I passed PDD this morning for my final exam. I know there are many, many, many posts like this, but I know I read all of them through the process to try and have a better understanding. So I will give my short breakdown just in case it helps anyone else. I am 35 and have worked in a firm for 16 years at this point. I did not go to college for architecture and was able to sit for the exams based on my work experience in lieu of education. It took me 2.5 years to pass all of the exams and I passed all 6 on the first try. I have a career, family, young kids, and a life that I also successfully balanced throughout this journey. I would study for one exam for a couple months, take the test then usually take a few months off to take care of life, etc., then back at it for the next exam. The order in which I took the exams was PA, PcM, PjM, CE, PPD, and lastly PDD. I chose PA first because it interested me the most and I knew that would help me stay focused. I saved PPD and PDD for last because I knew those would be the big ones for me. I used mostly Ballast for my study resources. PA I used strictly Ballast. PcM I used Ballast, the contracts, and briefly read AHPP (but didnt feel like AHPP did much for me personally in addition to Ballast). PjM I used Ballast and the contracts. CE I used strictly Ballast. PPD I used Ballast and Architects Studio Companion (I believe this is a great resource). And then for PDD I used only Ballast and my study notes from PPD. PA, PcM, PjM, and CE seemed pretty straight forward for me when I took the exams. PPD and PDD cover so much material that a lot of questions on the exams were not covered in my study resources, but was able to successfully get through it regardless.
The majority of people have negative reviews on Ballast, but it worked for me. The review manual is good in some places and horrible in other places. It was the Practice Problems and Practice Exams from Ballast that helped me tremendously. I believe that I could have gotten through PPD and PDD with just those and never open the review manual.
For me, doing practice problems and studying the accompanying commentary for each problem was crucial (regardless of what third party resource you may use). It really helped me understand the material better. I also believe that experience is a major variable when taking these exams. I have experienced a lot of the different aspects of this profession on the job and that knowledge is priceless. I say this because I think someone right out of school will probably have a different approach as someone who has been working in the field for 15 years. I won't say it's better or worse based on your experience, but I do believe the process will probably be different.
Lastly, good luck to everyone who is still on their own journey. There will be times that you think you will never get done, but just stick to it and it WILL happen.
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