Failed PA



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    Scott Barber

    I'm sorry to hear that, Santiago! 

    Personally, I found it hard to study for PA. Part of it was feeling less motivated (and recovering from the flu didn't help), but it was also more confusing to know what to study. Not a lot of consensus from test-takers like there was for the other exams. 

    I passed PA after taking PDD and PPD, and I think what I studied for those two exams helped carry me through PA. I also have just a year of full-time experience out of school, with mostly DD and CD experience, so I can relate. I think tackling PPD and PDD first could help you with PA next time around, if you're open to that direction. Those two exams are pretty big, so I know that's intimidating, but given my experience I decided to start with those and it worked out well. 

    I also have seen some people take PPD and PA close together after studying for them collectively, so that may be an option too. Personally I found PPD and PDD to have a large amount of overlap so it made sense to study for those two and take them together (2 weeks apart), but it just depends on what you're comfortable with and what direction you want to go in. 

    I don't have a lot of advice for what else to study...I know some people thought the Site Planning Design Handbook and A Programming Primer to be beneficial, but I wasn't impressed with either of those. (Though again: I was less motivated)

    As a side note, I only found Ballast to be very helpful for PA. The other 5 exams I used it as an introduction, but then I spent (or in hindsight wished I had spent) the majority of my time studying the "primary sources" referenced in the ARE Handbook and suggested by others on this forum.

    As a second side note, I saw you just joined the forum today. You may have already been reading posts before today, but if not I'd strongly encourage you to read through posts for each exam before you start studying. I did that for each exam, spending a day or two reading through the posts on here, and it really helped me focus my study efforts and come up with a good game plan. There's a lot of good advice, so be sure to use this as a resource as you prepare. 

    Hope that helps, good luck! Keep your head up - PA isn't an easy exam but you can do it! Passing these exams takes a lot of perseverance and discipline, but is worth it in the end (I just passed my last exam Monday). You got this!!


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    Santiago Alvarez

    Thanks for the insight Scott.  I am fairly new to the forum.  I have previously read through some posts, but haven't been taken full advantage of it.

    I was regretting not looking through some of the supplemental material like Site Planning Design and the Programming Primer, so it makes me feel a bit better that you didn't find them as useful.  Someone in my office only used the Ballast to study for PA, but everyone is different i guess.

    I think, I may as you suggested, try tackling PDD and PPD as it is more relative to the work I am currently doing.

     Congratulation on passing all the exams!  That must be such an uplifting feeling. 

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    Scott Barber

    Thanks! Finishing the exams was certainly a relief, it's a lot of work but everyone can get there!

    I've definitely realized the different study approaches that people need. I've been going through the exams with a few friends and each of us have studied differently and different amounts for each exam. It can be a process figuring out how you best retain the large amount of information covered, or what resources are best useful for each exam, which is why I tried to get as broad a perspective as possible when planning what I would study. Some people really liked SPDH and the Programming Primer book, but personally I thought SPDH was way too detailed and Programming Primer wasn't detailed enough. 

    Hopefully getting insight from others' posts and comments can help you moving forward, and pairing that with your experience and learning style will help you conquer each of these exams each step of the way! 

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    June Wang

    i failed too....but per my failed experiences...ballast is NOT enough. if you are not in a rush, go through the recommended materials per the Handbook. that's the only way i believe we can pass.....

    i am discouraged.....

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    June Wang

    btw, i wanted to add, the reference of IBC provided at the exam was not the same as the one we use....they changed certain things and i had no idea that's gonna be the case.

    and IRL no body do a code research in an hour but this exam somehow set us up for that. and the fact that they changed the IBC table was just WRONG. 

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    Stephanie Green

    Hi Scott,
    I also failed the PA with similar year experience. I’m fine with the environmental category. I found a lot of questions directed towards project contracting/processes that no study guide I used went into depth about. Do you recommend a resource for this? Ie what does an architect need to do at the beginning of a project and what do they relay to the client?

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    Sarah Long

    Hi Santiago,

    Just wanted to chime in, though you've already received some great advice here...

    I also have been graduated and working full-time for about a year and also took PA as my first test and also failed it the first time! I just retook it yesterday and passed. 

    Try not to feel defeated and remember that as your first test, the experience of going in to take the test and how the test is formatted is now more familiar to you, so that will help you when you take your next test! 

    Personally, though a little expensive, I found a month subscription to Black Spectacles to be really helpful (after I'd read and worked through the Ballast materials). The practice exams look a lot more like the real exam and the explanations for the correct answers helped me get into the mind frame for how to approach questions when taking the exam this time. I think at least half of the battle is reading the question carefully and figuring out EXACTLY what the question is asking for. From my experience I had a hard time on the "choose the three or four best answers" formatted questions because though they all seem correct, but there's usually a key word or phrase in the question that helps you pick out which answers should be chosen.

    Also, since you have taken it, try to remember which questions or topics you felt most unprepared for when they came up and look for sources that will fill in your knowledge in those categories. Your questions for the retake will mostly be different, but the topics covered will be similar. For example, my first test had a lot of questions about foundation types and strategies based on certain soil conditions and the Ballast materials didn't cover foundations and soils in much detail, so I found a couple of chapters and resources to read to expand my knowledge on that category including talking to one of my principals about interpreting geotechnical report results and actually reading through some of them. 

    These tests are difficult, but it can be done!! 

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