I took and passed PDD last week, a week after PPD (since I studied for both together, see my PPD write up here: https://are5community.ncarb.org/hc/en-us/community/posts/360024521993-PPD-Pass-Post-Exam-Notes). I studied 8 weeks for PPD/both exams and an additional week for PDD. 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 15-20 minutes left and reviewed all the questions I had marked 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. This was harder to do in this exam due to the calculation questions, which I have to calculate since it's hard for me to guess or skip them. In this exam, I spent more time answering questions, due to the number of detailed or calculation questions, so I only had time left to review the marked questions, not all of the questions. Also, don't forget to utilize the reference materials, in the case studies and rest of exam.
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).
This exam did have a lot of overlap with PPD, but definitively was more detailed and calculation-heavy. I was glad I took PDD after PPD, but might have appreciated more time in between to study. I think around 2 weeks between the two would have been perfect for me, but 1 week worked well. I found this exam to be the most difficult yet, due to the depth of knowledge and detail needed for many of the questions. Having more experience would likely help greatly on this exam. I relied on my work experience more for this one.
I studied about 8 weeks before PPD, then 1 additional week, studying 2-5 hours a day and 10+ hours a day over the weekend for PDD. I had scheduled this exam for 3 weeks after PPD (which I felt was longer than necessary, but was limited by the holidays), but due to the holidays and having guests over and not getting back to studying until 2 weeks after PA, I postponed PPD 2 weeks, leaving a week in between it and PDD. This ended up working out well, though I could have used a little more time between (or more study before PPD). Definitely study for both PPD and PDD together.
Study resources (specifically for PDD):
- ARE Handbook - overview and sample questions
- Ballast study guide - read the PDD section, good overview
- Building Construction Illustrated - good resource for both PPD and PDD, I read or skimmed most of the book
- MEEB (Mechanical and Electrical Equipment for Buildings) - reviewed mechanical systems & lighting, especially the diagrams
- USG PDFs about fire and acoustical assemblies/partitions (google search)
- DesignerHacks - PDD practice tests/quizzes
Study resources I studied before PPD:
- Architect's Studio Companion - good resource, 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
- Ballast practice test
Topics to Know:
This exam is very board and deep. Make sure you understand:
- Building codes (IBC 2015 chapters 3, 5, 6, 7, 9 & 10)
- ADA (know key dimensions, clearances, & slopes)
- Coordination of different systems in building
- Structural systems, loads & calculations (loads, moment, shear, etc)
- Wind and seismic loads & strategies
- Building materials & details/wall sections (concrete, masonry, steel, wood, etc)
- Building assemblies/wall sections/moisture protection (moisture barrier & location per climate, flashing, roofing, weep holes, connections, etc)
- Plumbing systems
- Electrical systems & distribution
- HVAC systems (types, components, layout & best uses)
- Ventilation & infiltration
- Thermal comfort (psychrometric charts, etc)
- Lighting (types and their properties)
- 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)
- How to read a construction document set, match details to conditions, etc (experience with CDs helps)
Hope this helps!
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