Yesterday was my third try on PA and my first pass ever. First I want to say this board has helped me tremendously, from strategies to experiences. And in return I also want to share a few thoughts on my three tries:
The first thing I want to address is the scope. To me, PA was very broad and the focus varied each time. My first one had more problems on site analysis, the second one focused more on programming, and yesterday I had a ton of questions on zoning and building codes. I’ve read many posts on here saying which areas to focus on, but my sincere suggestion is to study thoroughly on all areas and into details. For example, I thought I had mastered topics on different kinds of zonings and soil/groundwater remediation, but NCARB still managed to pop out terms and words that I was not familiar with or didn’t know. One way I found helpful was to recognize your weak areas and work on them. I really disliked problems that required you to translate from the bubble diagrams to blocking diagrams, so I went through them again and again until I was comfortable enough.
This transitions to my second point – study materials. For the first two tries I only used Ballast (5.0), SPDH, BCI, IBC, ADA, and ARE Handbook. After my second fail I realized I should also use 4.0 materials, so I dug through all SPD and PPP materials from my office and studied the heck out of them and I felt much more prepared on the third try. I used Ballast, Kaplan, and other third party materials. Here I want to address that at this point I was not studying new materials. But rather, it was re-reading the same materials from different wording and perspectives that gave me a more thorough understanding of the subjects.
Once I went through most of the 4.0 materials, I started thinking about testing strategies again. Time management is obviously key. Many people here have mentioned how much time they dedicate to each section, but the reality is some problems naturally require more time than others. This leads to the epiphany I had - recognizing question types. For instance, if you get a question like this one:
You can probably guess immediately what it’s going to ask you – something about picking the best location for certain purpose, whether it’s the least amount of excavation, best building orientation for passive heating/cooling, etc. Once you recognize what certain problem types would ask you, you can access those associated information very quickly. I mean, it’s muscle memory right?
The last thing I want to mention is get familiar with the demo test, especially the references in case studies. The keyword search function is your best friend. In one of my case studies I had a problem about picking 4 out of 6 things that were required by zoning. I literally just searched all 6 things and I found the answers.
Some of these strategies and thinking were recently developed so I’m very open to discussing the validity of them. I do hope people discuss them with me because I feel like that’s very lacking on this board. I’m going to start PPD and PDD next so you might see me there as well. I hope these help! I can also go into details so let me know. Also to anyone who's struggling to pass the exam, it took me 3 times to pass PA so there's always hope as long as you have money!
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