I took and passed PPD a couple weeks ago and PDD a week later (I will post a write up of PDD as well). Both passed on the first try. PPD was my second exam and I took it almost 10 weeks after my previous exam (rescheduled it from my original 8 weeks after due to life getting in the way).
To give an idea of my background, I graduated with my masters 1 1/2 years ago and have experience during and after school in various phases and different types of projects (highest percentage in CDs).
I answered all the standard MC questions, took the break (about 1 1/2 to 2 hours in), then came back refreshed and answered all the case study questions. When I finished all the questions, I had about 30 minutes left and reviewed all the questions a second time. I always answer every question in the first pass through, but try not to spend too much time on any one question, making an educated guess and marking the question if needed. I mark all the questions I am unsure about and go through them again after my first pass through all the questions. Remember that all the questions are worth the same, so don't spend too long on difficult questions or get bogged down by each of the case study questions. I found the 15 minute break very helpful and necessary for me in this exam, to clear my mind, drink water, and have a little snack halfway through the exam. I hadn't taken the break in PA and I likely won't during other shorter exams, but felt it necessary during PPD and PDD due to the length of these exams (over 4 hours is a long time to be staring at a computer screen answering challenging questions).
I found that this exam had a decent amount of overlap with PA, as well as with PDD. I was glad that I took this exam after PA and before PDD, because it was a good bridging between the two and I was able to use what I had learned for PA and study for both PPD and PDD together.
I studied about 8 weeks for this exam, about 2-5 hours a week during the first 6 weeks, around 2 hours a day the 7th week, and 5+ hours a day the last week. I had scheduled this exam 8 weeks after PA, but due to the holidays and having guests over and not getting back to studying until 2 weeks after PA, I felt I needed more time and rescheduled it for 2 weeks later (a week before my already-scheduled PDD exam). That worked out well. I felt that 8 weeks was good for this exam, but I need to study more consistently.
- ARE Handbook - overview and sample questions
- Ballast study guide - read the PPD section, good overview
- Building Construction Illustrated - good resource for both PPD and PDD, I read chapters 1-3 for PPD and skimmed others, read the rest for PDD
- Architect's Studio Companion - good resource for this exam, I especially studied systems, lighting, and structures chapters
- Building Codes Illustrated - read parts to review certain code sections (if I needed clarification on certain codes)
- IBC 2015 - reviewed chapters 3, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, & 11
- ADA 2010 - reviewed clearances and dimensions
- DesignerHacks practice tests - I used these practice tests/quizzes this time and found them helpful for reviewing and determining what I needed to focus on
Topics to Know:
This exam is very board, but does not focus on details and calculations. Make sure you understand:
- Building codes (IBC 2015 chapters 3, 5, 6, 7, 9 & 10)
- ADA (know key dimensions, clearances, & slopes)
- Site analysis & design (soil types, drainage, site layout, parking)
- Climate considerations (how to design for each climate)
- Structural systems (types, spans, relative costs, best uses)
- Building materials (concrete, masonry, steel, wood, etc)
- Structural loads (basic loads on beams, columns, etc)
- Understand wind and seismic loads & strategies
- Electrical systems & distribution
- HVAC systems (types, components, layout & best uses)
- Ventilation & infiltration
- Thermal comfort (psychrometric charts, etc)
- Lighting (types, efficacy, color temperature, etc)
- Solar/daylighting (sun angles, top lighting/side lighting, etc)
- Acoustics (sound travel, sound mitigation, etc)
- Fire protection systems (fire/smoke alarms, sprinklers, fire rated assemblies, fireproofing)
- Elevators (types & uses)
- Historical preservation/adaptive reuse
Hope this helps!
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