the materials on all of the questions, so knowing where you will find different types of information will save you the most time on these questions.

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    Robin Owens

    Thanks Tyler...understood!

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