There have been many posts on the effectiveness vs. deficiencies of the Ballast materials for the PA exam.
I have been wondering about this myself for quite some time, so I conducted an experiment: I would study for this exam with only Ballast 5.0 material and see what would happen. After finishing an exhaustive study with only Ballast here are the results.
Overall, the experience resulted in a "Fail" grade, but there are some interesting takeaways. According to the performance chart I was surprised to discover that Ballast actually did better than anticipated (see below):
To my knowledge it is OK to share your results, but not actual test content (NCARB: if this is not acceptable please let me know).
The results indicate (at least for my test) that Ballast is very well geared for an understanding of environment and context issues. Codes / site analysis and programming are also sufficiently covered, but seem less supported by the materials. lastly, building programming and analysis. This concept seems to be covered in some detail, but not at sufficient levels.
My conclusion is that Ballast is a great place to start, but supplemental information is recommended for anything regarding both building / site analysis and programming.
I have reviewed other posts regarding suggested resources from NCARB's list of recommended material, and it seems that the most successful for understanding these concepts are:
- Site planning and design handbook (2009),
- and problem seeking, an architectural programming primer (ed. 5).
I hope this helps.
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