ARE Review Blog



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    Brandon Estes (Edited )

    Having taken PDD once (and having not passed), my first thought is that the study material/method you outlined may not be sufficient.  That said, if you don't pass the first time don't get too stressed or depressed - it is a difficult and poorly designed exam.  Many people have trouble with it and I certainly do not trust NCRAB's published ~50% pass rate.  Also, the questions on the exam are much more complicated that what is on the website you linked in your initial comment.

    Two-thirds (2/3) of the effort required to pass all of these exams is figuring out how to take the exams: dissecting overly-complicated and often grammatically-incorrect questions, and deciphering diagrams that appear to be drawn by a toddler with a crayon.  On top of that, don't be surprised if your computer locks up, the exam crashes, or the server drops the connection.  If you have to wait more than 30 minutes for Prometric staff to "fix" the problem, you are entitled to a free re-take but it counts as one of the three during a 12-month period (I know, complete cr*p that we suffer when NCRAB can't implement an exam).  

    The remaining 1/3 is what the practice of architecture may have mirrored in the 19th and 20th centuries (the people who designed the exams probably passed the ARE in the 19th and 20th centuries).  In reality, you will never be confronted with the questions you must answer on the exam so don't go into the exam thinking logically - that will drive you crazy.  You must go into the exam with the mindset of demystifying the questions, pushing aside irrelevant info, and looking for word-clues.  Many of the questions relate to preventing water infiltration and/or fire and life safety in some way.  Isn't that why we build buildings - to protect us from the elements and to keep us safe?  There will be many WTF questions - one can simply not study for all the surprises you will encounter.  Make sure you are familiar with a set of construction drawings, details, sections, call-outs, etc. - you must know this.

    If you look at the comparison chart from ARE 4.0 to ARE 5.0, you will see the overlap between PPD and PDD - much of the same material.  However, for PDD you should study the material in detail (versus from a birds-eye view for PPD).  Study your HVAC, plumbing, building design and construction systems, and construction document and administration stuff and relate it to AGS while you do (hopefully AGS 12, since the "new" ARE 5.0 takes much from AGS 12), and perhaps Olin's Construction if you have a used copy laying around.  There are lots of graphic questions on PDD, many of which are frustratingly sub-par but come from obvious sources such as AGS 12, Olins, and ASC.  Some of the diagrams on the exams I have seen in books printed in the 1980's!

    I hope you pass, but keep in mind that if you struggle (and possibly don't pass), you have not failed!  You are learning.  My list of study materials for PDD is ASC, AGS 12, Olins, Building Construction and Codes Illustrated, MEEB, my 4.0 Ballast book + practice tests, and a couple other non-major textbooks that are out-of-print.  The materials and methods by which buildings are designed/built have not fundamentally changed in 100+ years.  NCRAB's ARE is the same exam it was 30 years ago, it's just reworded, reorganized, and now NCARB has a flashy website to make it all seem "new" and "exciting."  PDD is design development through construction admin.  An understanding of those two phases and the stuff in between will help you decide what to study. 

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    Elif Bayram


    I couldn't agree with Brandon more...I failed PPD and PDD once and those are my last exams remaining. First time around I read Architects Studio Companion, Building Construction Illustrated books twice and AGS once cover to cover, Ballast 5 chapters, watched Amber videos (didn't speak to me, I know some people love it though) and took Black Spectacles tests, Designer Hacks tests (few) and looked into Hyperfine assignments briefly (I didn't know about them until I had 2 weeks for PDD so time was not enough) and failed. I did bunch of other readings on top if this for PPD but same result there....However according to my test report I didn't fail PDD as bad as PPD so second time around I decided to really focus on it and hopefully tackle it next. For PPD, honestly I have no idea if I will pass it next time or the 6th time... Calling PPD and odd ball is an understatement, it is just...

    Anyhow, for PDD -even though I failed- I think:

    -Fundamentals of Building Construction

    -Heating, Cooling, Lighting,

    -Architectural Acoustics,

    -AGS, AGS, AGS...Take your time to review all the details if you can

    -IBC 2015 -I just subscribed for IBC commentary too, I think IBC was 40% of my PPD and 30% of my PDD tests, it almost felt like that was all NCARB cared during both tests. Building codes Illustrated is also a good book but I keep catching mathematical errors in it every time I read it, so not helping my OCD:)) But still good to read.

    -I haven't read yet but Olin's is in my to-read list too, many people recommends it for PDD

    - Definitely review ASC and BCI books too, but don't think they will be enough to do the trick if you don't have extensive experience in building systems and structures.

    - During PDD you will get some budget questions that requires basic math but numbers can be long and unnecessarily annoying, so very easy to make mistake with calculations -but I still see them as "easy ones"

    - Know master format sections and general CD process

    - Know typical ADA dimensions and unit conversions

    - If you can, have a good set of drawings and review it in detail, try to ask yourself questions like where can I find the wall finish of this room or ceiling height of this corridor, etc... Unfortunately get ready to deal with very low quality graphics and detail drawings through out the test. Think about it as part of your annual eye exam!  

    - Try to get familiar as much as you can with sustainable technologies and systems; green energy resources and their reflections in architectural,structural or mechanical systems. Try to look into not that common ones too.

    I know this is a very long list but I did not see any other solution for myself after failing first time. I hope it works! Good luck!

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