PDD Pass and Done- Study Material Recommendations
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 :).
Congratulations! I am glad my book was helpful.
Gang Chen, Author, Architect, LEED AP BD+C (GreenExamEducation.com)
PDD is my last exam and I'm planning on taking it for the third (and hopefully FINAL) time in a few months. I'm using the same materials as you used, but wanted to see if I could get a more in-depth response from you regarding how you felt about the exam? Specifically, did you feel more prepared this time around and did you feel like you were able to answer questions with more assertiveness and assurance (like "I know the answer to that!") compared to your previous attempts. When I previously took PDD I felt like there were things I was able to comprehend, but there was also a lot of guess work involved, probably much more so that what I would have liked. My score reports varied both times that I took the exam, however I feel like my problem was that I did more skimming and less thorough reading through things like the AGS and BCI, etc. I'm planning on taking a fuller approach to the materials this time around.
Thank you for the write-up on your study methods and materials used! And again congrats!
Yes, I felt much more prepared for my final attempt than the previous attempts. I studied 190 hours for my third attempt vs 90 hours for my previous two attempts, so the study time difference alone made me much more prepared. During my break I thought to myself "If I don't pass this exam, I do not know what else to study." I did get a few odd ball questions, but only one or two. Almost everything I knew or had enough knowledge on to make an educated guess. I did not mention in my write up above but I changed my test taking strategy for my final exam. I always start on question 13 (my lucky number) this time I skipped every math question or any other question that looked like it was going to take longer than 2 minutes to answer. I went through the entire test then came back to the longer/harder questions. I attempted all these questions (every question was answered, although several were marked) I read the first case study then took my break. I think approaching it this way made me feel more confident as I was able to answer the questions I knew correctly first then get into the longer more challenging questions. After my break, I knew I had every questioned at a minimum answered and I was able to focus on the case studies and not get so stressed about the time.
My best advice for preparing is use practice questions, after all the test is about selecting the correct answer. Getting practice choosing the correct answer and understanding why you choose the wrong answer is very valuable. I learned about sealants because I missed a practice question and I spent an hour looking up all different kinds of sealants and where they are used (butyl vs latex vs silicone). Same thing with roofing (TPO vs EPDM vs Single Ply vs Built up) and insulation (EPS, XPS, Polyiso). I read about all of these items, but I did not really learn how they were applied until I got practice questions asking me to select the correct one... and I picked the wrong answer. I used practice questions as an opportunity to study not as a way to gauge my readiness for the test. I think the assurance you mention not having could be not being well versed enough in all the different terminology. I have also learned, don't EVER ignore looking up the answer to a practice question because you think it is not relevant, you will probably get a questions very similar on the exam... I learned the hard way, a few times! :)
Hope this helps!
Here is the link:
If you purchase the product, make sure you figure out how to use the EQUALS practice questions. I dint realized these were included until 1/2 way through my month.
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