Passed PPD last week and have some comments that may help a few of you.
I have had a lot of interruptions in my studies for family and work (some lengthy), so have been literally unable (as well as unwilling at times) to do the recommended non-stop push through the whole thing. Nevertheless, my study has been rather consistent in approach and fruitful (thus far). Here is the PPD synopsis:
I have relied heavily on this forum for study topics and emphasis (keeping track of all the pertinent comments). A hearty thank you to all again! Beyond that, my overall focus for the “technical exams” (PA/PPD and PDD yet to come) is to really study a few of the main references and blend that subject matter into the concepts, principles, and structure of the Amber course.
For the past ~2 years, I have had Fundamentals of Building Construction propped up on my treadmill, as I studied for other exams, and have read/highlighted most of it in very small chunks. This is my favorite book in the references and it is actual literature – not just dry stuff. You can learn a TON from just this one book. A little-known resource is their student website that has fantastic annotated photos and other stuff like flashcards in the left menu:
Merely watching the Amber videos a couple of times was not sufficient for me to absorb everything. Ermann packs multiple points into each sentence and for some reason I wasn’t retaining enough of it. So I bit the bullet and sat down for many, many hours, taking copious Word doc notes on each video – almost to the point of transcription. That allowed me to add my own supplementary notes to these sheets. I printed out ALL of this, making the printer paper/ink companies very happy. This was the key for me. After spending months on this, I went into “synthesis” mode. Made folders for each set of Amber chapter notes (this was mostly the old Amber version and part of the new version) and then added other folders as needed. Along the way, I also studied:
- MEEB -- Looked through areas I thought needed reinforcement and read some parts.
- Architect’s Studio Companion (ASC) -- Read through a lot of this, but not the whole thing – based mostly on my weak areas for additional explanation and support.
- Looked up things I was unsure of in --
- Building Construction Illustrated
- Olin’s Construction
- Graphic Standards
- COUNTLESS YouTube videos and Internet searches
- ADA -- I skim through this (which I printed out and have in a binder) for each exam.
- FEMA -- Printed out chapters 4, 5, 8, & 9 and read all of those, marking pages with sticky notes.
- Reviewed some of my PA notes.
- IBC -- This I cannot stress enough. I purchased the 2015 version for the first exams, thinking I could buy the Commentary separately. It doesn’t work that way (I found out). Didn’t want to pay all over again (since they wouldn’t let me “upgrade”), so I waited and purchased the 2018 IBC WITH Commentary. This is extraordinarily helpful! The Commentary explains each section and gives you examples to work out problems, as well as numerous drawings, figures, and diagrams. There is so much to learn in the IBC when you can cut through the techno-speak. The Commentary makes it so much easier to read and comprehend. I never even needed the Building Codes Illustrated that I bought.
For practice/preparation, I relied on Amber, Hyperfine, and Elif Bayram’s quizzes. During the 3-4 weeks prior to the exam:
- Carefully reviewed all of my Amber notes, including the Amber Panic Notes and various problems. This one resource proved to be golden (no pun intended). I felt very prepared for over half the exam based solely on the concepts I absorbed from this course.
- Went through all of Hyperfine’s PPD/PDD worksheets, looking up everything I wasn’t sure of. Very, very helpful.
- Went through all of Elif Bayram’s “ARE Questions” 20-question PPD quizzes, again looking up things I got wrong. Also very helpful.
- Prior to all this, I quickly moved through the Ballast Practice Exam (not doing too well), and looked up some of the wrong things. This didn’t seem as helpful to me, so I didn’t dwell too much on it.
- Have done almost daily quick 10 question drills on Designer Hacks since my first exam – helps keep your mind limber and a few of these points do come in handy.
The day before the exam, I did Hyperfine’s PPD/PDD Case Study and I think it helped me to get my brain into “search mode” for looking things up on drawings in the Case Studies. Don’t forget! ... You can use the exam’s search box for finding things IN THE DRAWINGS – like if you can’t quickly find the name of the room you’re looking for. The search feature is not just for text documents.
As for time strategy with the new question locking.... I knew I would have to take a bathroom break because 4 hours, 5 min. is quite long. So I broke the exam up into 2 “sessions”. First “session” was the Case Studies. I allowed myself 1 hour, 5 min. for that so there would be 3 hours for the rest. Unfortunately, I had to sacrifice one question that seemed complex because I was afraid of running out of time. Second “session” was everything else.
At the beginning of “session 1”, I deliberately skipped straight to the 2nd question of the first Case Study so that I could return to the 1st question in the Case Study later in the exam to make use of the resources. Also stopped short of the last question of the 2nd Case Study for the same reason.
After my break, I raced through all the “regular” questions, skipping a couple and flagging many. At the end I discovered that I really didn’t need the Case Study resources after all, so finished those last 2 questions and any unanswered regular questions. At this point I looked at the clock and was astonished to see that I had a full hour left to go through all my flags, etc.
Overall “intense” study period for this exam was 3.5 months, but I don’t regret it. When I got into the exam, I felt (much to my surprise) very prepared for the questions and besides, a good deal of this study will apply to PDD, so that prep period will (hopefully) be shorter. Even so, afterwards I realized I had overlooked things on a couple of questions that were undoubtedly wrong (in the “fog” of exam jitters), but managed to pull out a pass anyway.
Hope someone finds a few useful points in amongst all this, as I have found in many of your posts.
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