PA Passed: My Method

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17 comments

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    Carolina Quintero

    Very nice input. Can you give me some other details on the difference between Black Spectacles and Amber? My office want to pay for one of them.

    Thanks a lot

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    Michael Lawson

    Sure thing. There are lots of differences, but they will each teach you a lot of what you need for the tests. Black Spectacles videos are more in number and overall length, but most are shorter. He speaks slowly enough that I can watch at 2x speed with no issues on subjects I'm familiar with, and slowed to 1.5x for new subjects. You see him most of the time, but he draws diagrams when necessary, and shows example documents too.
    With Amber, the videos are long, but don't stick to one subject like Black Spectacles. Instead, they go through broad subjects like 'thermal' over the course of a few long videos, which will look at all aspects of 'thermal' from the perspective of each test. It's just mixed all together. The reason for this is their philosophy of taking the tests, that you should take them all together instead of separately. This makes it harder to focus on a single aspect, but gives a better understanding of everything in the context of a sister subject. That is, each of these tests don't exist in a cave of their own.
    Also with Amber, you don't see the presenter much. The screen focuses on diagrams, graphics, and photographs of examples that the presenter speaks to. All of this helps make the concepts more concrete and memorable.
    As for which to choose, that would be up to you and your firm, but I definitely like having both, especially the practice tests of Black Spectacles.
    I hope that helps, good luck!

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    Michelle NCARB

    Congrats Michael!  Thanks for sharing your study tips here.  Hope your last two tests go as well as the first four!

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    Nancy Redenius

    Thanks for such a thorough review, Michael! I definitely found it helpful as I prepare to take PA this Friday.

    May I ask which Amber sections you watched and which you found to be most helpful or relevant for this exam? I watched the Site videos at the beginning of my studying and am hoping to review those before my test but am not sure if I feel it's worth watching any of the broader topics for this test with the limited time I have (and some significant holes in my studying that still need to be covered - particularly not having cracked the Site Planning and Design Handbook or Building Codes Illustrated yet)

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    Michael Lawson

    Do check out Site Planning and Design before Friday, but Amber goes over some of that already. Pay particular attention to soil types, cohesion, etc. I watched some of the thermal videos and code videos, mostly focusing on the areas in which I felt my studies were lacking.
    Best of luck on Friday!

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    Nancy Redenius

    Thanks for the advice and the encouragement! I'll make sure to prioritize the recommended chapters in Site Planning and Design

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    Linda Chung

    Hi Nancy,
    I’m thinking about signing up for the Amber series. Is it possible for me to partner with you to get the discount? I am also taking PA next Friday and would love to use this resource.
    Thanks, Linda

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    Nancy Redenius

    Hi Linda, 

    My test was actually yesterday and I'm not sure yet if I'm going to renew my subscription. Sorry I can't be more helpful but good luck on Friday!

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    Theresa Saad

    Hello Michael, 

    Congrats on passing your exams! I know this is a very specific question, but no one in my office is taking this exam at the moment. Do you remember if you had to memorize names of specific architects and references to their work for this test? The Ballast study guide that I am reading references dozens of them, but I don't want to spend hours memorizing them if those types of details aren't worth it. Thanks, and good luck on your final two exams!

    Theresa

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    Michael Lawson

    That's a great question and I hate to say I don't remember at this point. I don't think there were questions about specific styles or architects on my exam, but it was referenced a lot in my study materials as well. I can understand why, but I don't think you should try to memorize the names of several architects and their works. If it comes up at all, it might only be one or two questions, and even then, it wouldn't be a question like "Who built the Monadnock building." 

    Long story short, don't memorize that stuff, I think you should be fine without. 

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    Purvashri Hatkar

    Congratulations Michael. Your post is really helpful. How much study time did you allocate for PA exam?

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    Michael Lawson

    Hi Purvashri, 

    I spent about 4 full weeks preparing for the test. On average I might have put in about 22 hours a week, so ultimately about 88 hours if I were to guess. It is also the area I have the most number of internship hours (2200), most of them gotten under IDP, so that may or may not have helped. It didn't exactly make me feel more comfortable going in, but it may have had an impact on my way of thinking about the subject matter. 

    I hope that helps!

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    Ramy Hanna

    Michael Congratulations, i really found all your comments and explanations so helpful a lot.

    Thanks a lot for taking time answering our questions.

     

     

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    Michael Lawson

    I'm more than happy to help - like I've said, these boards were very helpful and supportive to me, and I'd like to pass that along for whatever my opinion might be worth. 

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    Meghan Royster

    Hi Michael! Thank you for all of your tips.

    I'm wondering where you were able to study BCI & IBC, were these resources provided by your office?

    Thank you!

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    Michael Lawson

    I bought a copy of Building Codes Illustrated that referenced the 2015 code, and used this as my IBC reference. Some others at my firm had older editions of BCI, but they were using them to study, and my firm does have the IBC with commentary in a hard copy, but I didn't use that much. Hope that helps! 

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    Meghan Royster

    That helps so much. Thank you! 

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