Help Test Prep PA



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    Scott Barber

    Hi Tony, I remember having the same experience when I started studying for PA earlier this year, but to be honest even after I passed this exam I had a hard time identifying specific resources to study. Below are the best tips I can share/books I can recommend:

    Ballast: This was more useful for PA than I thought it was for other exams. Probably because none of the books seemed really helpful on their own.

    - Site Planning and Design Handbook: This seemed too detailed for PA, but had some good info in there. I read/skimmed a lot of it, but didn't read through the whole thing.

    - Problem Seeking, An Architectural Primer: This was on the opposite side of the spectrum from SPDH, it seemed very basic but it covers good concepts if you're unfamiliar with programming. This was just content I was already comfortable with so I didn't find it super useful.

    Sun, Wind, and Light: I didn't study this but see a lot of others mentioning it. If it covers content you're unfamiliar with, I'd say it's worth getting.

    On a very broad scale (definitely refer to the ARE Handbook for specifics), this exam covers site (including zoning, code, environmental, soil, etc) and programming. If you can recognize identify your weak areas in there it may help you know what to study. The programming stuff is more like problem solving/process of elimination, which I actually enjoyed, and didn't feel the need to study for. Others may need a lot of practice doing these types of problems but it's up to you. The site info may be content you've been exposed to before (I was pretty familiar with sustainability topics and zoning/code), so depending on your experience you may not need to study heavily for that either.

    All that ^ is probably familiar if you've read other posts on this forum, but I wanted to repeat it and try to make it clear that this exam isn't as intense as some of the others in regards to what you need to study. Time is a big issue for some (the programming questions can be easier but take more time), which is where practice exams may be beneficial.
    For me, I was more worried going into this exam because I didn't have a clear picture of what to study, but I didn't think it was as hard as some of the others at the end of it. 

    I'm sure there are other books people have studied but can't think of them off the top of my head. Hopefully others will chime in here. 

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    Tony Young

    Scott THANK YOU SO MUCH! You are a big help in this community. So far my study has been to start with AEP then read 4.0 SPD jump to 5.0 Ballast, then read SPDH chapters...I haven't made it to the programming part yet. This will help me reading SPDH is tiring.

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    Scott Barber

    Happy to help! I can definitely relate, I got burned out reading SPDH more than anything else. When reading the Problem Seeking book, I got through about half of it during my hour lunch break, it was a quick and easy read. I didn't read the second half, but I'd say it'd be a breath of fresh air if you wanted to pause on SPDH and read something else. 

    I keep an eye on posts here and on an active Facebook group, and still haven't seen much consensus on what to study for this exam. The three books I listed are the ones I see mentioned most frequently, but I still am not sure those are enough. I think this exam requires more individual approaches based on experience and knowledge each person has already, but it makes it hard to come up with a study plan, compared to the other exams.

    I think for me it was helpful to take it after PPD, where I had studied some other sources. I just checked the ARE Handbook since I couldn't remember, and it mentions Arch. Graphics Standards which does have a couple chapters that could be relevant for site design. 

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    David Kaplan


    I posted my PA study approach here.  Scroll down past my comparison of 4.0/5.0 paragraphs, and after that I explained when someone asked my full approach to PA: 


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    Tony Young


    Thank you, you are also one of those who always give good tips. This will certainly help as I prepare to take PA in Dec!

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