Passed PPD!

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    David Kaplan

    Hi Scott,

    I am currently studying for PPD (taking it March 1st) and plan on scheduling PDD for soon thereafter.  Thinking the 1-2 week span difference as you've suggested.  I have found your two PPD and PDD posts to be very helpful and wanted to ask you a couple of questions:

    1) How much work experience do you personally have going into these exams?  I have 13 years working in an office.  From what you've described above, I feel that my study approach has been very much in line with yours, and I'm wondering how much your work experience paid off for these tests in terms of knowing answers because hey, you just know them.

    2) I strongly agree that Architect's Studio Companion and Building Construction Illustrated are primary and paramount resources and am reading both cover to cover.  How did you feel these prepared you for the structural questions that came up on either test?  I find that these two books cover the concepts well and offer insight as to which system makes sense for certain scenarios, but they don't get too much into the calculations.  One of the sample questions on the NCARB Demonstration Exam has you calculate the total live load on a column.  I don't see these books getting into this type of detail, so what did you use to study this?

    Saw you posted about PA.  I have passed this exam and offered my study insights in that discussion topic.

    Thanks!

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    Daniel Burko

    Congratulations!!!

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    Randall Hunter

    Awesome! Congrats Scott!

     

    So now that you've gotten both behind you, how similar or different did they feel? Did you get halfway through PPD and feel like you were mostly being asked the same kind of questions as PDD or are the questions approached totally differently?

    I see both responses that PDD exam is not at all heavy on calculations but there is an occasional outlier that seems to say he/she had a bunch of confusing calcs. How did the exams compare in terms of the math required? Is this how PDD separates itself from PPD? When folks say that PDD is more about the details, is it calculating details or just more in depth questions about the why behind a specific system, rather than which system is correct overall?

    With this being my final exam, I can so badly taste freedom!! I want to know every single nuance I can get my hands on! Did you find the order in which you took these two exams to be a solid approach? I know it seems the majority takes it the other way. In hindsight do you think either order would have made much difference or are they that similar?

    Thanks and Congrats again!!

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    Scott Barber

    Thanks Randall! Feels good to be 2 for 2 so far, taking a week or two off and then will probably tackle PA next.

    Overall, I think these two exams were pretty similar...I would highly recommend that people that these two together. Studying for one exam will cover just about everything you need to know for the other one, minus an area or two. In the content areas that overlapped, it seemed like the questions were pretty similar. I'd say if, for example, building systems had 3 levels of detail, PPD started on the broader end of the spectrum and went 2/3 of the way to being highly detailed, and PDD started on the detailed side and went 2/3 of the way to the broad side, so it seems about 1/3 of the content overlapped.
    That being said, my studying for PDD covered pretty much everything I needed to know for PPD (and I would assume it'd be the same in the opposite direction). The level of detail varies as NCARB describes, but it's hard to just study for details and not for general systems stuff.

    I got a couple calculations, but not too many. I also didn't feel like I got too many for PDD, though.
    From my experience, if you remember basic math equations (a squared + b squared = c squared; sine, cosine, and tangent, etc) you'll be fine. In PDD I think I had maybe 2 "harder" calculations but the equations were given for the question so again if you have a decent math foundation you'll be fine. The main difference is just the types of problems you have to calculate, but they're all pretty simple (calculate areas, percentages, etc) - can't think of good examples that would reveal what I saw on the exam though. If you've worked in DD or CD phases of projects though, you've probably encountered these calculations doing basic design and code review.

    I don't think the order of these two exams makes much of a difference. I think most people take PPD first because it covers the "earlier" part of projects. I started with PDD because I've done a lot more work in the CD phase and felt a little more confident in that material. 

    I think the biggest difference (which makes sense when looking at the ARE Handbook and knowing that this exam focuses on the DD phase) is the number of questions related to site design that I got in PPD. In hindsight I would have spent more time looking at relevant code and basic site planning and design. From what I've seen for PA though, if you've already taken PA you probably already know most of what will show up on PPD. 

    Good luck, I'm sure it's nice to be one exam away!

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    Marta Snow

    Congrats, Scott!

    Randall, thanks for asking your questions. And Scott for answering them.

