PDD - Test experience question



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    Erin Harmon

    I had a question just like what you described both times I took the test. It was very frustrating!

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    AH YES! I had that question too! I also had another question asking me to coordinate 'plan details' and it was missing a sheet the details were referring to. To me these are 'convoluted' questions designed to 'stall you'. Best advice is to skip them and spend more time reviewing your 'marked questions'. 

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    One of these NCARB people needs to speak up on this. I hate how these questions and content are so shrouded in secrecy. One dude checking in to pronetric had a box of reference materials to use for whatever test he was taking. We're treated like freaking terrorist when we arrive to Promteric. I dont need reference materials....i just need to know SPECIFICALLY what to study. I don't need a list of 15 books whose pages exceed 400 at times. Get real NCARB! We reference stuff all day in the workplace or we ask a more experienced co-worker

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    Michelle NCARB

    Shraddha, RJ, and Erin,

    All items on the ARE go through multiple QC reviews to ensure sufficient details are provided to answer each question.  But if you do encounter an item that seems to be missing information, please reach out to NCARB Customer Service to report the issue.  You'll be able to provide specific details that you can't provide in this Community.  See page 18 of the ARE Guidelines for more info on this.


    Yes, the Reference Matrix lists a lot of study materials -- because those are the most-often used references by ARE item writers.  You might want to check out the shorter list within each division, which has the top three to five references that we recommend.

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    Kurt Fanderclai (Edited )


    "I will be going through more of the suggested list of books for try #2."

    Definitely do that.  As Michelle mentioned, refer to the Top References in the handbook matrix.  Also read the posts of those who have already passed the exam -- you'll quickly get a sense of what to study that has worked for most candidates.  Along those lines, I'd suggest that candidates read the forum posts in enough detail to discover and understand the general consensus on what to study for a given exam.  Then ask yourself -- does my study list include those references constantly mentioned on this forum by the majority of the candidates who've passed?  If it doesn't, you will likely want to rethink your approach.

    "I don’t have much advice to give on PDD except that study for it as a stand alone exam - it is not as similar to PPD as I expected by comments in the community..."

     You may have misinterpreted the intent of forum posts comparing PPD and PDD.  Certainly the two exams are different, since there would be little point in testing the same thing twice.  From an exam prep viewpoint -- the similarities are many -- including the fact that the handbook matrix lists materials that are extremely similar for the two exams.  So, many candidates -- myself included -- studied essentially the same material for both exam divisions. 


    Most of these successful candidates also noted (as does the NCARB info), that PPD is largely systems and broad planning, while PDD is largely details and effectively getting that info into a CD set.  Be sure to note the importance of this difference.  A candidate can study the material simulaneously for both exams -- but there is a shifting of gears necessary for an effective approach to each exam.  You'll be studying the same material, knowing the one exam hits the broader strokes while the other hits the finer level of details.

    In other words, a structural reference book might be studied for both exams, but with the knowledge that structural questions from PPD will cover why an architect might choose steel joists versus precast concrete, and the other exam, PDD, might ask about a beam-to-column connection.

    Some candidates made this "shifting of gears" very quickly, taking PPD and PDD a day apart.  Most seemed to take about two weeks or slightly more between these exams to shift from the broad to the specific, and review the material in those terms.



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    Michelle NCARB

    Kurt - great points all around.  Thanks!

    And Shraddha - adding onto Kurt's comments...this blog post looks at more examples of how PPD and PDD differ.  Hope these resources better direct your studying for your next go at it.

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    Shraddha Strennen

    Thank you for your comments Kurt and Michelle. I will definitely follow up with NCARB to discuss the specifics of the issue I experienced.

    Kurt - I appreciate the points made and the helpful information provided. For whatever reason, the experience I had does not match up with that of others. I went through the posts extensively to understand what others focused on. I did read the post Michelle shared. I did look at the references in the handbook. I did read ASC and BCI. I focused on the highlighted items from this community as well as deficiencies I assessed by taking practice tests. I have also worked for 12 years. I still don’t feel as the my studying and test experience aligned as much as I expected (maybe 20-30%)

    I also understand the difference between PPD and PDD and expected exactly what you described but, feel as though I encountered what I expected to about 20% of the time - clearly not enough to pass.

    The books I didn’t get a chance to read that I will now purchase are Olin’s and ASG. Thankfully my firm has one book but, not the other... Here goes another few hundred dollars. Hopefully it will be worthwhile and I won’t be another one of the many posting about their 5th fail.

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    Kurt Fanderclai (Edited )


    You passed 5 exams in 2.5 months.  You will pass this last one as well.

    If you've studied the resources that are repeatedly suggested on this forum for PDD, then your list of study materials seems to be on track.

    You've seen the PDD exam, and you can now make adjustments.  It's entirely possible that you just thought the test would be something different than it is -- you're not alone in this -- I and others found PDD to be ALL. OVER. THE. PLACE. in terms of content and questions.  But in any case, whatever happened on your first attempt, you will now know the actual nature of the exam, and can structure your review accordingly. 

    Given your great success rate thus far, I'd suggest that you don't get too bogged down with concerns about the form of the exam, specific questions that seem odd, etc.  Actual important discrepancies should be reported, but remember that 5.0 is now a couple years old -- the possibility of actionable exam discrepancies is now probably pretty small.  As always, the practical approach is to use what you now know, and knock PDD out as well.  Which, you will.      

    OK, on buying more materials:  I'm guessing your firm has the AGS?  That is a very good resource for PDD.   I bought Olin, but never cracked it for the exam.  I don't think it's been widely used for the ARE.  I would not buy it.

    I posted this thread a while back which may not be all that useful to you at this stage, but I wrote it to counter the arguments of some candidates, which is that the materials needed to pass the ARE are endless and expensive. They're really not.


    Good luck!




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    Shraddha Strennen

    Thank you for your comments of support and helpful information.  I definitely came out of the exam dejected and just have to get back at it.  My comment about "another few hundred dollars" was unnecessary but, in reference to exam fees as well as books.  I know I will pass the exam just hoping it doesn't take me 5 tries and $1175 to do it.  Hoping to stop it at merely $470 :)

    Michelle and Kurt:
    I did submit my original testing question but, I received what reads like a "form letter" response that didn't ask for more information or specifics. It basically said what Michelle had initially stated - "[These] questions do not contain any errors or missing information. Please know that all items and case studies that appear on the ARE go through a rigorous quality control process by a committee of licensed architects from around the country. All items and case studies have been reviewed multiple times for content, accuracy, and image quality." I'm not pursuing it further as I don't believe it will lead to anything.  Even if they gave me this one point, I don't think I would have passed.  Hopefully I don't encounter this question on the exam the second time.  

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    Pavan Iyer

    Hi Shraddha, just wanted to chime in and say that the 3 biggest things that I used/focused on for PDD were:

    - AGS (particularly moisture protection, fire protection, and acoustical design)

    - Reviewing/going over a couple full drawing sets I had from my old firm. Just navigating the old set and doing code analysis on it help me a lot (for PPD this helped as well).

    - Reviewing the spec divisons/spec book. Sounds basic, but I would do it when you study for your second attempt. This video was helpful to me: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CUcYsMwIdlM

    Though NCARB says they QC their questions, I agree that there are still quite a few questionable questions (some seemingly vague and some that you question why it's on an architecture licensing exam). Just remember that your goal is to hit that cut score ;) (I think someone once said for PDD that 38 questions missed is the worst case scenario) Good luck, you'll definitely be fine given your great track record! 

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    Shraddha Strennen

    Thank you for the feedback, specs video link, and support Pavan!

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