Hey guys! I know a lot of you are struggling with what to study and how to study etc. I was in the same boat and heavily relied on reading all of these blog posts for any advice I could get. So I figured I'd give back and pass on all of my knowledge.
I started by deciding I was going to give myself 3 months of studying, every day, and committing to it. I had talked to several other friends who had failed the first try and most had suggested setting aside 3 months. I made a very strict study schedule, this way I knew exactly what needed to be studied and if I started to fall behind I could see just how far behind I was. Truth be told, I struggled the most studying after work and found myself playing catch up a lot during the weekends. I attached a screenshot of what my first month of my study schedule looked like for reference, obviously tweak it for yourself.
What I used:
- Ballast Review Manual
- AHPP 15th Edition
- Ballast Practice Problems
- Ballast Practice Exam
- Schiff-Hardin Lectures
Ballast Review Manual was an introduction only, do not rely on this book for anything more than that. The absolute must get and must read is AHPP 15th Edition (DO NOT get the student version or 14th), it's expensive, but without it there is no way I would have passed. I spent almost 2 out of the 3 months just studying that alone. From AHPP, I made flashcards for the ratio and equation things. I read that what was tripping most people up, so I made the extra effort to make flashcards. This helped SO MUCH! If I had to choose, I would say the most critical to know and understand are utilization rate, overhead, break even and net multiplier. I did buy the little Professional Practice book, but it was such a light read and such a review I wouldn't recommend even bothering. I did the Ballast Practice Problems and the Ballast Practice Exam, twice each. I did pretty poorly on them all four times. The issue with taking them more than once is I found myself questioning, "What was the answer I chose last time, and was it correct or not?" More than actually trying to understand the question itself. I would suggest only taking them once and then reread the solution explanations over to understand better. I bought DesignerHacks and took 4 practice exams. I found DH to be extremely helpful. Yes, it is WAY easier than the actual test, but seeing the questions and thinking things through helped me a lot. I listened to the Schiff-Hardin lectures for A201 and B101 and that was it. I listened to them on my commute to and from work, I never even actually laid eyes on the contracts themselves. If you can really listen to the lectures and not just let them go in one ear and out the other, they are honestly the best thing on planet earth. Lastly, the night before the exam, I read the study notes someone else had provided from their blog. They were about a dozen pages, and I spent a good hour or so just reading it through and verifying knowledge in my head. However, there were a couple points on those study notes that actually popped up on the test the next day and had I not looked over those study notes I would have had no idea.
During the test, I used the strikethrough tool a lot to eliminate unnecessary wording in problems or eliminating answers I knew weren't it. The wording is extremely difficult and will make you go crazy if you just try to reread the questions over and over. Of all the DesignerHacks exams I took, I always had an hour or so left, so I went into the exam not really worried about time. However, I ended up with only an hour left for the 2 case studies (10 questions each) and I thought to myself oh that's plenty of time.. then I ended up spending about 40-45 minutes on the first case study and really started freaking out (luckily my first one was way harder than the second). The case studies are very overwhelming so don't let yourself get burned out by the time you get to these. They will really test your mental stamina and organization. Just focus on what is actually being asked.. some of the resource tabs aren't even relevant, but more so there to throw you off.
My last bit of advice:
- know the difference in delivery methods
- know insurance, especially professional liability insurance
- know the ratios and equations I mentioned earlier
- know the legal terms/acts
- know who is responsible for a mistake if made by the architect or contractor or sub or owner etc.
Listen, I went into the test feeling 80% sure I was going to fail, so don't let yourself feel defeated if you aren't confident. Good luck everyone!
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