Just found out I passed PPD (my final ARE!). This was my third time taking the exam so I tried a number of different study techniques and materials but wanted to share the ones I found most effective:
The Architect's Studio Companion - Allen
This gives a great overview, including text and diagrams, of the basics for a variety of mechanical, structural, and electrical systems as well as highlighting their various strengths and most effective uses. It also goes into code related issues, specifically with regards to vertical circulation and egress as well as number of other issues. I personally found the consistent presentation of the information to be easy to digest and compare.
Heating, Cooling, Lighting - Lechner
I used this when studying for my third try and wish I had opened it way earlier. It gives a fantastic overview of sustainable designs including solar (active/passive), heating (active/passive), cooling (active/passive), wind design, site forces, and overviews of mechanical cooling/heating. Combined with Studio Companion I think these are arguably the most important materials I utilized.
Building Construction Illustrated - Ching
I had read through this during undergrad/grad school so I mostly used it as a reference for diagrams when I came across some text I wasn't quite sure of. Regardless, it still has a good amount of information about the basics of many construction systems.
Designing for Earthquakes - FEMA (free PDF)
This I found recommended after my second try yielded a considerable amount of seismic questions which, as someone who lives in a non-seismic area, I had little experience with and was unprepared for. The entire PDF is fairly large but I personally would recommend Chapters 4, 5, 8, & 9 as they relate more specifically to the construction of buildings. And even if it's not relevant to your daily work, I found it to be interesting nonetheless.
PPD ARE 5.0 Mock Exam - Gang Chen
My wife found this book after I failed my second time. What I personally liked about this was the focus on test taking strategies as opposed to information itself. It stresses the importance of remembering the ARE is intended to test your ability to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the public as well as your overall knowledge of essential and basic concepts rather than nuanced or specific design issues. It also talks a fair amount about what percentage to aim for, how much time to take per question, etc. It might be a little prescriptive for some people but I personally found it quite useful. There is also a mock exam that was fairly close to what I felt like I ended up actually taking.
Good luck to anyone preparing to take PPD and I hope this helps out in any way! Cheers.
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