PPD (first test) Failure

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    David Kaplan (Edited )

     

    Hey Belle,

    Wanted to offer some advice regarding your last statement about wondering if you’ve made the right career choice, just one architect to another:

    I didn’t take these 5.0 tests until I had been working in an office for 13 long years.  I started my ARE/license journey under 4.0 about 8 years ago.  I took four (4) 4.0 exams, passed them all, and was well on my way.  Then for various reasons, I just completely stopped the process cold.  Long story short – 5-year rolling clock sunk in and I lost all my 4.0 tests.  Stupid – I know.  I was mad at myself for doing it and finally said enough is enough.

    So then here I am now at 37 years old, married with two little kids now, and I take these 5.0 tests and am completely blown away by how much better these tests are aligned with what I've done every day for the past 13 years.  I can tell you that on most of the 5.0 questions, I had experienced the question being asked of me in my real world job in some manner.  And, it made a world of difference.  With respect to studying, I felt that I didn’t need to really memorize anything.  If I understood something from having experienced it, that was what I needed to pull through.

    My point though, going back to “career choice” is this: don’t let these tests define your path in architecture.  The fact that you’ve failed an exam does NOT mean you can’t be a good architect.  Period.  It might mean however that you might want to focus more on developing as an architect first and THEN go back to the exams.  Everyone is different though.  But I can’t tell you how many licensed architects I know that are completely clueless sometimes in our field.  I sit and wonder sometimes how they got licensed.  There’s much more to our job than what is covered on these tests that I’m sure you actually enjoy doing.  There’s also plenty of things on this test that you will never have to deal with ever again – it’s just the nature of the beast.

    I’m definitely not saying that the only way to pass these exams is to get 13 years of experience behind you and then sit for them.  As I said, everyone is different.  But, if you are coming at this as a newbie to the field (and from your post I sort of assumed that), I encourage you to keep at it but in the meantime, enjoy your job.  Try not to let your performance on an exam reflect on how you feel you are as an architect.  Maybe more experience will help and you’ll end up doing better next time?  That’s what happened for me. 

    Hang in there! 

     

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    Scott Barber

    Hi Tony,

    Sorry to hear about your exam. I found PPD to be tough to feel fully prepared for...I studied most of those books that you referenced and found them the most useful for that exam, but being able to understand and apply that information is the challenge. Have you gotten your score report yet? It will show how well you did in each section and may give you some direction to know what to study next time around.

    Depending on your experience, I think PDD could be easier for you. There is a lot of content overlap but PDD deals more with details rather than selecting systems, which is why I thought PDD was easier. I'm more comfortable and have more experience detailing building systems, and that's one of the big differences between the two exams. I would be sure to add Architectural Graphics Standards to your study resources for details for PDD if you don't have that on your list yet.

    Let us know what content areas you were weak in once you get your score report and maybe we can help suggest beneficial study resources.

    Good luck!

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    Belle Taylor

    Hey all, I have posted on a different thread before but here it is... took PPD and failed a second time. The test is very specific and very general at the same time. I’m really frustrated bc I’ve spent over a year studying for BDCS (4.0) and failed one of the vignettes. I transitioned and am regretting it. I don’t see how people can memorize so much information for this test and also be able to apply everything. There were VERY specific questions about heating systems that knowing it on a conceptual level was not enough; many adaptive reuse q; many site q; many sustainability questions and a lot more “beyond general concept” structural questions that I wasn’t expecting for DDevelopment level. Some of the test questions are not well-thought out—had to read some a few times to understand exactly what they were asking and I’m good w language and a good test-taker. We are guinea pigs as David mentions above. I am going to use the NCARB matrix now and forget the Ballast textbook. For this second test I started ASC but found the info to sometimes conflict w Ballast. Others on ARE Coach said the same. I am totally down on the whole thing and even wondering if I’ve made the right career choice.

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    Justin Merkovich

    I passed PPD and PDD and this nightmare is now over. Awaiting NCARB to assemble my record and send it to my state board.

    I studied for PPD and PDD at the same time (more below) - I studied for about 2 months for both exams before I passed PPD (these were my last two exams).

    I left the Ballast for PDD until AFTER I had taken PPD and I took the PDD exam two weeks after PPD - I do not recommend. I had two weeks to study Ballast and refresh all of the "micro" materials from my earlier PPD study. I also took a 1/2 day off of work to just study for 6 straight hours on a Thursday before this Saturday's test. I would have liked another week at least.

