PPD & PDD Approach from 4.0 Transition - Review Material & Order Advice?



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    David Kaplan

    I did the 4.0 / 5.0 combo method, except I opted to take PA under 5.0 and not Site Planning under 4.0. All your resources are perfect. I would add that you need to cover Building Codes and Site Design review into the mix. Codes are huge. The PPD test will likely have a good amount of site questions too.
    I personally did not use ANY 4.0 materials for these two tests except for the structural systems that you said you have. Best of luck.

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    David Kaplan

    Wanted to add a bit further, reread your post.  I personally think the order of PPD and PDD really doesn't matter.  Many people on here say to study for those two tests together and take them close together.  I took that exact advice and took them 10 days apart.  Glad that I did - sound advice from this forum, 100%.  If you're looking more to just get a win under your belt with your first test, since this is your first foray into 5.0 world, pick the test that plays better to your strengths.  If you've spent most of your time at work doing CD's, drawing sections, details, schedules, etc. - go for PDD first.  If you've spent more time doing initial design work, Schematic and Design Development level type stuff - go for PPD first.  Still - take the approach of thinking that you are studying for both tests at the same time.  It will pay off.

    I posted my PDD approach on here:  https://are5community.ncarb.org/hc/en-us/community/posts/360000867908-PDD-Pass-Study-Approach  

    Embedded within that same link is my study approach to PPD.  Click on that one first and you'll see all the sources listed that you identified above.  The PDD link then tells you how I studied in the 10-day gap that I had between these tests.

    Hope this helps.  I would say to you as well that the fact that you took and pass Site Planning under 4.0 recently will absolutely help you for the PPD test.  If you are fresh off that Site Planning test, you may want to consider PPD first since that material is still fresher in your mind.

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    Jason Patchel

    Thank you for your input David! I greatly appreciate it! I've seen you post quite a bit within this community and your input and responses to other is essentially what I've been basing my approach on. After looking at the link you've provided, I realized it was those two posts specifically that I have been referencing. I can only imagine the number of people in debt to you for your knowledge and advice, myself included.Thank you.

    Yes, SPD was the last test I took, but unfortunately that was back in mid April. I unfortunately did not have the time I wanted to put into studying for the ARE until the very end of 2017. I started with CDS at the end of 2017. I had to retake it at the beginning of this year and luckily passed. I then studied for PPP & SPD and took them a week apart in April. Two weeks later was my wedding. Apparently I focus better when under pressure, haha. Thanfully I passed both before the expiration and decided to take a short amount of time to decompress a bit after the wedding and everything. Unfortunately that "short time" flew by too quickly, so I'm back to the grind.

    I have no issues with attempting to dive in with the new test format. That's essentially what I had to do with 4.0, so might as well not fix what isn't broken. I have about 10 years of work experience, however, a majority of it is mostly CD's (consequences of suburban small office practice I assume), so I may start with PDD first. This will give me some time to pick up the Site Planning & Design Handbook too and throw that at the end of my study list. In terms of codes, I was at a bit crossroad - I'm debating on whether or not to pick up Building Code Illustrated. I'm fairly familiar with the 2015 IBC & IRC because New Jersey went straight from 2009 to 2015 so there was quite a bit of research within our office on what the revisions were and luckily, I was part of the main team responsible for preparing this information to our office (I say luckily now, but at the time, by no means the truth. Never knew you could have dreams about code...).

    My goal is October first to dive into Building Construction Illustrated this weekend and go down my previously posted list. My plan is to take the first test at the end of November, and the next a week or two later. Hopefully my Christmas gift to myself is the freedom of not needing to study anymore.

    I would greatly appreciate any thoughts on how useful you think Building Code Illustrated might be, but you've already provided more than enough and I am very grateful for your help. Thank you again!

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    David Kaplan


    We were in the same boat.  I have 14 years experience.  Took 4.0 tests and took a huge break.  Had to get back into it.

    Codes - the key thing is knowing how to use the Code Book, not necessarily memorizing.  When presented with a question about a building code on an exam, you will very likely be given the code excerpt needed to find the answer.  The key is, do you understand how to apply the codes to situations?  In the case studies, you will likely be given several chapters of the building code - some of which you'll use, some of which you'll never reference once for any of the questions asked (which is intentional on NCARB's part).  The key there is - do you know where in the code and in what chapter you should be looking when asked a question?

    If you struggle with code concepts, I would highly recommend Building Codes Illustrated.  That book not only explains each code but it explains the intent behind them and more importantly presents how to use them.  It gives examples of how to do area calculations, for example.  If you know how to do those types of things, you're in good shape.  If you're not, I would recommend studying.

    Me personally, I handle all the code research in our office.  I felt good going into the tests without studying codes at all.  When I was presented with code questions, I felt able to handle them and no question cited anything out of the ordinary (e.g. hazardous materials or other areas in the code that rarely come up in real life).  I said to myself though that without my experience, and without studying, I never would’ve been able to pass those code questions.  It depends on your experience level and comfort with them.

    I own Building Codes Illustrated, and even today I’ll open it up sometimes for a quick reference.  It’s good to have and useful in the real life experience.  I say get it, look through it and see if anything jumps out at you as unfamiliar, and you won’t regret it.  If it does nothing more than reaffirm that you're good to go - that's useful too right?

    Last point - know your ADA.  I would look over the standard ADA diagrams for accessible routes, bathrooms, and know some general accessible reach ranges.  Know how to design a ramp without referencing the codes at all.  Likely you will have to do so.


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