PDD Mission Impossible



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    'Mission Impossible' seems to sum it up on this exam. I too am maxed out on my tries and will have to wait until next year to take it, oh well! So I just went to my boss & asked for a raise anyways and got it :) It's like that rolling stones song;

    'you can't always get what you want but if you try sometime you'll find,  you get what you need'- right

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    Kenneth Barrett (Edited )

    I just somehow got a provisional "likely passed" on my 2nd try on PDD. It's my final exam and I still can't believe it. I think I will accept that I actually passed if/when the score becomes official.

    Anyway, I found the 4.0 exam guides for construction docs and services, structures, building design and construction systems, and building systems super helpful. I wish I could be more specific but you should master every single question in those guides. Study the correct answers for any questions you get wrong. And retake them until you get every question right.

    Get really good at analyzing details. Know where your vapor barriers and flashings go.

    Know your way around a set of drawings fast. Be able to know where to look for something.

    How will you figure out what exterior finish is on a certain elevation?

    How will you figure out if a wall detail is appropriate to a particular location on a plan?

    On the case studies I didn't waste time pre-reading any reference info. I read the synopsis and went straight to the questions. Sometimes I needed the references, OFTENTIMES I DIDN'T. 

    I'll leave it at that. The NCARB test makers are very crafty.

    Specific to the drawings in the exam: ZOOM 100%!!

    Hitting the zoom + just once for some reason puts you at like 300% which is totally not helpful. Then you waste time zooming out and panning.

    I let the heavy math stuff go. I am not a math brained person, I tend towards writing and the humanities so I studied structures and the various formulas but I didn't go crazy. I had to chalk up the fact that I will probably bomb moment and load calculation questions.

    That being said I think I aced cost analysis and other logic related, common sense calculation questions. I don't do any math in my head though.

    Use the calculator. Check your math twice. Move on.

    Know basic electrical service related stuff. One line diagrams. Common voltages. Be able to ID common electrical symbols.

    Know basic plumbing service/drainage stuff. Know a pipe invert from an obvert. 

    Be able to answer every pipe elevation related question on this surveyors quiz I found online (It's really good):


    Know how to calculate a pipe slope percentage, or any slope percentage for that matter. (height change/distance x 100) and apply that knowledge to solve problems.

    Know where fire safing goes in a detail.

    Know your valve types and why you would use certain valve types where. (Gate, angle, ball, check, etc.)

    Know basic construction trivia (for lack of a better word) about footings, foundations, common dimensional requirements for hallways, stairs, other common building elements.

    Know elevator types and why you use certain types in certain buildings.

    Also, know how to calculate foot candles on a surface from a light fixture (or two). And know how to read a lighting power graph from a fixture.

    Know how detail revisions affect a plan.

    Which scope changes would mean details and related detail callouts on a plan need to change?

    Good luck.



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    Jonathan West

    Hi Cait,

    Sorry to hear this. I know the feeling as I've failed this exam twice now, as well as some others in 4.0 before I transitioned. I think Kenneth gives some great advice. The only other source you should try to add to your list (if you haven't already) is IBC 2015. Read up tons on the various types of occupancies, how they relate to each other as well as the various types of construction and the limitations that come with it.

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