First off I want to thank everyone in the community contributing posts and feedback on the exams. Especially for PPD and PDD which have so much content to cover narrowing it down is very helpful. I want to especially thank Kurt F. and David Kaplan , Randall H. and a bunch of others im forgetting for their very insightful post exam notes and their responses to others. I wont go super detailed in what I studied because if you search David and Kurts or anyone else who passed write up they give a great summary of what you need. I just wanted to add a few things that maybe others can get some help from and maybe NCARB can take note of from this test takers perspective.
Quickly for PPD : ASC, BCI, Ballast 5.0 and about 400 YouTube videos and google searches. To make it easy, if you get the Architects Studio Companion and Building construction illustrated, study the ibc code book and FEMA 454 you will be off to a very good start.
For PDD I found a book I had from an undergrad class I took about 7 years ago called Construction Materials 7th ed. Which I think is a precursor to the Olin book people talk about, his name is on it with a few others. I think its out of print from 2000s but it had endless info on everything involved for PDD... turns out that $250 book from years ago actually helped after all... lol.. it was great for masonry ,concrete, metals , moisture control, specs etc etc. Per David K, I also found my Kaplan Are 4 SS book I used in grad school structures class which had info on shear and moments, structural systems etc. It helped some as well... I did what he did, brushed up on the simple statics stuff and tried to read and understand the structural stuff.
As for the exams: I studied for PPD and PDD together as many have rightly suggested. I took PPD on the 8th and did not pass and took PDD today and did. At first I didnt even want to write up about failing PPD but it is what it is.. I am 5 for 5 passing all the other exams on my first try since this May and I have to say, dont feel embarrassed or overly frustrated (easier said, I know) if you dont pass them all on the first try. To me, I would consider all of them very hard except maybe PJM which seemed the most straight forward if you know the contracts and read AHPP... but even then it was still hard, Haha. If I ranked the exams on difficulty, in order from hardest to easiest it would be PDD, PPD, PA, CE PCM PJM. Remember, they are testing you to be a professional architect, they are not going to make it easy. I think we all kind of realized that going through architecture school and getting internship hours... maybe we are a bunch of sickos that enjoy the pain and difficulty and long hours....anyway..
Without sounding bitter about it I wanted to express to NCARB how much more random and sometimes irrelevant PPD was compared to the other 5 exams. Based on how questions were asked and what you need to know to answer them it seems as though I would have failed PDD and not PPD... to me PDD was a much more mentally challenging exam, requiring a much more detailed understanding of the various areas of study. In other words there are a bunch of questions that don't come right out and ask a direct question, it is much more subtle and many questions require many layers of understanding. There were a few questions that were a little out there and beyond our purview but overall it was just challenging because it is meant to be.
Work expierence will help on PDD, especially, but that alone probably wont be enough. The AREs just make you think differently than we do in everyday practice, sometimes for the better but often not so much..I have a graduate degree in architecture and many years of on site construction experience as well as about 6 years of CD experience on multi million dollar projects with many consultants and on top of that I studied alot more for PPD and PDD than any of the other exams combined (2 weeks , 3 to 4 hours a day for PJM, 2 weeks for PCM, 2 weeks for CE, about 5 days for PA...(not recommended, PA is tough) and even with that these tests are the hardest of the AREs. Best I can say is read the ASC, BCI, code book, fema, Olin and whatever else you can, watch videos, look at diagrams and plans wherever you can find them. Try to understand how things are interelated like HVAC supplies, walls and smoke barriers or how dew point works with different wall assemblies in different climates, for example.
For PPD there was the most questions of any exam that both have no place on an architectural exam and were impossible to study for. If you gave me the internet in the test center I couldnt have got the questions right, lol. They required a depth of knowledge well beyond architecture and were so situational that they were silly. Maybe they were the throw away questions but it seemed like too many to all be. Someone else mentioned here, knowing about structures and electrical and mechanical and plumbing is great, it helps you communicate with consultants, but don't waste our time doing some calc that we would never do or ask us to look at a diagram we would never look at or need to understand. Ask us about the systems so we know how to communicate and coordinate, not to size wires or fittings. Thats why PJM and CE test you on liability and coordination, because we dont want to take liability on these things and nor should we. I was very frustrated with multiple questions that there was no resource mentioned and no way to study for.
However, it isnt all NCARBs fault, my PPD exam had many problems that I just wasn't prepared for or expecting. As my post title suggests, looking back I am actually content with not passing PPD because when I think about it I really didnt have the Code knowledge, especially for fire separation and occupancies that I would have wanted and be able to call myself an architect. My issue with codes is that I primarily work in higher end single family residential architecture in Hawaii and we just dont really have as deep or require as thorough of a code review as mixed use multi story buildings with a bunch of uses. I am glad I need to go back and review that again because it really is one of the most important things we need to consider. I think I would have passed PPD even with my complaints if I did better in codes. I got all 2s and 3s, so I was close atleast.. Finally, I also have to say, based on how difficult these exams are, the studying and testing has definitely made me much more knowledgeable and well rounded as a professional and for that I'm very happy.
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