Six weeks ago, I posted a question concerning study time and the relevance of certain study materials. See at the link below:
I also promised that I would come back to share my results. Today was my exam and I was given a provisional pass. All of this after booking my exam on the day after time sprung forward and almost drifting to sleep near to question 70 of the exam. Either way, I'll take it.
So, in the tradition of previous test-takers, here is my review of the study materials - what I used (tried to use), what I found as being valuable, etc.
Black Spectacles Lecture Series
I used this to kick off my study process 8 weeks ago. While the content lightly brushes over the relevant sections, it barely scratches the surface. I listened to most of it at 2x speed just to get it over with, and even after that, I felt like I barely learned anything new.
Building Construction Illustrated
A pretty comprehensive book. It took me very long to read it cover-to-cover. It does save time to really delve into it before both PPD and PDD, since a lot of it should apply for both exams.
Building Codes Illustrated
I only read selected chapters here (3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 10). Since I took way too much time reading the other BCI, I was left with only a weekend to really cover those chapters. I hope to get into the rest of the book before PDD. ALSO NOTE: it really matters which version of Building Codes Illustrated you use. The latest version covers 2015. I would advise that, if you are studying from the latest version, make sure to reference the tables in IBC 2012, just to make sure they have the same layout. This tripped me up in PA when I ended up becoming accustomed to the Height and Area per Occupancy table looking one way in 2015, until I got to the exam and saw a very unfamiliar scenario in the 2012 version. Anyway, I highly recommend this book as I found my study experience and my work experience with codes very helpful in this exam.
Building Structures - If you don't plan on going extremely in depth in structures, don't buy this book. There are other more simplified study resources out there.
MEEB - I managed to struggle through the Mechanical portion of this book. I put it aside in hopes of getting back to it, but it is still sitting there, waiting to be read again. It is true as others have said before in that MEEB is a mammoth of a resource and is too in depth.
Ballast - I tried to get into Ballast but it really was too dry so I dropped it aside after reading through some of the mechanical stuff. This is another book that, if I had more time, I would try to read more of, but it really wasn't as good as the stuff found on the Handbook's matrix.
Architect Studio Companion - I shall add my voice to the chorus of believers in this book. Absolutely perfect for this exam. Unfortunately, this was the last book I read so I had to speed read it during the last few days. It really added the finishing touches on what I covered in previous texts, covered the bases of the major topics and was very easy to read. Highly recommended.
Architectural Graphic Standards - While I got tired of reading Building Construction Illustrated, I found an unexpected reprieve by reading the first few chapters of this book. It definitely covers a lot of detail more relevant to PDD, but the explanations of concepts and definitions were helpful.
Thaddus - If structures isn't your strong suit and you prefer to have someone teach you structures rather than read about it, Thaddus is gold. I have access to his lectures though my firm and I only listened through some of the videos. It's a long series so I would suggest bouncing around until you get to areas that you need to spend more time on.
YouTube - Just search "PPD ARE 5.0" and that opens a world of related videos and playlists. I even searched for formwork videos and slump test videos because I rarely, if ever, get to see those on construction sites (I work in commercial interiors.) There seems to be a video for everything, and it's a great way to break up the monotony of staring at books for hours. For structures, I found this great resource:
Free Amber videos are also pretty helpful.
FEMA Chapters 4 and 5 - I read this twice. Very helpful.
Finally, my "not-so-brief" thoughts on the exam (without any no-no spoilers):
- The exam covered everything and more. There were a few curveballs here and there. I had to rotate things as well, FYI to those who are new to that tool. I also had to use the resources tab for the first time during my exams. I was surprised at how many questions related to site design principals and programming - concepts I thought I left in PA (i.e. don't throw away those PA resources!) There were definitely questions where I probably took 10 minutes to do calculations on, while there were others where I answered within 30 seconds. I had about an hour left for case studies, which were about 20 questions, and I took 57 minutes to answer those questions and that left about 3 minutes for me to look over my work. I still dislike the interface of the case studies. It's hard to zoom in and out, and, as a serial highlighter, I get annoyed that my highlighting of the main text does not stick around as I switch to a new question.
Overall, I found the exam to be easier to deal with than PA. After PA, I felt rushed and unsure until I saw my provisional pass. After PPD, I feel like a pass was on the horizon.
I would say the biggest tip I could give any test taker in 5.0 is to always question your answers. If the answer seemed too good to be true, I found myself going back to double check the question again, and sometimes, I found another answer more appropriate. Some questions seemed like they are giveaways but the wording could be tricky, or the context might be more relevant than the concept, or vice versa. Second- and third-guessing myself has gotten me 5 for 5.
Thanks to the community for their help and support thus far. Now off to PDD on March 31.
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