Took PPD after 2.5 months of studying and so happy and relieved to have passed! Prepping for this exam was much more intense than the other 4.0 exams I've taken (site planning, cds, ppp) and I'm really grateful for the outcome.
Some thoughts to share:
One of the hardest parts of this exam was the format. I had learned from other forum posts that people had issues with documents loading properly during the case studies - I was prepared for that. But I had trouble with questions loading throughout the bulk of the exam. Simple, multiple choice questions showed up quickly, but questions with diagram, charts, or drawings started with a blank screen for several seconds before the content showed up. This was definitely unsettling, but I tried to stay calm. Toady I called NCARB to complain about it, and they said they are aware of the problem and working on it. Anyway, just something to keep in mind if you're taking this test soon.
The other thing that makes this exam hard is obvious - it's just so broad. Questions can come at you from so many varied directions so it's much more difficult than settling into a series of relatively related questions.
To prepare, I relied mostly on Architect's Studio Companion, Building Construction Illustrated, and Ballast. I also leaned on some 4.0 material like my old Archiflash cards, Kaplan practice tests, and NCARB practice tests for Building Systems, Structures, and BDCS. In addition, I watched maybe a third of the Black Spectacles videos (the mechanical systems videos were the most helpful for me) and did practice questions from Designer Hacks and AEP (didn't love the audio from AEP, but add'l practice questions are always helpful). I also read chapters 4 & 5 from FEMA, and thought they were a very good explanation of the basics of seismic design.
In terms of content, I 'd say try to have a good understanding of construction types/ occupancy, means of egress and fire protection/supression. For systems, it's more broad - covering the basics of various mechanical systems and passive design is essential as is a general understanding of lighting and acoustical principles (over formulas). And for structural, being able to chose the appropriate system for a given scenario is helpful, as is understanding how lateral forces affect a building. Basic knowledge of siting a building for different climates and thermal transfer are also key. Jeez, it really is a lot of stuff!
Of all my books, I think I liked ACS the best - just so clear and concise. And BCI (construction) was also helpful and the beautiful drawings are inspiring. Ballast is a good overall kind of safety net to make sure you don't miss anything. And of course, one of my favorite tools - youtube ! I watched a lot of free videos about people nerding out over some technical thing - mike ermann has some great ones, and a female professor from Dartmouth has a nice series about structures. Plus, after spending a fortune on test fees, books, and videos, a FREE resource is so nice.
One last thought - I'm a mom with two small kids. Studying with kids is hard. But one resource that made things a little easier is a special group on facebook for moms in architecture. Was really nice to have access to other women with similar pursuits and scarcity of time.
Good luck everyone!!! Hope lots of PASSES are in your future :)
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