Just took PA this morning, and got the 'preliminary pass' message at the end. I'm not halfway through with these exams, and it feels great! Going to take a week or two off, and then plan for PcM, PjM, and CE. My initial thoughts/reactions are below, hopefully they'll serve more than a temporary rambling and help someone out! :) Feel free to ask any questions...
- I spent about 4 weeks studying for PA, after passing both PDD and PPD. I had a harder time being disciplined in my studying because of outside factors, but was able to get through what I wanted to read. I spent probably an hour a day on average studying.
- I read the Ballast PA section, several chapters of the Site Planning and Design Handbook, and Problem Seeking, An Architectural Programming Primer. My standard advice/approach is to compare the table of contents to the ARE Handbook, read the most important chapters in full, and then skim the rest to make sure there's nothing you missed and to be sure you're familiar with all the concepts and terms. This will vary depending on your experience, so I don't feel comfortable provide specific direction for what you should read individually.
Ballast: I was surprised to find this very helpful for PA. For PPD and PDD, I didn't think it would have been enough for me to pass, but it seemed to cover the content for this exam pretty well.
SPDH: This book seemed too detailed and somewhat dense, but there's good information in there. I read through most of it and skimmed other parts, but didn't get all the way through it. (see 'lack of discipline' above)
Problem Seeking: This was surprisingly easy to read...almost too easy. I read/skimmed through the first part during a lunch break one day, and didn't find it beneficial enough to read through the second part.
Ultimately, I think what got me through this exam was the amount of studying I did for PPD and PDD, my work experience, and Ballast. I wish I had studied more, even though I felt like I knew all the material fairly well.
During the Test:
I saw many people say that time was an issue on this exam, so I went in telling myself to be quick and decisive. I ended up answering most of them as quickly as I could, and made a list of "math" and "time" questions that would take longer. I wanted to make sure I answered everything and didn't waste time overthinking simpler questions.
I got through the 75 questions in about an hour (minus a couple that I wanted to spend more time on), and finished each case study in about 30 minutes. The case studies took much less time than the ones for PPD and PDD, I think the nature of the PA exam makes them a little easier because it's more focused on zoning and programming which, at least for me, is easier to define and answer questions.
I then took my break, and came back to go through all the flagged questions. I flagged probably half of them - in my rush to make sure I didn't run out of time, I was overly-enthusiastic about flagging anything that took longer than ~15-20 seconds to answer. By the time I got through everything I flagged (not having to change many answers, thankfully) I was able to submit with 25-30 minutes left. I think I'm a fairly fast test-taker, and tried to be even quicker with this exam, so I understand how time can be an issue for others.
In the end I felt fairly confident, though there were a few questions I was unsure of (probably will be the case with every exam).
Things to Know
- Everything in the ARE Handbook for PA - seriously, it aligned pretty well with the handbook
- Zoning (IBC, local zoning codes, etc)
- Programming basics
- Environmental issues as they relate to the site
- And more!
- Answer only what the question asks. I had several questions that provided extra information that forced me to filter out what was unnecessary. I also had a couple questions where I thought they should be asking something different (and therefore should have provided more info), but it was clear that, given the information given in the question, I shouldn't worry about the 'other stuff.' Even though the 'other stuff' would be critical in the real world for a real project, it wasn't what was being asked in the question.
- Know what you know, and don't waste time on the rest. There were a few questions that asked me info I didn't know - I may have read about it but didn't remember it in the moment, or maybe it was something I hadn't heard of before (placing the blame on myself, not NCARB trying to fail us). I spent a small amount of time reading through the question and then made an educated guess, but didn't stress over it. I could have stared at the screen for several minutes trying to sort through the random bits of information I'd read over the last few weeks, but I didn't want to waste time on just one question.
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