Passed my final exam yesterday, wanted to share what study strategy worked for me.
- PPI Practice Exams and Quizes [All Sections]
- AreQuestions (Elif Bayram's) [PDD PPD PA]
- Walk The ARE's (Erik Walker) [PA PcM]
- Designerhacks [All Sections]
- Honorable Mention: Black Spectacles Mock Exam YouTube Videos [All Sections]
- Ballast ARE 5.0 Review Manual Fifteenth Edition [All Sections]
- The Architect's Handbook of Professional Practice [PcM PjM CE]
I attribute 90% of my passing success to practice exams. Taking them, failing them, reviewing and taking notes, retaking them, repeat.
I read the Ballast book cover to cover, which I never intended on doing but reading each chapter for my next section became a ritual prior to taking my first practice exam.
PA: This was the only exam I took in-person. I didn't experience any technical difficulties, it was a great testing experience. I WAY over studied for this exam. I took extensive notes on flash cards while reading through the Ballast book. After reading the chapter I took my practice exams and performed shamefully. Went way over time and got in the 40% range. This is how I found out that practice exams are the way I learn.
PPD: I gave myself a LOT of time between PA and PPD. The length of PPD was intimidating to me so I gave myself a large buffer of time to feel ready, then I held out for the online proctoring to roll out, then my work picked up, and the holidays happened so I ended up with a really large gap between my first two exams. I cannot recommend Elif's arequestions practice exams enough, they will humble you and you need that. I was comfortable going in to this exam because of my years of CD experience, but only doing commercial interiors leaves a lot left to be desired in terms of detailing! All of my note taking and studying for this exam was guided by practice exams. I read the Ballast chapters without writing anything down. This was my first online proctored exam, it crashed once, but I got back in and was able to finish in time.
PDD: I'm surprised by how much time I gave myself between PPD and PDD because I honestly didn't write 1 note... I just took practice exams over and over and over. I used my PPD notes to study. This was very very similar to PPD, just more detail. This was the worst of the online proctoring experiences I had. I wrote all about it in this post, it was a nightmare.
CE, PjM, PcM: These were all very short, relatively straightforward exams. CE and PjM were the most similar, and I think they're a good idea to take before PcM. PcM shared a lot of what CE and PjM had, plus risk, financial management, and ethical categories. I'd recommend taking CE and PjM first to set that baseline.
PA 10-20-2020 (~40 days)
PPD 01-12-2021 (84 days)
PDD 03-07-2021 (54 days)
CE 03-23-2021 (16 days)
PJM 03-30-2021 (7 days)
PCM 04-20-2021 (21 days)
Total: 6 months
Hope this helps someone in the future!
PS My friend showed me his Black Spectacles account, which he used to pass all of his tests, I would definitely recommend it. It was the most accurate representation of the exam interface I've seen.
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