PPD & PDD

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  • Avatar
    David Kaplan

    Brett,

    Make sure you can do the height/area calculations using Chapter 5 well.  Know how to navigate the Code - don't go in there having the code memorized but if you're asked a code question and they give you code excerpts, have the knowledge of what chapter you need to get the answer from. 

    Know how to calculate U- and R-values for a wall system and understand their relationship. 

    Practice the cost estimating sample questions in the ARE Handbook.  You're going to be asked to do this, and you better believe as well that it will include some sort of unit conversion from say square feet to square yards to get the answer.

    For PDD - really, really, really, really, really know your way around a set of construction documents.  Let's just make up an example: test asks you to identify the required ceiling height for something.  You're given a set of drawings and you need to find the ceiling height in there.  Know what drawings that would be on - and go into the exams with the understanding that it's likely either NOT going to be on the ceiling plan, they might not even GIVE you a ceiling plan, or you might have to navigate two drawings to find your answer and not just one.  Where else can you find it?  Have that knowledge.  Know as well that if an owner says "we're going to change this part of the design last minute" what drawings would get affected?  You should be able to have this sense of how design changes that occur during the CD phase affect drawings. 

    Last piece of advice I would offer to you is that, for me personally, I found that on both exams they gave me extraneous materials during the case studies.  There were documents I never opened once.  Trust that - it's intentional and the very point is that NCARB hopes you figure that out.  Certainly look over everything just to make sure, but don't freak out if you finish your test and find that you never used an item they gave you. 

  • Avatar
    Brett Spencer

    David,

    Thanks for the write-up.  Very much appreciated.  It's also refreshing to hear, I think I may be more prepared than I am giving myself credit for.  First time taking these two so I'm really not too sure what to expect.  But, this makes me feel better for sure. 

  • Avatar
    David Kaplan

    Brett,

    Not sure how long you've been working in a firm, but I really felt these two tests allowed my work experience to really come through.  Hopefully you will find the same. 

    I also forbid you to overstudy structural formulas.  Little to no pay-off and you will cloud your head with information that might help you out with 2-3 questions.  Know the very basics.

  • Avatar
    Brett Spencer

    I'm currently sitting at about 3 years of professional experience, most of my time spent in CD's.  Very confident in my ability to navigate through a CD set and am very comfortable with most details.

    And that's also good to hear, most of my time regarding structures has been spent understanding moment/shear diagrams.  Other than that, the equations are fairly straightforward for me; more so just understanding which equation applies to which scenario.  I'll just be sure to look out for converting units where it is need because it can be very easy to overlook!

  • Avatar
    Matthew Dirksen

    I recommend spending time inside the demo exam not to answer any of the questions (since you probably already have), but simply to closely examine all of the formulas, moment diagrams, and references that are available to you. Having just finished PPD & PDD this past month, I'm glad I spent time in there looking at what was going to be available. So when I dove into the exam, I already knew what was there so when I got a question, I popped the resources open.

    In total, I may have had a total of 12-18 questions which required calculations, and only a few might have been structurally related. And for my workflow, I wrote down the problem number on my scratch paper, then immediately skipped the question to save them to the end. I found it very easy to go back at the end to do all my calc's in a row (especially when I grouped them by "type". Those are the only questions that don't already have the answer staring right in front of me, so if I were to run out of time, I'd rather make sure all the other questions were complete first.

    Also, I noticed some of the details in PDD were not "perfect" by a longshot. I believe they probably did that on purpose so be careful at what you are looking at.

    Just remember that PPD is going to be more "general" or "bigger picture", and it very much overlaps with PA. 

    PDD is more "specific", overlapping a little with PPD. So when you study, keep that in mind.

    In hindsight, I think the biggest risk to preparing for these exams is getting too far into the weeds on any topic. I don't think I ever compiled more than a page or two of notes on any topic on either of these exams. ARE makes it very clear that they are examining our "applied knowledge", and not trying to make us regurgitate stuff. Unfortunately, most of the study habits of folks might be used to memorization, and not application.

    (and fwiw, the most "underrated" book to explore is the 2015 IBC WITH COMMENTARY. I found this book to be invaluable to my PPD/PDD studies. The commentary sections were incredibly helpful.)

     best of Luck!

  • Avatar
    Mariam Rafigh

     Thank you for your recommendations Matthew.  Where can one get access to 2015 IBC with commentary.  Is this accessible on line? My office has the latest codes books but they hold it in a locked room and not too many people have access to it.  If there is a site that provides access with a membership, it’d be great to know.

  • Avatar
    Matthew Dirksen

    Sure:

    https://shop.iccsafe.org/codes/2015-international-code-commentaries.html?format%5B0%5D=premiumACCESS+Subscription&format%5B1%5D=PDF+Download

    Our firm bought the PDF outright. I presume the "Subscription" might not only give you access to the pdf's, but they apparently have lots of informative videos as well. 

    Good Luck!

