I just passed my final exam PDD on Friday! I started my ARE journey May 2017. I was able to pass 5/6 exams on my first attempt. I got hung up on PDD and failed it twice before finally passing it on Friday! I spent 19 long weeks studying for PDD for the third time about 190 hours for my third attempt, about 280 hours for all 3 attempts). I think PPD and PDD are marathons not races, really giving yourself enough time to adequately prepare is extremely important. In addition there is a TON of information, giving yourself time to absorb it all and make connections between the different things you are learning is also really important. I studied consistently 1-2 hours a day for 19 weeks. I think the consistency and the short study intervals helped me be successful.
For my retake I went all out with study material, I used:
Young Architect Bootcamp: I previously used the Bootcamp when I started my exams in May 2017, I really believe Mike's approach to the exam lead me to be successful for my first 5 exams. After failing PDD for the second time I enrolled in the Bootcamp again which ultimately lead to my successful pass.
The Amber Book: Expensive but worth it, it's fun to watch the videos. Michael Ermann is a college professors and the videos definitely have a college lecture vibe which I enjoyed.
Architectural Detailing by Allen and Rand: I felt weak in detailing because I work in a mainly residential and small commercial firm. This book breaks down detailing really simply, maybe it's too simple, but it helped me understand the basics better. It's all about keeping water and moisture out, which in my opinion is mostly what NCARB is after.
Miltalski Structure Course: I think most of us feel like we could be better at structures. This course was designed for the ARE 4.0 structures exam (some of it is wayyyy advanced) but for about $100 for a month, it's a really good review on structures and seismic too. It also helps with detailing too, because you understand the structure better and therefore what loads a detail needs to resist.
Hyperfine: Ben put together the Hyperfine series after passing his ARE's last year. I found the questions to be a great way to learn because you have to find the answers. Ben is also very reachable by email or the ARE Facebook group if you have any questions.
Architectural Graphics Standards: I used this more during my first attempts at PDD although it's a great resource. Looking back I think it just gives you details but does not really explain why a detail is done in that way, you might realize later... like after a practice question that you miss... what the detail was really trying to get at.
Building Construction Illustrated: Similar to AGS, I used it more for my initial attempts. I used it more as a reference to supplement my other material for my final attempt.
The Architect's Studio Companion: I used it more for PPD, but some of the comparative charts are good to review for PDD.
Ballast ARE Review Manual: For previous tests I stayed away from Ballast, but I started using it as a reference and there is actually some good stuff. I really like the chapters on finishes. I thought the chapters on roofing and insulation were decent too. I definitely stayed away from the Ballast structure chapters.
Building Codes Illustrated: I used this for previous exams, but to be honest I am good with codes. My firm does lots of different types of projects, so I know lots of the code because I have had to apply it. My boss also has a special needs daughter so ADA is something we talk about all the time. If code is not something you are good at I would recommend this and Hyperfine as it makes you look through the code to find the answers.
Architect Exam Prep: I have not used it before, I purchased it as part of the Bootcamp. Some people love it, I am not one of them. I found the text too broad and I really struggled to listen to the audio. I know other people in the bootcamp thought it was a great overview and that's what they looked at to review before the exam. People also love the audio component for commuting, it just was not my thing.
Youtube: It's your friend, so many people have put together playlists for videos to study PDD. Marty Huie has a great series on Building Code. Black Spectacles has great short clips on different topics ( I only recommend the free youtube videos for BS, for the price they charge, I think there are other better resources out there), Amber Book also has videos if you want to check it out before diving in for the full monthly package.
The ARE Facebook Group: The group is moderated by Mike Riscica from Young Architect. It has thousands of people who are all struggling and it's another great place to get answers to questions. I liked just being apart of the group because someone would ask a questions which I would see on my feed which I didn't know the answer so I would look it up, kinda like a questions a day.
Practice Questions and Exams
Designer Hacks: My go to for all the exams, its inexpensive and effective at teaching you the basics
Ballast: ARE 5.0 Practice Problems and Practice Exam and ARE 4.0 BDCS & BS. I did LOTS of practice questions, like questions everyday. I think testing your knowledge and then understanding why you choice the wrong answer is very important to learning the content.
PDD Mock Exam by Gang Chen: He puts some disclaimer in the beginning of the exam that if you get a 60% on his mock exam you will pass the exam, I do not think that is really accurate but a good practice test non the less. I found his mock exam to be a little structures heavy, but it did a good job of asking obscure questions like NCARB does :).
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