PPD + PDD Black Spectacles | Case studies

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    Scott Barber

    Hi Tomas,

    I didn't study Black Spectacles for these two exams, they were approved by NCARB after I took them. I'm hesitant to rely solely on 3rd party materials for 5.0 exams, but I can't speak to Black Spectacles' value, hopefully someone else can provide input. When I studied for these two exams the best books for me were Building Construction Illustrated, Architectural Graphics Standards, and The Architect's Studio Companion. I read a few others but those were the top three for both. I wrote a post after each exam, you can check them out if you want: PPD and PDD.

    Not sure what your plan is, but these two exams have a lot of overlap. It's intimidating, but I'd encourage you to study for them together and take them back to back. I studied about 2 months, and passed them on the first try 2 weeks apart. It's up to you, but there's a lot of content overlap (main difference is the level of detail on each exam, see this blog post from NCARB) and many people have had success taking them together.

     

    For the case studies, the practice exam does a good job demonstrating the format you'll see. It's much more intuitive than the vignettes (from what I've heard). There will be two case studies, each one with an overview and set of documents (zoning docs, drawing set, excerpt from IBC, etc) and you'll have about 10 questions on each case study. The content of the question will align with the content for the rest of the exam, so the case studies don't need dedicated study time (like the vignettes did), as long as you know how to navigate through a drawing set and code documents. These questions typically take more time because you'll generally need to reference the material provided for the case study, but most of the time the answer is given to you, you just have to know where to find it. For example, know where to find and how to read the table in IBC about fire resistance ratings for occupancy separation, or know the fire rating required based on a fire separation distance. Not always that simple but in general the case studies are similar to a day working in the office, in my experience.

    I'd also encourage you to look through this forum for advice and tips moving forward. It was one of the biggest benefits for me and helped me pass all the exams on the first try - there's a lot of good advice here. I usually read the "Passed PDD" type of posts where people wrote up their experience and study strategy. Recently there have been a lot of random posts and questions - don't let those become a distraction if you can help it.

    Hope that helps, good luck! 

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    Tomas Santiago Rodriguez

    @Scott Barber,  thank you so much for your quick & broad response ( screenshoted it for quick reference). Do you suggest to skim the questions first to get an insight before reviewing the case study material?

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    Scott Barber

    I've seen people approach them differently. Personally, I only read the overview and then started answering questions. The overview tells you what reference material is available (and there are also tabs so it's pretty clear), but not all reference material will be relevant for the questions so I didn't waste time looking through it all at the beginning. I also didn't skim the questions first, I just took them one at a time and found the required info in the reference material.

    Some people like to get a broader understanding of the case study or questions that will need to be answered - I knew that the questions probably wouldn't relate to each other, and the goal was finding the right answers as efficiently as possible. If I'm working on a new project in the office, I'll look through the documents, make sure I'm familiar with the relevant code, make sure I understand the program and major decisions/general development, but for these exams I knew my understanding of the overall project didn't matter as long as I could answer the questions (sorry to whoever spent the time to carefully develop all the documentation when I ignored 90% of it). I didn't worry about the overall project, I just identified what the question was asking for and then learned what I needed to about that part of the project. Others may be more comfortable understanding the project as a whole before answering specific questions, but I didn't feel the need to do that.

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    Michelle NCARB

    Hi Tomas,

    I agree with Scott, start the case study by getting a general overview of what's given.  You might spend a few minutes skimming the provided reference materials, but I wouldn't read each document in depth.  Just gain a general understanding of what's there, so when you start reading a question, you'll be able to quickly pinpoint which resources you need to review.  Then you can dive in to the detail.  Make sense?

    Also check out this NCARB video on navigating case studies.

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