Passed PPD - study approach

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    Scott Barber

    Congrats, David, and great write up! 
    I studied almost the exact material, and fully agree about MEEB. I was happy to find others recommending ASC instead, and it definitely was a great replacement. Another big way this forum helped me out!

    Good luck with PDD! The good news is the two overlap in many ways, so you should be in pretty good shape to jump right in to that exam as soon as you want. Not sure if you've already scheduled PDD or not, but the only suggestion I'd give is to throw in Architectural Graphic Standards to study the details and graphics. Everything else will carry over pretty well - even the calculations I had were pretty similar to the ones on PPD, but I'm sure that varies to a degree.

    Must be nice to see the light at the end of the tunnel getting bigger! Hope you can finish strong!

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    David Kaplan

    Yes sir.   I do in fact have PDD scheduled - March 13th.  Ready to take it get this over with.  I've been working for 13 years and have put this entire process off for too long.  I will definitely take your Graphic Standards recommendation, I have that book and plan on looking through it. 

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    Scott Barber

    Sounds good! I took the two of them two weeks apart, which seemed to work out well. 

    What I did for Graphic Standards was flip through the relevant sections and look at the details and graphics. If I understood it I moved on, if not I read the related paragraph or two that explained it. With 13 years of experience I'd assume you'll understand most of it, unless you haven't ever detailed anything (unlikely). It's a pretty dense book (in a good way) so it can be hard to get through, but by focusing on the graphics it made it more manageable. 

    PDD was all over the place with a lot of content and details, and when I finished I thought it could go either way but was relieved to see I passed. The good news is your work experience should be a great benefit. I've only been working full-time since I graduated with my Masters last May and there were a few questions I knew because of work experience, so I can imagine that 13 years will be exponentially more beneficial. Good luck!

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    Michelle Gonzales

    Hi David. Thanks for the mind dump and congrats on passing!

    Also, thanks for the blurb concerning the Site Planning and Design Handbook. I keep putting that aside for last, but I probably should take in Chapter 10 as you suggested before time runs out. 

    I didn't see you mention building codes in your references. Is is that you felt like you were comfortable enough with IBC that you didn't see the need to spend time on it? Also, did you partake in any practice exams during your PPD studies? 

    Thanks again!

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    David Kaplan

    Michelle,

    No problem.  Chapter 10 in the Site Planning book was just one area that I happened to zoom in on, but you should really go over Chapters 1-4, 7, 8, and 9 as well.  I had studied these chapters for the PA exam that I took before this so I didn't really go over them too much for PPD.  If you haven't read this book at all, I would recommend giving those chapters a glance.

    You are correct - I didn't study codes because I am extremely familiar with them.  I handle all of the code research in our office.  You definitely should look over IBC 2012 and ADAAG if you are not familiar.

    I didn't do any practice exams, no, and the reason is that I truly feel that the third-party exam prep companies are still living in 4.0 world.  Until NCARB releases the exams, the third-party companies are simply doing nothing more than reorganizing their 4.0 info in the hopes that it will apply to 5.0.  I have found that this is a bad approach on their part and from what I have read on other posts on this forum, people have been paying this price for relying too much on third-party sources.  I just don't trust them yet. 

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    Michelle Gonzales

    I happened to have read the other chapters you mentioned for PA. Skipped Chapter 10 but I’ll take a look at it this time around. I’m also compelled to agree with your thoughts concerning the practice tests available out there. I used the Ballast 5.0 package and wasn’t too impressed. It actually made me even more stressed out than sitting for the actual exams themselves. 

    PPD is a little more than a week away for me, so going to try to use my time wisely. Thanks for your suggestions! 

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    David Kaplan

    Michelle - you'll find that you won't need most of Chapter 10.  The main reason I even went into it was because one of NCARB's practice questions in the Handbook talked about how the Site Planning and Design Handbook discussed locating evergreens to help with wind.  I didn't recall reading that when I studied for PA, so I went back into that book and found that it was in Chapter 10 (which I hadn't read for PA).  There's not much else in Chapter 10 that I really felt was applicable.  Just trying to help narrow down your studying efforts.

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    Brendan Herr

    Thanks, David! I'm just kicking off my PPD-PDD studying now. Your post-exam write ups have been very helpful. 

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    John Schwarz

    Congrats David, and thanks for sharing this information! Sounds like I'm in a similar situation as you - I've been working for 11 years and finally decided it's time to put these exams behind me.

    When I was in college, I purchased most of these books. Only problem is now that I've been out for awhile, most of them are 2 or 3 editions outdated. Maybe you were in the same boat? Do you think the content is still relevant enough to get me through or do I need to invest in the latest editions in preparation for my PPD and PDD exams coming up?

    Thanks!

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    David Kaplan

    John,

    I think you'll be fine, but you might want to get the latest version of Architect's Studio Companion.  With green/eco-friendly design being much more in the forefront these years than it was back when you and I were in college, I think it's possible that book is much more updated with respect to Daylighting and Passive Heating/Cooling Design approaches.  There's a free version on the web I think at archive.org. 

    I used my 2010 Ballast 4.0 for Structural Systems.  As long as you ignore 95% of the calculations in that book, it worked well and I would think your old version would be fine too if you have it.