    I'm 46 with +/- 10 years in this profession and a fair amount of experience swinging a hammer.

    See photo below for the books that I studied and zoom in to the number of tabs to show everything that I felt important enough to mark for both PPD and PDD.

    I know that it's not recommended but I read every one of these books cover to cover (including Graphic Standards), underlined things that I thought were important and tabbed what you see to go back and actually STUDY for the exams. The only thing not pictured is Ballast and a few YouTube videos.

    I intend to do a general post about this whole process when I can but let me just say this: If I can do this, anyone can and yes that means you. Just about everyone fails and retakes - it doesn't mean that there is anything wrong with you. DO NOT GIVE UP.

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    David Kaplan

    Tony,

    Sorry to hear about this.  What might help is if you could post what you studied.  There's lots of good posts on here about sources that people have used to pass this test.  Maybe identify as well the types of questions you felt tripped up on - like, was it the site questions?  Structural?  What questions did you come across where you felt clueless?  Obviously, don't put the specific question on here, but generally, what got you tripped up?

    I see as well that this is your first test.  Keep your head up sir. Remember that everyone taking 5.0 right now is essentially guinea pigs.  It's a new test format and there's absolutely a sense of "well.....here goes nothing" when you walk into these tests.  You now know what to expect for the next time - use that to help you moving forward. 

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    Marcel Garderen

    Would you mind sharing where you found the practice exams? They seem to be very hard to come by and NCARB only has one 20 question test exam.

    Thanks, Hope the next one goes better, don't give up!

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    Tony Young

    Thanks David, I read whole Architecture Studio Companion book,,
    Read FEMA454, building construction, and black spec test prep. Honestly, I can't nail down what type of questions got me. I was prepared for a lot of calculation questions and it wasn't. I do think I will have to add the Sun, Wind,Light book. I'm going to try and shake this off and prepare for PDD and retake PPD after the 2 month period.

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    Tony Young (Edited )

    Scott,

    Thank you, I haven't got score sheet yet however I plan to go over it. I think what I struggle with is applying what I know to each sincero. I do plan to move forward with PDD and retake PPD after.

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    Tony Young

    Belle,

    I feel your pain as your experience is very similar to mine. To had some HVAC questions that made my scratch my head. I hope to pass next time. I will say just keep pushing through you will pass eventually, I don't agree with the question style of 5.0 it doesn't seem productive for architects.

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    Belle Taylor

    Hi David,

    Thanks for your pep talk.  But actually I have 15 years of experience, and like you, also started the exams under a previous version (3.0) and lost some of them b/c of some family medical issues and couldn't take an exam that would have enabled me to not lose any exams I had already taken (since then NCARB changed its rules to allow an extension for extenuating circumstances, which mine were--NCARB is such a changing organization; it's kind of nuts).  I also have a family now and work full-time so studying is a challenge.  Admittedly, I have been stuck somewhat in doing certain aspects of architecture (design and interiors) and have not had exposure to all phases or architecture so I have not come across many exam content in my 15 years.  Agreed that the tests are better aligned to our real-world experience but I don't think they are well-written.  I also think the level of detail of some of the questions, given that the content is so broad, was mind-boggling.  I know I'm being a total downer now but am really stumped at how I didn't know a lot given how much studying I have done and at how little information NCARB gives us in terms of prep material and mock tests.  I will continue to keep checking what everyone else here on the blog posts about study material.  And your responses, along with Scott's, are extremely helpful (you've responded to some of my other posts too and you were very helpful).  So thank you, but I do need to regroup mentally before my next and last retake before February 2019.

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    Justin Merkovich

    Belle,

    I've started and deleted a message three times now but decided to vent to a journal instead...suffice to say that my experience and opinions mirror yours.

    I'll be retaking this exam soon (contemplating whether it makes more sense to more aggressively study for this for 60 days then retake or jump to PDD and come back).

    You can do this! We can do this!

    Believe in yourself.

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    Chelsea Wagner

    Justin, Belle, Tony, 

    I also am having the SAME experience with trying and trying and trying to pass THIS exam and not had a success yet. I have a bit less experience, however I did not have an issue with the 3 (4.0) exams I took or even PDD.