     

  • Avatar
    Domenico Piccininni

    Brett,

    Hope you did well on both your PPD & PDD.  i give you props for taking these exams back to back.  I was also thinking of studying for both and doing what you did, any advise you can give me.

    Thanks

  • Avatar
    David Kaplan

    Domenico,

    In case you haven't already seen it, I did the back-to-back method of taking PPD and PDD 10 days apart and posted my study approach for both on here.  Take a look, hopefully maybe that can help you.

     

  • Avatar
    Brett Spencer

    Hi Domenico,

    Definitely refer to David's approach outlined in his previous posts.  I used this and can confirm they are a solid study guide.

    As for my situation, I unfortunately did NOT pass either, but according to my score report I missed by only on section for each exam.  I allotted about 6 weeks for the two exams, and felt this was enough time for them.  The only area where I went wrong, is I focused too much of my time on the structural calculations.  I didn't memorize anything but went through several practice problems in my free time and in hindsight, this was not needed.  If I had put the same effort into studying materials that I did structures, I'm confident I would have passed both.

    In addition to David's study guide, Hyperfine was an interactive resource that I also found was very valuable.  The practice problems are straightforward but if offers a very good discussion across all types of content you'll see on the exam.

    Lastly, for this next round I bit the bullet and signed up for the Amber course.  My access starts this week so I can't comment on it extensively, but based on what I've read from others it is worth the investment.  Plus, if it works outs and you can get a group discount, it's cheaper than failing the exam and paying for the retake. 

  • Avatar
    Domenico Piccininni

    David,

    I just finished reading both your post regarding PPD & PDD, great write up's and helpful information. 

    Congratulations on finishing up the ARE, must have been an amazing feeling seeing that Pass.  I can't wait for that last drive home from the testing facility. I have passed PCM, PJM, & CE so far, so 1/2 way complete.  I just took & failed PA yesterday, really thought I had passed it....oh well, just need to keep moving forward.

    Once again, Thank You for your response and for the the information....Best of Luck to you!

  • Avatar
    Domenico Piccininni

    Brett,

    Thanks for the follow up.  I did review Davids post which I think will help me a ton. I have yet to schedule the exam dates, but will shortly.  I need a few days to regroup from my failed attempt at PA yesterday.

    Keep plugging along, best of luck to you with your remaining exams, keep us posted!

  • Avatar
    Alexander Gault

    Keep it up Brett! Just read through your journey. Im gearing up for PDD, but don't have PPD in the books. Would like to book it soon because everyone suggests the overlap but haven't yet. Also got Hyperfine today which seems to be the move here (& a great price). Im halfway done and used Designerhacks for Pjm, PcM, CE. I only like to have 1 third party resource going at a time. Theres already a ton of 1st party stuff I need to get through. Also Im trying to be active in the blog moving forward..

    Your write up about too many structures calcs is helpful to me. I tend to want all bases covered and but there's only so much time so I totally understand you saying maybe doing more materials (to clarify that do you mean building materials or just multiple choice concept material haha?)

    I know a lot of people do the regimented block study and pass both together and others struggle to just get over 1 of these monsters taking them many times. I am going in prepared and confident but low expectations, as long as I finish without the 5 year clock running out thats my goal (plenty of time in that matter). The simplest/best advice I've seen is "everyones different so do a personal approach" and "just keep going"

  • Avatar
    David Kaplan

    Alexander,

    I can't stress to you or anyone else enough - DO NOT WASTE YOUR TIME MEMORIZING AND RELEARNING STRUCTURAL FORMULAS.

    I went into these tests with knowing how to calculate shear and moment about points on a simple beam/load diagram (structures class 101).  Anything else, I said to hell with it.  If NCARB was going to ask me to calculate the reactions in a truss member, or size a steel beam, my plan was to say "10K" or "W18x35" right off the bat and just move on. 

    I personally did not have any questions at this level of structural detail.  The ones I had were at the basic level, and I had maybe 3 true structural calculations questions on my exam.  The rest of the structural questions were questions about systems, how buildings should be designed in harmony with the structure (particularly in seismic), how buildings react/deform under loading (wind), and what is the best system to use for these 3-4 conditions required for a project.  Maybe as well questions in the realm of "what happens if you were to reduce the amount of columns" or something like that. 

    I looked at it this way: let's say I'm dead wrong and there are questions on this test that say "find the section modulus of this steel beam."  Again, didn't happen to me, but I suppose it could and perhaps others can chime in and say yes or no.  I went in there saying "it'll be 2-3 questions at this level, no more."  I decided to bite that bullet, get those wrong, and focus my studying efforts on what really mattered for these tests.  There's only so much you can cram into your brain.  You gotta pick and choose your battles and decide what is the best return on your investment of time. 

    I'm happy to report my approach paid off.  Had no issues on my test, and the calculations I had to do I could either a) do or b) the equation was given to me and I was able to figure out where to plug numbers in to come up with what I felt was a reasonable/correct answer.  I put in my answer and moved on.  Passed both tests that way.

    Hope this helps!

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