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.
Project Planning & Design was my fifth (and seventh) exam, scheduled just two weeks after PA. In addition to the sources I looked at for PA, here's what I read for PPD: (adapted from Osman B, David K, and Adelina K)
Architect's Studio Companion
I obtained a copy of ASC through my university's online portal and read the entire book within one day. This is a must read. It provides great information on structural systems, mechanical systems, daylighting strategies, and egress, a lot of which ended up in my final PPD notes. ASC uses simple terminology and reductive diagrams, making the topics easy to understand and enjoyable to read. Highly recommend ASC - just be sure to skip the sections on the Canadian Building Code.
Building Construction Illustrated
I was also able to access this source through my university's online portal. I read the entire book, which took two days. This book provides great information on structural systems and thermal & moisture protection. This is another must read.
This document focuses on seismic design, and was another enjoyable read with explanatory language and simple diagrams. Focus on concepts of resonance, diaphragms, torsional forces, the three basic structural systems, seismically desirable characteristics, the four serious configurations (and their solutions), and the P-delta effect.
Building Codes Illustrated
This book was also available on my university's online portal. Codes are by no means a strength of mine, but I found this book easy to read as well. Focus on the following chapters:
- Chapter 3 - Use and Occupancy
- Chapter 5 - Building Heights and Areas
- Chapter 6 - Types of Construction
- Chapter 7 - Fire Resistive Construction
- Chapter 9 - Fire Protection Systems
- Chapter 10 - Means of Egress
Fundamentals of Building Construction
I used this book as a secondary source, and looked for information on VOCs, glazing, and finish materials. Building Construction Illustrated and FBC have a great deal of overlap, and would recommend using FBC just as a secondary source.
The exams have been updated to reflect IBC 2015. I scrolled through the document and learned how to read tables 1004.1.2, 503, 508.4, 601, 602. I highly suggest memorizing these table numbers for faster scrolling during the case studies.
* FBC, Building Codes Illustrated, and IBC 2015 took one day in total to read
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 Chapters 10-44 for PPD and PDD. (This took me three days)
After spending a little over a week reading these sources (and enjoying Christmas with family), I prepared a new set of PPD notes by organizing my notes from each of these books to fit in to the PPD specific section objectives. I also created more flashcards for pieces of information I felt I needed to memorize. The remaining few days were spent reviewing my flashcards and notes.
Though reading and preparing for 8-10 hours each day for two weeks was intense, I felt prepared for my exam. However, I did not pass PPD the first time around. I felt confident in my work, and only had 20 marked questions at the end of the exam (around 80/120 is considered passing, based on which form you receive). Thus, seeing "likely fail" at the end of the exam was quite a shock to me. Of the questions I was unsure about, almost all of them were either obscure systems or objects I'd never heard of before - things that simply did not show up in any of the sources I read. When I received my official score breakdown, there was no single topic I could focus on - just had to know everything better than I did the last time. The afternoon after my fail, I took some time to write "fail notes". These included topics I thought I needed to study more, obscure systems and objects to look up, and more things to memorize. Because I had PDD scheduled just one week later, I switched gears quickly to prepare for PDD, and ended up passing!
As I returned to school for the final semester of my B.Arch program in January, I had my focus set on the end of February, which was when I had scheduled my PPD retake. By NCARB mandate, I had to wait 60 days before retesting. However, I chose not to study during that first month. What had gotten me through 5/6 exams was short term memorization - there wasn't much I could 60 days out that would help me on the exam. In the 30 days leading up to the exam, I studied a little each day, and ramped up to 3-4 hours a day in the last 10 days. I passed PPD on the second try. Here's what I studied the second time around:
Architectural Graphic Standards
AGS is very similar to BCI. Since I already had notes from BCI, I used AGS just to supplement gaps in my BCI notes, focusing on acoustics and lighting.
Like AGS, I used MEEB only to supplement my existing notes on acoustics and lighting.
In preparation for my second PPD, I decided to subscribe to Black Spectacles for one month. Because I prefer practice questions when testing my knowledge, I found their practice exams very helpful. While these questions are not nearly as hard or time consuming as those on the real exam, the Black Spectacles practice exams are much better aligned to the actual exam than Designer Hacks. I practiced each exam about four times, until I had basically memorized all of the questions. I also watched all of the PPD videos. Do yourself a favor and watch these videos on 2x or 1.5x with the captions on - 30 hours of video footage is a lot to get through. I often watched these while cooking, washing dishes, or doing other homework. Whenever something new or important came up, I paused the video and typed that information in to supplement my notes. If you enjoy practice questions, I'd recommend Black Spectacles.
PPD is certainly one of the more difficult tests (PDD was the hardest for me). There is a broad range of content that is tested on this exam, from sustainability and site strategies, to code, to selecting building systems, and even to early construction details. Be prepared to spend a bit more time on the case studies than some of the other exams. Questions which ask you about something you've never heard of are inevitable. Just remember that the cut score allows you to pass with about 1/3 of the questions incorrect. Spend your time and energy on the questions you know, not the ones you don't know.
Happy studying! Let me know if you have any questions - more than happy to comment back with additional information!
Check out my other posts!
Please sign in to leave a comment.