PA failed again. I'm so confused..



  • Avatar
    Oscar Garcia

    Failing is being normal for me,
    But the difference between failure and success is this: One more attempt.
    BLACKSPECTACLES, For some people Blackspectacle readings are boring. But not for me. In my opinion this teacher draws very well the Main Picture of each ARE Division.
    The most useful for me has been to take the Blackspectacle exams. Again and again, many times. They also present you the exam in the same screen design that you will have in Prometric.
    Blackspectacles does not reach the level of complexity appropriate in their Studio Cases, but even so I think they show very well how to face them.
    I like Designer Hacks, I've used it too.
    Ballast is a bit exasperating for me ... but I feel like 35% - 40% of the exam is there ... just that, but that is necessary to pass.
    Luck! Insist, insist, everything is about resistance.

  • Avatar
    Stephen Starks


    Don't get discouraged, these tests are designed to be difficult... unnecessarily difficult at times.

    Concerning tutoring / instructors: I hear a lot of good things about the black spectacles courses, but have never tried them due to budget concerns. Others on this forum post about similar sources so that is another good research aid.

    I am noticing your material seems to lack one key component, the architect's handbook for professional practice (refer to the resource matrix at the back of the NCARB handbook). This book is referenced into every test division of the ARE 5.0 and may provide you with the extra edge to beat this exam. I am about to go through this resource myself.

    Don't get swamped with this exam. If you take and pass a different exam to get the ball rolling that is a good moral booster.

    Also, remember that your exam pass / fail experience has no bearing whatsoever on your value as a person. You, as a human, have the ability to adapt yourself to challenges and can accomplish great things through perseverance, patience, and reasoning... you graduated college with a 5 year bachelors in a difficult subject after all! These exams are beatable, and you can beat them.

    Good luck.

    (Galatians 6:9).

  • Avatar
    Sogol Alesafar


    Sorry to hear that! Failing an exam more than once is pretty frustrating. It happened to me on my PPP exam from ARE 4.0! I failed it twice but it was time for me to switch to 5.0 so I did. First of all, if I were you, maybe after failing an exam twice, instead of waiting two months and studying the same stuff over and over again, I'd jump onto a different exam and get back to this one afterwards. When I switched to 5.0 I started with PA as my first exam since I thought it had a lot of overlap with PPP. I took my PA last week and thank god I passed. My strategy was slightly different than what I had done previously since after some research I noticed there are A LOT of study materials and this exam covers just so many topics that I couldn't reasonably study for in a couple of months. I don't see studying and memorizing everything being a key here, you really have to make sure you understand the big picture concept and only memorize a few things (maybe on soils, ADA etc.). I first went through black spectacle & ballast and once I had a good understanding of the topics that weren't fully covered on those, I chose parts and pieces from other books to study for those which I'll mention below. I'd say Black Spectacle has been the most helpful to me, it pretty much covers if not all, most topics for the exam. I recommend investing in Black Spectacle if your company doesn't have a subscription already, make sure you listen to/ watch the videos and definitely do the practice exams few weeks before your actual exam day. Even though actual exam questions are more time consuming and difficult, I think this prepare you for the exam a bit since it's almost the same interface and format as the actual test. 

    Disclaimer: This is by no means a comprehensive list of study materials, these are just what happened to work for me with the knowledge I already had from work experience and my past exams (CDS & PPP)

    1-Black Spectacle:videos & exams (I personally didn’t get to study much of the flash cards)

    2-SPD Book:I only studied Ch#7 & Appandix A due to lack of time

    3-Ballast : PA chapters & chapters 12, 14 & 21 from PPD, practice problems, practice exams

    4- Historic preservation à I used this document that someone had posted here before:

    5-Code à definitely know how to navigate through IBC and which chapters you need for which topic, chapter 3,5,6,10,11

    6-ARE 5.0 handbook & Demonstration Exam on NCARB (only few questions are for PA)


    8-Make sure u know unit conversion such as acre to sf, cubic yard to cubic ft etc.

    9-Birghtwood: I only went through the questions at the end of each chapter

    10-AEP :This third party material was OK, I could listen to the audio on my daily commute. Not super in-depth information but some good overview of the topics.

    Hope this helps!

    Good Luck!

  • Avatar
    Seth Wiley

    Daniel. Sorry to hear. Search new posts. I just posted me study notes. Maybe that will help you. Good luck. Don't give up. Take a break, chill, catch your breath, but don't give up. -Seth

  • Avatar
    Daniel Lee

    Hello All

    Thank you so much for your words of encouragement. I won't back down, and I think I will start studying for a different test, probably PcM! 

    A couple of questions regarding your posts:

    1. I noticed that many of you guys recommend Black Spectacles. I am a little torn because I would like to sign up for a subscription but many people on this forum complained about the materials and contents of Black Spectacles. Many people said the contents are broad and not very helpful, while others stated that it gave them that final push to pass an exam. Is it really worth the money to sign up?

    2. As Sogol Alesafar have stated, I feel like the exams are more about how you can apply your knowledge, not about the actual trivia or knowledge of the subject. Therefore, I need a lesson on how to tackle these exam problems, rather than read one million pages of books. How do I study for this "application of knowledge"? Does Black Spectacles teach you how to approach problems such problems?

    3. I realized that many of the practice questions I studied for weren't even close to the actual test itself. Is there a reliable practice tests and questions I can study that correctly resembles that of the exams?


    Thank you so much for your replies!

  • Avatar
    Tony Young (Edited )

    I understand your frustration I am going through similar feelings.  I took PA for the first time 3wks ago after studying must for it.  I had previously taken PPD and PDD which I failed, so I am feel discourage with the exam as a whole.  I too feel like I have trouble with applying what I know to the exams, its like I know all the "information" but the question asked and makeup gets me and its like I can't figure our how to answer the questions correctly.  I hope to pass this exam in two more months when I am able to take it.

    I think Blackspectacles is good for becoming familiar with the exam.  The questions I would say are 90%similar to the exam although they don't have a lot of drag and drop problems which in my last test I had a lot of drag and drop questions.  If you have the means to get black spectacle I would say its something good to add to other study material and practice but not a sole source testing prep.

  • Avatar
    Rebecca Jacobs

    I have to say that, although I enjoyed watching the videos on Black Spectacles, I do not feel like they even came close to preparing me for the test which I failed. The sample tests were helpful to get you familiar with the test format however. But I think you have to pay extra for the practice exams. I agree with the people who said they felt the info in the videos was way too broad.  Also, I have reached out to the Black Spectacles helpline and have not gotten a response.  I feel like with the expensive price, there should be good support.  Just wanted to add my two cents.

  • Avatar
    Wendy Dyba

    I found that Pluralsight’s videos for this section were far more informative (and far cheaper) than black spectacles. They have a free trial, so you can see if worth it to you.

Please sign in to leave a comment.

Powered by Zendesk