Success in AMBER as Study Material



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    Michael Lawson

    What other study materials have you used so far for those exams? Do you find videos or lectures to be more helpful for your study habits? 

    I'm currently using Amber to prepare for PPD and PDD, but haven't taken one yet to let you know the success rate. I'm also using several other resources that would skew the results anyway. 

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    Robert Barnhart

    I have used Amber for PcM and PjM and passed both of those. I think he explains the material very well and helps me to understand the concepts. I have not taken PPD yet but just rescheduled it for March. I’ll be using Amber Videos, AEP ( Architect Exam Prep), Ballast questions and designer hacks questions.

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    Darryl Jackson

    Thanks for posting this question Claudia.  I am very much in the same boat as you! 


    Good luck this year!


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    Kurt Fanderclai


    Hi Claudia,

    "In your opinion, is this something I should look into using?"

    Interesting that someone finally straight up asks this question.  I've seen the muuuuultiple threads of candidates partnering for an Amber materials discount, but your thread may be the first that pauses first to question the value.  

    I passed the ARE 5.0 last year.  Right up front -- I did not use Amber materials at all, and have only recently taken a look at a couple of Amber videos out of sheer curiosity.  I definitely have nothing against the materials, but they are clearly not necessary. 

    I think that following the sunset of 4.0, there was a noticeable spike in interest in several different third-pary materials - Amber is/was one of them.  I think it's accurate to say that these materials played a very large role for candidates in 4.0 exams, and I think the transition period from 4.0 to 5.0 carried a wave of candidates previously ingrained into the third-party approach. 

    I think your best bet is to read the forum posts for the exam you'll be taking, get a sense of the general consensus of the forum, and make study plans based on it.  And, you can't go wrong establishing a foundation for your study efforts based on the ARE 5.0 Handbook materials, particularly the Top References at the end of each division in the handook.  I think you'll find that most candidates do this.  

    As I've often said, 10% of ARE candidates will pass seemingly no matter what they study -- could be third party materials, the phone book, or nothing at all.  Another 10% seem to struggle and fail no matter what, despite having purchased and consumed every bit of available written, audio, and video information out there.  The remaining "80 percenters" tend to create the general consensus I've mentioned above, and are probably your best bet for advice on a study template to follow.  (There are many such candidates who've done some great write-ups on this forum of their successful approaches.)

    Good luck to you!


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    Ethan O'Brien

    I cannot speak for my success with Amber yet.  I have only had it a few weeks and have not tested since.  I do really like it as a study resource though.

    Is it necessary?  No; but it is a unique way of learning the information.  I personally retain the information much better from the video's than I do from reading.  I learn best visually and by example.  The videos provide both.  It is so helpful for me to be seeing the information on screen as he talks about the topics.  Also, they are very interactive, asking you to stop to answer questions for yourself before going into them.  This really helps me to grasp the concepts and not just memorize an answer.

    They are also very dense.  It is hard to get through too many videos at once because there is just so much information packed into each one.  I have to pause the videos every minute or so to take notes.  I really feel mentally fatigued after watching for an hour or so.

    Again, I have not tested since I have started them, but I have taken a few practice tests and feel like the videos have helped teach me the information that is being asked.

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    Natalia Cebollero Venegas

    Hey Claudia,


    I don't know if I should be giving my opinion because I have failed PPD multiple times and have now moved on to PDD and then will return to PPD. The level of frustration when I saw I failed my 4th attempt on PPD really surprised me and I felt like I was cornered. I have studied and read so many books and still keep ,missing the same exact two sections.


    Some of the material I have used to study for PPD is:

    -Black Spectacles (watched the whole PPD and now watching PDD)

    -ARE 4.0 Ballast (have been reading for a while, i started with 4.0 and did the switch after not passing BDCS)

    -ARE 5.0 Practice questions and Practice Problems ( I was scoring 80%, I do need more practice exams.. Ive already almost memorize these answeres... sad... LOL)

    -Building Construction Illustrated (read the whole book)

    -Architect Studio companion (read the whole book)

    - Architectural Graphic Standard (just skimmed thru, but will go back and read)*

    Just added two new books to my repertoire

    - Mechanical and Electrical Equipment for buildings *

    - Fundamentals on Building construction*


    I am testing in a couple of weeks so my plan is to ready thru the ones with the * and use Black Spectacles as a supplement. Unfortunately I wish I had more time to study, but I have already rescedhuled this exam once and dont want to do  it again.


    Lets power thru! We got this!!! 2019 will be the year!




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    Michael Lawson

    To add to what you said Natalia about watching the PDD Black Spectacles videos now that you are preparing for PDD, I'm prepping for PPD currently but watching through both sets. It seems like the first objective videos overlaps a fair bit, and the presenter even says that he's covered some of it before. PPD might not go into the detail that these videos are for PDD, but I feel like it is helping cement some of the information in a different way.

    Likewise, I did something similar between PA and PPD, where I watched PPD ahead of taking the PA test. The depth was dissimilar, but it still broadly covered similar subjects and ended up being very helpful on my test. 

    Amber, on the other hand, is not putting the videos in silos according to each test section, so it isn't easy to discern what would be useful on which test. In any case, it all pertains to architecture, so it certainly is useful for the tests overall. 

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