My path was a long one but here I stand, at the finish line of ARE's. It's a great feeling so those of you on the path I promise it'll end one day so keep pushing!
Overall I took 3 exams in 4.0 only passing 1 over a 2 year stretch. I then transitioned to 5.0 and went 5 for 5 in just under 9 months, both because I think the new tests are simply a better assessment of our knowledge and skill in architecture and also I did not want to fail another exam.
For PDD, I simply followed the Handbook guidelines and what most people on this forum recommended so just search the topics for those that have passed and take note. Here are a few takeaways from my experience with this exam:
1) Details, details, details! I knew going in this test was about the details and that was 100% true. Unless you have a ton of construction experience then do not for a second think that you've looked at Building Construction Illustrated or Arch. Graphic Standards enough. Keep looking.
2) It seemed like every question on this exam took 2-3 minutes to answer. I still finished the first 100 (up to the case studies) in only 10 minutes more than I had hoped. But the case studies seemed to take an additional eternity. I was mentally drained by the time I got to the end because there were very few "quick read/quick answer" questions...at least for me. I still felt like I had done well enough to pass but it was an exhausting test. Knowing I could walk out of Prometric for the last time, my heart was literally beating out of my chest preparing to hit that feedback button...whew!
3) I can't stress enough how useless all the calculations in the PDD section of Ballast are. I had very few equation related questions and all but one of the equations was actually given within the question itself (I hope I'm not divulging to much info there) I'm sure each exam is more or less heavy on calculations but to spend more than a few minutes worrying about them will take up time learning other things.
4) For this and PPD I kept a tally for questions as I went along of "NO IDEA", "50/50", and "Very Confident". I marked 49 questions that I was very confident and another 15 were 50/50 with I think 11 No Ideas. I had very similar marks for my PPD exam. This helped me stay focused and when I'd feel like I was missing a lot I could look down and see that "hey, there's only been 6 questions that I for sure was guessing on. And then at the end I figured If I got all of my "for sure" correct and even half of the 50/50 that means I only needed to be like 50% on the ones I didn't mark at all in order to have a good chance at passing.
5) Overall, I would say this exam was the most surprising in terms of content. Maybe because it's so broad and the collection of questions I received were on the fringes of my knowledge but I really had to work hard for this one.
But because it's so broad, I would not recommend cutting corners in any one area because you just never know what you're going to get. I would recommend reading as much as you can. Just keep reading and filling your brain with as much as you can and hope that you've put enough in there and can recall it when the time comes. For me, creating my own note cards really helped with the entire process. Reading something, then writing it down, and then being able to quickly study it dozens of times was great.
Good luck everyone! If I can do it, you can do it!
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