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    Julie Brown

    Hi Jonathan,

    Sorry to hear that you're struggling. I'm sure it's not much consolation, but it sounds like you're doing things right (minus the failing results). The study materials you've listed are what I used, you're gleaning any advice you can from the forum, you've got years of experience, and you're not having time management issues. Would you be comfortable sharing your score reports? Maybe seeing the content areas you're struggling with would help us evaluate/strategize your next study focus.

    A couple other thoughts:

    1) Do 5.0's question formats throw you off? Have you through the demo exam and understand exactly what the exam expects when you're supposed to click a "hotspot" or "drag n drop" items into answer boxes? I'm sorry if that sounds super basic, but I know that I got tripped up on a question or two by either: clicking on the text annotation of a graphic, rather than the area of the graphic in which the desired component would be found; or, dragging over all the available answers until I'd put one into each box, not correctly reading that not all answers may be used. (There were like, 6 words for 6 blanks, so I filled in ALL the blanks, even though two of the words did NOT belong in any of the boxes. I felt like that was a very sneaky question.) I also didn't know you could rotate drag-n-drop items by right-clicking on them. How the exam's question/instructions are phrased are key to demonstrating/completing the correct answer.

    2) I always tried to do my own "brain dump" in the car after the exam. I'd write down any items I came across that made me waver. Whether it was locating transformers, or calculating an R-value... I'd jot it down as a topic to study up on. I'd say that if you're feeling confident in the MC but still failing, it might be worth expanding that study outline: jot down not only what you weren't sure on, but jot down what topics came up the most, and even if you think you've got those questions nailed, look 'em up and study them in more detail. It may be that the reference material NCARB drew upon for its question is just a little different that what your coworkers told you.

    3) Lastly, I joined a study group at my office and found that it muddled my understanding of the exam content. When we'd run through practice questions on a screen as a group, I'd have a strong instinct for what the answer should be, feeling like it was a pretty clear question, and was amazed by how a few of my peers would get sucked down a rabbit hole overthinking or misreading the question. It made me overthink things too, and I found that I do better with studying when I can verify an answer in a book rather than take a peer's word for it.

    Stay positive!



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    Brandon Estes


    Keep your chin up!  Maybe take a short break to rest and to get your mojo back.  Re-evaluate your method of attack.  I was forced into the transition plan as well.  In fact, NCARB has changed the rules 3 different times since I started my internship hours.  It's frustrating.  But keep in mind that you haven't failed unless you give up.  

    The people that NCARB markets as completing the ARE in less than a year (or in less than 6 months, or without failing a division ---> eye roll) does nothing good for test-takers.  It is not realistic and it creates unrealistic expectations.  PPD and PDD require knowledge of pretty much everything, across all divisions, which is very different from ARE 4.0 and very difficult to study for.

    I took PPD and PDD in late 2018 and failed them both.  I thought I did OK though, even though both exams crapped out (ARE exams are on "the cloud" now so there are a lot of bandwidth issues).  For round 2, I bought lots more study material and I will be studying for a few months before taking PPD/PDD again.  I will also be studying in a more holistic fashion, piecing things together for the big picture, versus studying in a linear way.  I work 40 hours a week, maintain a house, etc...  Also, you mentioned reaching out to NCARB for guidance.  NCARB is not your friend - the more times we fail an exam the fatter their wallet gets!  NCARB is like Comcast - it's a racket.  But I digress.

    My point is I took 4 months off before I started studying again and I wish I had not.  In fact I got somewhat depressed, stopped going to the gym, etc...  Try not to do that.  These are just exams, they don't define you, and they certainly do not define your capability.  In fact, these exams do not test your ability to be a good architect, they test whether or not you can decipher horrible details and awkwardly-worded questions.  And it's not just you that has trouble with these two exams... from what I can tell, many people are having trouble with these two exams.  Be sure to cut yourself some slack.  

    Not sure if this helps, but you are not alone with these difficulties.


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    There's a lot of us out there struggling like you Jon, and what Brandon said above, pretty much sums it up. Don't lose hope!

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    Erin Anderson


    You are not alone in your frustration.  It is hard to spend months of time, lots of money and feel confident only to see the "likely to fail" on the screen.  I am taking PDD again in 10 days.  I had taken 4 month off from studying.  We will see if it helps.  I am trying some new study materials this time.  Hyperfine architecture is helping with a good schedule.  I like how he has books and corresponding chapters listed for each week's focus.  I felt I spent a lot of time searching back and forth between resources and getting distracted along the way.  This time around I got Plumbing Electricity and Acoustics as well as Heating Cooling Lighting since those cover topics I felt weak on.  I am a terrible test taker, I have high anxiety.  I can feel really confident about the material but driving to the testing center I start to feel sick.  Last test, I spent a good 10 minutes trying to breath and not hyperventilate.  I am still not sure how to change that, I have tried everything.  I will just keep trying.  I agree that the only way you can fail on these exams is by giving up.  I hope there is a good reason that some of us take more time getting through these.  I am trying to learn to be grateful for the fails, it is hard to feel good about it right away.

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    Erin Anderson

    I failed PDD again yesterday, 4th time. I am so eager for the score report. I felt so confident this time around.

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    Anthony Quattrini

    Not sure if this helps...but I listen to classical music while studying. It's enjoyable, and since there are no words, I don't find myself getting distracted and singing in my head. On test day, when driving to the facility (I deliberately choose one about 40 minutes away), I put my headphones on and fucking BUMP the same classical music I study for. It essentially brainwashes me and puts me in the same state I've gotten used to being in while studying.

    Give it a whirl. I'm 2/2 so far with this method.

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    Chelsea Blanchard

    I struggled and failed for a long time. I finally joined Young Architect's 5.0 Boot Camp program. It changed the way I study and I passed PPD right away after doing that program. About to take PDD and I am confident that I will get through. The Bootcamp is a collaboration of people who do a guided study program together and we self-test ourselves with mini-exams each week which we draw from resources in the syllabus. It is an excellent program. 

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    Brian Starkey

    I am going for number 5 on Monday....NUMBER 5!

    To say this exam is ridiculous doesn't do it justice. 

    The people they show passing in short order are those fresh out of school, apparently not much responsibility (how do you do it that quickly while having a full time job?) and have no problem bending their reality.

    I have 20 years of experience and this is the only of the exams that has hit me hard. All the others, if I failed, I retook and passed. It seems with 5.0 they are big on trickery, time consuming question with little relevance to the questions, and poor, poor graphics. I know I will eventually get through it (I hope with 1.8 years left) but to say it's frustrating is an huge understatement. 

    I have been on "this is my last one" for way too long and it angers me, which does not help when it comes to studying and taking the tests. 

    Keep your chin up, plough along, and try to remove a little bit of reality. 


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