    I'll be taking PPD in 2 weeks, with PDD a week after. I like the idea of going in order of a project, I feel like I can grasp the big picture better. I'm ready to deep dive in to the content area after getting a solid foundation of what has transpired earlier in a project. From the 3 exams that I've taken already, I think that having taken and studied for the previous exams has helped me during the exam.

     

     

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    Scott Barber

    David,

    For some reason your comment didn't show up until a few minutes ago, even though the time on the comment itself shows yesterday afternoon...weird! Thanks for your tips on PA - I read through your post and comments last night and found it very helpful! Glad my two posts on these two exams have been of some benefit to you as well, I always like getting input from a number of people to make sure I'm not too far off track. 

    1) I think with 13 years of experience you'll be much further along than I am. I've only been working full time since last May, and I had two summer internships before that. I graduated last May with my Masters, and my undergrad was in architectural technology (a degree most people haven't heard of - the program seems to bridge the gap a little between architecture and engineering, without getting into a lot of design). 
    Even with my work experience being fairly limited to this point, there were multiple questions I knew just from working. In PDD in particular there was one question about a wall type that I knew the answer to without even having to look at the reference material or IBC chapters they provide. From what I've heard others say, 5.0 aligns with the "real world" much more than 4.0, so your work experience should be very helpful. 
    On a related note, I took these two exams the same time as a friend of mine, and he passed them both without studying very much. He studied a weekend for PDD and said he didn't study for PPD at all (having a project deadline and a baby come early, the week before your exam, can be a challenge). However, he worked in construction for 19 years before going back to get his masters in architecture, and is a very intelligent guy, so I don't think this approach will work for most people. Just worth noting that experience can get you a long way, depending on what you know. 

    2) I think ASC and BCI are great in all aspects, only slightly lacking in their level of detail for structures. I read Ballast before anything else (wouldn't do that again), and found their structural calculations and equations to be overly detailed. The number of structural questions on the exam is small, and most of the calculations you need to do are very basic math (a squared + b squared = c squared; sine, cosine, tangent, etc). I know some people get a lot more structural calculations but I only had a few, and they were pretty basic. 
    The only structural equations/calculations I would be familiar with are moment and shear for point and uniform loads. It wouldn't hurt to be familiar with the equations that they provide on the exam, but I didn't have any questions that required me to use them.

    I have a feeling that PPD and PDD aren't any more difficult than the other exams, they just are harder to study for because of the breadth of the material covered. I will probably have a better idea of the accuracy of that statement after I've taken other exams, though. 

    Good luck!

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    Scott Barber

    Thanks Marta!

    Glad you've found what works for you - I was more comfortable starting with PDD since the bulk of my experience has been in CDs, but I know a lot of people like to take PPD first. I can understand the benefit of going in the order of a typical project, and hope everyone just finds an order they're comfortable with.

    Congrats on being halfway done! Good luck studying for these two, I think a week apart is a good plan. You can do it!

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    David Kaplan

    Scott,

    Very helpful, thanks very much.  Yeah, I've heard mixed things about going into this with experience.  When I took the PA test, I found that my experience kicked in big time.  The same was true for the 4.0 CDS and PPP tests that I took before switching over.  I have lots of experience with construction documents so hopefully these exams will support what I've learned in the real world and I can get through this.  Still planning on significant studying though. 

    I've heard nothing but bad things about the Ballast 5.0 book.  I actually have a much older one for structural that covers calculations, I may browse it just to reignite the basics (like you mentioned, shear/moment diagrams, how to calculate from a given point).  Been too long since I had to do that!

    Thanks again.

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    Randall Hunter

    Thanks for the info. I have begun by perusing through Ballast to try and get an idea of some differences but judging from what I've read on here and what I'm reading, it's WAAAAAAYYYY too in depth on calculations. I think I"m going to mostly scrap using it at all and go back and do a refresher on BC(ons)I, ASC, and AGS as well as some videos on simple beam calcs. I also need a quick refresher on Spec sections. I feel pretty confident in CDs so nothing crazy there. From what I can gather another pass through the study materials very similarly to my prep for PPD will get me most of the way home.

    As for your next exam, PA: That one was a weird exam. Sort of in line with PPD in that there's a large body of material to study and the exam can go many directions. I remember there being a lot of drag and drop questions and frankly I thought I got every one of those correct. The multiple choice were all like "I think this is right, but I'm not really 100% sure" on the majority of them. It was just that kind of exam for me. Like many others have said as well, it definitely took the most time. I crushed PPD in terms of time far easier than PA so definitely keep time management at the top of your mind while preparing.

