PDD & PPD - What's the difference?



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    Scott Barber

    Hi Adelina, sorry to hear about your PPD fail yesterday! 

    I recently passed PDD and PPD, and it seems that most people take them together. I took them two weeks apart and read the same books for both exams. The key difference between these two is a matter of scale: think of PPD as the design development phase and PDD as the construction document phase. In both phases, you'll have to deal with structural, MEP, civil, code, and other building systems, but for PPD it's more about selecting appropriate systems and PDD is about detailing those systems.

    I strongly encourage studying for these together - there's very little that doesn't overlap. The only differences (aside from level of scale/detail) that stood out to me between the two was that PPD had more questions about site and PDD had questions about the project manual/specifications. As a result, the only difference in the study material was looking at The Architect's Studio Companion for PPD and Architectural Graphic Standards for PDD. However, both of these books have information that will help you for the other exam, even if they tend to be more helpful for one of them.

    I'd suggest starting by reading the ARE Handbook and comparing the two exams and their sections. You'll get an idea for the content overlap and it will help give you an idea for the types of questions they will ask. For both exams, I felt the practice questions in the handbook were fairly similar to the questions I got on the exam.
    After you read the Handbook, I'd read through the posts on this forum. When I've scheduled an exam, I usually spend a couple hours reading through all the relevant posts and comments for that exam and taking notes. It takes a little bit of time but helps me feel confident about what others have studied, how much time is needed to study, etc. 

    While I understand your reservations to studying the same material, I think it's very helpful to do so for these two exams. Not only does the amount of content overlap lend itself to do so, but it gives you a better understanding and prepares you more fully to be an architect. Having passed these two, I can't imagine trying to study for just one at a time and avoid the content for the other exam. These two exams cover a lot of information so it can be overwhelming, but it's manageable if you create a plan and stick with it. 

    Here are the two posts I wrote after passing these two exams. I studied about 8 weeks and took them 2 weeks apart, having studied for them both together. There are a lot of good posts on this forum so again I'd encourage you to read through them and see what others suggest. A number of people have finished these exams so they aren't as active on here and may not comment on your post, but still have good advice to share.


    Good luck! Let me know if there are any specific questions I can help answer.

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    Michelle NCARB


    Scott gave you some great advice here.  For some additional perspective, check out this blog post on NCARB's website.


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    Adelina Koleva

    Thanks very much Scott and Michelle! Much appreciated.

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