Passed PPD and PDD last week -- Done with ARE



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    Tasanee Durrett



    CONGRATS! It was so refreshing reading your post because I am too 25 and 3 years in! I'm taking PDD again for the 3rd time in October and feel as though I just need one more push to pass this one. I have read the NCARB recommended resources as well as Amber.  I bought the Architect's Handbook of Construction Detailing by David K. Ballast and dug up my old college Building Construction book to add to my study regimen. I'm also going to utilize AMBER again along with AGS and a plethora of practice exams that I've been using (I'm adding PPI practice exams this time).

    I am nervous about adding too many new resources for this go-round. Do you think that it is a better approach to stick to the NCARB resources or to add the 2 resources stated above? I'm also going to take a look at David Kaplan's post again as well.


    Thank you again for sharing your story!

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    David Kaplan

    Congrats Brett, glad that I was able to help!  Enjoy being done with this huge hurdle! 

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    Brett Spencer

    Hi Tasanee!

    I do think there is such a thing as overpreparing for the exams.  I even got to the point where I found there was some conflicting or unclear information between two texts.  I genuinely think if, for PDD especially, you focus on the first two sections of the Amber videos (thermal/systems, and construction/materials) coupled with BCI or Handbook of Construction Detailing, you will be in really good shape for the exam.

    What I've found too is when I plan to study too much material, and start to fall behind schedule or feel like I need to crunch, I add an extra layer of stress that is very unnecessary.  I would say focus on Amber and one of the detailing resources, then use the other resources for supplemental information in areas you may be struggling.  Don't stress yourself out too much if you don't get through everything.



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    Tasanee Durrett



    Thank you SO MUCH for your advice! I'm most definitely going to make a few updates to my schedule!

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    Vishwesh Panchal

    Hi Brett,

    Congratulations and very helpful post!

    I took PPD a week ago, my first attempt and unfortunately failed it. I am moving forward to PDD in a month and will come back to PPD later. I felt PPD was not that hard but more like PA 2.0. I felt like I overstudied for it  and didnt focus on understanding the main basic concepts. Can you share what resources you focused on PPD compared to PDD too? I have almost all the resources but just want to make sure I focus on the right ones and understand the main idea of the exam. I have Amber Videos, Pluralsight, Hyperfine, Building Const. Illustrated, Fundamentals of Building Const., Ballast and Designer Hacks.

    Also how detailed does PDD get in structures and codes compared to PPD? I am relying on Amber videos structures part for it and hoping that gets me covered.


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    Seth Wiley


    Same here.

    I passed PDD yesterday so am done with ARE.

    For people in the forum working on PPD & PPD, I found this book to very helpful:

    "Structural Load Determination: 2018 IBC and ASCA/SEI 7-16".

    I have not seen that book listed on anyone's study list, it is only about 75$, and it does a very good job of discerning between structural load analysis and detailing per IBC requirements VERSUS actual structural engineering (which is more overarching and comprehensive). So I found this book necessary for me to set the engineering principals I understand clearly within the framework of IBC requirements - which I believe is the most germane position for an architect to be in within current practice in the USA in my experience.

    Anyway, good luck to all.

    And congratulations to those who have passed.

    Onward to a better future. 

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    Brett Spencer

    Hi Vishwesh,

    Sorry for the delayed response -- been a fun week of celebrating haha.  Anyway, again I think the biggest difference maker for me were the Amber Videos.  I can't speak highly enough about them.  There was content in these videos I wouldn't have thought to focus on that helped me on the exam.  I'll also say, while it is worth review, do not spend too much time studying structures.  Trust me.  Between PPD and PDD I think I got maybe 5-6 structures questions in total.  I'd say two of them I put my hand up, got wrong and moved on, while the rest were very basic.

    My week between PPD and PDD really went as follows:

    1. Reviewing Amber videos ( I didn't watch all of them, just mostly focused on systems and construction materials)

    2. Ran through the Hyperfine assignments.  These were surprisingly helpful, especially just to understand basic concepts.

    3. Fundamentals of Building Construction -- this is a thick read, so I tried to only focus on a couple chapters that I needed more detail on i.e. window glass types and where to use them, different foundation types and where to use them, finishes, etc.  This was a good resource but again it's easy to get overwhelmed by it, so only use it as a supplemental resource.  Don't feel like if you don't read it it'll make or break you.

    4. Building Construction Illustrated -- This I reviewed the night before the exam.  I really just focused on details I knew I'd likely encounter on the exam i.e. curtain walls, flashing, parapets, etc.

    One thing I think I noticed while studying that frustrated me was how hyped up these exams actually are.  Sure, they are challenging and by no means a walk in the park, but this certainly added an extra level of anxiety to my studying that was all smoke and mirrors.  Truth be told, you've taken and passed exams before, so there is no reason you cannot pass these.  You know exactly what to expect.  There are going to be questions where you're scratching your head wondering where they got this question from and then there are going to be your softball questions that you can get right without much second thought.  Don't get too overwhelmed by study material and don't try to overprepare. 

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