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    Scott Barber

    David - happy to help, hope your studying goes well!

    Randall - I think scrapping Ballast in lieu of primary sources is the way to go. I regret spending the first 3-4 weeks of my studying Ballast and Architect Exam Prep material...I had to rush through the primary sources more than I would like, which is where I will be focusing my time in the exams to come, maybe skimming through Ballast at the end. 

    I've read a lot of people struggle with time for PA. I submitted PPD with 50 minutes left after double checking about 1/3 of the questions and submitted PDD with 20 minutes left (after losing a few from my test crashing), so I'm mentally preparing myself for the tighter time crunch. I'm curious if part of the time issue is due to the number of drag and drop questions - those are the ones I took more time on for PPD so if there's a larger percentage of those questions I imagine it could take more time. Guess I'll find out in a few weeks! Thanks for your input. 

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    David Kaplan

    Scott,

    I finished the PA test with about 5 minutes left, and only had time to check over the questions I had flagged.  Here's what I would say contributed to that timeframe:

    1) This was my first 5.0 test.  I had only taken 4.0 tests before it, so without a doubt, the new format just took me a little longer to get used to.

    2) I had a good amount of small calculation problems.  Things like FAR, Efficiency, maximum size of a building on a site.  Nothing hard and simple enough to do, but still, those take some time to just do the math and get the answer together. 

    3) As I mentioned in my study notes, there were a good amount of drag-and-drop type questions too.  Focus on the samples that the 5.0 Handbook gives you.  Mainly relating to program adjacencies.  Sometimes just absorbing all of the individual requirements that have to be met just takes time away as well.

    4) As others have mentioned, navigating the case studies takes up time solely because of the computer system.  NCARB really needs to fix that!

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    Scott Barber

    David, that makes sense. On PPD the first time through I didn't even answer some of those easy calculations - I kept a list of "easy but take a couple minutes" questions and then came back to them. Sounds like for PA it'd be better to just answer them the first time through rather than circling back through. 

    There's definitely a learning curve to taking these exams, by the sound of it I'm glad I didn't start with PA, at least with the time factor. I definitely wish the questions and case study materials loaded faster...even just going through the regular questions my computer took up to 10 seconds sometimes. Doesn't sound like a lot, but over the course of 120 questions that time adds up (though not all of them were that slow). 

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    Asra Zaidi

    Scott & David

    thanks you so much for your guidance through the study material. im starting to gear up for PPD and I'm freaking out looking at the list of books for reference. When you guys say cover to cover BCI and ASC how do you retain the information, there are so many diagrams, so much content. how do you filter what is important and what is not and after filtering how do you retain it?

    Randall,

    i completely agree with you on PA. I just gave the test yesterday and failed. it was the hardest all the 3 i have given (pjm,pcm, pa) i used every single minute. multiple questions that came out of nowhere and too many calculations that required 2-3 background calculations. it was a bad experience. oh well. i cant look back and im moving forward to the next two monster exams. But at the same, time im scared if i didnt pass PA how will i pass PPD PDD?

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    Scott Barber

    Hi Asra,

    Sorry to hear about PA! I've heard a lot of people say they struggle with time on that exam, but I wouldn't worry about time being as much of an issue on the other exams. I had plenty of time left in PPD and 

    The amount of information covered on these exams can be overwhelming. I skimmed through most of the books and bookmarked sections that I knew I needed to look at more closely. Overall, I made sure I was familiar with all the systems and knew the concepts well.
    For building systems on PPD, for example, I studied all-air vs. an air-water vs. all-water systems and had a general understanding for their strengths and weaknesses. I didn't spend a lot of time studying the different variations of these systems, but understood the broad concepts really well. I read through the variations just so I was aware of what they were, but I didn't study the specifics that closely. For PDD, I tried to understand the way these systems relate to each other and made sure I felt comfortable with details for different systems. 

