PPD/PDD Recommended Study Schedule



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    Beatriz Santos (Edited )


    I am currently studying to take PPD and PDD, and while I cannot attest to passing the exam yet, I have gathered a list of resources that I am currently studying, based on other posts and on the recommended study material matrix.

    1) Architecture Studio Companion (2,3,4)

    2) Site Planning (7,8,10)

    3) Building Codes Illustrated (3,5,6,7,9,10)

    4) FEMA (4,5)

    5) Building Construction Illustrated (3,4,5,6,7,11)

    6) IBC (3,5,10)

    7) ADA

    8) Fundamentals of Building Construction

    9) Architectural Graphic Standards

    The only third party resources I have used for previous exams is Ballast and the free sample questions from Designer Hacks. What I have read from people that have passed is that third party material is not as useful for these exams because they're so broad. Hope my list can help. 

    Best of Luck!


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    David Kaplan


    ^^^I like this list above too, that's about what I used as well.  I found Architect's Studio Companion to be invaluable, and the FEMA guide was especially helpful for seismic design.  This, coupled with the list you already have, I think makes for a solid approach.  I did the method of taking PPD and PDD ten days apart and it worked for me, I passed both. 

    Best of luck!

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    Sakina Dahodwala

    Thank You Beatriz and David! Your feedback is invaluable.

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    Ronaldo Guimaraes

    David and everyone else.

    I am studying for PPD and one of the material I am using is the Ballast book ARE 5 Review Manual.

    Would you have any suggestion to alternative material regarding sustainable design? 

    Based on the Ballast material chapter 13 it seems to be too boring and I cannot see any sense on the material presented that could be applied to the exams. Some useful info, however not practical.

    Any guidance is welcome.

    Thank you very much.




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    Nicholas Civitano


    Besides your list, David and Beatriz make good suggestions. I felt that Fundamentals of building construction and architectural graphic standards as well as MEEB helped me put it over the top for PPD, they are probably even better for PDD. MEEB especially is a very large book that often goes into much more detail than you need to but its great as a supplement to read up more on the specifics of building systems, building envelope design, lighting , acoustics etc

    Ronaldo- for sustainable design I read parts of arch studio companion, building construction illustrated, MEEB, Ballast, site planning and design handbook, parts of Sun wind and light and parts of Arch graphics standards. Youll notice the AREs are primarily concerned with siting a building in terms of sunlight for both daylight and thermal protection and for protection from or exposure to wind, secondarily it focuses on dust protection noise pollution.. Lots of factors here; topography, vegetation , geographic location i.e. both location in the country for climate type and location on a site. This interactions between site and building can be in relation to topography or other natural or man made features like lakes, buildings, parking lots or roads etc.

    The questions will usually be more in depth than just asking about one factor so its good to read up and understand how the building shape and design interact with the land in every climate.

    Good luck !

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    Ronaldo Guimaraes

    Thanks Nicholas for the guidance.



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    Eric Mortensen

    Hi all,

    I noticed that both Building Construction Illustrated and Building Structures Illustrated by Ching are listed on the study lists above. What is the difference between the two? Trying to decide if I need to buy both - thanks!

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    Nicholas Civitano

    No problem Ron  good luck my friend.



    Building Construction illustrated is highly rated because it gives a concise 1 to 2 page summary of essentially everything on PPD and PDD. Building Structures illustrated is essentially a whole book devoted to just the structures parts. In depth on types of foundations, floor systems, lateral and vertical resistance systems, columns, seismic, wind design, planning, grids layouts etc. I highly recommend it for PPD and PDD. I learned the basics of lateral resistance systems and wind and seismic from FEMA but this book goes into much more detail and really helps to explain some concepts which may be hard to understand. I think you can buy it on amazon for pretty cheap. now Building Structures by Ambrose is a super detailed structures book which is called out by NCARB as a main resource. It was also very helpful, as was Fundamentals of Building Con and Arch Graphic standards to digesting all the structural aspects. However, if I was going to get only a few books for PPD or PDD it would be :


    Fundamentals of Building construction

    Building Construction illus.

    Building Structures illus.

    Arch Studio Companion - Like BCI but for building systems and partially structures. -- Great!

