PDD PASS - Comments and Study approach
I feel very grateful to have passed this exam finally and have both the big exams, PPD and PDD finished. I have only one exam to go (CE, I just did them in order, nothing fancy here) and I want to have finished it about 2 months ago!
I usually try to keep my posts here only positive and I have only reviewed/shared my study tactics before in PPD. However, for this exam I feel compelled to share my experience again because even though I passed I still feel pretty poorly overall about the experience and I don't believe NCARB did a very good job with this exam's study materials. Hopefully, the comments I make below can help others to pass PDD.
First, let me get my complaint to NCARB out of the way. If you are just looking for some study tips, you could probably skip this section. My overall complaint is that within the last two exams, PPD and PDD the quality of the questions seemed a lot lower than my first 3 exams. PDD seemed to be worse than PPD this way. I had typos in several questions, and others were not clearly worded. I wrote the questions down that I felt this way about thinking I might be able to give feedback at the end, but I don't think I had that option. I didn't see it anyway. Especially when it's something as basic as a typo, how are we supposed to report these things? It would be nice if we could flag and leave comments based on question content to give feedback.
My second main issue was with the detail images shown and the case studies. When I was asked questions about details and construction drawings, the images were hard to read and I had to zoom frequently. This is more frustrating than it sounds because the case studies don't save your zoom preferences between questions so this was time consuming and tedious. Another example was with click and drag questions. A few times I thought I knew exactly where a symbol needed to be placed but it was difficult to be sure it was placed correctly because of too tight graphics/line weights. Some of the images just seemed to be drawn without line weights too, which made them difficult to interpret.
Lastly: the content. I'm not usually a "nobody told me this would be on the exam" kinda gal, but if I had failed this exam I would be very unhappy. I felt like only 1/3 of the questions were something I had seen in my materials. It seemed like my aptitude for solving logic puzzles was put to work more than my aptitude for knowing how to be an architect. I know logical thinking and problem solving is part of being an architect, but in previous tests PcM, PjM and PA I felt this was addressed appropriately, and in PDD I felt like I was guessing with context clues and had never encountered the content before. It didn't feel great. I wish I could say I passed this one because I knew my stuff, but I think I passed because I'm decent at test taking... I hope NCARB reviews this exam and does better in the future.
OKAY, TEST STUDY TIPS:
I used Ballast ARE book read all applicable chapters to PDD only, used Ballast practice questions and Ballast practic exam paired with Ching's construction illustrated. I am pretty okay at codes due to work experience, but if you don't understand building code well, get Ching's building code illustrated. Also, having taken PPD and PDD both now, DON'T study for them together if you don't have to for some wild reason. Not only does that sound like mild torture to me, but the levels they each address on a project are totally different in scale. One is definitely project set up at SD and DD and the other is more like redlining a CD set.
Review this Galvanic action chart and know what it means for metal to metal details: https://www.archtoolbox.com/materials-systems/metals/galvanicaction.html
Know acoustics. the types of unwanted sound, and applied solutions. EX. machine noises vs somebody on a microphone likely have different acoustic solutions.
Know concrete foundations/ general construction practices
Know general steel construction practice and connections
Know EVERYTHING about masonry. I didn't get a bunch of questions, but this isn't a tough category to know a lot about, but there is a lot to know about masonry construction that is very important.
Know graphic symbols, especially for trades that aren't architecture like electrical and mech.
Know you are smart and that having confidence in your abilities is just as important as studying!
Review all areas where flashing to prevent moisture is necessary. EX. parapets, windows, doors, other openings, decks, general top of wall and bottom of wall and middle of wall details, expansion joints.
Know how to do cost estimations at various levels (materials vs project line item). I had a lot of questions about this for which I did not appreciate how they were presented, worded, ect., but regardless, I had a lot of cost estimate questions.
Know how to read plan sets that aren't prepared by your own firm, and that are very busy with information, and are part of project types you've never worked on.
