I've been a passive observer of this forum for the last few weeks as I've been preparing for the PDD/PPD combo, and thought I would share my approach and reactions from passing PDD yesterday, in the hopes that my (semi-contained) rambling can help someone else.
PDD is the first exam I've taken, and I scheduled PPD for two weeks later based on all the advice from others. I've seen a lot of people say to save these two exams for last, but this is where the bulk of my experience has been and I felt more comfortable diving into this content than trying to learn about some of the other exams with less experience. I don't think I can say too much about testing order though, until I've taken more exams.
- I started studying after Thanksgiving, giving myself about 2 months to get through all the material. The days leading up to the exam I wished I had given myself more time, though I was able to get through most of the resources I had on hand, so I'm not sure how much more time would be needed. I spent part of this time reading through some PPD sources as well.
I spent 1-2 hours each weekday studying, and tried to get 3-4 hours each weekend day, but the weekends were pretty inconsistent. I did use a good portion of my vacation time over Christmas studying (and got a bonus "snow day" the week before my exam - yay for living in the south!), and I think I probably spent about 150-200 hours preparing for the exam.
I read through almost all of these books/sources, or skimmed areas I felt more comfortable with. I didn't feel like I actually got to "study" any of them too closely, but I was able to get a good handle on concepts which I think was important. This exam is so broad (with so much detail in each concept) that getting into all the possible details about every idea would be very difficult to do (in my opinion).
What I read:
- Ballast (all chapters for PDD and PPD)
- Architect Exam Prep (just PDD)
- Building Codes Illustrated (read chapters I wasn't familiar with)
- Building Construction Illustrated (very helpful, read most of it, skimmed some)
- FEMA (just chapter 5)
- ADA Standards
- Architect's Studio Companion (very helpful, read the MEP chapters. It took the place of MEEB which I saw someone recommend, helped me save time and not get too caught up in the details)
- Architectural Graphic Standards (read some, skimmed some, looked at details and graphics that I was unfamiliar with)
- I also found a couple PDFs about acoustical and fire assemblies from USG (just via google search) to get a better idea of these concepts for materials and assemblies
During the Exam:
My exam was scheduled for 12:00, so I planned on arriving by 11:30-11:45. Got a phone call at 10:00 and was asked to arrive between 11:00 and 11:30...added a bit of stress and moved my lunch (which I wasn't hungry for) up half an hour, but not too bad.
I made it through the 99 non-case study questions in about 1.5-2 hours. I was worried about time so if I was stuck on a question for too long (or if it was calculation heavy) I flagged it and kept going. I also flagged ones I wasn't sure about to go back and review later.
It took me 1.25-1.5 hours to get through the 21 case study questions...a lot longer than I expected. Some of them I could answer without even referencing any of the material, but some required a lot of digging. The documentation they provided was limited for some questions (interior elevations were tagged on the plans but not provided, so I had to flip through the building sections to answer one question, which wasn't ideal but it was sufficient).
I took my break after that with about an hour left, and then came back to review what I had flagged. It looked like I marked about 1/3 of the questions, but I'm glad I was overzealous with marking them because I felt like my head was clearer as I knew I had at least gotten to everything once. I was able to identify some mistakes or better understand some questions, others I knew were obvious and wondered why I had marked them, and some I was still confused about.
Ultimately I felt like this exam could have gone either way...there's so much to study and while I felt fairly confident I wouldn't have been too surprised to see that I failed. It was a huge relief to see the official 'Pass' show up this morning (the morning after the exam! seemed very fast)
With all the information that's covered, I would recommend reading as much as you can and make sure you have a good handle on concepts. Trust your instincts in the exam and don't get too stressed. I know everyone manages exam time differently but if you get too stuck on something, don't let it throw off your method. There were a couple questions that I was getting way too focused about and by flagging it and moving on it helped me keep my head more clear.
Come up with a game plan for studying and stick with it. I found a good routine of staying late at work for an hour or two, which let me miss rush hour traffic (huzzah!) and be able to go home and relax with my wife. Trying to study at home wasn't easy for me but staying at work late allowed me to keep a good balance between working, studying, and "life."
I also found it helpful to have support and accountability through the process. I've been meeting with a few friends from school every couple weeks, and even if our "study sessions" weren't always highly productive, it was good to have someone going through it to ask what you've been studying and how consistent you've been with it.
This exam is definitely hard, but keep chipping away at the resources and stay positive (easier said than done, I know). I've only been working full-time since I graduated last May (with two summer internships and working part time during my thesis year before that), so it's not beyond anyone's ability to pass this exam, regardless of your work experience.
Good luck everyone! Hopefully I'll have good news in a couple weeks for PPD, but I'll share my thoughts on that exam either way.
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