    PPD is total crap-shoot. I have read over 10 textbook/sources from the matrix, watched every YouTube video, subscribed to Black Spectacles. I spend over 30 hours a week studying (only for this exam, the others were not this hard). I failed again for my second time last Friday. I am taking a break and not giving NCARB another cent until some more info comes out for this exam. Its been a complete waste of my time. I also have 3.5 years left on my rolling time clock, its just sucks to get to the VERY end and come to a complete standstill. 

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    Marcel Garderen

    I failed my first attempt at PPD as well a week and a half ago.

    Studied for about 300 hours, 15 years experience in architecture firms and 8 years of actual on site construction experience....This is a tough test to pass!!!


    I signed up for the Amber videos hoping that this will pull me across the finish.

    https://amber-book.com/are-5-exam-bundle/

    Here is the link in case any of you are interested in a different study approach. 

    Good luck!

    Marcel

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    Chelsea Wagner

    Thanks Marcel but I have watched these too. 

    Good Luck to you too! 

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    Marcel Garderen

    chelsea,

    Did you not think they were helpful? 

    What was your experience with them?

     

    I have only heard great things about them.

     

    Thanks,

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    RJ

    I've studied countless hours for PDD and have taken it more times than I care to share and still no luck. I think these tests are set up to fail us and unless your a good test taker plan to spend big bucks to pass this exam. Has anyone seen the horrible case studies on PDD? I can't figure them out. The set of construction documents is barely legible, and there is missing information needed to answer some of the questions. The last time I took PDD I started fresh with the case studies and still couldn't find the necessary information to answer some of the questions. I guess your supposed to figure this out by using 'deductive reasoning' or something and maybe you'll get lucky? it's total BS and I too am not giving NCARB another cent until these exams get better and more reasonable- still got 4 more years, no rush NCARB. 

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    Tony Young

    RJ, Chelsea, Marcel, Belle

     

    I identify with your comments, I am concern that my test taking skills somewhat limit my ability to do well on this test.  The items asked aren't straight forward questions, i.e what is the size of an elevator(example), its written with scenarios that I tend to over analyzes. Although you are giving formulas, my experience so far, none of them were useful for the math problems I had.  Most of the calculations that were asked of me required formulas not giving in the reference material, I guess NCARB feels that some formulas you should know. Example of this is the classic static pressure loss questions, there is no formula to show how to calculate this, instead you are giving what 1psi is equal to.

    Going into the exam I felt I was ready, I had read the content suggested in the groups. and read over the ARE 5.0 Handbook. I was still unable to pass the exam.  One thing I have seen some people say "you just have to get lucky", I hate to see that but it seems to be some true. I am committed to staying the course and finishing/passing the ARE.

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    Belle Taylor

    Justin, RJ, Chelsea, Marcel, Tony,

    Wow, I'm relieved AND worried that so many of us are having similar problems.  I am an excellent test-taker and am having major problems w/ PPD.  Justin, I'm jumping to PDD and hoping it will shed some light into PPD.  Tony, I agree that the test is geared towards "good" test-takers.  The language can be confusing.  I think they also throw in some extraneous information to throw us off as they want us to recognize what information is crucial to solving a problem.  Sometimes you can't over-analyze something; sometimes you have to get to the nitty-gritty.  Someone in another thread said look for "most," the "most crucial" words but honestly they were not that easy.  Lots of times it felt like a judgment call rather than a clear right or wrong.  This feels like the most horrific exam ever--Master Plan, Schematic Design, Design Development and Construction Development all in one exam--and it's seriously making me doubt if I'll ever become a registered architect.  Thanks to all for the pep talk but at the moment I'm not feeling so optimistic...

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    Rufus Kerr

    The ARE tests have zero bearing to what you encounter in the real life as an architect. I have worked on all types of projects from High End Residential to Commercial, and have never encountered anything like they ask. Architects get paid way too little to jump through all these hoops. I guarantee the top architects in the world couldn't pass these tests without intensive studying. Loosen the grips NCARB. Architects get paid way too little to get tested more intensely than Doctors or Lawyers.

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    Marcel Garderen

    Justin, RJ, Chelsea, Tony, Belle,

    I hear you Rufus, and agree with you!

