Just passed PA after a month of studying! This was my first exam. Some bulletted info/tips below.
Resources, in order of use:
- Black spectacles full subscription (one month only)
- Ballast ARE 5.0 PA chapters (and took notes)
- DesignerHacks practice test bundle
- Building Codes Illustrated (but I only got through chapters 1-3. I had meant to read up through ch7 but didn't get there) (and took notes)
- This forum
- NCARB Handbook and videos, including the Demo Exam
- Some random YouTube videos
- PPP jenny's notes wordpress for day-before cramming
- I skimmed Sun, Wind, and Light but I think the most important info from this resource was in Ballast and covered in practice tests
- Similarly, the Ballast book summarized the most important parts from Problem Seeking
Black Spectacles was my primary resource; I used their study guide as a basis for my study schedule. I opted to study 45 mins-2 hours per night, after work, missing some days (a few days around Thanksgiving, a random night here or there where I had plans) and take practice tests on weekends. While it's true that the videos are general, I found them helpful, and it is difficult for me to take in information just through reading, so having the videos was indispensable to me, and I usually actually enjoyed watching them and learning. I watched almost all on 2x the speed.
I supplemented the videos with regular reading of Ballast and sporadic reading of BCI. I used the Black Spectacles flash cards (including custom cards) for night-before review. I also listened to the Black Spectacles podcasts (free) at the beginning and again at the end of studying, including on my drive to the exam.
I took 3 Black Spectacles practice tests over the course of my 4 weeks of studying, and I recommend this. My first (and lowest) practice test I got 57.89%, then 63.16%, then 65.26%. Note on the practice tests - as other users have noted they are very useful for getting used to the format and interface of the exam. For the three practice tests I took, however, I finished with more than enough time to spare and to check my "marked" questions. In contrast, when I took the exam today I finished the exam but did not have time to go back through all of my marked questions. I believe this is because the practice test had more "one and done" single-answer multiple choice questions, as opposed to the analysis questions that took longer. It may also have been nerves. So, keep that in mind if you are using Black Spectacles practice tests; the real thing may take you longer than you think.
Also, a tip - don't overdo it on the "marking" feature during the exam. Since you may have limited time to review marked questions at the end, you only want to mark the ones you REALLY need to. If you mark for each one you're just not 100% sure, you will waste time at the end clicking through these when you are really trying to get to the ones you are less sure about / just needed more time.
I also really appreciated the Designer Hacks bundle. I would take a 10 or 25 question pop quiz after a night of studying. However, these are all the "one and done" type questions, so they won't help much preparing for the longer analysis-with-graphics questions. But, they were helpful for a brief review after a night of studying, and getting in the zone of what the test is looking for.
That's my two cents. 1 down, 5 to go! Good luck!
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