Failed PPD - First fail



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    Cristina Martin (Edited )

    I hear you completely Elif.  I took PPD on Monday morning and was shocked when I failed.  I don't really think I could have studied anything in more depth... maybe it was the wording of the questions that threw me off, but can't say for sure. I have no clue and am at a loss as well.  I wish you luck on PDD and hope you rock it!

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    Elif Bayram

    Thanks Christina, sorry to hear that you also failed recently... I am not very hopeful of PDD but also don't think rescheduling is a good idea. Maybe it will be good to see the type of the questions especially after the shock that I had with PPD questions.

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    Malika Kirkling

    I'm continually very saddened to hear of the numbers of colleagues having trouble with both PPD and PDD. I recently retook PDD and passed on the second attempt and I've been tracking our PPD forums to gather knowledge from the experience of others. 

    What I appreciate about Elif's post is that in the end you came to a sentiment that you were frustrated that even though you had thoroughly prepared, that you felt you weren't prepared enough. Many others even though they're primarily frustrated with the exam structure, etc. don't come to these words in the end, but I think it's the same sentiment. People say, 'I've worked 20 years and studied for months and STILL have failed multiple times.'

    I think this proves the point that, to prepare for this exam is not the same as to be prepared to practice architecture, as many of us are already successfully doing this. 

    So I would said, based upon my eventual successes, this exam is not about testing your knowledge it's about about testing your thought process. The only way to prepare is to 1) gather the knowledge needed - which many of us seem to be doing well, but also 2) to exercise and train the thought process needed to tackle the questions. 

    The Understand and Apply (U/A) and Analyze and Evaluate (A/E) structure that's been added to 5.0 is really what I'm talking about here - the intentional overlay of 'cognitive complexity'. 

    With all that said, the only way for me to get through it has been to attempt to recreate all aspects of the exam taking experience, down to the visual formatting of the exam. When I take a practice exam at home, I use ear buds, wear similar clothing to what I'd wear at the exam center, give myself the same number of pencils, same size paper and I found the money to spend on the Black Spectacles practice exams. These have the same visual formatting of the actual exam and they offer multiple test formats so that when you re-try a practice exam, you're not repeating the same exam form and running the risk of remembering content from try-to-try. 

    Many in the forum find their videos to be quite generic, however I think it's a good baseline for further study; really what I want from them is their practice exams and flashcards which are quite challenging. They have professionals on staff who study exam questions and how they're written and when they write their practice questions, I find that it's exercising the cognitive areas that NCARB is expecting out of newly licensed architects. 

    PP2I's Ballast practice exams are also strong in their wording in terms of these goals, however their system has some glitches and I've been trying to work with their IT team on these issues. These glitches effect the scoring of their practice exams, but the questions are still useful. Their product also offers much better explanations of questions than Black Spectacles. So when you're reviewing things you've missed on a practice exam they're stronger, but in terms of visual formatting of the practice exam Black Spectacles is much better. 

    The other small tip that's helped me is 1) don't study the night before your test - a friend told me they don't study two days before! 2) make sure you can sit still at least 20min before they take you into the exam space 3) make sure you're calm as you read each question, that the question is clear to you before you answer it, and that you're confident in your answer when you make it. I had to develop this mantra over time after some soul-searching; calm, clarity, confidence - for each and every question no matter what. No panicking/rushing, no confusion, no second-guessing. Period.

    I hope some of this is helpful. Good luck to all of us.

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    Malika Kirkling

    P.S. When you miss a practice exam question, try to really understand why you've missed it. That's been helpful to me as well.

    Did I have the right answer then I changed my mind at the last minute? Did I simply not know the content? Did I misread the question? Was it an issue with my process of elimination strategy? Did I lose focus in the middle of answering the question and why? 

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    Elif Bayram

    Thanks Malika, congrats on PDD and I hope you pass PPD too. Good luck!

    The U/A and A/E type questions are what I loved at 5.0 version actually. I also think those questions apply real life experience very much and really helps us to become better architects. However, this test didn't feel like having so many of those type of questions, it rather felt like asking me to memorize stuff which is mostly pointless in real life. I am talking about IBC here btw, not ADA  cause I also believe knowing basic ADA dimension without checking the code is important and useful in real life. I know the systems as much as an architect should know, that was what I prepared for mostly but I don't know every little component of each system especially with the speed of technology nowadays, I don't think I am gonna be able to know it all. The level of detail that NCARB expected me to know for PPD made me think that it should be me who wasn't prepared enough but I also think Handbook is misleading for PPD. The sample questions in the Handbook for PPD is the reason why I am under prepared for this exam because I based my strategy on it. And passing all 4 exams before this at first try by using Handbook as the main reference proves that it was working. PPD having lowest passing rate also proves that NCARB should revise the Handbook section of PPD so we can have a better understanding. A significant number of people graduated form the top architectural schools of the country and of the world are failing PPD and PDD, there must be something wrong. I simply think a revision in Handbook regarding this two tests will solve this problem, correct expectations need to be set for test takers.

