Hi everyone, I passed PDD on my first try (surprisingly) and I'm FINISHED with the ARE! (sigh of relief)
I wanted to write about my experience because I felt that I was really prepared going into the test and felt very disheartened coming out of the test - feeling as though the material I studied was not very helpful at all to prepare for the content on the exam. It was hard.
I had a lot of questions on waterproofing - flashing in particular. I get that it is the #2 most important aspect of designing a building but it was an overwhelming amount. Very little on codes and very little on MEP. I do remember a few questions on acoustics. Overall, just very heavy on construction / structure integration in details.
My study material was:
- Building Construction Illustrated - great illustrations, the exam is very heavy on drawings / diagrams
- Building Codes Illustrated - good for structures - seismic, wind, etc.
- Black Spectacles - I watched every video in the PDD set but I felt they were much less helpful for the actual exam than they were for PPD. PPD was much more high-level concepts whereas as PDD is much more gritty detail. It did however help me to think about system integration in a way I probably wouldn't have otherwise. I think it was still a good use of time to watch them. I put it on 1.25x speed, sometimes 1.5x.
- Ballast 5.0 PDD section (only a high-level skim of this, it got WAY too deep into structures, very unnecessary. And good gracious, the typos, come on! My favorite example, the little blue tab on the side of the PDD section says "product development".... face-palm)
In terms of the NCARB exam objectives, I felt I was very prepared. However, the exam was a whole different level of beast. More than PPD, I felt most questions had a lot of superfluous information that I had to dig through to understand what it was even asking me. I re-read questions more than twice on a number of occasions. But it is good to write out the objectives and keep those at the forefront of your study effort. I was getting very overwhelmed with structures equations and I kept reminding myself that it is only 1/5 sub-sections of 1 section of the exam.
The drawings / diagrams used on the questions were pretty confusing, nothing like any of the drawings in Building Construction Illustrated or Building Codes Illustrated. And, for that matter, nothing like I've ever seen in practice either. So I spent a lot of time just trying to understand what I was looking at. Perhaps the Olin book on the NCARB study list will better prepare you, that's the one I didn't look at.
My best piece of advice is to study as many construction details as you can. I studied for 10 days, at least 10 hours each day using the materials above and passed. It also helped to have PDD scheduled 2 weeks after PPD since the content builds from the foundation laid in PPD.
A quick note on the case studies - my strategy this time was to go straight to the questions, understand what it was asking me, and then dive into the scenario to look for information pertaining to the question. They were still brutal but I found this helped my time management much more.
Hope this helps you all!
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