I took my last ARE, the PDD (4th attempt) last Friday and got the official pass late Sunday! I texted my husband “Yo Adrian, I did it!”
My journey started 20yrs ago - I wanted to learn and experience all aspects of architecture, including owners rep and construction management. I don’t regret delaying licensure because finishing the ARE’s now with a village encouraging me has made this journey into many indescribable blessings!
And as a mom of two (1 teen and 1 in ES), I was able to quit work 2 yrs ago to focus on balancing family time and completing my ARE’s. So many thanks to all the blog posts that helped me to complete my ARE’s. I want to also note that NCARB did a great job with the 5.0.
I started in April 2017 by mapping out a 1 yr calendar to finish the 4.0. I stuck to a daily routine of making breakfast, getting my boys out the door, then sitting with my coffee and books - reading 2 hrs from Ballast, taking notes, researching topics online, and covering the NCARB description for each exam. Then wrapping up my day with chores and prepping dinner before my boys arrived. I was successful with my month to month passes, except when I got to Structural Systems.
In hindsight, I gained more understanding through the 3x I failed. So, I transitioned to the 5.0 on July 2018 and prepped to take PPD & PDD. I passed PPD last August on my first attempt (read the Architects Studio Companion & practice mocks). I could not pass PDD, even after my 3rd attempt.
Thank God for the Bklyn AIA - they reached out to me and recommended I join the Bklyn Emerging Professionals (BEP) weekly study group. If that wasn’t Divine intervention, I also found a study partner thanks to BEP!
Here’s my approach for this PDD pass (& also prior passes). The biggest change was that I also studied PDD with the AIA/BEP & met with my study partner regularly.
1) always start each exam prep by checking into NCARB’s handbook. Cut and paste their summary statement and bullet points as your base reference to cover.
2) pull your study material together - Ballast (read it all and take notes), Bldg Fundamentals or Olin’s Construction (my Bldg Fundamentals was so old, I used the Olin’s), MEEB (review electrical and mechanical risers/systems and peruse lighting), code (chapters 3,5,6,10 & fire safety, ANSI accessibility), and fully read Ching’s Bldg Construction Illustrated. The text have no hierarchy, but read those notes, it will help you. Listen to the contracts from Schiff Harden, esp the major ones (a week prior the intense study period), I skimmed through the Brightwood (I took PPD first, so be sure to finish reading Architects Studio Companion to understand all building systems).
3) create your OWN summary sheets (one pagers) for each topic category from NCARB - i.e. Construction Documents summary sheet must include specifications breakdown, Project Manual, what General Conditions is vs General Requirements Fromm spec Div 01, etc.
4) Mock tests - I practiced Ballast full mock test after completing the readings. Where I fell short, I researched and ‘dug deeper’ into related sources google had. I also practiced Gang Chen mock with my study partner going through 10 questions per week with research after each weeks ‘wrongs’. Then I retook the full mock three days before the exam.
5) Pick a study course and do all the assignments. Whether Designer Hacks or Hyperfine or Young Architects. For me, it was understanding the question and discussing the reasons for how an architect would answer it. That ‘discussion’ helped me to put my studies into practice.
6) BEFORE I started my 3 week intense study leading towards the exam date, I updated the word doc I created from #1 above and also created a spreadsheet to track my progress and stay on track of my assignments to cover the main textbooks like Ballast/Brightwood. I broke it down by chapters. Make sure you check the subjects from the bullet points and cover all topics.
7) week leading up to exam day - salmon and blueberries were my lunch go to’s. Hey whatever helps those neurons! Get 8 hours of sleep each night. I like morning exams because that’s when my brain’s alert, so after my omelet & coffee, I walked over to Prometric with my cough drops, banana, nutty/sweet snack, and my ID. I had to open the cough drops and leave them on their tissue...it helped every hour to remind myself to not dwell on a calculation or confusing question. MOVE ON! I did the short answers first, saving 2:15 for the case study & took my break - I read the case studies before going on break so I can think about it. Some case study questions don’t require the reference, so always read the question first, could save you an extra 5 minutes! I finished with 10 minutes to spare and reviewed some marked questions.
Don’t fret over the fails. If I can do it, you can too. After each fail I learned to focus on my shortcomings and now they’re my strengths. All the best, cheers!
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