Third time is the charm, as they say...but it might have been 4th or 5th or 9th time is the charm with Ppd...
Sitting at the airport bar enjoying a Macallan and a beer before I head back to my island... I think it was Mr Flandercai who said to celebrate with rhe booze and he was absolutely spot on...what a relief after failing this last test twice before finally getting it on my third crack... I have to say that for once I am proud of myself, this process is real folks, it absolutely is a rite of passage . After passing PJM, PCM, CE and Pa in that order and then failing Ppd, passing Pdd failing Ppd and now passing I cant believe I am done in almost exactly 11 months.
The proctor asked how I felt after I was checking out for the last time and the only thing I could mutter was.. "kinda numb". Please, please, please dont give up, its doable albeit painful, discouraging, frustrating, silly, exciting, fun, etc etc... I was fully prepared for 2 to 3 more tries at this exam.. it could have gone either way.
I will post a drive or dropbox link to my notes and materials that are not copyrighted if anyone is interested tommorow, hopefully they help everyone on this journey.
Quickly: Ppd is the hardest test, dont get fooled, dont under prepare, dont be cocky like I was. After taking it 3 times I can say the content is just so varied that it is really, really difficult to study for and the questions are just...hard. You need alot of study, knowledge and a little bit of luck to pass.
I'd say after 2 previous tries I had roughly 30 to 35 questions I had before, mostly ones I didnt think I knew great anyway, but it was nice to see some familiar topics. That being said dont wait for retakes too long, take advantage of the opportunity to get some familiar questions..
Besides that maybe 40 questions were "easy" after my studies i.e. I was able to eliminate enough answers to get it down to one choice, about 40 were 50/50 and 40 were where I needed to dig deep into my studies, work experience and soul to grind out... if you think about it that right there should give me roughly 60 correct answers which means I only needed to get around 15 to 20 of those really hard ones right to pull through.. of course that is pseudo math / hope / desperation thinking but thats how I thought about it. I reached the case studies with 2 hours left and at the end had maybe 20 questions marked with 40 minutes to go. Submitted with about 8 minutes left after careful analysis of the marked questions. Felt it could go eirher way but also felt like I had a good shot.. saw the pass, shed a tear and bid the Prometric Honolulu a final adieu...
Little background study info.....
After my first attempt of Ppd I only studied for about 2 weeks, which is about how much I studied for my first 4 exams and after passing 4 for 4 thats all i needed to study right? Wrong... way way eay way wrong l.. I then took Pdd 2 weeks later as was recommended by many and passed on the first shot. But the worst mistake I made was convincing myself that I just got unlucky and a bad version of the test.. I only studied about 2 weeks for my retake, which I figured was about 4 weeks of prep between Ppd and Pdd and their overlapping content, naturally I failed and was devastated.
Fast forward 4 months, I decided that really, I just didnt study enough, that to pass Ppd you need to be Very, very proficient in the many areas it covers codes, structures, hvac, electrical, lightings, site design, ada, forces, seismic, wind, costing, programming, proxemics, historic pres, adaptive reuse, materials, etc etc etc. I studied more for this third retake than I did for my previous 5 exams and 2 attempts of Ppd for a total of 7 exams, maybe around 8 weeks of fairly intensive study on top of the 6 weeks of ppd and Pdd study I had previously done. If I had to estimate Id say I studied for this 3rd try about 300 hours. I got lucky and had roughly 6 weeks of fairly slow time between my own jobs and the small firm I work at so I was able to study alot, because thats what it takes. To be completely honest, I actually really enjoyed most of the studying, I learned more in the prep for these exams than I did in my 4 years as a grad student, and much of my time working. I am absolutely more prepared to put my name on plans.
However Id like to tell Ncarb that something is mixed up with Ppd and pdd... the content is just too broad for one exam. I forget who said it but the Ares could be easily made into 3 or 4 exams and still cover everything. I think Ncarb did a very good job with the question types on Pjm, Pcm and Ce but Ppd Pdd and Pa need to be revamped with the other exams... Ce and Pjm seemed too narrow and Ppd and Pdd were just nuts in terms of what you needed to cover for one test... Pcm and Pjm should be one 120 question test, Pdd and Ce should be made into one and take the conceptual ppd stuff outnof Pdd and Pa and Ppd need to be split into 3... or, I think it would really, really benefit Ncarb and the candidates to have some more standardized study info. It is literally like a black hole when you study and take this exam.
