A little bit about myself - I am a 5th year B.Arch student, and will be graduating in May 2019. I have passed all six exams as an IPAL student over the past six months (read about IPAL here!). As I was preparing for the AREs, this discussion forum was extremely helpful in suggesting study strategies. However, preparing for these exams was quite challenging, as many authors of these posts already had well established careers. As a student with just a few internships under my belt, and no full-time work experience, I could not always relate. I am writing this post to provide my study strategy and perspective on PjM and the other exams as an IPAL student. While I hope to reach other IPAL students and recent graduates, I hope everyone can find a helpful takeaway from this post.
Programming + Analysis was my fourth exam. After passing PcM, PjM, and CE within a span of three weeks, I took a three month break to focus on my fall semester courses. I scheduled PA in the first week of my winter break, and had five days to prepare. Within that time frame, this is what I read: (adapted from Osman B)
Site Planning and Design Handbook
Through my university, I was able to access a free online version of the Site Planning and Design Handbook. I read the entire book in one day, and found that all the chapters (aside from the first and last) were very applicable to the PA content, including information on site, landscape, and parking. This is a must read.
Sun, Wind, and Light
I was able to borrow this book at my university's art + architecture library. This book was great at explaining passive heating and cooling strategies, for standalone buildings and within an urban context. I read the following sections:
- Combining climate, program, and form
- Streets, open spaces, buildings
- Streets & buildings
- Open spaces & buildings
- Rooms & courtyards
I was also able to borrow this book at my university's art + architecture library. As suggested by Osman B, I only read the chapter on building efficiency. While this source certainly helped me clarify any lingering questions about efficiency calculation, I believe this material had already been covered in ASHPP and Ballast 4.0 (both of which I had studied for PcM, PjM, and CE). Overall, this is a good source, but not a critical source to your PA preparation.
I was able to access this document through my university's online portal. Read and memorize the general rules for ramps, walkways, handrails, and curb ramps, as well as general door approaches, turning space, and clear floor space. Questions on PA (PPD and PDD as well) that relate to ADA are often very straightforward, so just memorizing these standards will get you free points.
I purchased a Ballast 4.0 textbook from Amazon. Why a 4.0 textbook? At the time, the ARE 5.0 prep materials were limited and had mixed reviews on Amazon. While this textbook was organized based on the ARE 4.0 divisions, I used this conversion chart to figure out which 4.0 chapters would be applicable to each 5.0 exam. Ballast and other third-party materials are good as secondary sources. I'd recommend going through the abovementioned sources first, then reading these following chapters to clarify any lingering questions, or to fill out your notes:
- Chapter 2 - Environmental Analysis and Project Planning
- Chapter 3 - Building Programming
- Chapter 5 - Site Analysis and Design
*reading Sun, Wind, and Light, Problem Seeking, ADA 2010, and Ballast 4.0 took one day in total.
Like I've mentioned in previous posts, DH is helpful for those who like to test their knowledge actively by answering questions. By no means, however, are the DH questions close to the exam questions in terms of difficulty or format. If you are looking to take practice exams, I'd recommend Black Spectacles.
After spending two days reading these sources, I spent the third day compiling PA specific notes by organizing my notes from each of these books to fit in to the PA specific section objectives. I also created more flashcards for pieces of information I felt I needed to memorize (like the ADA standards). I spent the last two days reviewing my notes, going through flashcards, and taking Designer Hacks practice tests.
Reading, preparing and studying for about 8-10 hours each day for five days was a bit intense, but I actually felt this method worked well for me. I had some questions on the exam which were not represented in my notes or flashcards, but had been discussed in one of the books I read. I was able to manage my way around those questions because I had actually read those books just a few days prior. I'm not advocating for last minute studying for every situation, as slow and steady studying can work just as well - just wanted to put this out there to show that it can be done.
As for the exam itself, I thought PA was definitely one of the more manageable exams. All of the projects I've done in architecture school (that is, if the project brief was actually asking for a building, and not a formal, material, or drawing exploration) exist in the SD phase exclusively. So I have experience with PA concepts, just not in the working world. I had enough time to answer all the questions, review the marked questions, review the unmarked questions, and review the marked questions again.
Here are the topics that appeared the most:
- Environmental opportunities per climatic region
- Site and storm water management
- Passive heating and cooling strategies
- Parking requirements and design
- Topography and the efficacy of trees
- Historic preservation
- Building efficiency
- Determining the best orientation/location of a building on a site
- Determining the best location for a certain room or feature within/next to a building
Happy studying! Feel free to leave a comment below. I am more than happy to help out where I can.
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