    Arch Graphic Standards - I had the student edition because the other one was way more expensive after the thousands I probably spent on material


    IBC / ADA (Free)

    Historic Preservation (NPS Website, free)

    FEMA docs (free)

    ARE 4 Sample study guides and practice questions (Free, and I probably took these practice tests 4 or 5 times each)

    - tons of youtube searches (free)


    Secondarily I would read / get

    --Site Planning and Design Handbook (material is often covered in the other books, it is much more landscape focused than the AREs are)

    --Sun, Wind and Light - Great information organized in a way which makes it difficult to sit down and "study" NCARB def. pulls questions from this though

    -- Building Structures by Amrose- Great but super detailed and the other books are much more digestible

    -- Programming Primer by Pena- Good for the Net assignable  / Gross SF stuff and more of the planning side of things, but not necessary

    -- Ballast 5.0- Practice Exam and Problems were good to have, I usually got around 55-60% on the first pass and subsequently after taking the exam and practice problems once every few weeks I got high 70sto high 80s% on them. For PPD and PDD take all of the PA, CE PPD and PDD exams, the ballast stuff is not organized correctly for the division breakdown. The review manual was also good as something to grab that covered everything a little bit. 


    Probably forgetting some stuff but that's pretty close. It's hard to tell what you "need" and what is nice to have. Ideally, the more materials you have the easier it can be. Sometimes the options paralysis kicks in and you don't study any of them in enough detail. I personally tried to buy as few things as possible for each exam and add as necessary. I bought a few at the start like Ballast, AHPP, and some of the smaller books for PJM and PCM and was able to get through PJM PCM CE and PA without anything else that wasn't free online.  You could probably get away with MEEB, Fundamentals AHPP and the IBC / ADA books for every single ARE 5 exam, but for my 3rd try at PPD it was biting the bullet and buying and/or reading  Fundamentals, MEEB Buildign con illusI, Building Structures illus, Building Codes illustrated, Building Structures, ASC, AGS, Site planning, Sun wind and light, Fema, IBC, ADA, Ballast, and trying both Designer hacks and Black Specs for a month. Definitely was not impressed with either Black specs or Designer hacks, you're better off with the books.

    I guess this was the most roundabout way to answer your question, if I HAD to only get one of the Ching books it would be Building Construction Illustrated because it covers everything in a pretty good way, Structures illus just covers structures.

    Good luck!

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    Samantha Stanfield

    When you talk about FEMA, could you be more specific on the documents that you reviewed? I tried navigating the FEMA website but they have hundreds of docs and I am having a hard time. Thank you!

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    Nicholas Civitano

    If you google "FEMA 454" it should pop up. The other two FEMA docs I have are older AIA books called "Buildings at Risk" Theres one called Wind Design Basics for Practicing Architects and one called Seismic Design Basics for Practicing Architects. The seismic one is the basis for FEMA 454 and that is more updated and easier to read. The wind design one was still helpful in understanding the effect on buildings / wind pressure etc.

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    Samantha Stanfield

    Thank you very much! I really appreciate it!

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    David Kaplan

    Samantha - can't recommend FEMA 454 enough - specifically Chapters 4 and 5 are what I covered.  I really liked this document.  Easy to understand, great pictures, great diagrams that all show how earthquakes can damage buildings and what we can do to plan our buildings with proper lateral design.  I didn't read the wind document because I didn't know FEMA had one!  Wish I had.  I'd recommend that too.  I ended up reading an old Ballast 4.0 book from the Structural Systems test, and it covered wind design pretty well. 

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    Eric Mortensen

    Nicholas - you're awesome, thanks for the response! Yeah I knocked out PcM, PjM, & CE with nothing more than AHPP and the Schiff Hardin lectures, then got PA done with Site Planning & Design and Chings Codes Illustrated with IBC. Was nice to have just two resources max to study from - the amount of study material for these last two, I must say, is a bit overwhelming. I think hearing that its good not to spread myself over too many books is wise advice. Just got MEEB, Chings Construction, Fundamentals, ASC, and AGS off Amazon, NOW FOR IT!

    P.S. Thanks for all your comments - I've been following you on here and you've helped immeasurably with those first four tests, thanks! 

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    Nicholas Civitano (Edited )

    Hey Eric, no problem very glad I can be of some help through the process... this forum helped me a lot and thats what its all about. The exams are not easy but knowing theres a good support group and a bunch of others going through it and passing is awesome to keep you motivated.

    Especially for Ppd and Pdd which are definitely a step into the big leagues compared to some of the other exams. Just the length of the exam and trying to maintain laser focus for 4 hours is hard enough! Best advice I got for these tests were from both my wife and my dad when I would say what happens if I fail PPD again and they would say, "Then you just take it again and again until you do pass." Sure enough, I failed twice but did pass on the third try.

    Since I passed all my exams and am all but licensed (waiting on Ncarb amd my state board still) I have told a lot of people I finished and will now be a licensed architect, not one asked me how many tries PPD took.

    Anyway, once you realize that all you gotta do is keep studying and taking these and youll eventually pass it just becomes routine and it will happen.

    Good luck and let me know if I can be of any more assistance!

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