I had my first try in last year and failed. After that, I have been reading people's post here which are very helpful for me know which area I didn't cover in my study. Although I got the "likely to fail" in my 2nd try, I still want to share my study & test experience.
1. TIME MANAGEMENT - Basically everyone has complained that it takes a longer time to load the reference material than you expected. For this, I really hope NCARB can do something to improve it. It is a waste of the test time to wait for the image/code show up. In my second try, I even had a worse experience, the software didn't respond and had error messages several time, but the clock is still running. I would say those software/computer issues took up to 5 mins and interrupted my exam.
2. Study material
chapters related to PA in 4.0 Ballast, it covers most of the scope of the exam - schedule, budget, different professionals' role in the project, zoning code (you need to know what is covered in the zoning code), Bldg code (CH5 area & height, some concepts related to egress, where is the occupancy load table and how to use it) site map, sustainability, ADA. You do need to know some basic knowledge of structural systems, pros & cons. I think I had 1-2 structural related questions in both exams.
Site planning handbook - read/ study runoff control methods, remediation methods, ESA I & II. And you really need to understand in which condition you should use which method.
Problem Seeking An Architectural Programming Primer - the book is pretty straightforward and easy to understand. Understand the 5 steps in programming and 24 programmatic concepts
Practical exams -
blackspectacles online practice exam (company paid)- useful for you to get familiar with exam format, but the real test questions are more complicated and harder
designer hacks (bought by my self) - not very helpful.
5.0 ballast practical test - hard and tricky, the detailed explanations helped me go over related information on one topic.
brightwood - easy ones, just help you to go over some basic information which is not very common in the real test.
During the second time study, I have a clearer study content structure, which I think is very useful for me to know what I missed or weak in my study/test. I would suggest to keep your study notes in one place. Later on, when you review the practice questions that you did wrong with your notes, you will know better why you didn't do it correctly - is it because you didn't study it at all? did you forget it? you don't know how to use it?
3. Calculation questions
I had 5 or 6 calculation questions out of 95!! It is insane that they have several calc. on the same thing - gross/net area which I think is so unnecessary!!!!
I had more ADA questions this time, but they are very straightforward and I learned during my work experience. read some basic ADA requirements in restrooms, ramps, parking etc. which are covered in all study materials.
Anyway... these are my personal thoughts and experience. Hope it helps. I really think I need to move on to another exam instead of taking PA forever. Any suggestions? Thanks!
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