Know about fire ratings, and occupancy separations. Be able to read that chart in the IBC that tells you about fire ratings and occupancy separations with hourly ratings.
I didn't get any questions regarding this, but know about seismic stuff, that was all my friend who passed this exam could talk about said that I should study but since I got no questions regarding this I have to assume these exams vary quite a bit.
Know accessibility, ramp construction, door clearances. Again, I didn't get any questions about this (maybe 1) but everybody says this is important and its in a handbook example.
Know egress. Again, take note I got no questions about this, but everyone talks about this as something to study. These exams must vary quite a bit.
Know how to read an electrical line diagram? I don't even know what these are but I had a few questions about electrical systems that were extremely diagrammatic. A few too many if you ask me. Know how power gets into your building and the steps to convert it from the power line to a transformer to switchboards ect. I probably got these questions wrong, clearly...
Know structural? I got some (like.. 2) very basic questions about structural. I thought I'd have to solve for beam loads or moment on a beam or match a shear diagram to a lever arm, but nah. Some people have reported having a question like this (again, like 1) so, if this stuff scares you or you hate it, I'd say go study some electrical line diagrams and 'may the odds be ever in your favor' if you know what I mean...
That's all I have for now and I hope that helps! I will probably come back to this post a few times if anybody has some more specific questions to ask. Good luck out there and don't get discouraged!
Thank you for sharing your experience! I'm currently studying to take PDD in a couple of weeks and I've been following the advice I've seen repeatedly across this board to read Building Construction Illustrated from cover to cover. However, that book is so dense with information, I'm struggling to know which chapters and what information to really focus on and more actively study (rather than just read or skim). Are there specific chapters within BCI that you would recommend studying more thoroughly than the rest?
Try not to let the density of the pages overwhelm you at first for the BCI book. You don't need to read all the text, but review the detail drawings in the chapters and if you aren't sure or are curious about one, then dive into what is said or called out next to the detail. As for chapters, I don't have the book with me as I write, but I googled a chapter index and found one for the fourth addition. If the chapters aren't exactly the same, I'm sure they are similar in the 5th edition. See below:
Chapt 1-2: Bldg Site and the Bldg - study the basic soils info and slope information
Chapt 3: Foundations - know types of foundations, when to use them, how to insulate and waterproof/dampproof them
Chapt 4: Floor systems - Skip
Chapt 5: Wall systems - know where your WRB goes and any flashing details, otherwise skip
Chapt 6: Roof systems - Know flashing and parapet details
Chapt 7: Moisture & Thermal - review most everything unless already familiar
Chapt 8-10: Doors/Windows, Special Construction, Finish Work - Skip
Chapt 11: Mech & Electrical - review conceptually, know the typical symbols that represent these items
Chapt 12: Material notes - Skip
Appendixes - review anything that you are unfamiliar with here
Focus on metal, concrete and masonry construction and how these construction types make connections.
Hope that helps!
i just passed pdd on my first try and 100% absolutely agree with your assessment of it. i thought the questions were written by people who were drunk or who had stayed up all night. more than a few didn't make sense even after reading them multiple times. i also agree that previous exams were much tighter overall. this one had me fighting much more with the exam itself than with the knowledge and thinking involved.
Wow! What a great post! Thank you, Ariel. I have passed everything but PPD and PDD and I have failed PPD once. Your comments about the test questions being so poorly written worries me because I felt like that with all the tests I have taken so far. Mostly I have felt like there is a big disconnect between the study material and the test questions and I can't for the life of me understand why that is!! They say the questions are not meant to trick you but many times that is exactly what it feels like. There is so much information to study (and I don't mind studying!) that I wish the questions would focus on that study material. I have now taken 7 exams and each time I figured I failed miserably by the end. What is the point of that? Don't mean to be so negative. Good luck with CE. I just passed it last week after failing it once.
Thanks again for your post!
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