    The ARE Handbook is very helpful, if you read through the sections for each exam it will help you understand what they expect you to know. Since I studied for them both together (which worked very well and would suggest considering that option) I was able to study the broad concepts of systems and details for them at the same time. However if you're only focusing on one exam, you can use the Handbook as a reference to know when you need to look at something more closely. 
    Ultimately, given the time frame I had for my studying, I tried to have a general understanding of everything and spend more time looking at content I was less familiar with. For PPD I felt pretty comfortable with everything except for the building systems, so I just did a brief refreshing on the other sections and spent more time trying to learn about MEP. I think it just depends on each individual what they need to focus on based on their work experience and any relevant classes they may have had in school.

    Good luck! I hope your studying goes well!

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    Randall Hunter

    Asra,

    I would not compare your outlook for one test based on the results of another. While PPD has some overlap with PA there's a large chunk of new material that you might be strong with. Just because you didn't pass PA doesn't mean you didn't prepare well or didn't know the material. You may have missed the cut by just a handful of questions.

    Personally I don't think I missed more than 5-10 questions total on PcM while others fail it. And similarly PPD was tough and I may have barely passed but others have studied for a week and aced it. Don't let your PA results get you down. Keep moving ahead!

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    Asra Zaidi

    hi scott,

    Thanks again for the details. I actually plan to give PPD and PDD 2 weeks apart so like 6 +2. I will definitely buy a copy of ASC and start skimming through. did you study from black spectacle at all?

    Hey Randall,

    thank you for the morale boost. I totally need it. when I got out the exam I was so mad since I'm on a very strict schedule lol. but I'm processing it and starting tomorrow with the study material. 

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    Scott Barber

    Hi Asra, 

    I didn't study from black spectacles but I've heard others say good things about it. I also heard people talk about the Amber book but I didn't look at that, either. I only had a certain amount of money budgeted for study materials so I put that towards the resources from the ARE Handbook. 

    I'm sure it's frustrating to have a wrench thrown in your plan, but I don't hear of people passing them all on the first try very often. It seems like there's always one or two that people have to retake (I heard of one person having to take an exam 13 times!), so don't get too discouraged! Use it as motivation moving forward, and don't be afraid to take a weekend off if your'e able to :)   I'm can imagine with a baby on the way it adds some pressure, but you'll get it done I'm sure! One exam at a time :)

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    Colleen Cassidy

    Congrats Scott! Quick question - which edition of ASC did you use?

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    Scott Barber

    Thanks Colleen! I used the 5th edition of ASC

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    Tony Young

    Scott,

    Hi, you may have answered this question above so I'm sorry if I repeat something that you have answered.  I have purchased BCI and ASC these books have a lot of chapters, were there certain chapters that you found to be most helpful? Did you read the entire book cover to cover or just certain chapters?

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    Scott Barber

    Hi Tony,

    I was fairly pressed for time so I tried to focus my time on what I was less familiar with, and used the following method for most of the books I read:

    1. Referenced the ARE Handbook (and other posts on this forum) and made a list of the chapters/sections that are relevant for each book. I'm a fan of lists, though mostly for the opportunity to cross things off to see progress.
    2. Determined which content I already was pretty familiar with, and saved those chapters for last.
    3. Read the chapters for the content I didn't know as well, not spending too much time on them, but highlighting and bookmarking sections that I wanted to review again later.
    4. Skimmed the content I already "knew," primarily looking at headers and lists to see what might be worth reviewing more closely, and looking at diagrams/details/graphics to make sure I understood them.
    5. Reviewed the sections I marked the first time through, removing my bookmarks when I felt comfortable with the content, and keeping some bookmarks that had lists/charts/graphics that would be good overall review to refresh before the exam.
    6. The last two days before my exam I spent flipping through the bookmarks that remained, keeping those areas more fresh since I didn't have as much experience with them. 

    I didn't hold on to the list I made for each of the books, I just wrote it on a note card and I'm pretty sure I threw it away at some point. I found it a helpful exercise to look at each chapter and compare it with the ARE Handbook, planning out my studying a little more than just reading what others said. I feel like most chapters were fairly clear whether or not they related to the exams, but I also think that with each person's unique knowledge and experience they will need to spend more time studying some areas than others. 

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    Brian Jones

    Which Architect's Studio Companion does everyone use? The 6th edition? 

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    Scott Barber

    I had access to the 5th edition so I used that and it was fine. I'm not sure the differences as I haven't seen the 6th edition, but I think either of those would work.

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