Took the PA exam this past Monday (first try) and passed. I was really nervous since it was also my first ARE exam, but I found the questions to be much more straight forward (not many where I was stuck deciding between 2+ choices) than any of the practice exams.
That being said, I studied for ~2 weeks, 3 hrs per day and used BlackSpectacles and Ballast.
My method of studying was:
1. Go through Ballast (PA section + PPD Ch. 12) and take notes. Ballast gives you a ton of info, but sometimes not on the right topics. For example, it briefly touched on soils, but went extremely in depth on human behaviour and history of planning. Interesting read and great to know but I didn't find it the most useful for test purposes.
2. BlackSpectacles videos to fill in the knowledge gaps and reinforce concepts. imo the biggest benefit is that the lecturer explains concepts while drawing and making comparisons so it's extra easy to understand. The videos also go through relevant reports that may or may not show up in the exam, but while analyzing them you learn useful information not covered elsewhere.
3. Practice exams (Ballast + BS). I thought both were more detailed and less analytical than the real exam.
Notes on exam:
- lots of questions related to choosing the best site or organizing program. Read the constraints carefully. Sometimes there's unexpected requirements such as "the selected site must not have a view to the park", which is easy to miss.
- become familiar with reading topo maps
- know the terminology and differences related to zoning, building code, easements, convenants, variances, PUD, etc.
- know how to read the ADA/IBC or find info quickly
- if you're not familiar with imperial conversions, might be worth brushing up on since it's low hanging fruit. I'm used to metric so I definitely got the question which required ft to yd wrong.
- for the case studies, there's way more info than is needed most of the time and would be overwhelming to make sense of everything at the same time. I'd suggest diving right in to the questions, since they mostly ask about something specific and you can then look through all the material for necessary info, while also getting a sense of where to find certain info for future reference.
- there was one question that said 'refer to exhibit' but there was no exhibit shown, only the answer choices, don't know if this has happened to anyone else or I'm just blind and there's a tab somewhere.
Please sign in to leave a comment.