I had questions from everywhere, and even though I studied so much I felt like the questions were even harder than my previous attemps. This time I had maybe 2 questions on Hvac, one on lighting , 3 or 4 on plumbing, 3 or 4 on seismic and wind, which I spent the majority of my studies on but a lot on graffiti, adaptive reuse, site design, parking and codes etc. Im all for a difficult exam but sometimes the situational and multi faceted questions leave you more confused about the instructions on the question or what is really important. That being said... read the questions, 2 , 3, 5 times is necessary. Look for the leading words of what is the most important, sometimes all 4 orn5 or choices may be right but only 1 or 2 or 3 or 4 actually are "affordable" or "sustainable" or "part of the program".
All in all I can say that the overall experience was positive, even though I was pulling out my hair the last few weeks studying, barely sleeping and emotionallyshot. Ncarb has done a great job with most of the exams. I think with some tweaking they are onto a great system, please listen to the candidates, some of our complaints are not merely frustration but are actually feedback to improve this profession we all love.
Another thought is maybe give partial credit by section so if you pass some of the 5 sections you dont have to Pass them again I know other professiobal exams do this.
NCARB has to remember we have to go through school and internship too so having the exams is just more expense and time to get to our end goal. Trust me I understand the significance of the stamp and what it means to public health and safety but the nature of the business is that we go through a process to be able to do what we do and most of us wouldn't start stamping plans until we knew we were ready and this last hurdle can be demoralizing.
Couple notes on study material: I know Mr. David Kaplan and others wouod disageee but do yourselves a favor and get MEEB. Its a tomb of sorrow to read but as a supplement to AGS, BCI, ASC, Ballast, etc it is nice to have to reinforce the concepts.
For this 3rd try here is what I did different:
I had Building construction illustrated and architect studio companion l, Fema, Ada 2010 and Ibc 2015 from the 1st try, these are excellent and should be primary resourdes to have for Pa ppd and pdd and or a reference in practice, however after 2 failed attempts I decided to go all out. I had Site Planning and design handbook and meeb from grad school so I incorporated those, for systems and site planning, I bought Building Structures, Sun wind and light, Arch graphics standards student ed 12, Fundamentals of building construction, building codes illustrated and building structures illustrated, which I never hear people talk about. Goes into way more detail than the other structures books besides Building Structures by Ambrose which is very detailed.
Overall, all of them had great points. Fundamentals of building construction is my favorite for Pdd and parts of Ppd, building structures illustrated helped the most with wind, seismic, lateral and vertical force resisting elements and general structural, Meeb with ASC helped with Hvac and meeb the most with lighting. AGS is a goof overview book and helped with Cpted , proxemics and as a verification of random things.
Sun wind and light is good info but man did I not enjoy reading it. It is organized in a bizarre fashion. You could probably get away with ASC, Meeb and Site planning and design instead.
Things I wished I studied more besides the big ones everyone knows about systems, hvac, light, acousics Ada and fha, codes and passive enviro design:
Dont forget, parking, streets and site placement, transformers, calculating electrical loads, Historic pres and adaptive reuse, geothermal, wayfinding, Cpted, proxemics, various sun charts, graffiti, egress and fire and egress and fire and egress oh and also fire and...egress.... also... study forces, not structures but forces... understand how and why forces occur when loads are applied to "imaginary" or hypothetical situations. 3 tests, 3 times unprepared for this. Like Pdd, know how to navigate plans quickly, i.e. known what elevation is what, when you need to look at a section or site plan to find info. Understand solar shading and site placement by climate.
Last thing.. If I redid this process I would do it different. I would start with one of the two easiest, PJM or CE, depending on where your work experience is. For me it would have been CE. Then I would study for about 8 solid weeks for PPD and PDD back to back with anout 2 weeks in between them. If you pass one or both, awesome! You're on your way and it will only get easier.. if you pass one, awesome study for a retake of one as you study for one of the others. Keep studying for retakes as necessary and take the other exams as you can. Hopefully you are left with Pjm or Ce or Pcm as a final exam instead of Ppd...
Apologies for typos, typing on a phone in between turbulence.
More soon, look for a link here after I sleep in for a bit tommorow...
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