    How are you guys coming on the tests? I passed PPD last summer but will be taking PDD for the 4th time this coming  summer!!

    Any suggestions, as I am kind of at a loss of what to study for this. I have done the books, Amber videos, take notes, flash cards, etc.

    Again 16 years experience, many years on site swinging a hammer and a fair test taker....this is becoming really disheartening.

    Any suggestions are greatly appreciated,

    Marcel

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    Chelsea Wagner

    Hi Marcel,

    My 4th attempt at PPD is coming up shortly. This time instead of reading, I have been taking practice exams ONLY. I bought Hyperfine, Designer Hacks and use Black Spectacles. 

    I still don't know what is tripping me up to be honest. I pass all of my practice exams so... this is a testament to what information is available to us. 

    I suggest Hyperfine. Its only $35 (?) and its all practice questions with youtube/website source information attached. Its a combined PPD/PDD course but since the exams overlap so much its worth it whether you have just one or both left. 

     

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    Marcel Garderen

    Thanks so much for the suggestion Chelsea!!! 

    I will definitely take advantage of that...seems really inexpensive compared to the $190 per month for the Amber Videos.

    I am glad to hear that there are more test exams out there....that was one of the items that was really lacking.

    Best of luck on your test,

    Marcel

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    Tony Young

    Chelsea,

    I just took PA I didn't pass but I think taking only practice exams help. I felt comfortable during the exam and I did my best on this recent exam, so I would agree taking lots of exams.

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    Tony Young

    I am going to focus on one exam. I have been jumping exams each time I don't pass one but I think it's best for me to try and pass use one before jumping to the next. I think many of us here probably aren't good test takers at least I know I'm not. I know all the :information" but when it comes to applying it to test questions I am not successful that's why I think taking as many practicum exams as possible is a good thing

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    Rufus Kerr

    Marcel + Chelsea,

    Thank you for the suggestions.

    I still think if NCARB is administering these exams then they need to provide sufficient study material relevant to each individual exam. There are people and companies making a good living off providing what NCARB is failing to provide. Even third parties material is still irrelevant most the time. Like I got 100 percents on Designer Hacks tests and barely any relevant question was on the actual test.

    Of course I'm going to go through this bullshit and buy more third party exams to hopefully pass someday. Then hopefully I can garner a wage that's 20k less than a computer programmer coming straight out of college.

    NCARB please make it more realistic so an average architect of 10 yrs could pass it without studying - or give specific study material and practice exams per each section. You're dropping the ball and making this profession extremely frustrating.

    Sorry for venting but this process is extremely frustrating.

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    Marcel Garderen

    I feel your pain Rufus. I don't disagree with your assessment that NCARB needs to do a better job at providing relevant study material!

    I have been working on these tests for 3 years now. I get nearly all the flash cards right, but then the actual exam I fail 3 times. Have one left and feel that PDD is the most difficult in the way the questions are asked. 

    At this point I feel like you, frustrated and irritated....I would pay 10K right now to be done with this!

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    Belle Taylor

    Agree with everyone here. The frustration w the 5.0 is palpable in all the communities. I have never failed in life as much as I have on this licensing process; it is truly mind-boggling. After spending thousands of dollars and countless hours studying, and to eventually, hopefully becoming licensed to only make a few grand less than other IT “architects” is like I can’t even describe. Historically there is always a dip in scores when NCARB changes the examas 3rd party sources try to readjust their content. But to solely rely on NCARB’s matrix would our many of us severely in debt. we all share resources

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    Belle Taylor

    ...We all share resources in the ARE Bootcamp by Michael Riscica and I highly recommend it. And it keeps us accountable for our studying hours and we all test each other weekly. CHeck it out. I’m past mentally done with these exams. I’m just a robot getting through, trying to make it, hopefully before my rolling. clock runs out.

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    Tony Young

    I wonder has there ever been forums or topics brought to NCARB about the exam. I think it's strange that we have such low passing rates and it is acceptable. I've done research and the ARE has one of the lower passer rates. However, I know ppl do pass but it seems that for every pass there is two fails.

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    Marcel Garderen

    Tony,

    I have heard from friends who are taking bar and medical exams that their exams have a much higher % passing rate than what the ARE exams are.

    I have long wondered what the reasoning is behind this. ARE 4.0 was not much better in passing percentage.

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