I am finally done with the ARE, after passing PDD yesterday! I got the provisional feedback after the test, but nothing feels as good as waking up and seeing it officially posted on your account. Such an amazing feeling. Stick with it, your hard work will pay off!!!
I have to say thank you to everyone who put forth such thoughtful post exam feedback! It is definitely worth spending time on this forum as you prepare for the exams. I found there were times when I was burnt out on reading the material, so this is where I would come to read some success stories and get myself motivated. There are a lot of good write ups out there, but the three that I found most helpful (and most relevant to my actual exam) were from Kurt Fanderclai, Benjamin Norkin and David Kaplan (I owe you guys a beer!). There is not a whole lot that I can add to what they have said about resources and exam content.
My primary study resources included:
-Building Construction Illustrated (Read cover to cover for PPD, leafed through for PDD)
-Architectural Graphic Standards (Did not use for PPD, read about 50% and leafed through the rest for PDD)
-Architect's Studio Companion (Used more for PPD, but still a great refresher for PDD)
-Fema, chapers 4/5 and 8/9
-2015 IBC with Commentary - (The test references 2012 IBC, but I am comfortable enough with the changes where using 2015 was OK for me). If you have access to the commentary books I would recommend using them. It does a great job at breaking down concepts and providing example problems related to code review.
-Youtube - I used Lukas LaLiberte's video playlist and found it to be pretty concise. I will say that the structural videos on this playlist go beyond what I experienced on the exam, but they are still important concepts to understand, so no regrets about spending time on them.
-Designer hacks - I would highly recommend using these to prep for PPD and PDD. They have a limited bank of questions, but I would say that they are on the right track and surprisingly relevant to the actual exam.
I bought MEEB, skimmed through it, and immediately send it back. Seems like a great book, but way too in depth for these exams.
I did not use Ballast or Kaplan so I cannot speak to using them for these 5.0 exams. I know some have had success with them (and they were my primary sources for 4.0), but I think sticking with the references outlined in the ARE 5.0 Handbook is the way to go.
Thoughts on the actual exam:
This exam was the most straight forward of the 5 exams that I took (CDS, SPD, PPP, PPD, PDD). Definitely do not overdo it on studying structural calculations. Know how to calculate moment and shear for uniform/concentrated loads, but once you go past these basics you will probably not get much of a return on your investment of time. I had given myself a goal of 33 questions/hour which would put me at question 99 with 1:15 left on the clock for the case study questions. I was able to get to the case study questions with 1:40 which I thought was going to be plenty of time.
Well, I wished I had given myself more time for the case studies. The questions were actually pretty straight forward as well, but I found the small computer screen and the interface to be my worst enemy. The questions were all in line with real world problems that I deal with on a regular basis, I just usually need more than a few minutes to come to a solution. I think a good approach is to read the actual question before reading any of the project description and resource material. There is A LOT of extraneous material, so you can get lost in it pretty quick. The good thing is that these questions don't count for any more than the other questions, so the fact that I felt very confident with the first 99 put my mind at east that I had some room for error at the end.
Oh, and TRIPLE check that you have your ID with you when you get in the car/train/bus/whatever. I dropped my wallet at a gas station and did not realize it until I had driven 45 mins North! I had to run back to grab it which caused unnecessary stress prior to sitting for the exam.
GOOD LUCK TO YOU ALL! This is totally doable!
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