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    Malika Kirkling

    Thanks Elif, 

    What you say makes sense. On page 8 of the Handbook, with the cognitive pyramid, it says Remember is not used. So maybe there's something to glean from that as well. This test is far too vast, in terms of content, for the Handbook to cover. I'm not sure what's best to gather from PPD's section of the Handbook given what you've observed. 

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    Stephanie Clarkson

    I took PPD and PDD close together in January. They were my first 5.0 exams (transitioning from 4.0).

    I am an anxious test taker and was racked with nerves and lacked confidence going into PPD. I did not pass, and I was extremely gutted, I studied and studied and studied and felt like I didn't know most of the questions, and ran out of time and didn't even get to finish at least 15 questions.

    I considered putting off PDD, but decided since I would have to retake PPD, to just keep on studying. I was already studying the material, I knew I could pare down to just the PDD details and I went in to that exam with a test taking strategy and more confidence than I had previously. And I passed. That exam went so much better, I don't know if it is the material or my mindset, but I do offer the encouragement that you may be well prepared for PDD and after more time with the material you will knock down PPD later.

    I'm now scheduled to retake PPD on Monday and have been having a lot of difficulty to get motivated to restudy the material that I feel like I've been sitting with for months and months. This exam is tricky, and you have to really be able to read the questions carefully, absorb them, and apply them.

    You can do it, and you should be proud of yourself for how far you've come, without any fails thus far, it really is remarkable!


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    Elif Bayram

    Stephanie, thanks so much for writing this, this is exactly what I needed right now. I might admit that I also didn't have the highest self-esteem before going in PPD, I was scared to be honest! Probably passing rate being so low and me not having too much experience in mechanical systems and some of the structural systems were the two main reasons. No matter how much I studied, I couldn't build up the confidence. And for PDD, I think I have the same logic with you; I am gonna wait two months anyway and since they share a lot of study material, I might as well go experience PDD too. And hopefully this will give some relieve before the test. Stress also takes a lot from us, you panic and make mistakes.

    BUT, I am still studying intensely. I have 80 hours of study time left and I plan to:

    • Study AGS and MEEB in detail - 30-40 H
    • Master Format memorization - 2-4 H
    • Build Const Illustrated - (I read it and ASC for twice or three times before PPD, I lost track but...) 10 H
    • Building Codes Illustrated - 10 H
    • Go thru my AHPP notes- 2H
    • Review of a CD set - 4H 
    • Test taking - Designer Hacks, Ballast, etc...

    How does it sounds to you..? Please let me know if you have any other suggestions. Thanks so much again

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    Elina Chizmar


    Not sure if you are following the post any more but I just came across it as I too took PPD this morning and failed. I felt that my experience was very similar to yours in that the exam included a lot of material that was not outlined in the Handbook nor really any of the forum posts I had read. 

    Did you take PDD and how did you feel about it? I am scheduled to take PDD in 10 days but having failed PPD I am now wondering if I shouldn't reschedule it altogether. Would love to hear your experience.

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    Elif Bayram

    Sorry to hear about it Elina. Unfortunately I failed PDD too. However my exam report is not as bad as PPD and during the test I thought I might have a slight chance of pass but I failed. I think compared to PPD, PDD was easier cause it was more predictable. You can have a better guess about what to expect at test compared to PPD. I still think the Handbook is misleading for PPD and most of the comments here are too. PPD is an odd exam, a weird mixture of everything and anything and it measures your chance more than your knowledge. No matter how hard you study, it can go either way. That haphazardness is driving me crazy for the next try.

    I still think failing PPD doesn't necessarily means failing PDD too cause I am against the main opinion here: They are not as similar as people say they are. In a very general manner their context is similar and that is why reference matrix in Handbook shows almost exact references for this two however their scales are totally different. During PDD exam I felt like it is testing CD and CA phases of the project. So I would say focus your studies on those. Be familiar with section details of typical construction elements and types. Try to understand why all the elements are there and what is their purpose? This will make you become familiar with the jargon too which is very important. I had coordination related questions also  had more math questions at this one so expect some thermal value calculations, lighting calculations and moment calculations. I had quite few CE and PJM questions too and some budget questions which I have always felt comfortable so if you passed this exams I believe they will be easy for you too.

    I am looking for study partner for next time. Feel free to e-mail me if you are also planning to start studying soon maybe we can do it together.


    My goal is to pass this two during summer. Good luck with PDD! I hope you pass it!




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