PA Experience + Advice
I recently passed PA last week and have gained so much form this community, that I want to contribute and hopefully help someone preparing for PA. I will try to make it short and to the point:
- ALL NCARB PRIMARY RESOURCES (page 75 in NCARB Handbook) I highly recommend to read through the primary materials frist before going straight to 3rd party material, or you can go through primary and 3rd party simultaneously, as long as you really dig into what NCARB recommends. A lot of knowledge lies in these materials
- Building Codes Illustrated (cover to cover…do NOT skip the first coupkle of chapters like I first did! This has pertinent information on environmental context- very useful)
- Ballast ARE 5.0 Manual, Practice Exam, and Practice Problems (The PA and parts of PPD are very helpful in understanding information in terms of refreshing your mind on certain things and on understanding your weak areas. I went through the manual and took practice problems in between my reading…reading and testing in between became a great way for me to study—it may not be for everyone, but if you’re like me and cannot read for hours at a time, then this method might be for you)
- Hyperfine PPD/PDD (PPD and PA have quite a bit of overlap, so a lot of information from Ben Norkin’s assignments was extremely beneficial. I highly recommend and the material is affordable!)
- Designer Masterclass (PA exam was pretty good. This company also releases free cheat sheets every Monday. I have been printing these out and placing them in a binder. They are very simple and diagrammatic.)
- AMBER (Book and videos) I studied mostly the Site and Codes videos and the Site portion of the book. I love both the book and videos, however, if you do decide to invest in AMBER, I recommend teaming up with 5-6 others to save $200/month. Mike Ermann also has some free videos on YouTube.
- Architect Exam Prep (The PA Whole Enchilada was pretty spot on. I utilized this material in conjunction with the primary resources and the Online Multiple Choice Simulator. The Online Multiple Choice Simulator was the most helpful for me. I went through each problem and went back to the study guide whenever I got a problem wrong, to make sure I understood afterwards why I got it wrong, and why the right answer is the right answer. I then took the exam in whole about 2 weeks after and did way better then when I went through it slowly.
- Black Spectacles (Personally, I don’t gain anything form the videos. The exams are the highlight. They have 4 variations of exams for each division which is awesome for those of you who like to take multiple practice exams and study practice problems while studying.)
- Geotech Reports, Alta Maps, Civil Engineers etc. from work (This is very crucial to understanding the site and contextual aspect of this exam. Understanding how to read soil surveys and the characteristics of soil is very important. Don’t be afraid to print a copy of the geotech report from the project you’re currently working on. I did this and also spoke with one of my co-workers who is a Civil Engineer. This is prime time to really communicate with other disciplines that comprise your team on projects. Utilize this time!)
- Old 4.0 ballast/ PPI material ( SPD & PPP)
- Are 3.1 material (Pre-Design)
- Pace yourself and don’t overthink the questions.
- Make sure to read and re-read each question. I had to learn to filter through each one and find the essence of what the problem asked me.
- I personally go through the MC first, then the Case Studies, then take a break and come back to hit the ones that I flagged/ was unsure about.
- Utilize your scratch paper! I always write down the letter choices for MC when I’m stuck between 2 or 3 answers, and I right down why a certain answer wouldn’t be right. PROCESS OF ELIMINATION IS KEY.
- Eat a hearty breakfast and DO NOT STRESS. You know more than you know. Half the battle understanding the knowledge; the other half is understanding what is being asked of you.
- Never stop telling yourself that YOU’VE GOT THIS!!!
I have passed PcM, CE, + PA (I know a weird order!) Next is PPD and PDD, leaving PjM for last.
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