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    John Schwarz

    Thanks David. I appreciate the info!

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    Kevin Maynard

    Does anyone have an electronic copy of Architecture Studio Companion? thanks in advance 

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    Trushna Patel

    David, congratulations & thank you so much for sharing all this information! I'm doing the 5 test-transition method and finally getting around to taking PPD and PDD, a little delayed because life happens. I've been reading many posts on these two tests for a bit now and have collected my study material (pretty much all the books you have listed).

    If you don't mind, could you please share how long you prepared for and generally how many hours you studied on weekdays and weekends. I've seen ranges from one month to five month study times and can't decide when to schedule my test for. I have 8 years of working experience, based on the past tests, that could or could not help, who knows. I feel like all my 4.0 tests had  a lot of questions non of the study material had information on. 

    Thanks in advance for your help!

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    David Kaplan

    Trushna,
    I studied for PPD and PDD at the same time for about two months before taking the first test. I studied about 8-10 hours a week, going to coffee shops at night from 8-10 a couple of times a week and one weekend evening. It was really the best I could do. I work full time and i have two little kids ages 2 and 4 and had to study around their sleep schedule. I also needed to study outside the house. I found that it eliminated temptation to want to take breaks, get up and get a drink, watch TV, etc.
    All the resources that I've listed in my study approach posts, I read them mostly cover-to-cover once and then reviewed them again until I felt I understood the information. Particularly those sections that i wasnt already comfortable with. I did the Handbook practice questions many times and made sure I was comfortable with the software as well. At a certain point, I said "OK. I think I've read enough. I have 13 years in this business. Let's just take the test and see how it goes." It worked.
    I hear you on feeling like questions come up that you didn't study. Heres what I'll say to that: in terms of questions that I got that I TRULY have never been presented with either in studying or in my work, I'd say it was 1-3 questions on these tests. That's it. The large majority of questions I really felt like I drew on work experience to help me eliminate the wrong answers and find the right one. This test really is about reading and fully comprehending the question as much as it is about getting the answers right. Really, really read the questions and determine "ok, what exactly do I have to do here? What is the main goal of this question?" If you can break each question down into this basic concept, your studying and work experience will pay off. If you get tripped up by questions, it's a hard feat to achieve. Read questions multiple times. Find out what you can ignore, and believe me, a LOT of questions include extraneous information - A LOT. its intentional on NCARB's part.
    Good luck!

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    Trushna Patel

    David, 

    Thank you so much for the information, it was very helpful. I ended up scheduling my test for March (for now) so giving myself about 2 months to study. That way I don't get burnt out either and just focus on understanding the material. The amount of material is overwhelming! I have sooo much respect for everyone that has kids and are studying for these tests as well. I'm married but don't have children yet, (my commute takes up a lot of my time on weekdays) and still struggle to find time to study!

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    David Kaplan

    Trushna,

    Good luck, just do the best you can, but figure out how and when you can study and stick to it.  For me, I had to get myself out of the house to get in the zone of studying.  When you're reading all of this information, don't sit and try to memorize things - try to instead understand the concepts and once you feel like you understand them well enough, that should be good.  Say to yourself as you're reading, "OK, I understand this concept enough.  If I should get a question on this topic on the test, I feel that I've read enough about this concept that I can apply it."  Get to that point.  This is particular helpful when it comes to building codes.

    Any questions, reach out.  It's good that you have 4.0 tests behind you, I had taken several of those before I went to 5.0.  I don't know how much work experience you have, but I personally felt that 5.0 was a refreshing break from 4.0.  As I took those tests, I felt more like I was doing what I do every day at work. 

    Last point - I can't stress to you enough: read the questions and fully identify the basic core of what they're asking you.  I found the 5.0 exam questions to VERY OFTEN include information that you flat out don't need to answer a question.  Know that going into this and be on the lookout for it.  Use your gut instinct - if something seems blatantly obvious that it can't be right, trust that and know that you're supposed to think that way.  It'll help you eliminate choices and find the right answer.  When you get to the case studies, which are new in 5.0 and weren't in 4.0, don't be thrown off if you find that you only ended up using some but not all of the reference material given to you.  That happened to me on PDD actually.  All of that is intentional on NCARB's part and designed to test you on your ability to know where to find things. 

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    Brett Spencer

    David, thanks for the write-up.  This has been incredibly helpful thus far.  I agree with you that MEEB seems to be such a daunting task, but I did notice that upon purchasing the book you're given access to the Interactive Resource Center on Wiley's website.  There are about 33 quizzes that they offer to recap each chapter.  Have you looked into this at all, and if so, was it worth your while? 

    Thanks again for all of your help! It's ben invaluable so far.

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    David Kaplan

    Brett,

    That's the first I've heard of that!  No, I didn't take those tests, but they sound great.  I didn't personally use any practice exams for my studying, but everyone is different and I say if doing things like that helps you, by all means go for it.  You might as well if you have access to them.  I have to imagine that they will only help you understand MEP concepts better.

    I really felt Architect's Studio Companion prepared me well for the MEP and Structural aspects of this exam. 

    Best of luck, reach out if you have any other questions.

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