Yesterday I took PPD and passed, making this my fifth test since October. I studied for this and PDD heavily together, but I haven't taken that yet, so I don't know if that strategy will pay off or not, but I'll be sure to let the community know if and when it does. (EDIT: It paid off! Full report here.)
For the content of the test, I really can't say more than what the Handbook already does. It aligned perfectly with my test experience, so I felt I was generally prepared for what was coming. There were a few spots where I knew my weaknesses (electricity!), but even then I could make a reasonable or logical guess on the test. Having said that, I won't make this post all about what content to study, but about my methodology and resources for preparing for this test.
I started studying immediately after Christmas for both PPD and PDD. I have heard that there is overlap between PA to PPD, and PPD to PDD. There are some that say it is beneficial to study for the first two together and not the second, and there are some that say the opposite. Though I haven't taken PDD yet, I'd say PPD is right in the middle between the two.
Since I'm on a tight schedule for these exams for personal reasons, I put in a minimum of 25 hours a week to study, often more. PPD and PDD are more focused on drawings, details, diagrams, and the like, so my study table has a roll of bond paper covering the whole desk. As I read, I would take notes wherever, make big drawings, or scribble, then roll out more paper as needed. It was a fun way to learn, and I think it really helped. I never look back at notes I've taken, so it worked for me. Might not be for everyone.
Architect's Studio Companion: I recommend reading the whole thing, but there are parts that are not necessary for this test. Large portions deal with precise sizing of equipment, stair treads, parking lots, etc, and I skipped over most of this. There are general rules of thumb that are more important to understand, not memorize, that help more on the test. There is also a lot about the building code of Canada that you can skip over. There are wonderful sections that put things in terms very much like the ARE similar to "Which HVAC system do you use for low first cost?" Of course you won't get this exact question, but it really helps to think about the content that way, for the test and for the office. I'm keeping this book on my shelf.
Amber and Black Spectacles Videos: I put this in the same list because I used them back to back most of the time. The content is about equal, I would say, but the presentation style is the biggest difference. Amber is a graphic/animated slideshow while BS is a single lecturer with a digital whiteboard. Amber blends the content all together, while BS slowly goes through each NCARB objective. I don't think it would be easy at all to rely on one or both of these as sole resources for these tests. I used them primarily to watch over breakfast and see the content in different ways than in a book. I believe reinforcing the content through different means is a great way to learn.
Black Spectacles Practice Tests: They recently updated their practice tests to include 3 "forms" and one "random" test you can take. The 3 forms are supposed to have unique content in each one, but there's overlap that they say they're working on. I ended up taking a practice test 6 times. My first was to find my baseline, and I got a 45%, and on the last three I scored around 75%. I thought these were great ways to test my ability to work through the questions and see where I stand with the content. The questions are, for the most part, easier than the actual exam, but the point of it for me was to recognize my shortcomings and know what to focus on going forward.
Building Codes Illustrated: I didn't really read this one much, but it is absolutely important to know how to use and navigate the code. I had done a lot of this study for PA, but it is even more relevant here. The more you look at it and understand it, the more you can get some easy questions out of the way.
Misc articles online: I skimmed chapters 4 and 5 of the FEMA Earthquake document, which definitely came up on the test. I also googled lots of content to find other views on things just to fully round out my learning. Don't trust everything you hear from third party resources! Black Spectacles and Amber both made mistakes that I was able to correct through other research, and I'm sure I missed more. They stand out when they make opposite claims.
This ARE Community: Truly a great resource and good place for discussion. For the most part,everyone is supportive and kind! And since everyone here is currently focused on the same goal, it makes for a very focused and active group.
My colleagues: It seems like my job has been lining up with my test schedule, so I was able to bring what I was learning straight to the office to ask relevant questions that brought it all home. I also have a great group of fellow "interns" that are on the exam track who are great to study with. I heard their voices in my mind several times during the test.
My wife: She just kicks ass. So supportive and kind to let me go study for hours and hours. My cats were always there of course, telling me to stop studying and scratch their backs already.
I really tried not to look at the clock all the time. I generally knew I wanted to get to the case study with at least 1.5 hours left, so every once in a while I make sure I was on track for that. I ended up getting to the case studies with 2 hours left, and finishing all the questions with 40 minutes and 46 marked questions to review. I finished with 3 minutes remaining.
Many people talk about using the case study resources on the rest of the test, such as the IBC. I did get several chapters of the IBC as resources for the case studies, but I just didn't find a use for them outside the case study.
Overall, the test was very hard. There were plenty of questions that had me sweating (sorry to whoever was sitting near me), but I managed to get through it somehow. Good luck to everyone out there!
Please sign in to leave a comment.